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UNHABITAT council talks begin as Prepcom II weighs in on new urban agenda


UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos.

UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos.

RESOLVING to place the global urbanization crisis at the top of a broad negotiation, which should lead radical redefinition of urban policies by October 2016, the second preparatory meeting (PrepCom II) ended last week in Nairobi with member states recognizing the growing role of cities in their respective country policies.

The Prepcom II for Habitat III – the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – closed with major decisions by delegates. Among the resolutions are that in the next 15 months, the focus will be on the finalisation of the issue papers, the implementation of the policy units and the organisation of the regional and thematic regions, all feeding into the substantive content of the discussions.

Close to 800 participants from 90 countries attended the important meeting, which is the second in a series of three aiming to pin down the detail, aims and objectives of the UN’s sustainable urbanisation conference that takes place every 20 years and will next be held in October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador.

Delegates at the Committee confirmed that the Habitat III conference will take place in the week of October 17, 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, while the third Preparatory Committee is scheduled three months earlier from July 26 to 27 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

During the PrepCom, participants took the first steps in the creation of a debate and advocacy platform for non-governmental in the process of Habitat III, named the General Assembly of Partners.

There was also important contribution by local authorities, who through their international associations and networks met to share their vision and proposals towards an effective contribution to the process. Stakeholders and partners had the chance to discuss the most important topics for the New Urban Agenda in 36 side events while 21 exhibitors demonstrated their work around the world.

The Secretary-General of the Habitat III Conference, Dr. Joan Clos, in his key note speech highlighted the link between urbanization and rural development. “Urbanization, if done well, is an effective instrument and driver of rural prosperity as well as general economic development,” he said.

Dr. Clos who is also the Executive Director of UN-Habitat said that in order to address the urbanisation subject critically, the organisation had created a new vision, which makes a shift in focus and incorporates three essential urban elements into a new, integrated working methodology. He said these were urban legislation, urban design and municipal finance, which he described as a three-legged strategy in advancing sustainable urbanization.

On climate change, Dr. Clos said that cities, especially those in the developed world, contributed to up to 70 per cent of global gas emissions. “New urban models are required to address the challenge of gas emissions,” he said. The Secretary-General also called for increased measures to mitigate against the increasing disaster risk in many urban centres of the world. Meanwhile, the 25th session of the Governning Council of UN-Habitat also kicked off in Nairobi , with calls to use urbanisation as an opportunity to harness the economic potential of cities for growth and development. urther, there were calls for strengthening of Un-Habitat in order to see it achieve its mandate.

In his key note address, President Uhuru Kenyatta called for the strengthening of the UN-Habitat so that it can effectively pursue the mandate to support sustainable urbanisation. He said the governance processes and financial resources of UN-Habitat need to be improved so that it can play a more active and visible role during a time the African continent is experiencing fast-paced urbanisation. “UN-Habitat must also be empowered and encouraged to comprehensively engage the private sector whose expectations and investments are doing more to shape the urban space than any other sector, “said the President.

As part of its commitment to support the United Nations, President Kenyatta announced that Kenya will donate 1 million US Dollars to support the UN-Habitat Secretariat. Part of the donation will be used to organise the upcoming Habitat III conference while the other part will be used to support the work programme of the UN-Habitat. Clos said sustainable urbanisation was vital for addressing some of the major concerns of our time, such as inequity, resource scarcity and climate change.

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