China’s Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Mr. Jiang Weixin, on Monday received UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka to discuss a wide range of housing matters and arrangements for the fourth session of the World Urban Forum scheduled in the Chinese city of Nanjing 3-6 November.
Mrs. Tibaijuka will travel to Chengdu, in Sichuan Province, later this week to discuss technical assistance and rehabilitation following an earthquake in May that claimed tens of thousands of lives and destroyed countless of homes, praised the Chinese government’s reconstruction programme. She praised the government for its decision to station a Vice-Minister permanently in Sichuan Province to oversee the post-quake recovery programme, saying such a move gave confidence to the local people.
She said she appreciated the generosity of the Chinese government in hosting the Forum so soon after the earthquake said she hoped there would be a high level of Chinese participation at the Nanjing meeting which the Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development will chair.
She also said she also hoped for a speedy conclusion of the agreement on holding the Shanghai 2010 Better City, Better Life Expo at which UN-HABITAT will take on the lead role among UN agencies showcasing the best they have to offer at the Better Cities – Better Life Shanghai 2010 World Expo’s big One Earth - One UN pavilion.
Mrs. Tibaijuka also held talks with the Vice-Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Mr. Qi Ji, who also pledged China’s full backing for the Forum. She told him that the Forum was open meeting, where in addition to governments, all partners including professionals, NGOs, youth groups, and the private sector could all participate to discuss, exchange ideas and experiences in an open manner. She said the meetings of these groups are an important component of the Forum, and should not be regarded as separate.
On Friday last week, she attended the Olympic Games opening ceremony. Mrs. Tibaijuka, who carried the Olympic flame when it passed through her home country, Tanzania:
“The President of the International Olympic Committee invited me to participate at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in view of the importance of sports activities in sustainable urbanization,” Mrs. Tibaijuka said.
She said most sporting activities are urban phenomena, and the Olympics like much else, are taking place in cities. The planning of cities must therefore take into account the allocation of space for sports. However, in numerous cities and towns of the developing world many communities are denied space for sports and playing grounds. Children in the slums have to make do with playing on dirty footpaths and alleys.
“The IOC wishes to work with UN-HABITAT in this important area,” she said. In her remarks, Mrs. Tibaijuka cited the Kilimanjaro Initiative which was started in 2006 to raise awareness about crime among young people in East Africa.
On the eve of the opening ceremony, Mrs. Tibaijuka addressed the Executive Committee of the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group. The meeting concluded with the adoption of the Beijing Declaration on Sport for Development and Peace.
Mr. Jean-Jacques Nyenimigabo, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture of Burundi supported her recommendation that national governments and international agencies to pay attention the role of spatial planning and the provision of open spaces, sports and recreation facilities, especially in countries recovering from conflict and civil war. He also appealed to Right to Play and other the United Nations bodies to work with his government and UN-HABAITAT in building capacities for urban planning, with attention to spatial planning and the engagement of young people in building facilities for sports.
Mrs. Tibaijuka’s meetings in China will also include talks with the President of the China Development Bank, Mr. Chen Yuan, in which they will discuss a new strategic partnership for promoting global housing finance initiatives.
World Urban Forum Background
In her high level talks with the Chinese Vice-Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Mr. Qi Ji, Mrs. Tibaijuka also raised the idea of opening a special secretariat in Nanjing to help with arrangements for the Forum which she hoped would include high ranking Chinese leaders.
She said that that strategic participation by Heads of State would require formal invitations from China. She said she expected the Nanjing meeting to focus on urban sustainability, climate change, the urban environment, energy, and anti-quake building technologies.
While she said she expected contributions by Nanjing City itself, UN-HABITAT hoped to get additional resources from other countries, in position to do so, since the whole burden could not be borne by China alone.
A highlight of the Forum will be the presentation of the Sheik Khalifa award to women street cleaners from Burkina Faso.