Theme: Cities- engines of rural development
Your Excellency, Hon. Mwai Kibaki, President, Republic of Kenya,
|Executive Director of UN-HABITAT Mrs. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka |
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Honourable Parliamentarians and Mayors,
The Elders, Community and Civil Society Leaders,
The youth and members of the Press,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you, and to express my sincere gratitude to you, Mr. President and to your Government, for offering to host the global celebrations of World Habitat Day this year - back in Nairobi, the headquarters of our Agency. We are greatly honoured and privileged that you have chosen to grace this global occasion with your personal presence. On my part, it is the first time since I became head of UN-HABITAT to observe this day here in Nairobi, as in the past the global observations were hosted in Kingston Jamaica (2000); Fukuoka Japan (2001); Brussels Belgium (2002) and Rio De Janeiro Brazil (2003). I thus missed the Kenya celebrations all these years. But we all know that East West, Home is Best, and Kenya is home of UN-HABITAT. It is here that we shall grow and flourish to deliver our mandate, and we thank you and your government, and the people of Kenya for the support they have given this organization over the past 26 years of its existence.
The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October each year as World Habitat Day so that we can reflect on the challenges still facing our living environment in our cities, towns, and villages, our settlements. The Habitat agenda has two missions, adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world. This is the day we have to take an audit of progress made, of continued and emerging problems, and forge the strategy to improve the situation. In particular, this is the day we should reflect on the conditions of those worst off. It is an occasion to look at the challenges confronting them and us in the realisation of healthy, safe and sustainable cities, towns and villages.
Let me therefore also express my sincere gratitude to those Honourable Ministers, Mayors and distinguished guests who have joined us here today from other countries to show their support for the noble cause that World Habitat Day represents. Your presence here today sends an important message to other towns, cities and countries all over the world celebrating this occasion.
The international nature of this day is testified by the presence amidst us of distinguished guests from other countries who have come to participate in this event, and especially those who are here to receive their well deserved habitat awards. I wish to welcome my core partner in celebrating this day internationally, Ms. Diane Diacon of the Building and Social Housing Foundation in the UK. She will be presenting the two BHHF winners to you shortly so that you can present them with their awards. I will also in turn present you with the 4 winners of the 2004 Habitat Scroll of Honour Awards. I would like to take this occasion to congratulate all winners of this year's habitat awards. I am aware that many other cities and institutions in the world are also today honouring top performers in delivering the habitat agenda in one way or the other. I would like to send a congratulatory message to all of them, wherever they be.
Allow me to single out, among the winners, H.E President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique. I thank the Minister who is here on his behalf. I request you Hon. Minister to to convey my sincere thanks to the President who has assisted us to mainstream the Habitat Agenda in the in the work of the African Union. This will pave way for raising the urban development challenge in the work of the African Union, in NEPAD, and assist me, to also raise the importance of the urban challenge in the report of the Commission on Africa, established by Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK, in his efforts to assist this country to catch up with the rest of the world. I am honoured to be one of the Commissioners, and with support from leaders like President Chissano on this mission, I stand better chance to succeed.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
At a time of rapid urbanisation, with millions of desperate people streaming into cities and towns from the countryside looking for jobs and a better life, we wish to commemorate World Habitat Day this year with an urgent appeal to redouble our global quest to promote territorially balanced sustainable development. This is why we chose the theme Cities – engines of rural development to mark the occasion this year.
The choice of this motto for WHD is internationally provocative and paradoxical. We need to be dramatic because we wish to use this moment to remind policy makers around the world that sustainable development can only be achieved if rural and urban areas are considered part of an inter-dependent, mutually reinforcing economic and social order. This is also the essence of the recommendations that have emerged from the Inter-Regional Conference on Urban-Rural Development Linkages we hosted in the days just prior to World Habitat Day. The conference was inaugurated by H.E. Vice President Moody Awori and I wish, once again, to express my sincere thanks to the great contribution he made to that debate. I see that many of those distinguished participants in the seminar are with us here this morning. Once again I would like to thank them especially the distinguished Ministers from India, Sri Lanka and Burundi who participated in this event.
Allow me Mr. President to share with you the conclusion of that conference which was organized as a substantive input to our celebrations today.
1. The Conference underlined critical urban-rural development linkage issues as:
(a) Unnecessary dichotomy between urban and rural development in the national development process. There exists a rural-urban continuum that must not be divided into separate policy and development domains.
(b) Environmental ramifications of the urban-rural development relationship, and how best to internalize negative externalities.
(c) Minimizing the gap between urban and rural areas in terms of income-earning opportunities and livelihoods.
2. The Conference called on Governments at all levels and their development planners to recognise and internalize the inseparable social, economic and environmental linkages between urban and rural areas and cease treating their development as mutually discrete and distinct processes, but rather take account of these linkages in their investment programmes. Cities as engines of rural development can work more effectively if there are complementary investments in rural areas. This calls for a more holistic and integrated regional-planning approach to investment decision making.
3. Development/improvement of urban-rural transport and communications links, especially trunk and access road networks, is a very potent tool for the urban-rural linkages development strategy. This facilitates access of people to goods, services, jobs and other income-earning opportunities in both areas, as well as adding value to produce and reducing transaction costs. This also stimulates growth of small and medium-sized towns, thus attenuating the concentration of population in the few major cities which often results in the growth and intensification of slums. Small and medium-sized towns are also an effective mechanism for providing services to rural areas, including educational, health and financial services. Thus, if properly formulated and implemented, such policies and strategies can contribute to the attainment of several of the Millennium Development Goals.
4. A cross-sectoral institutional structure/framework should be created for integration of urban-rural development. Planning of economic and social programmes as well as development of physical infrastructure should take account of the need to protect the ecosystem. Effective environmental planning and management, including legislative frameworks, need to be strengthened.
5. The conference also called for the development of market facilities so as to enhance the exchange of both agricultural produce and non-agricultural products.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are living in a rapidly urbanising world, where currently nearly half the population and three-quarters of the population in developed countries live and work in cities. And although more than 60 per cent of people in the developing world still live in the countryside, rural people are moving into towns and cities in greater numbers than ever before. This is because many, if not most, lack opportunities in their rural home districts.
And although this may surprise some, Africa is the fastest urbanising continent in the world today. By the year 2030 half of its population will be living and working in towns and cities. Asia, home to 60 per cent of humanity, is also urbanising fast, and by the year 2030, the percentage of its population living in urban areas is expected to rise to 60 per cent. Poor employment prospects, inadequate development and provision of services and facilities in rural areas, not to mention poverty, civil wars and natural disasters, have all contributed to the high influx of people into cities.
Ask any family living in poverty almost anywhere in the world today, whether in town or the countryside, and they will tell you that transport, for example, is a major factor in their meagre budgets. Transport and roads are also the essential link in balanced rural and urban development. People in rural areas cannot prosper if they cannot have access to services and markets in town, while towns cannot flourish without a growing rural economy.
What we must build is a network of connections that stretches across villages, small towns, big cities and the peri-urban areas on their outskirts – a network of urban-rural connections which will accelerate development. So far this web of connections, to the extent that it exists, has more negative than positive connotations. It has tentacles that reach far downstream in the form of polluted rivers that pass through densely populated areas, smoke plumes from vehicles and unregulated industrial plants that defile the air we breathe, or trunk roads prone to high accident rates. This undermines the physical and economic health of a nation. Reversing this downward spiral requires as a first step, good governance, especially at the local level, and at the national level, it requires good policies and the political will to implement them.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The concentration of investment has turned cities into places of opportunity, economic growth – and hope. No wonder then that millions in the countryside dream of a better life in the city. But the economic growth of cities will only be self-sustaining and provide the level of opportunities required if it is less dependent on the vagaries and ups and downs of international markets and economic cycles, if the concentration of services and entrepreneurships in cities also drives development in the rural areas. After all, on a very basic level, the countryside has to produce the food and many other services and products which cities consume. Now, much of that food, for example, has to be imported from outside the country taking away scarce financial resources. But these foodstuffs could be produced domestically thus uplifting depressed rural economies. This is why UN-HABITAT believes that urban development planning must take a broader regional perspective and take into account what is happening in rural areas.
This was also one of the observations of the just-concluded rural-urban linkages conference. For, if all policy makers and development planners could fully appreciate this inter-dependence between the two areas, development should no longer be cast in separate rural and urban contexts, but rather be contextualised in balanced and integrated development terms. This is what we call the urban-rural linkages approach.
UN-HABITAT for one, has already developed two programmes, one in Nepal and the other in Indonesia, to promote policy focussed specifically on these linkages.
I am pleased to announce that in the same vain UN-HABITAT has recently launched the Water and Sanitation Lake Victoria Small Towns Initiative. I was honoured to be joined by Hon. Martha Karua Minister for Water and Sanitation and her colleagues from Tanzania and Uganda in Stockholm at the International Water Week to launch this project and make a co-ordinated appeal to donors to support this East African initiative. By concentrating to deliver the Millenium Development Goals in Water and Sanitation in the rural areas, in small towns that are the growth nodes for rural development, this programme is an example of how we could stem the tide of flow of people from the countryside prematurely. Once again may Iuse this opportunity to appeal for financial support from the development partners convinced of this approach.
So, let us not just make our cities the engines of growth – let us ensure that this economic growth is carried into the development of rural areas. For only such balanced growth can make rural-urban migration more manageable. But while we begin to craft policies and tools to achieve this balanced growth and build these linkages we must also deal with the consequences of their absence in the past. This is also why we are here today.
I reiterate that the City of Nairobi is our home city. And we are also gathered here today to celebrate the wonderful hospitality you and your country have always shown us. Among the many facets of our long association, we celebrate also the progressive partnership between UN-HABITAT and your Government in the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP). Indeed, as part of this celebration, you have just inaugurated the Kibera Slum Upgrading Project. This is part of our continuing quest to reverse the mistakes of the past and to provide hope where there is despair. The majority of the residents of Kibera, this continent’s largest slum settlement, many of whom are with us today, have come to town in quest of a better life. We all know that many of them have not found this but just met a raw deal. And as their numbers have grown exponentially, we now have to work together to address the issues of basic services, inadequate shelter, security of tenure, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other health problems, that are part of living in Kibera. We also need to improve the living environment, employment prospects, especially for young people and women, and the fight against crime.
On my part, I would like to assure Kibera and all other slum residents in Kenya and all over the world, that the United Nations is fully committed to the principles of the right of the poor to the City. The UN is fighting poverty and not the poor. The UN sees the poor as an asset that we have to turn things around, provided we empower them with policies and investments that can break the institutions of exclusion that marginalize them and limit their potential. This was the essence of the message of the Secretary General.
The Millenium Declaration committed itself to the principle of Cities Without Slums. Under goal 7 target 11, the MDG seeks to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. This is why UN-HABITAT has entered a partnership with the Government of Kenya to implement a Slum-Upgrading Project countrywide. I would like to thank you Mr. President for accepting my invitation to continue as the Patron of this historical project that started with your predecessor 4 years ago.
Kibera is the beginning and we hope we shall progressively also work to improve the lives of slum dwellers not only in the City of Nairobi but also in other Towns.
We believe that by working with the Government and other partners, and above all with the people of Kibera themselves, we shall be able to develop effective models of how to upgrade slums without replacing the poor who live there. This is about developing pro-poor housing finance and mortgage systems to make decent housing affordable to the poor. It is not easy because these are normally people without regular certifiable incomes which excludes them from conventional bank credit. It is also about land reform, to grant the urban poor title deeds for the land they occupy, or where appropriate to relocate and resettle them in better suited places in full consultation with them. Our campaign on secure tenure seeks to fight poverty and not the poor and to fight slums and not slum dwellers. It also seeks to redress gender imbalances and the marginalization of women and children in the slums. That is what would constitute good governance.
It is also about encouraging the private sector to invest in a more responsible manner in the slums. Building codes have to be extended to slums areas, to make it difficult for slum landlords to continue making excessive profits by renting out shacks without basic facilities such as toilets. We would like to see the private sector invest in slums but in a responsible manner.
Mr. President in this regard UN-HABITAT has just launched a pilot Slum Upgrading Facility, and we believe with everyone's cooperation, Kibera is a place where this model could be field tested.
On our part, were are desirous to deliver our mandate, working with the Government of Kenya and its partners. I would like to assure slum dwellers that the United Nations cannot involve itself in anti-poor policies, that it seeks to upgrade slums for the benefit of slum dwellers who are its intended beneficiaries. We believe with the support and leadership that you Mr. President is providing we shall succeed.
Mwalimu Nyerere would have said and I quote
"It can be done, play your part".
Mr. President, Dear Friends and Colleagues,
We look forward on this day here in Nairobi, to the time when Kenya will serve as an example on how to move forward from poverty to prosperity with a new approach to balanced development. I want, therefore, in conclusion, to call upon all those concerned with development to help bridge the urban-rural divide so that all our children have a common future in the pursuit of happiness and the realisation of their dreams in both towns and villages.
I thank you for your kind attention.