|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
31st Meeting (PM)
Second Committee Told That 35 Million New Homes Must Be Built Annually
over Next Quarter Century To Accommodate Soaring Urban Populations
An estimated 35 million new homes with the attendant infrastructure and services must be built annually over the next 25 years in order to accommodate the burgeoning number of urban dwellers in cities from Calcutta to Rio de Janeiro, Sudan’s representative told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today, as it began considering implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, she said urban sprawl was happening at an unprecedented rate; an estimated 2 billion people would be added to the number of urban dwellers in developing countries over the next 25 years. But without considerable investment in housing and urban development during that time, those people would not escape the trap of poverty, poor heath and low productivity. She called on the international donor community to implement and fund the Habitat Agenda, with a special focus on protecting the urban poor, who were particularly vulnerable.
Indonesia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), also stressed the value of UN-Habitat’s operations in order to improve the lot of the poor, particularly by setting up credit programmes enabling them to obtain decent, affordable housing. Governments must commit to such programmes, which would enable housing markets to function more efficiently, and set up housing finance systems and regulatory frameworks that would reflect the needs of low-income people and guarantee them better access to land, credit and protection from arbitrary eviction.
He said the substantial increase in resources for UN-Habitat was a clear acknowledgement of the important work the Programme was doing. That funding must be maintained and increased, preferably through multi-year commitments so that the Programme could plan ahead with confidence. “It is to Habitat’s credit that the importance of social housing to development processes is gaining wide recognition”, he said, adding that since urbanization was clearly linked to climate change, future housing development must be energy-efficient and environmentally sound.
Sweden’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said access to decent and affordable housing and basic urban services was not only important for adapting to climate change, it was also vital for reducing poverty, improving health and strengthening gender equality among poor urban populations. Within 50 years, two thirds of the world’s people would live in urban areas, but cities were unprepared to meet the needs of burgeoning populations. Innovative solutions for integrated urban planning and management, involving all stakeholders, were sorely needed.
That would require more appropriate land-use planning, more accountable urban management and good urban governance to face such anticipated challenges as increased floods, landfalls, water scarcity and sea-level rise, he said. He welcomed the progress thus far in implementing UN-Habitat’s Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013, an important tool for strengthening its comparative advantage, and strongly encouraged its continued comprehensive implementation.
Also speaking today were representatives of Swaziland, Morocco, Turkey, Thailand, Montenegro, Tunisia, Maldives, Guyana, Burkina Faso, Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), China, India, Kenya, Singapore, Brazil, Bahrain, Jamaica, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
Earlier today, the Committee concluded its debate on sustainable development, during which speakers underscored the need for stronger efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, curb global greenhouse gas emissions, implement Agenda 21 and other United Nations environmental conventions, and seal a fair, comprehensive deal during the forthcoming Copenhagen Climate Conference.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 5 November, to consider its agenda items titled “Towards global partnerships” and “Programme planning”.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to conclude its general discussion on sustainable development. (For background information, see Press Release GA/EF/3263 of 3 November 2009.)
JOEL MUSA NHLEKO ( Swaziland) said that, like most developing countries in Africa, Swaziland was a minor contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, noting that the region’s carbon dioxide emissions had accounted for only 3.2 per cent of the world’s total emissions in 1992. Swaziland, a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, had formed a national development strategy that spelled out the Government’s key policy framework for the next 25 years. Environmental management was among its key policy objectives, and it assigned to the public and private sectors responsibility for integrating environmental concerns into their strategies and programmes.
Regulations made environmental impact assessments mandatory for all development projects, he said. The Swaziland Environment Authority, tasked with coordinating and managing environmental issues aimed at implementing Agenda 21, had adopted the Swaziland Environment Action Plan, which set strategies to tackle environmental problems, particularly those related to climate change, agriculture and land use, forestry and rural energy. Under the National Development Strategy, the energy sector aimed to ensure the sustainable supply and use of energy for all.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy was devising the Swaziland National Energy Policy with the help of the Danish Corporation for Environment and Development, he said. It aimed to create a solid national energy policy, founded on sustainable and economically sound principles in support of the country’s development, which would help reduce emissions through energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Despite its small size, Swaziland had one of the world’s largest man-made forests, covering about 35 per cent of the country’s land surface. For several decades, the forest had been actively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It was, therefore, desirable to sustain Swaziland’s forest resources for the benefit of the nation and the world.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco), noting that there was a link between climate change and famine, migration and diseases, said the fallout from the global economic and financial crisis had further worsened the situation for the most vulnerable countries, which could be devastated by even a slight increase in the global temperature. Africa was at particular risk and faced a number of problems, including poor harvests, a loss of coastal infrastructure and delays in the development process.
He said that, because the continent had the least resources for adaptation to climate change, and because much African agriculture was rain-fed, attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in some parts of the region would be compromised by climate change. The Copenhagen Conference was, therefore, of utmost importance, and countries should come together to agree on a financial framework to ensure that the developed countries supported the developing world, not just with money but with technology and expertise, as well. The Government of Morocco had enacted far-reaching measures to manage greenhouse gas emissions and had placed the environment at the heart of national politics.
ZEYNEP KIZILTAN ( Turkey) said that responding effectively to natural disasters was a major challenge and that rural poverty, unplanned urban growth and declining ecosystems were major drivers of natural disasters. Consequently, disaster-risk reduction needed to be better integrated into sustainable development strategies, and there was a need to focus on education and awareness-raising. Concerning renewable energy, she said reliable supplies were critical to fuelling economic growth, but such growth should not damage the environment.
Turkey had accelerated its efforts to ensure a “green new deal” and had set ambitious targets for itself, she said. Renewable energy sources could help development efforts by their low cost and sustainability, but they required new technologies and costly initial investment. Research and innovation were thus crucial, as were mechanisms to support investments in that area. Although the global economic and financial crisis had posed a challenge for international cooperation in that regard, it was vital that developed countries fulfil their commitments to the developing world.
URAWADEE SRIPHIROMYA ( Thailand) said that for economic development to be sustainable it could neither contribute to social inequity or instability nor be based on the exploitation of nature. Development could not proceed in the same way as it had in the last two centuries “without incurring global environmental disaster”. She called for a redefinition of development and competitiveness, stating that “green” industrial practices and sustainable production techniques could boost economic recovery. In order for developing countries to transition to low-carbon growth, international financial and technological support was imperative.
On the national level, Thailand had, years before the oil crisis, begun efforts to switch to more bioenergy and alternative energy sources she said. Price incentives and marketing campaigns were currently in place to promote biofuel dependency. That had helped balance oil and petroleum imports, improved the trade balance, mitigated greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels, and benefited low-income farmers producing cash crops for biofuels.
She noted that developing countries’ expansion into solar, hydro, wind and biomass energy sources was not often possible due to limited capacity, and called for more of an international effort to transfer knowledge, technology and capital in the movement towards renewable and diverse energy sources. The International Year of Biodiversity in 2010 would be a perfect opportunity to raise public awareness, she said, calling on both the private sector and Governments jointly to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss.
MARTINA DRAGOVIC (Montenegro), aligning herself with the European Union, said it was important to reiterate that the future lay in sustainable development and that actions aimed at addressing the multitude of current crises must be based on sustainable policies, the promotion of green recovery, as well as a collective and coordinated response by all stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector. Taking into consideration the unprecedented impact of climate change, it was necessary to remain fully engaged and active in the negotiation process, which should lead to ambitious, effective and fair agreement in Copenhagen.
Welcoming the Secretary-General’s report on sustainable mountain development, she said it was necessary to bear in mind that, as fragile ecosystems, mountains remained vulnerable to climate change, growing demands for water and natural resources, increasing tourism development, and greater rates of out-migration. As for energy, the sector was of essential importance for sustainable development, in both the production and consumption aspects. The provision of sufficient energy represented a precondition for economic development and satisfactory living standards.
Considerable resources and leadership were required to ensure effective adaptation and mitigation measures to combat climate change, she said. Developed countries must take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in pushing towards a low-carbon economy, and in reshaping and refocusing policies, investments and spending towards clean technologies, renewable energy sources, sustainable agriculture and forests, innovative methods and green growth, she said.
ELYES LAKHAL ( Tunisia) said sustainable development could not be dealt with in any way other than holistically as the challenges associated with it affected the whole world, which must face them together. The review conference proposed by Brazil for 2020 presented an opportunity to evaluate goals and progress for all involved. For its own part, Tunisia had long placed sustainable development at the forefront of its domestic policies and sought to find solutions that would ensure equality between generations, so that the welfare of the present one would not deprive the next one of opportunities.
Climate change was a pressing problem with tangible negative consequences, he said, adding that his country aimed not only to safeguard its natural assets and human resources, but had invested 5.6 billion dinars to preserve water and combat desertification. That posed a particular challenge for Tunisia, which was characterized by arid and semi-arid land. Globally, 1.2 billion people were threatened by desertification and, given the seriousness and universal nature of the problem, Tunisia had been among the first countries to ratify the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Unfortunately, the funds allocated to that cause continued to decline, despite the significant economic losses caused by the phenomenon.
ABDUL GHAFOOR ( Maldives) said small island developing States faced huge challenges in sustaining and increasing an economic base due to their isolation, small size and vulnerability to external shocks -- both economic and ecological. Heavy dependence on international trade had led to proliferative effects resulting from the global crises. For the Maldives, environmental challenges were at the core of the struggle for sustainable development.
The country’s coral reefs were perhaps among the world’s most threatened ecosystems, he said, noting that, as the “lifeline” of the Maldives, they served as the basis for the two primary economic activities: fisheries and tourism. As such, the protection of costal zones was of great concern since almost every part of the country could be considered coastal due to the small size of its islands. The effects of increasing climate change would only exacerbate the environmental tragedy and prove an even greater economic catastrophe than previously.
In addition, the health of the country’s citizens would be greatly compromised as a result of changing annual precipitation, he said. The World Health Organization (WHO) had stated that climate change was the number one threat to human health, as indicated by the rise of vector-borne diseases in the tropics. Climate change was not just a “distant possibility”; rising sea levels, flooding, diminished availability of freshwater and coral bleaching due to warming seas had become frequent phenomena.
However, the inverse relationship between responsibility for climate change and vulnerability to its consequences was often overlooked, he said. A comprehensive rights-informed approach to sustainability and just development, anchored in the concept of common but differentiated responsibility, was the logical and ethical way forward, he said. Increasing official development assistance (ODA) and technology transfer was necessary to ensure food security, and energy independence, as well as to support action on mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the Rio Group and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his country’s unequivocal commitment to sustainable development was guided by its National Development Strategy, which included key elements of Agenda 21. Guyana’s Environmental Protection Act outlined sustainable development as the cornerstone of its socio-economic programme. In its quest to fulfil all its sustainable development commitments, Guyana had striven to overcome varied economic, social and environmental vulnerabilities. Those undertakings were more onerous due to the onset of the adverse impact of climate change, including the prospect of rising sea levels, which posed a real existential threat.
Indeed, he continued, as emphasized in the Liliendaal Declaration of CARICOM leaders in July, many small island developing States would cease to exist in the absence of urgent, ambitious and decisive international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The international community must reach a comprehensive agreement in Copenhagen. Guyana, thus, welcomed the Declaration of the Alliance of Small Island States at its recent Climate Change Summit, which called for a package of mitigation activities up to and beyond 2012 aimed at limiting increases in global average surface temperatures to well below 1.5˚ Celsius. Apart from deep emissions cuts, Copenhagen must also deliver adequate financing flows and technology transfers to enable the “significant abatement potential” of the developing world to become part of the solution. It was imperative that “REDD Plus” –- avoided deforestation, forest conservation and sustainable forest management -– form a significant part of the Copenhagen Agreement. That mechanism should include both fund- and market-based resources.
DER LAURENT DABIRE ( Burkina Faso) said sustainable development was of particular interest to his country, which had vast natural resources and faced widespread and rapid deterioration of its ecosystems due to extensive farming, the use of chemicals, the swift spread of urban sprawl and pollution, among other factors. The Government had taken steps to limit the harmful impact of climate change on development. For example, it had adopted a national environmental policy and implemented a sustainable development plan. To combat pollution, it launched a campaign two years ago to analyse air quality, which made it possible to devise a “pollution map” charting pollution levels in Ouagadougou, the capital. The Government had also launched awareness-raising campaigns and programmes for waste collection. Those steps had significantly improved living conditions.
He said the country’s commitment to supporting international efforts to combat threats posed by environmental degradation had been evident during an October forum on sustainable development held in Ouagadougou. It had been attended by President Blaise Compaore and many other African leaders, whose presence was a testament to Africa’s commitment to tackling climate change. Burkina Faso called on developed countries to take the courageous historic decision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and give sufficient financial aid to developing countries. A post-Kyoto agreement must be based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Welcoming the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) initiative to organize a food security summit in November at a time when one sixth of world population was suffering from malnutrition, he expressed hope that the financing and technology needed to sustain agricultural development would be forthcoming.
Having concluded its general discussion on sustainable development, the Committee then took up its agenda item on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
NADIA OSMAN (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said urbanization had taken place at an unprecedented rate, with an estimated 2 billion people expected to be added to the number of urban dwellers in developing countries over the next quarter-century. To meet their needs, another 35 million new homes, with attendant infrastructure and services, would have to be built every year for the next 25 years. Without considerable investments in housing and urban development in the next 20 years, those people would not escape the trap of poverty, poor heath and low productivity.
She called on the international donor community to support developing countries in that respect, emphasizing the critical importance of implementing the Habitat Agenda with a special focus on protecting the urban poor, who were particularly vulnerable. However, the continuing unpredictability and reliability of funding was a problem that must be addressed. The Group of 77 supported the series of regional ministerial meetings which provided a forum in which to share experience and knowledge on that issue. In conclusion, she reiterated her appeal that the international community give due attention and assistance, including financial support, to the Habitat Agenda as it dealt with some of the most vital aspects of human existence.
JAKOB STROM (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said access to decent, affordable housing and basic urban services was critical to reducing poverty, improving health and strengthening gender equality among poor urban populations. Sustainable urban development was a prerequisite to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Within 50 years, two thirds of the global population would live in urban areas, but poverty was becoming more urban. The number of slum dwellers was poised to reach 1 billion and continued to grow rapidly. Cities were unprepared to meet the challenges of the expected onslaught of massive urbanization. Innovative solutions for integrated urban planning and management involving all stakeholders were sorely needed.
The ability of cities to adapt to climate change was critical, he said. That would require more appropriate land-use planning, more accountable urban management and further development of affordable public infrastructure, as well as good urban governance, in order to face such anticipated challenges as increased flooding, landfalls, water scarcity and sea-level rise. The European Union supported UN-Habitat’s intention to work increasingly with local urban authorities to reduce the ecological footprint of cities and improve their safety and enhance their resilience to climate change. He welcomed UN-Habitat’s Cities and Climate Change Initiative aimed at strengthening the capacities of cities and local authorities to respond to climate change.
He said UN-Habitat should continue to help Member States achieve the internationally agreed goals, including those related to adequate shelter for all, slum upgrading and prevention by providing people with adequate housing, access to water and sanitation services, and sustainable urban development. Also welcome was the progress made thus far in implementing the Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013, an important tool for strengthening UN-Habitat’s comparative advantage. He strongly encouraged its continued comprehensive implementation, and also voiced the European Union’s strong support for the programme’s Gender Equality Action Plan, as well as its Youth Strategy for Enhanced Engagement, as a road map for promoting urban youth employment.
BUDI BOWOLEKSONO (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said political commitment to sustaining global economic recovery must be translated into pro-poor policies that would enable housing markets to function more efficiently. Policies should recognize the limited ability of the poor to afford decent housing. It was vital that housing finance systems and regulatory frameworks reflect the housing needs of the poor and low-income people, and that they ensure increased access to land, credit and protection from arbitrary eviction. To overcome the slum problem, the poor should be given greater access to credit.
He said UN-Habitat had set an example by establishing innovative urban and rural poor programmes for housing credit. The substantial increase in resources for the Programme was a clear acknowledgement of the important work it was doing, such as analysis of urbanization and ways to deal with the slum challenge, which had guided the policies and programmes of United Nations agencies and international partners. That support must be maintained and increased, preferably through multi-year commitments so that UN-Habitat could plan ahead with confidence. The Programme’s 2008-2013 medium-term strategic and institutional plan was a valuable stepping stone towards fulfilling the Habitat Agenda.
He expressed support for convening Habitat III in 2016 to evaluate and update the policies and strategies endorsed by Habitat II. “It is to Habitat’s credit that the importance of social housing to development processes is gaining wide recognition”, he said. Awareness of housing as a productive sector was growing because of the scope and depth of UN-Habitat’s partnership agreements with other United Nations agencies, regional and subregional organizations and the private sector. The Programme’s need to expand its operational focus to climate change was beyond dispute because of the clear connection between urbanization and climate change. Urbanization was the greatest challenge facing mankind, and experts noted that cities, which were great emitters of greenhouse gases, were contributing significantly to global warming. Unless those emissions were reduced substantially by 2050, uncontrolled climate change would have life-threatening consequences. Further social housing must be energy-efficient and environmentally sound.
JANIL GREENAWAY (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of CARICOM, said that, because the economic crisis had severely impacted the region’s countries, and Governments had experienced a drastic shortfall in revenues over a short period of time, policies aimed at providing affordable housing for low-income groups had suffered. CARCICOM countries, like all small island developing States, were particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, although they had contributed the least to the phenomenon. They, therefore, welcomed the increased attention by UN-Habitat to the overlap between the human settlements agenda with the global environmental agenda. Hopefully, that programmatic focus would be broadened to include the Caribbean subregion as part of a wider strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean.
With regard to urban youth development, she said it was a CARICOM priority and one that also converged with UN-Habitat’s programmatic focus. Much could be done in terms of collaborating on the promotion and creation of safe cities. As the challenges to the sustainable development of small island developing States continued to mount, United Nations development plans and programmes must improve their support. The CARICOM welcomed the recommendation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council that the General Assembly consider convening a 2016 conference on housing and sustainable urban development.
LIU YUYIN (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that, to attain the goal of adequate shelter for all, sustainable settlements in an urbanizing world and the other goals of the Habitat Agenda, the international community should make concerted efforts, despite the current financial crisis, in the areas of economic development, social progress, environmental protection and population growth. While attention should be paid to the particular conditions of each country in formulating settlement policies, strategies, programmes and priorities, countries should share lessons learned from each other.
He called for the strengthening of international cooperation and partnerships for the development of human settlements, and urged developed countries to honour in earnest their commitments to help create favourable external conditions for economic and social development in the developing world. Resources should be pooled for the comprehensive and systematic improvement of habitats.
National Governments should play a leading role in that effort while mobilizing the participation of all society and the integration of the resources of all relevant sectors, he said. The Government of China had given priority to those matters, working for the integrated and harmonious development of urban and rural areas, while prioritizing improved, healthy lifestyles and environmental sustainability. For that reason, many Chinese projects, cities and individuals had won United Nations habitat awards, and the country had itself started to issue awards for model cities and projects.
VIJAY RAMNIKLAL RUPANI ( India) hailed the inclusion of affordable housing finance systems in the Habitat Agenda, saying that its initiatives could have a great impact and urging the international community to support its efforts financially. Government housing policies should also be broader and more proactive, rather than leaving the sector to market forces. On the national level, India had taken several initiatives to improve housing and habitats in both urban and rural areas, he said. The National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy was focusing on sustainable habitat development, as well as collecting data on low-income households. It aimed to provide basic services to the poor, including affordable shelter, water and sanitation.
Other initiatives provided gainful employment to the urban unemployed or underemployed through self-employment ventures, he said. For example, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act provided 100 days of employment for every rural household. Still others focused on building low-cost sanitation units and creating economic infrastructure. In all those endeavours, sustainable habitat development was incorporated through the adoption of green building codes and energy-efficient transport options. Through South-South cooperation, UN-Habitat had utilized the experience and expertise involved in those efforts. The budgetary constraints it faced impeded the fulfilment of its mandate, and India was concerned about the severe imbalance between earmarked and non-earmarked contributions to the Programme. He echoed the Secretary-General’s call for predictable and stabling funding for UN-Habitat.
YVONNE KHAMATI-KILONZO ( Kenya), noting estimates that two thirds of the world’s population would live in cities and towns by 2050, said a major outcome of rapid, unplanned and unsustainable urbanization was the growth of slums. Kenya’s experience attested to the challenges associated with what could be considered the “urbanization of poverty”. In addition, climate change had serious implications for human settlements and sustainable urbanization. A number of major cities across the world would face high vulnerability as a result of their coastal location, for example, or due to poor planning. Indeed, the human settlements agenda and the global environmental agenda were converging with cities at the nexus of climate change adaptation and mitigation.
She said the Government of Kenya was committed to achieving the Vision 2030 objectives, despite the global financial and economic crisis. It had launched an ambitious programme aimed at producing 200,000 housing units annually by 2012. Key elements of the focus included building national urban planning capacity, implementing a national decentralization and devolution policy, promoting capacity-building for the building industry, improving access to finance, promoting low-cost housing, and instituting legislative and regulatory reforms. A slum upgrading project in Kibera near Nairobi was an example of what could be accomplished by Governments working with UN-Habitat and other development partners, she said. The Kibera upgrade and others in major Kenyan cities were focused on improving housing and related infrastructure through the construction of decent, low-cost high-rise housing units.
LEE CHONG HOCK ( Singapore), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and ASEAN, said the rapid urbanization that had accompanied development and globalization was unlikely to abate. Issues of housing, public health and access to clean water and sanitation would become more pressing and complex, while economic growth would have to come from the creation of new jobs and wealth. But with cities already consuming about 75 per cent of the world’s energy and causing 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a fine balance must be struck between economic growth, environmental protection and a high quality of life for urban dwellers. It was necessary to build cities that were not just liveable, but also sustainable.
He noted, however, that the Habitat Agenda was facing new challenges due to the global financial and economic crisis, with Governments being tempted to see sustainable development as an unaffordable luxury. As a contrasting example, Singapore had decided to pursue long-term economic growth and environmental sustainability by taking an integrated planning approach and using a cost-effective approach that would adopt necessary long-term measures, even if they carried short-term costs. Further, it would remain flexible in using new technologies, such as vertical greenery, green buildings and solar energy, among others.
Backing those principles up with good governance and sound policies was essential, he said, underlining the June launch of the World Bank-Singapore Urban Hub, which would leverage the institution’s global knowledge and Singapore’s recognized experience in urban management and finance to provide quality advice and technical assistance relating to global best practices on urban challenges. Singapore also planned to host the Second World Cities Summit from 28 to 30 June 2010. Countries could form global partnerships to develop innovative prototypes for sustainable cities and had itself jointly developed the Tianjin Eco-city with China.
GUILHERME DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA ( Brazil) noted that the Secretary-General’s report pointed to the close link between sustainable development and sustainable urbanization. “If, on the one hand, cities are among the major contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, on the other hand, they can play a pivotal role in climate change mitigation by promising energy-efficient urban management”, he said. Population growth and the unparalleled scale and pace of urbanization, especially in developing countries, would require a rapid response by Governments to facilitate and provide affordable, sustainable housing.
The Government of Brazil had supported policies, legislation, budgetary allocations and targeted subsidies that promoted the housing sector’s key role in maintaining overall economic health, he said. In 2003, the Ministry of Cities had been created to fight social inequalities and increase access to affordable housing, sanitation and transport. Today, 82 per cent of Brazilians lived in urban areas. However, owing to rapid, unplanned urbanization, 6.6 million families lacked shelter, 11 per cent of urban households had no access to drinking water, and almost half had no sewage services. To tackle those challenge, the Government had launched the Programme for Accelerated Growth, which had established a set of rules, commitments to action and guidelines aimed at promoting economic growth and social inclusion through investment in infrastructure, logistics and energy infrastructure and in social and urban development.
HASHIM AL-ALAWI ( Bahrain) expressed his country’s belief in the principles of sustainable development and urban planning and voiced support for the Habitat Agenda. The Government of Bahrain had enacted a multi-target strategy that stemmed from belief in the importance of a decent life for all. The country sought to preserve its heritage, while also undertaking ambitious housing and infrastructure projects to advance and improve living standards and while keeping up with population growth.
He said his country pursued creative solutions to provide decent housing for its citizens and had conducted a broad feasibility study of low-cost housing that did not harm the environment. As the world faced a multitude of challenges, including the economic crisis, numerous epidemics, food insecurity and climate change, countries must intensify their multilateral efforts to tackle those problems and protect the poor, who had not created them, but were the most affected by them. For Bahrain, climate change posed a particular challenge and Bahrain called for dialogue on all levels to solve the grave problem.
RAYMOND WOLFE ( Jamaica) said his country’s commitment to UN-Habitat was evidenced by its having convened the eighteenth session of the Assembly of Minsters and Lead Authorities of Housing and Urban Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Montego Bay in July. That meeting had concluded with a declaration appropriately highlighting the decline of available resources for housing and urban development due to the global economic crisis. It had recommended the mapping of natural disaster risk and vulnerability as a way to implement collective measures for disaster prevention and mitigation. The Assembly had also supported the preparation of the first UN-Habitat regional report on the state of Latin American and Caribbean cities.
He said that Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago were current beneficiaries of Phase I of the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme, a regional UN-Habitat programme to address critical urban challenges by doing assessments to guide the development of immediate, mid-term and long-term interventions. Efforts were under way to make that programme operational in Jamaica. While Jamaica appreciated the work going on in the subregion, UN-Habitat should seek to further engage CARICOM countries since their needs and concerns had multiplied with the onset of the financial crisis. A particular concern was the shortfall in resources for housing and urban development. The international community should increase resources to enable UN-Habitat to better implement its mandate. Financial investment in the urban poor in developing countries redounded to the benefit of the international economic system.
ESAYAS GOTTA ( Ethiopia) said his country had developed and begun to implement a National Urban Development Programme in 2006. That had resulted in reduced poverty, urban job creation and better living standards, the formation of fixed capital, investment in housing and slum upgrading. The Programme was geared to contribute to the Millennium target of halving the proportion of people living on less than $1.23 a day and the percentage of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water, in addition to significantly improving the lives of slum dwellers.
He said his country’s National Urban Development Programme had two major components: the Integrated Housing Development Programme and the Micro and Small-scale Enterprises Development Programme. The major objectives of the former were to reduce urban poverty and unemployment, provide adequate housing, reduce slums, implement urban upgrading, and enhance the capacity of the construction industry. That programme aimed to create 200,000 jobs, construct 400,000 houses in 72 urban centres and support the creation of 10,000 small construction enterprises. The latter programme aimed to create 1.5 million jobs, and 65 per cent of them had been created.
The Government had also provided small-scale enterprises with various support services, such as production premises, start-up credits, machinery, market access, and business management training, he said. It had launched a $208 million integrated urban infrastructure programme in 19 urban centres. Those efforts clearly demonstrated the Government’s commitment to sustainable urban development. In coming years, it would redouble its efforts to ensure adequate housing and related infrastructure met the needs of the population. However, mobilizing affordable housing finance and innovative technology to build low-cost housing was a major challenge, and Ethiopia called on UN-Habitat to explore ways in which countries could have better access to the requisite financing and technology.
OLABODE ADEKEYE ( Nigeria) said affordable housing for the poor was a crucial goal for his country, which the Government had sought to tackle through partnerships with the private sector, which had provided citizens with access to subsidized land by issuing bonds. They had been shown to be effective in raising money for social housing. Nigeria also supported UN-Habitat’s experimental reimbursable seeding operations and Slum Upgrading Facility.
With respect to the World Urban Forum, he said it remained a strong platform in which Member States could share ideas and best practices on shelter and sustainable urban development, and called for the Forum to improve its partnership with the private sector. The adoption of the Habitat Agenda and the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements had established the goals of providing adequate shelter for all, and the proposed Habitat III in 2016 would provide a good forum to evaluate the implementation of the Agenda, while also laying out strategies for the future.
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