Keynote speakers addressing the opening of the 3rd Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) on Tuesday called on governments share lessons and best practices to ensure that plans to tackle housing needs and urban development are carried through in the world's most populous region.
The meeting was formally opened by Mr. Bibi Waluyo, Governor, Central Java, who called it a strategic conference for the Asia Pacific Region. Keynote addresses were delivered by Mr. Sunil K. Singh, Chief Coordinator, APMCHUD Secretariat in New Delhi, Mr. Daniel Biau, Director, Regional and Technical Cooperation Division, UN-HABITAT on behalf of the Executive Director, Mr. Ali Nikzad, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Iran, Mr. Djoko Kirmanto, Minister for Public Works, Indonesia, and Mr. Budi Yuwono, Director General of Housing and Urban Development, Ministry of Public Works, Indonesia.
Mr. Waluyo opened the third session of APMCHUD in Solo, Indonesia, and welcomed delegates. He said it was a strategic conference when it came to housing and urban development in the region. In central Java he said the government hoped to utilize non-productive land for housing, and maintain productive land for food security. He said the facilities for urban needs would also be used to create and employ people in the countryside so that urbanization could be slowed. This had to be used as a model for other countries.
On behalf of the APMCHUD Secretariat, Mr. Singh thanked the Government of Indonesia for hosting the third session, and said the large number of countries present was indicative of the importance Member States attach to APMCHUD when it came to addressing the challenges of urbanisation in the region. Covering more than half the globe, the Asia Pacific Region, he said, accommodates some 60 percent of the world population. At present growth rates, cities in the region might have to accommodate an additional 1.7 billion people in the coming 40 years with the urbanization level projected to rise from about 40 percent today, to about 60 percent in the next two decades. Nearly 90 percent of the population growth, he added, would be absorbed in the urban centres of Asia. Eleven of the world's megacities with populations of more than 10 million people are located in Asia. More significant, he added, was the assessment that about 43.2 percent of the regions people lived in slums. Further, Asia alone is home to 592 million slum dwellers constituting more that half the global slum population. While it was estimated that the world slum population could reach 1.4 billion by 2020, one of out two slum dwellers in the world be from Asia. He also said that more than 650 million people lived on one dollar or less per day, accounting for 65 percent of what he called the world's ultra-poor. Citing the first two meetings in New Delhi in 2006, and in Tehran in 2008, he said APMCHUD now brought together 68 countries in a region that represented the cradle of human civilisation with vast intellectual and technical resources. The conference had now progressed into a vibrant inter-governmental that was no poised to contribute more significantly to the housing and urbanization challenge. He assured the meeting of the continued support of the Secretariat for which the governing Bureau was considering New Delhi as a permanent home.
Mr. Biau, speaking on behalf of Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, expressed the agency's gratitude Government of the Republic of Indonesia for inviting UN-HABITAT to participate in convening this conference. He recalled that first APMCHUD meeting in New Delhi, India in 2006 had created the consultative body, elected its Bureau, and adopted an Enhanced Framework of Implementation for Sustainable Urbanisation, in the pursuit of a number of objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals. In the second session in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran in 2008, tGovernments agreed on an Action Plan for Regional Cooperation on Promoting Sustainable Urban Development among Asia-Pacific Countries, which focused on five areas: urban and rural planning and management; slum upgrading; delivery of MDG on water and sanitation; financing sustainable housing – enhancing affordability and quality of low-income housing; and development of sustainable urbanization with a focus on natural disasters. He cited the positive momentum being generated and UN-Habitat's strong support. He said the region in its totality represents 60 percent of humankind. Moreover, Asian cities are home to nearly half the urban population of the world. UN-Habitat's State of Asian Cities Report 2010 now being finalised, shows that in 2010, the urbanization in the region stands at 42.2 per cent, with set to become predominantly urban by 2025. Substantial investments in housing and urban development had helped improve he lives of 172 million slum dwellers between the years 2000 and 2010. However, the region still faced challenges of poverty, slums urban environmental pollution, climate change, and natural disasters. He said that he hoped the meeting would lead to concrete efforts and increased regional cooperation in order to make a difference in the living conditions of a very substantial part of humanity. He then cited five key areas of importance: (i) Community participation in planning and governance. Many Asian countries still had Master Planning systems that prevent meaningful community participation in planning and governance. (ii) Participatory urban slum upgrading, a key focus area for UN-HABITAT in a region that is home to about 60 percent of the world's slum dwellers. (iii) Delivery of the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation on which most countries doing well. Climate change is a critical challenge to effective and sustainable water management, and vulnerable cities had to prepare their infrastructure for its impacts. (iv) Financial resources for sustainable housing and urban development. Investment in housing and urban infrastructure is not keeping pace with the growing needs in the Asia-Pacific region. (v) The role of communities in addressing climate change and the significant impact it would have on future urban development in the Asia-Pacific region.
Mr. Nikzad thanked the Government of Indonesia for taking up the helm of the APMCHUD process and for making the conference a success. He cited the flagrant discriminatory attitude of the arrogant powers towards what he called Iran's peaceful nuclear energy. He also cited the insistence of a number of Western powers on imposing their illegitimate demands. This he said was the best reason for the integration of developing countries with a view to defending their rights to develop all kinds of energy resources for their cities and eventually achieving sustainable urban development. He said this called for revising the structure of some multilateral entities, including the UN Security Council. He next referred to natural disasters around the world, and climate change. He said this necessitated a new approach in housing and urban development. He said the Action Plan of the second APMCHUD conference in Tehran in May 2008 had evolved from the Tehran Declaration to address the challenges of sustainable urban development, and identified specific interventions in critical areas. In Iran with a population of over 74 million, 60 percent of whom are young than 30, there was a need to build 1.2 million housing units annually, both in urban and rural areas. He said the government was allocating free land and interest free loans to meet construction costs. The government had this year provided for the construction of 1.2 million housing units, and planned to revitalize in in coming years 68,000 hectares of dilapidated urban areas to accommodate 8.5 million people. Turning to the third session of the conference in Indonesia, he said it would evolve an implementation plan of the Iran action plan. He said Iran had reported back on the second conference to the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro in March 2010, drawing attention to the objectives of the Tehran Declaration framework,m focusing on creating more sustainable communities , inclusive city development and equity for all. ~He was confident the Solo working groups would be able to formulate a feasible implementation plan.
Mr. Kirmanto welcomed the delegates representing 28 countries, and congratulated Solo for being selected as he host. Housing sectors and urban development in Indonesia were under two ministries, those of Housing and Public Works. He said there was good cooperation between the two in conducting the conference and influencing the quality of housing and urban development in Indonesia. He congratulated India for hosting the first APMCHUD meeting in 2006, and Iran for the second in 2008. Saying he hoped the third session would go well, he said said Indonesia was committed to improving the quality of housing and urban development, supporting development with community empowerment, and promoting decentralization. He said he hoped the Solo meeting would be successful in community empowerment, best practices in urban development and leadership. Referring to the theme, he said support and empowering communities was a pillar of his country's policy. He said that the purpose of the third session should be to promote regional consultation, and good governance with a view to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Indonesia recommended a meeting of senior officials to discuss strategic issues such as community participation in planning and governance, slum upgrading, water and sanitation matters, delivery of the MDGs, sustainable housing, urban development and climate change. He appealed to all participants to share experiences in these meetings from their own countries. He said the future of housing and urban development belonged to all.