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Statement by Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT on the occasion of the high level segment of the Tripartite ACP/EC/UN-HABITAT conference.
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United Nations Human Settlements Programme
Programme des Nations Unies pour les établissements humains - Programa de las Naciones Unidas para los Asentamientos Humanos

Statement by Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka,
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
Executive Director of UN-HABITAT
on the occasion of the high level segment of the
Tripartite ACP/EC/UN-HABITAT conference
in Nairobi, Kenya, 10 June 2009.

Your Excellency, Honourable Kalonzo Musyoka, Vice-President of the Republic of Kenya, and Minister of Home Affairs,
Your Excellency, Sir John Kaputin, Secretary-General of the ACP,
Honourable Clifford Everald Warmington, the Jamaican Minister of State for Water and Housing, President of the 22nd session of UN-HABITAT Governing Council,
Honourable Ministers,
Worshipful Mayors,
Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme and Director General of the United Nations Office in Nairobi,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished representatives of the ACP and European Commission,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we gather today for this high-level segment of the first conference between the ACP, the European Commission, and UN-HABITAT, I want us to look into the future and think hard of the many problems of poverty, the economic crisis and the growing threats of climate change disasters that afflict our cities in this first truly urban century of our human existence.

Second, I want us always to bear the people in mind, especially those living in poverty, in slums or other insecure places trying to eke out a living under conditions that threaten their safety, their health, their education prospects, their hopes for the future. And ours.

We can never fail them, and this is why our latest regional and global initiative for change at the local level, our Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme is so important for all ACP countries. It is a vital step towards reducing the vulnerability of people and the planet.

And so once again, on behalf of UN-HABITAT, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the Secretariat of the ACP, and to the European Commission for you vital support as we battle to attain the Millennium Development Goals for global poverty reduction, and as we battle to seal the deal on climate change in Copenhagen in December. Imagine a world of cities without slums, of cities that no longer spew out the greenhouse gases threatening to choke us all, of cleaner, greener more sustainable and more equitable cities.

I wish here to say a special word of thanks go the Secretary-General of the ACP Group of States, Sir John Kaputin, who has always believed in the mandate and capacity of UN-HABITAT. I know that he and his team have worked many long hours to get us all together here this week.

Honourable Ministers, distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

Before I turn to the five areas we consider crucial in the quest for a sustainable urban future, it is my fervent hope, that the European Commission will endow itself with a genuine Urban Policy, allowing this powerful institution to tackle urban problems in a systematic way. Is it too much to hope in this new urban era that Brussels will appoint an Urban Affairs Commissioner in much the same spirit as it appointed the Information Society and Media Commissioner?

In the same breath, I wish to note the following: the upcoming 2010 mid-term review of the 10th European Development Fund is an ideal opportunity for the slum upgrading programme to realise new funding so that it genuinely can be expanded in all 79 ACP countries.

For their part, it is important that the ACP countries seize this occasion to convince their governments to allocate more resources to urban infrastructure, services and capacity building activities that will help cities to prevent the formation of slums, and upgrade existing slums.

I now turnn the hope that we bring clarity and focus:


Mobilizing the necessary financial resources for slum upgrading and prevention is a key task for governments, local authorities and international bodies. In these times of economic downturn this is even more difficult. But there are solutions here, and our experience so far shows that pre-investment activities and catalytic funds are central for developing the right products and projects for low-income dwellers.

The important elements are to combine the provision of loans with technical assistance and capacity building. Then we need to apply sound procedures and due diligence for the selection of borrowers and implementing partners. With the Slum Upgrading Facility and the Reimbursable Seeding Operations, UN-HABITAT can offer practical experiences.
At the same time, national governments have to establish conducive frameworks for private investment and enhance their project development capacity to mobilize financing from financial institutions for affordable housing and basic infrastructure.

Local economic development

By facilitating access to jobs, skills, credit, infrastructure services and markets, local economic development can transform the social and economic lives of communities.

Local economic development should therefore be promoted as part of slum upgrading initiatives to help create jobs and improve livelihoods. It is important here to target youth and the working poor.

To succeed, local economic development requires collaborative engagement of all at the local, regional and national levels. It further requires effective pro poor public private partnerships.

Governance and planning

Slums and urban poverty are not just a manifestation of population explosion and demographic change, or even of the vast impersonal forces of globalization. Slums must be seen as the result of failed policies, bad governance, corruption, inappropriate regulation, dysfunctional land markets, unresponsive financial systems, and a fundamental lack of political will. Each of these failures adds to the load on people already burdened by poverty. It further constrains the enormous opportunity for human development that urban life offers.

Strategies to deal with slums need to consider much more than the provision of housing and physical services. They involve governance, political will, ownership and rights, social capital and access. Not to forget planning, coordination and partnerships.

Success in managing slum growth is not an accident. It requires sound urban planning that is clear, concise, and easy to understand. It also requires innovation both in institutional performance and in inclusive policies. There are positive lessons within the experience of ACP countries that can be shared and adapted and which contribute to sustainable slum upgrading and prevention.

Pro poor land and housing

It has been demonstrated that to address the needs of the poor, policies should address access to land and housing for all with a special attention to the poor.

Access to land should be addressed systemically to ensure equitable access for the poor and women through the use of a continuum of land rights including perceived security tenure, and group tenure among others.

The complexity of land and housing requires the creation of a coordination body that could take the form of a Habitat National Committee or Urban Forum. It should comprise all key actors in the urban sector to ensure coordination, coherence, consistency and complementarity.

I invite governments to commit, in their national budgets, to the urban agenda especially for participatory slum prevention and upgrading.

I further invite the governments of countries where there is already joint donor coordination of aid in terms of the Paris declaration, to work with donors to establish an urban sector in line with the already established sectors such as water, education, agriculture, roads, finance and others. I quote two examples where this has already been achieved; the Benin government working with the EC, and the Government of Kenya in collaboration with SIDA and UN-HABITAT.

Infrastructure and services

Environmentally sound basic infrastructure and services have a crucial role to play in sustainable human settlements. It will therefore be worth exploring and strengthening linkages between local authorities and utilities for the provision of water supply and sanitation, and energy to stimulate investment flows to expand access to these services with a special focus on the un-served and underserved populations.

Intra-regional partnerships and experience must be used to share among service provider utilities. An example here is the Global Water Operators Partnership, which UN-HABITAT currently hosts at the request of the UN Secretary General.

As amply demonstrated in the deliberations of this meeting, the issue of wastewater and solid waste management require special attention, particularly at the policy level to ensure an effective institutional home for the provision of these services.

Another most important element is to seriously consider basic service provision as the starting point in slum upgrading. As many of you will see when you visit the Nairobi slum of Kibera on Thursday, UN-HABITAT is piloting an initiative with this strategic orientation in mind, and the results to date are very encouraging.

Honourable Ministers, distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to take this opportunity to inform you that we are about to launch our new World Urban Campaign for a better urban future.

I have every confidence that the Declaration and working plan that we adopt here today will serve to help launch our campaign.

In concluding, let me remind you all again: With half of humanity already living in towns and cities, this is about the future of humanity, of millions of slum dwellers. It is about the poorest and most vulnerable people. Keep them in mind always.

I salute you all for joining us over the past two days on this momentous journey.

Thank you.

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