Honourable Michael K. Wamalua, Vice-President of the Republic of Kenya,
Honourable Ruhakana Rugunda, President of the UNEP Governing Council,
Honourable David Anderson, immediate past-President of the UNEP Governing Council,
Honourable Dr. Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP,
Honourable Newton Kulundu, Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife, Host Government of the Republic of Kenya,
Ladies and Gentlemen
In time-honoured tradition, I have been invited by the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme to address the UNEP Governing Council. I, in turn, soon hope to welcome the Executive Director, Dr. Klaus Toepfer, to address the opening plenary of the 19th Session of the Governing Council of UN-HABITAT. To my knowledge, this tradition is unique in the UN-system. It shows not only the respect with which our two agencies view each other, but it also reflects the important relationships and complementarities between our respective mandates and activities.
When I last addressed this Governing Council, in February 2001, I expressed my appreciation for the important contributions made by Dr. Toepfer to the revitalisation of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements. Now, two years later, the revitalisation process has been successfully concluded, and Habitat has been elevated by the United Nations General Assembly to a new status as the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, with a new name, UN-HABITAT. Today I am in a position to commit an even stronger, more purposeful UN-HABITAT to the important partnership between our two sister organisations. With a profound sense of common purpose, UN-HABITAT and UNEP are working, each within our mandates, to strengthen the nexus between the natural and built environments.
At UN-HABITAT we believe that sustainable urbanisation is one of the most pressing challenges facing the global community in the 21st century. Cities are now home to half of humankind. They are the setting for much national production and consumption – economic and social processes that generate wealth and opportunity but also disease, crime, pollution and poverty. In many cities, slum dwellers number more than 50 percent of the population and have little or no access to shelter, water, and sanitation.
UN-HABITAT, the United Nations agency for cities and other human settlements is well aware that local and global environmental conditions are significant for sustainable urbanisation. Poverty alleviation, access to water, adequate shelter, and other key development mandates, given to my organisation by the Habitat Agenda, the Millennium Development Goals and in the targets agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, are critically dependent upon natural resources. On the other side of this coin, we are very conscious of the important contributions that well-managed cities and towns can make to the reduction of greenhouse gases, protection of the ozone layer, management of fresh water resources, conservation of forests and marine environments and the preservation of bio-diversity.
As we well know, environment and human settlements issues are closely linked, and partnership between the two UN focal points for these topics is an eminently practical vehicle to carry us along the path toward sustainable development. Not only have key funding partners provided specific support to this fruitful collaboration, but, also, the General Assembly and our respective governing bodies have time and again confirmed their appreciation and explicit mandates for our joint programmes and activities.
We already have a host of time-proven joint programmes where we are pooling our complementary scientific, normative and operational capabilities very effectively indeed. This is because economically efficient, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable development – all of which are fundamental to the reduction of poverty – can actually be achieved when we squarely address the deteriorating living environment in and around our cities and towns. But, this will be accomplished only by being resolute in our insistence upon integrated developmental and environmental policies and in our advocacy for decision-making structures that promote the effective participation of all the stakeholders.
The “Joint Progress Reports of the Executive Directors” on cooperation between our two organisations (identified as UNEP/GC.22/INF/11 at this Governing Council and as HSP/19/11 at UN-HABITAT’s Governing Council), provides an update on our joint activities: § The Sustainable Cities Programme, with its more than 50 hands-on demonstrations of broad-based urban planning and management and people-centred slum upgrading, continues to be a primary tool for mobilising partnerships in support of Agenda 21, the Habitat Agenda, the Millennium Development Goals and the targets agreed at WSSD; § The Water for African Cities Programme, which with substantial donor commitments has now been extended to Asian cities, addresses the growing urban water crisis and has gained in significance with the reconfirmation of water and sanitation targets in the World Summit for Sustainable Development; § The Disaster Management Programme, with joint activities throughout the world from war-torn Kosovo to Mozambique and the Dongting Lake Basin in China; and § The UN system-wide New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) where UN-HABITAT and UNEP are joint lead agencies for the activity cluster on environment, population, and urbanisation.
Most of the UNEP/UN-HABITAT activities presented in the “Joint Progress report” are also part of the “Coalition for Sustainable Urbanisation,” a series of concrete partnership commitments for implementing the WSSD targets. The UNEP/UN-HABITAT cooperation has strengthened these initiatives and helped to mobilise key partner organisations. Our cooperation in the WSSD process continues a successful practice that included our joint leadership in the Urban Environment Forum and, more recently, our cooperation in the World Urban Forum.
In view of this situation, UNEP and UN-HABITAT will continue to work as partners to improve the environment and to alleviate poverty, two goals that cannot be separated. This partnership will continue to translate into concrete improvements in the living conditions of growing urban populations throughout the world. And, in this regard, I am pleased to announce the signing this afternoon of a Memorandum of Understanding between UN-HABITAT and one of UNEP’s key partners in the private sector, ESRI, the world’s leading producer of geographic information systems, or GIS. ESRI has established a generous grant programme that will provide up to 1000 cities in developing countries with advanced GIS software, training and support. This will be a significant step forward in advancing the capability of cities to integrate environmental information into their management databases. We are already exploring ways in which UN-HABITAT, UNEP and ESRI might collaborate on both GIS applications and training.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I look forward to working closely with all the delegates assembled here and with Dr. Toepfer. As for this important session of the UNEP Governing Council, I wish you every success in your deliberations and thank you for your kind attention.