15 October 2020

New Urban Agenda an ‘Accelerator for Sustainable Development’, Says Executive Director, as Second Committee Takes Up Human Settlements Programme

While dubbing the New Urban Agenda an engine for economic growth, poverty reduction and environmental protection, especially during the COVID‑19 pandemic, delegates also lamented insufficient funding to keep its wheels turning, as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) took up the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat) today.

Emphasizing that the Agenda has introduced national urban policies in over 40 low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Christopher Williams, Director of UN‑Habitat’s New York Office, called it an accelerator for sustainable development.  Speaking on behalf of Maimunah Mohd Sharif, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN‑Habitat, he said the Programme also has launched a rapid response to COVID‑19 just six weeks after its onset in 13 countries, forging partnerships with several United Nations agencies to develop guidelines for informal settlements and slums.

He lamented, however, UN‑Habitat’s challenging financial situation, as demand for its support of country programmes, services and products remains strong.  Although voluntary non-earmarked contributions jumped by more than 40 per cent, from $3.7 million to $5.2 million in 2019, and five new Government partners made voluntary non-earmarked contributions to the general-purpose account, a significant shortage persists.  Contributions received up until July 2020, from 10 Government partners, stood at $1.2 million, which represents 6.3 per cent of the authorized amount of $18.9 million.

Similarly, Guyana’s delegate, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed that population growth and increasing poverty need a more responsive and better-resourced UN‑Habitat.  He expressed concern that the Programme faces critical financial shortages, especially when the compounding effects of COVID‑19 present a prime opportunity to reorganize how the world interacts and rebuilds its cities and human settlements.

In a like vein, the representative of Indonesia said urban areas have been severely affected by the pandemic, with 90 per cent of all reported infections.  The New Urban Agenda “should be our compass for resilient recovery”, he said, adding that his country plans to build 1 million low-income houses and provide clean water for all by 2024.

Focusing on building in his country, El Salvador’s delegate said its housing ministry is driving projects for families with scarce resources as well as specialized hospitals in response to the pandemic, including Hospital El Salvador, the largest and most modern in Latin America.  The representative of Nigeria said his country is using housing development to lift millions of citizens out of poverty, with its central bank committing more than $500,000 to help build low‑income housing.

Also speaking were the representatives of India, China, Russian Federation, Algeria, Kenya and Ecuador.

The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 16 October, to take up agriculture development, food security and nutrition.

For information media. Not an official record.