Two British Parliamentary Committees, the Communities and Local Government Committee and the International Development Committee, joined forces to hear evidence on the Third Session of UN-HABITAT's World Urban Forum held earlier this year in Vancouver, Canada.
Oral evidence at this one-off session was provided by both Baroness Andrews, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government and Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT.
After a brief history of the first three forums, which saw attendance increase tenfold from just over 1,000 delegates in Nairobi in 2001 to over 10,000 delegates in 2006, Mrs. Tibaijuka described the forum as market place of ideas about urbanisation. As such she said it had raised many important concerns including the urgent need to tackle climate change worldwide and the problems caused by rapid migration to cities, particularly in developing countries.
Mrs. Tibaijuka emphasised that in a world where there were already, one billion slum dwellers, many of the Millennium Development Goals would not be met without targeting the urban poor. She then reiterated one of the main messages from the forum, stating that it was important to find innovative ways to finance housing and shelter for the urban poor.
Baroness Andrews, who represented the United Kingdom at the World Urban Forum, commended UN-HABITAT for their work in the field of urbanisation and for the excellent organisation of the event. She stated the UK delegation had benefited considerably from the meeting. The Baroness had been particularly pleased with the level of exchange of ideas and best practices, noting that local authorities from the developed and developing world were pleased to find that they had much in common.
A considerable portion of the session centred around the provision of water and sanitation with discussions on how best to meet the Millennium Development Goal targeted at halving the number of people without clean water or adequate sanitation by 2015.
While she was in London, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Under Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, also held meetings with senior representatives from the British Banking and finance sector, these included officials from Barclays and BarclayCard, Price Waterhouse and Nationwide, one of the largest providers of mortgages in the United Kingdom.
The meeting organised by the British Member of Parliament, Ms. Sally Keeble, aimed to encourage future collaboration to support UN-HABITAT's work a slum upgrading facility to establish mortgage mechanisms for the urban poor in Africa.