Mr. Alioune Badiane, UN-HABITAT’s Regional Director for Africa and the Arab States, addressed the opening ceremony with a vibrant appeal to further consolidate the local government movement in Africa and address effectively local urban development challenges that affect the African communities and their structures of governance.
Mr. Badiane extended a personal message of support from the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Dr. Anna Tibaijuka, to the local government movement in Africa and highlighted the relevance of involving local government in the developmental processes towards building a better society for all.
At this period when the entire world is preoccupied with finding solutions to deal with the environmental challenges and climate change, Mr. Badiane deplored the fact that local governments continue to be marginalized as evidenced by the on-going negotiations in Copenhagen.
He pointed out that “it can no longer be possible, or acceptable that important decisions, which jeopardize the future of humanity are taken without the voice and the persuasive pressure of the African local authorities”.
He stressed that the lack of political commitment in support of development cooperation and the poor performance of African countries to Millennium Development Goals in the aftermath of the AFRICITIES 4 Summit, held in Nairobi in 2006, have weakened the structures at the various levels of governance of in Africa.
The global crisis, including food, housing and financial woes, had equally impacted on the state of governance in Africa and the living conditions of the African populations with the well known consequences of malnutrition, urban poverty, mushrooming of slums, unemployment, drug, crime and insecurity, and civil wars. UN-HABITAT has therefore engaged in developing urban planning and management policies as tools to assist governments in improving governance and promoting financing local development.
It is against this background that the Governing council of UN-HABITAT issued two sets of guidelines on decentralization and access to basic services for all, which should be implemented in a concerted effort with interested governments.
In the same context, various activities are currently being undertaken in a few countries such as Ethiopia, Cameroon, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Senegal and Egypt to promote the knowledge and practice of participatory budgeting.
A participatory planning process has also been initiated in a dozen of small-scaled cities in the Great lakes region, including in countries such Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Mr. Badiane also cited the Cities and Climate Change Initiative (CCCI) developed by UN-HABITAT to assist the African local government in their efforts of adaptation and mitigation to climate change.
He finally informed the participants of the upcoming World Urban Campaign, which is conceived as the adequate response of the Habitat Agenda partners to the challenge of urbanization.
The campaign, as well as other innovative initiatives developed by UN-HABITAT and its partners will be launched at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro in March 2010.