Informal Consultations
Committee of the Whole
Thematic Committee
Parallel Events

The Cities Alliance Initiative
Organized by the World Bank and UNCHS (Habitat)

Conference Room 3
Wednesday 6 June 2001
1.15 - 2.45 p.m.

The Cities Alliance Special Event was held in Conference Room 3 between 13:15 and 14:45 on Wednesday, 6 June. Organized by the Cities Alliance Secretariat, it was attended by 150 delegates. In the opening statement read on her behalf, the Executive Director of Habitat, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, highlighted the challenge that cities will face in the next two decades, particularly in Africa and Asia. The Cities Alliance is one of the few international forums in which local governments are full and equal members with bilateral and multilateral organizations. The Hon. Daby Diagne of WACLAC also made welcoming comments, stressing the importance of the Cities Alliance and the two primary activities of city development strategies and citywide and nationwide slum upgrading.

His Excellency Ali Garba Makadi, Minister of State for Works and Housing, outlined steps that had been taken to address growing urban poverty in Karu, part of greater Abuja. The decision to move the capital city from Lagos to Abuja had lead to significant influx of Nigerians in search of work and economic activity, numbers that exceeded the capacity of the local authorities to handle. With the assistance of Cities Alliance members, a city development strategy is being formulated. The Minister stressed how much damage had been done to the country's social and physical infrastructure through prolonged periods of military rule.

Joan MacDonald of SELAVIP and former deputy Housing Minister in Chile, reported on a Cities Alliance initiative to facilitate slum upgrading in Central America. Overall, the region has a backlog of over 3.4 million housing units, which has been exacerbated by recent natural disasters, particularly Hurricane Mitch. However, the main obstacles to slum upgrading are largely institutional and political, with a very weak policy framework. Pilots projects are generally expensive and ineffective, and need to be replaced by citywide and nationwide initiatives.

Mary Jane Ortega, the Mayor of San Fernando in the Philippines, highlighted a number of innovative initiatives undertaken by her city government. In particular, Mayor Ortega stressed the importance of good urban governance, especially the need to be locally accountable. Recent elections had demonstrated the positive manner in which citizens had responded to improvements in the daily living conditions. More generally, the Philippines has taken the lead in promoting city development strategies.

In the time available for discussion, the focus was on the conditions that are necessary to tackle slum upgrading at scale, and the very many complexities that this entails. In particular, problems of legal and institutional frameworks, specific to each city and country, were identified. However, there was consensus that pilot projects need to be replaced by a more systematic and programmatic approach to slum upgrading and, indeed, to city development strategies.

2001 UNCHS