Welcoming address by Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka,
and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT
at the opening of the
22nd session of the
Governing Council of UN-HABITAT,
Nairobi, Kenya, 30 March 2009.
Your Excellency, Honourable Kalonzo Musyoka, Vice-President of the Republic of Kenya, and Minister of Home Affairs,
Honourable Michael Werikhe, Acting President of the Governing Council and Minister of State for Housing of Uganda,
Dr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme,
Your Excellency Ambassador Jacqueline Mendoza of Venezuela, President of the CPR and its Distinguished Members,
Your Excellencies Parliamentarians, Ambassadors, Permanent Representatives and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Your Worship, President of United Cities and Local Governments, all Mayors and your delegations,
Representatives of Professional Habitat Agenda Partners, the Private Sector and Civil Society Representatives,
Distinguished delegates, Members of the Press,
Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the 22nd session of the Governing Council. We are deeply honoured to greet you today Honourable Kalonzo Musyoka, Vice-President of the Republic of Kenya. Honourable Ministers, Heads of Delegations, Excellencies, it is also a great honour that so many of you here today have come from so many countries to be here with us for these important deliberations.
I hope that you all had a good journey and that you will find your stay here comfortable and pleasant despite the huge work load before you. I hope too that you will find the preparations satisfactory.
With your indulgence, I would like to call for a minute of silence, in the memory of Millard Fuller, the founder and former President of Habitat for Humanity. He was a great father of our cause and his organisation is the most renowned Habitat Agenda partners.
I wish particularly to acknowledge here the role played by Honourable Kumari Selja, India’s Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation. She has been there to support us at every major meeting and crossroads in her role as President of the 21st Governing Council of UN-HABITAT. Even though she is unable to be here today because of the upcoming elections in India, I wish to use this occasion to salute her and to say with all my heart, Thank You Kumari Selja.
And now, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let us welcome with a big hand Honourable Michael Werikhe, the Minister of State for Housing of Uganda who has so graciously offered to serve in her stead as the Acting President of the Governing Council. Please give the Honourable Minister a big hand.
It also gives me great pleasure to welcome here the Albino Revolutionary Dancing Troupe from my home country, Tanzania. Given the fear and horrors that so many of them have faced at home, and in the region, please give them a big hand for their courage. Their delegation is led by Honourable MP Alshaimaa Kwegyir who was appointed by the President of Tanzania to represent their interests and protect their rights.
From the outset, let me state that any oversight or missing element is my responsibility and that of my staff. And in so saying, I wish to acknowledge the considerable support and wise counsel we have received over many weeks and months from members of the Committee of Permanent Representatives under the able guidance of Her Excellency, Ambassador Mendoza. Please join me again, in a round of applause for Ambassador Mendoza and her Committee.
General introduction to the deliberations
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
As I now turn to the business at hand, it is my sincere hope that you will find the agenda for this 22nd session of the Governing Council a specially interesting if not challenging one. It is your agenda, and ours, for a better urban future, for ensuring that the poorest of the poor in our towns and cities have a better hope of a better future. This is why we agreed during the course of recent weeks and months to spend the course of this week examining:
- the activities of UN-HABITAT over the past two years
- the work programme and budget for 2010-2011
- a dialogue on the special theme of “Promoting affordable housing finance systems in the face of the global financial crisis and climate change”.
We will also discuss progress made in implementing the Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013.
Mr. President, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies,
We meet here every two years in Nairobi in the home of the United Nations headquarters in Africa and the developing world. This year, our meeting takes place at a time our world is mired in the worst economic crisis in living memory. I will address this issue in more detail later, but suffice it to say, the origin of the crisis lies with a housing finance system gone wrong. Lessons learned from this experience must inform our housing policies and strategies.
The climate change problem
I will address climate change later in the day. Allow me just to share a thought with you of the Vancouver City Councillor and International President of ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, David Cadman. He says:
“Clearly profound changes are necessary and growing urban areas are precisely the places where the most effective changes can be implemented fastest. Our cities must become much more efficient users of energy.”
Ladies and gentlemen,
As per your recommendations form the 21st session of the Governing Council, we have developed a Gender Equality Action Plan. This plan will be discussed here and will hopefully guide our work in furthering women’s rights as human rights!
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I now turn to the special theme of our Governing Council. UN-HABITAT’s strategic goal is to improve access to sustainable financing for affordable housing and infrastructure.
The idea behind UN-HABITAT Slum Upgrading Facility Pilot Programme is to test and develop new financial instruments and methods for expanding private sector finance and public sector involvement in slum upgrading on a large scale. I will be discussing this and our reimbursable seeding financing in detail in my policy address later. But suffice it here to say that thanks to the support of the Governments of Spain and Bahrain, significant progress has been achieved in 2008 on implementing Resolution GC 21/10 on Experimental Reimbursable Seeding Operations.
Our flagship report, the State of the World’s Cities 2008 tells us that Latin American and African cities are among the most unequal in the world; that within the next two decades, 60 per cent of the world's people will reside in cities; and that by 2050, Asia alone will account for 63 per cent of the world's urban population (3.3 billion people), while Africa will become a predominantly urban continent.
The overwhelming majority of these new urbanites will be young people. So here I would like to go out of my way to thank Norway for kick-starting our new Opportunities Fund for Urban Youth-Led Development through an initial two million dollar grant covering the next biennium. We know it will make a difference for the better in many young men and women in the world’s least developed countries.
UN-HABITAT analysis shows that central governments play a pivotal role in allocating and mobilising financial resources either to support urban economic development or to redress regional disparities.
For effective programme delivery as defined by the 2008-2013 Mid-term Strategic and Institutional Plan, UN-HABITAT needs predictable funding. Our top resource mobilisation priorities are to expand the donor base, increase general-purpose contributions, as well as the proportion of funding coming from multi-year framework agreements.
This is why early last year we established a new Resource Mobilization Unit to ensure a more corporate approach to resource mobilisation, building confidence, and strengthening consistent messaging and communications. We have already produced a set of Guiding Principles and a Code of Conduct to establish common standards for approaching development partners.
We know that we can find a comprehensive solution to deal with the related issues of climate change, economic development, the urbanisation of poverty, financing, food, and energy.
It is my fervent hope that our determined efforts this week in bridging the gaps I have outlined here will contribute to long-term cooperative action.
And now allow me to conclude by inviting you all to watch a short film on the Moonbeam Youth Empowerment Programme in the overcrowded Nairobi slum of Kibera. It is a project started with seed capital donated personally by our Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. Once the film is over, I will invite the young graduates to file past the podium so that the Vice President and the distinguished members of podium and I can personally congratulate them at this extra-ordinary graduation ceremony witnessed by the Governing Council!