United Nations Human Settlements Programme
Programme des Nations Unies pour les établissements humains - Programa de las Naciones Unidas para los Asentamientos Humanos
Statement by Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka,
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
Executive Director of UN-HABITAT
on the occasion of the opening of the
Tripartite ACP/EC/UN-HABITAT Conference
in Nairobi, Kenya, 8 June 2009.
Your Excellency, Sir John Kaputin, Secretary-General of the ACP,
Honourable Clifford Everald Warmington, the Jamaican Minister of State for Water and Housing, President of the 22nd session of UN-HABITAT Governing Council,
Distinguished representatives of the ACP and EC Secretariats,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great privilege for us that so many Honourable Ministers, Mayors and distinguished representatives making up more than 200 delegates from more than 50 countries have joined us here this week for this first ministerial-level conference of our three bodies.
I know how far many of you have travelled to be with us today. I recognise faces in this distinguished audience who came for the twenty-second session of our Governing Council, and prior to that, many who joined us in Nanjing, China, for the fourth session of the World Urban Forum. You have indeed come a long way with us in our urgent quest for sustainable cities without slums, for sustainable cleaner, and greener cities, where everyone feels they belong.
I also wish to thank our Brussels-based partners, the Secretariats of the ACP – the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group and the European Commission, for the vital role they played in co-hosting this meeting.
And so I ask you all to give them a big hand.
Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen,
Nearly five years have passed since UN-HABITAT signed a cooperation agreement with the ACP group aimed at promoting sustainable urbanization and the eradication of poverty.
In that agreement, we agreed to cooperate on improving the living conditions of slum dwellers under the Millennium Development Goals to eradicate poverty. Our agreement also aims to help the international community implement the Habitat Agenda and the subsequent Declaration on Cities and other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in June 2001.
The agreement focuses on improving housing policies, urban planning and management, greening our cities, post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction, disaster prevention and post-disaster reconstruction, and participatory urban governance. Others focus areas include urban safety, strengthening town-country linkages and infrastructure development, water and sanitation in urban areas, decentralization and capacity building of local authorities.
In 2004, the year our agency was granted observer status to the institutions of the ACP. Our three organizations followed up with a joint regional workshop held in Nairobi in 2005.
It is my hope that your discussions this week will build on this cooperation. We need to take careful stock of the launch last year of our Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme now operating in 30 ACP countries to the tune of nearly 5 million euros.
We also need to examine progress of our urban sector profile studies in many of your countries – carried out thanks to funding from Governments of Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium – that provided the foundation for the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme.
The purpose of these studies is to contribute to urban poverty reduction policy development at local, national and regional levels. This is why they have to be followed by concrete and coordinated investments and actions in each of your countries.
Honourable Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,
We hold this first high level joint conference of our three bodies at a time when the global financial crisis is deepening. And as we witness a slowdown in world economic growth, we are already seeing the impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.
We are painfully aware that the world’s current economic crisis and the growing number of disasters wrought by climate change threaten to undo and possibly reverse many of the gains made towards achieving the MDGs.
In this new urban era, more than half of humanity now lives in towns and cities, and in little over a generation it is projected that two-thirds of us will be urbanised.
It is shameful that in our new urban era there are approximately 1 billion people living in slums and squatter settlements in the world. Slum prevalence is highest in sub-Saharan Africa (62 percent), followed by South Asia (43 percent), East Asia (37 percent), and Latin America and the Caribbean (27 percent).
Our latest research shows that one out of every three people living in cities of the developing world lives in a slum or other unplanned settlements. The proportion is certainly higher in ACP countries.
Can we afford to let our cities grow into slum cities? Already, our projections indicate that the number of slum dwellers in the world may rise to 1.4 billion by 2020 if no remedial action is taken.
They also tell us that in the coming decade all the world’s largest cities will be located in developing countries. This implies that developing countries will face even greater urban poverty problems than they do today.
With such statistics, it is obvious that the present Conference is most timely indeed.
And in our partnership and our discussions, we must always keep this uppermost in our minds: the poverty and slum crisis with which we are dealing is not simply about numbers and statistics – it is about people : women, men and children.
When we speak of slum upgrading, we are talking about ensuring that women and the children they support can get access to a clinic, to clean drinking water, to toilets where they are not under threat of being assaulted. We are also talking about girls and boys being able to go to school instead of being forced to collect firewood. And that means the right to power for cooking and lighting the home; to food security; the right to clean water and sanitation, the right to adequate shelter, and the right to an inclusive city. Cities should also be made cleaner and greener to ensure a reduction in carbon emissions for which urban areas today account for approximately 70 percent of global output.
This was our thinking when we launched the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme in 30 ACP countries in May last year. Profile studies have now been conducted in 12 countries, with further studies underway in another 18.
This was our thinking as far back as 2002 when we got together with the European Commission in realizing our Somalia Urban Profile Study.
Honourable Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,
We are at a dangerous crossroad. We, in the United Nations system fear that if we do not act boldly to confront the urban poverty crisis and growing social exclusion, inaction could lead to social unrest and political instability in many cities around the world. This danger was clearly highlighted in UN-HABITAT’s recent State of the World Cities Report. This is why we need to extend the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme to all ACP countries.
The UN will soon launch a Global Vulnerability Alert, collecting real-time information on the social effects of the economic crisis world-wide. This will be a vital tool to know what is happening and to hold ourselves accountable to those who most need our help. Already, the Urban Sector Profile Studies are contributing to this survey.
Urban profiling contributes to policy development followed by the implementation of proper institutional, legislative, financial and administrative actions.
Another aspect of the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme is that it will build harmony between those at the local level and national government in conducting slum upgrading and slum prevention initiatives combining the efforts of all.
The Programme will help local and national authorities identify adequate funding to carry out specific upgrading activities.
This Programme in ACP countries falls within UN-HABITAT’s new Medium Term and Strategic Plan for 2008-2013 – our agency’s guiding light under the global UN reform programme.
Honourable Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,
UN-HABITAT’s cooperation activities are ongoing in many ACP countries. They can be summarized as promoting policy reforms consistent with the global UN Agendas; building institutional capacity at all levels; undertaking demonstration projects to test what works; supporting the implementation of local and national plans of action; and leveraging resources. They are always designed with the Ministries represented here and implemented with a variety of partners.
Connecting the global, the national and the local to build better cities without slums, as reflected in the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme is our joint quest.
I thank you for your attention.