UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director Joan Clos this week urged governments to assess progress made towards attainment of the Habitat Agenda goals of adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development.
In his first formal address to Second (Economic and Financial) Committee of the United Nations General Assembly as the agency’s new Executive Director, Dr. Clos also told the General Assembly that “the convening of a third United Nations conference on housing and sustainable urban development (Habitat III) would be really very timely.” The first two conferences were held in Vancouver in 1976, and twenty years later in Istanbul in 1996.
“A very important finding of our analysis that I would like to highlight is about the attainment of the Millennium Development target on slums. Between 2000 and 2010, the lives of 230 million slum dwellers were improved. However, this achievement was not uniformly distributed across regions,” he said.
Dr. Clos said that although the target of improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020 had already been exceeded by an extra 100 million, some 830 million people still languished in slums. He warned that projections suggest an increase of 60 million slum dwellers by 2020.
“It is therefore clear that Governments need to intensify efforts to improve the lives of slum dwellers and to prevent the emergence and growth of slums. A new framework is needed for these efforts, since the Millennium Development Goals target on slums has already been attained,” he said. “The inconvenient truth is that the slum phenomenon is still growing too fast.”
Dr. Clos was warmly welcomed by a number of delegations, which reaffirmed their commitment to UN-HABITAT’s mandate, while highlighting the Agency’s unique and pivotal role in attaining the MDGs on sustainable development.
Dr. Clos summarised the year’s achievements and assured the assembled delegates that UN-HABITAT would continue to prioritise the core activities of its mandate – promoting sustainable urbanization; slum prevention and upgrading through effective land and housing policies. Other priorities include improving access to drinking water and sanitation, promoting effective and sustainable financing of cities, and mainstreaming gender and promoting partnerships.
He said UN-HABITAT would continue to promote global awareness of urban conditions and trends through evidence based global monitoring.
“If UN-HABITAT is to continue to be internationally relevant, it also has to respond to emerging urban challenges,” he said adding that the agency would have to prioritize:
- first, promoting a new role for urban planning in developing sustainable cities and towns;
- second, promoting the role of cities in climate change, focusing on urban-based mitigation and adaptation efforts, including in the areas of energy consumption as well as sustainable urban mobility and transport, bearing in mind the huge contribution of cities in developed countries to greenhouse gas emission;
- third, responding to natural and human-made disasters, with the aim of facilitating transition to early recovery and reconstruction;
- and fourth, promoting and enhancing the role of local authorities, focusing on municipal finance.
In response, Member States recognized recent trends in human settlements including rapid urbanization, urban sprawl, proliferation of mega-cities, as well as increasing difficulties faced by the urban poor.
Many delegations highlighted the environmental impacts of climate change. They said the increasing prevalence of natural and human-made disasters and crises served to exacerbate urban inequality and marginalized the world’s most vulnerable.
The representative of Yemen on behalf of the G77 and China, urged the international community to give due attention and support to the goals of the Habitat Agenda, including financial support to UN-HABITAT on a predictable basis.
The delegates from India and Indonesia expressed a need to further South-South cooperation in sustainable urbanization. Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, recognized difficulties faced by UN-HABITAT in delivering results in difficult financial times. For further details, click here