UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director Joan Clos on Tuesday hailed the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development as a powerful vehicle for promoting sustainable urban development.
“It has also enhanced the voice of African Ministers of housing and urban development in global forums,” he said in his first keynote address to African ministers since assuming office last month.
The third AMCHUD conference focussing on the role of land in sustainable urban development drew 122 officials, including ministers from 21 African countries.
Dr. Clos said climate change affecting Africa’s ecosystems more than any other continent: “It is particularly affecting land use systems. Frequent droughts have direct impacts on biodiversity loss and desertification. These result in loss of agricultural land and related economic opportunities, producing waves of climate refugees in cities.”
He also said violent conflicts were often land-related, based on a struggle to access and control natural resources. Africa now had some 22.5 million internally displaced persons and refugees. While deeply regrettable, crises affecting cities should also be seen as opportunities to rebuild and operate better and make the African cities work for their citizens, he said.
In the third main point, he cited the way changes in agricultural policies and rural poverty push people towards cities.
“Large scale migration of people to urban and peri-urban areas is a key factor in Africa’s rapid urbanization process. These migrants need resettlement areas that provide safety, food, water, a home, sustainable livelihoods, environmental safety and socially stimulating spaces. Population growth means competition over water use, land and services,” he said.
“Over 60% of Africa’s urban population lives in informal settlements. This inequality of access to resources, particularly land, dominates urban development patterns and is impacting on social stability. This has serious implications for national economies, since cities are key drivers of the economy,” he added saying sustainable urban development was therefore vital to both national economic growth and poverty alleviation.
Earlier, Dr. Clos held talks with Prime Minister Modibo Sidibé. He thanked Mali for hosting the Amcud conference. Officials said they discussed urbanisation matters in Africa and in Mali itself.
The prime minister congratulated him on his appoint as Executive Director, and said Mali would give all the support it can to the AMCHUD process. He was joined at the meeting on Monday by Ms. Gakou Salamata Fofana, Minister of Housing and Urban Development of Mali, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Gasarabwe Mbaranga, and Mr. Alioune Badiane, Director of UN-HABITAT’s Regional Office for African and Arab States.