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Sustainable Local Government, Sustainable Development: Involving the Private Sector and NGOs
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Opening Keynote Session, 10:00-11:30 Tuesday 4 March 2003

Sustainable Local Government, Sustainable Development: Involving the Private Sector and NGOs

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to begin my speech by acknowledging the leadership role taken by the Government of South Africa and His Excellency Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa, in promoting international development issues. It was only recently that the Government of South Africa hosted the World Summit for Sustainable Development and today the Commonwealth Local Government Forum Conference. I also wish to recognise the important role played by the Department of Provincial and Local Government in close collaboration with SALGA and the City of Tshwane in organising this very important and timely Conference.

Local governments are key to the development of sustainable cities and alleviation of poverty. Strong local authorities, both in urban and rural areas, are crucial in implementing effective strategies for the future development of our communities. This Conference provides an opportunity for towns, cities, metropolises and their associations within the Commonwealth, to collectively reaffirm their commitment to the principles of sustainable development and to exchange experience on these overarching principles: democratic decentralization, competent and inclusive leadership, participation, partnership, cooperation and solidarity.

With the world's population due to grow to 8 billion by 2025, effective management for sustainable urban development is one of the critical items for the 21st century, both in the developing countries and in those that are more economically advanced. Without sustainable urban development there can be no sustainable development. How we manage and live in our cities and towns will determine our ability to deal with the Millennium Development Goals and with the full range of priority issues identified for WSSD: water, energy, shelter, health, agriculture and biodiversity -- in short WESHAB.

As the UN Programme responsible for cities and other human settlements, as the UN-focal point for Local Authorities, and as the agency responsible for the Habitat Agenda and the urban dimension of Agenda 21, UN-HABITAT is now focused on Millennium Development Goal 7, Target 11 -- to achieve a significant improvement in the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020. People living in slums are not, or are only partially, connected to services like water, sanitation and electricity. Most of the housing structures in slums are sub-standard and do not comply with local building codes. Often, slum dwellers lack legal ownership or any other legal security of tenure. Most of these and the myriad other problems associated with slums can only be dealt with effectively at the local level. Local authorities, in partnership with national government and the private sector, are therefore the key players in achieving the targets set out for this goal.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

UN-HABITAT broke new ground by enabling local authorities, the private sector and representatives of civil society to play an active role in international processes during the Istanbul Conference held in 1996. Partnerships and participation were two of the strategic objectives that emerged from this conference as part of a framework for sustainable urban development. UN-HABITAT advocates both a wide variety of partnerships and broad-based multi-stakeholder participation as a key to an effective system of governance that aims to improve living conditions for all. UN-HABITAT has adopted an enabling strategy that embraces the principles of partnership and participation as the most democratic and effective approach to its own work. Therefore, recognizing democratic local authorities as our closest partners, we promote decentralization and work to strengthen local financial and institutional capacities.

The establishment of United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities (UNACLA) in January 2000, as a focal point for local government with the United Nations, was a natural consequence of this enabling strategy. UNACLA's members are mayors and local government leaders from across the world. UNACLA serves as an Advisory Committee to me. Its objectives are: (1) to offer a positive and innovative vision of the future of the world's cities; (2) to contribute intellectually and substantively to the definition and implementation of UN-HABITAT's Global Campaigns on Secure Tenure and Good Urban Governance; and (3) to interact with UN-HABITAT Governing Council and other UN governing bodies to strengthen the global dialogue between central and local government. UNACLA is playing a significant role in coordinating local government response to WSSD and the MDG. With the growing role of local authorities in global governance, I expect to see UNACLA become an important organization increasingly consulted by many multi-lateral agencies.

Capacity building at the local level is at the top of the agenda of major international development agencies. The international community recognises the importance of increased local governance responsibilities arising from rapid urbanization. Cooperation between cities, local government practitioners, associations of local government and the private sector is emerging as a key tool in most international development agendas. With a view to furthering the global base of knowledge on decentralization, UN-HABITAT has undertaken 24 global case studies and five comparative studies in African countries and has recently launched an Awards Programme to recognise innovations in local governance.

In helping national and local governments implement commitments made in the Millennium Declaration, UN-HABITAT has facilitated citywide consultations involving both the public and private sectors and community organisations. These consultations result in action plans that identify partnerships necessary to implement the plans. Through this process, some countries have developed extensive experience with the private sector and community based organisations, developing effective partnership agreements to undertake practical measures to promote poverty reduction. Some of these formal agreements have even established special mechanisms to promote local government service provision. A good example is the establishment of the Philippines Urban Forum, which brings together various stakeholders - public and private - to implement the national action plan for the campaigns on good urban governance and secure tenure.

UN-HABITAT's decision to highlight the issue of secure tenure, not just in terms of shelter but also as an underlying cause of urban poverty, is informed by our broad experience globally. Our partners have demonstrated that, for cities with a significant number of slums, titling is not only impractical, but also has little direct impact on access to finance, which is often used as the main justification for such a strategy. It is clear from our experience that the most important sources of financing for slum upgrading come from with a country, and are both public and private. The involvement of the domestic private sector is key to the rejuvenation of local economies, and the importance of international development assistance is often overstated in this regard. However, a key lesson is the importance of developing long-term frameworks at the city, national and international levels that identify a mix of stakeholders, public and private.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to acknowledge the growing co-operation between UN-HABITAT, the Commonwealth and CLGF. I wish to commend the dynamic leadership of Mr. Carl Wright, the Executive Director of CLGF, who is an active member of the global steering group of the Global Campaign on Urban Governance. Collaboration with CLGF includes our effective cooperation in the national launches of the urban governance campaign in India, the Pacific and the Caribbean and envisaged co-operation in East Africa sub-region. In collaboration with East Africa Community, CLGF and UN-HABITAT are currently developing a project aimed at supporting the decentralisation agenda in the region. The project will promote regional integration at local government level, strengthen local government actors to pursue pro-poor development in their communities and support the exchange of experience and best practices on local governance between Kenya, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. The project responds to the new opportunities that followed the signing of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement to integrate local authorities into the ACP-EU co-operation alongside non-state actors and central governments.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 19th session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) will be held from 5 to 9 May 2003. The meeting will take place at UN-HABITAT headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Among the key issues to be discussed are: UN-HABITAT's work programme for 2004-2005 and the follow-up to the 25th special session of the General Assembly on the implementation of the Habitat Agenda (Istanbul +5). Two special themes will be addressed: (1) urban development and shelter strategies favouring the poor and (2) the rural dimension of sustainable urban development. A report on the dialogues on effective decentralization and strengthening of local authorities will also be presented and discussed.

I look forward to the outcomes of this Conference being forwarded to the Governing Council by the CLGF so that its deliberations may be enriched and enhanced.

I wish you very productive meeting.

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