UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, launched a business partnership for sustainable urbanization to encourage collaboration with the business community.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said that over the next 25 years, more than 2 billion people would add to the growing demand for housing, water provision, sanitation, energy and other urban infrastructure services. Close to 3 billion people, or about 40 percent of the world’s population by 2030, would need to have housing and basic infrastructure services. This translated, she said, into completing 96,150 housing units per day or 4,000 per hour.
The theme of the partnership’s first meeting on Making cities better places to live, work and do business was attended by over 200 delegates from international business companies, Foundations, and civil society organizations. Delegates came from around the world, including India, Pakistan, China, Poland, Armenia, Brazil, East Africa, Europe and the United States.
"No single government or municipality can afford the kind of financial outlay such infrastructure would require. Rather than raise taxes to meet such targets, it is far better to seek the help of the private sector here. It is only through business partnerships that we can meet the targets," she said. "Our limited experience in partnering with the business community shows how profitable investing in the urban poor can be – politically, socially and in terms of hard profits."
Kenya’s Minister for Housing, Mr. Soita Shitanda outlined the government’s new national housing policy which aims to provide150,000 housing units in urban areas and improve 300,000 units in rural areas in collaboration with the private sector. The minister commended UN-HABITAT for initiating the business partners stakeholders meeting saying this was the beginning of making urbanization sustainable.
Companies represented include BASF, Coca Cola, the Bujumbura Garbage Company, and Cisco systems East Africa, construction and infrastructure companies.
The aim of this first stakeholder meeting is to rethink business and financial models to help accommodate the billions of people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
The two-day meeting, on the eve of the 21st session of UN-HABITAT’s Governing Council, marked a new drive by the agency to strengthen cooperation with the private sector though UN-HABITAT’s global network of partners.
Addressing the delegates, the manager of social foundation, donations and childcare, BASF (Germany), Mr. Wolfgang Frosch said his company had a strong and well established Corporate Social Responsibility programme that runs globally. He cited the company’s relief efforts in the aftermath of the 1999 earthquake in Turkey and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
“We work with partners like UN-HABITAT which has good competencies in sustainable urbanization and post-disaster relief experience,” said Mr. Frosch.
Meanwhile, the Vice President of Coca Cola in India, Mr. Deepak Jolly said that partnership models required a lot of buy-in from the different stakeholders at different stages of a project. Citing Coca Cola’s experience in assisting in the post-tsunami relief programme in south Asia, he said speed, mobilization and management were key to ensuring effective relief delivery.