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PRESS RELEASES

  1. June 2008: UN ECOSOC Regional Meeting on Sustainable Urbanization Opens in Bahrain
  2. June 2008: ECOSOC Regional Meeting in Bahrain Stresses Government, Civil Society & Private Sector Partnership

Press Release

UN ECOSOC Regional Meeting on Sustainable Urbanization Opens in Bahrain

Manama, 01 June 2008 (UN Information Centre) – United Nations Economic and Social Council Regional Meeting on Sustainable Cities opened this morning in Bahrain. The two-day meeting started examining green architecture, social integration, access to land and housing, and urban planning and finance, including Islamic banking. The findings of Bahrain meeting will serve as input to the ECOSOC's Annual ministerial Review to be held in July in New York .

Opening the two-day meeting, Bahrain 's Deputy Prime Minister, Mohamed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa said west Asia and the Gulf Countries are today witnessing significant progress in urbanization and development, which is reducing housing problems. He regretted that technology is not yet available to everyone particularly environment friendly innovations. He praised the vital role the banking system is playing in financing sustainable development such as the Islamic Bank, which has earmarked “$10 billion in fulfilment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to eradicate poverty by 2015”.

Ambassador Leo Merores, President of ECOSOC, said in his statement that “holding this dialogue on Sustainable Urbanization will help crystallize the specific challenges faced by the western Asia region. In the future, he hoped that all other regions would follow your leadership and hold regional meetings.” He said the world population “will reach a landmark in 2008: for the first time in history the urban population will equal the rural population of the world and, from then on, the world population will be urban in its majority. The good news is that urbanization can be a positive force for human development. Cities are powerful engines for economic and social developm.

Ambassador Leo Merores concluded that with its “diverse experience in slum upgrading and slum prevention, as well as green architecture, the region's experiences are equally valuable for developing and developed countries.”

Mr. Thomas Stelzer, Assistant-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, said that about 180,000 people are being added to the urban population every day. “This means the world's urban infrastructure has to absorb the equivalent of the population of two Tokyo cities each year. He added that acting is vital because slum populations bear an enormous potential for the achievement of all MDGs. The sheer concentration of people living in slums make them ideal targets for interventions aimed at reducing poverty, reducing child mortality and HIV/AIDS, improving literacy and promoting environmental sustainability. Concentration of populations in urban areas greatly reduces the unit cost of piped water, sewers, drains and roads. The use of environmentally friendly energy sources and transport can reduce these costs even further.”

He noted that some countries in the region “are the home of some of the world's most ambitious green projects. They bring together the best minds in green architecture and sustainable urban design.” He concluded that these projects could have a truly groundbreaking impact if developing countries were to emulate new techniques that have just been developed and tried in new urban development through “smart” growth.

Addressing the meeting, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director, UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), said the “two most pressing issues which have emerged in the last twelve months are related to unsustainable patterns of urbanization. The first issue is climate change. We cannot talk today about adaptation of mitigation without talking about cities, as cities represent half of the world's population. They already account for over 75 percent of all energy consumption and an equally substantial amount of all waste including green house gas emission. About half of the energy consumed by our cities is devoted to transport. Any lasting solution to mitigating climate change will therefore also have to include the way we plan and manager out cities.”

Ms. Tibaijuka added that the second issue is the food crisis, noting that “it is no coincidence that the rise in demand for energy, which is one of the contributing factors to the rise in food prices, coincides with the scale and pace of urbanization and changing production and consumption patterns. She added that while we agree that the rising food prices will affect the poor we must recognize that it is the urban poor that will be more affected. The urban poor are trapped. She noted stressing that they cannot produce food for subsistence and they cannot afford to buy food at current prices let alone rising ones. She warned that all the food riots now catching the global headlines are in cities.”

Mr. Bader Al-Dafaa, Excecutive Secretary, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA), said that more than one third of the total urban population in the Arab world, amounting to over 57 million people, is living in informal settlements. “Without secure land tenure, and often limited access to water, sanitation, and electricity, the health and well being of these residents is compromised,” he said adding that a key challenge for reducing poverty in both rural and urban areas, involves “addressing the persistent high rate of unemployment in the ESCWA region, especially among the large youth population where unemployment is at 25 percent.”

The meeting started examining the urban infrastructure and access to services; green architecture for sustainable urbanization and financing through Islamic banking and technology transfer for sustainable development. The meeting was attended by New York based Permanent Representatives of Member Countries of ECOSOC, Representatives of Government of Western Asia countries and delegates of civil Society, academia and private sector.

 

Press Release

ECOSOC Regional Meeting in Bahrain Stresses Government, Civil Society & Private Sector Partnership

Manama, 2 June 2008 ( UN Information Centre ) - United Nations Economic and Social Council Regional Meeting on Sustainable Cities concluded today in Bahrain . Over the course of the last two days, the participants discussed how the challenges related to population growth and urban development are influencing the achievement of the internationally agreed goals and commitments related to sustainable development. They also learned about measures taken to overcome these challenges. The report of the meeting, including concrete policy recommendations, will be presented to the plenary session of the Economic and Social Council in New York next July.

New York based Permanent Representatives of Member Countries of ECOSOC, representatives of Government of Western Asia countries and delegates of civil Society, academia and private sector participated ion the meeting.

Mr. Leo Merores, President of ECOSOC said that over half of the population in the Arab world is living in urban areas. "The region faces a number of challenges in terms of sustainable urbanization, including those we have focused on: the implications of population growth, an increasingly large number of whom are youth; water scarcity, and climate change. "To address them, we have examined some of the issues related to infrastructure, service provision and access, financing and technology transfer", Mr. Leo Merores said during the closing session he co-chaired with Bahrain Foreign Minister Khaled Ben Ahmed Al Khalifa. "We were also pleased to showcase some innovations from the region in the field of green architecture and urban planning," he added.

The meeting acknowledged the urgent need to address unsustainable patterns of consumption, especially in regard to water. Efforts must be increased to encourage appropriate and affordable technology to mitigate and adapt to climate change. "It was also recommended that the Islamic banking industry should offer "green credit" to promote sustainable urbanization," Mr. Merores added.

ECOSOC president said that in regard to environmentally sound architecture, it was agreed that it must be seen in the larger context of urban planning, and more attention must be directed toward serving the poor. Panelists noted a need to both scale up and "scale out" the quantity and types of green solutions. It was reiterated that a full and fair partnership between government, civil society and the private sector is vital to ensuring sustainable development. Local communities must be involved throughout the entire process and planning and managing urbanization.

Ambassador Merores announced that Bahrain's meeting emphasized that each stakeholder group present today – whether government, civil society, academia or private sector – "has a role to play in safeguarding the future of the citizens of the region."

Bahrain's Foreign Minister said his country has made much progress in many aspects of sustainable urbanization, as confirmed by several indicators measured by the United Nations, "as well as by last year's UN Habitat Award to His Highness our Prime Minister for promoting socially inclusive housing. Indeed, this award is a testament to His Majesty's pioneering efforts to lay the foundations of a stronger democracy, a dynamic economy and a modern infrastructure."

He said. "Although we have discussed a lot of good practices, we cannot rest on our laurels. We have agreed that we must take action to address not only the challenges of today, but -- more importantly -- to plan for tomorrow." "For this, we stressed the need to design strategies that integrate policies in the economic, social and environmental fields in a coherent and sustainable manner, both at the national level and regional levels," he added.

Each representative of each stakeholder group present today – whether government, civil society, academia or private sector – has a role to play in safeguarding the future of the citizens of the region," the minister said, noting that Bahrain may be a small country but it has an increasingly "important role in the region and in the international community, as shown by its recent election by widespread support to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations". Bahrain is also strongly committed to the work of the Economic and Social Council, and we would like to remain engaged. For this reason, the country will seek to become a member of ECOSOC again. This meeting is a good example of how our country can serve as a bridge between the region and the international community by bringing the Western Asia perspective to the larger global debate".

Bahrain was the first country in Western Asia to volunteer to engage - through this event - all members of the region in the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review process. This will ensure that the regional perspective and challenges will be reflected in the Council's deliberations in July, when the report from this meeting will be presented to ECOSOC in New York ," the minister concluded.

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