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Fukuoka, 10 Dec 09

UN agencies this week said they were concerned at the lack of progress in addressing planning, housing, sanitation, waste management and environmental pollution in urban areas of countries in the Pacific. They raised the alarm after a series of fact-finding missions.

UN-HABITAT and UN ESCAP Pacific officers have conducted a series of missions over the last six months assessing the state of urban planning around the Pacific and are concerned at the lack of action on the part of governments and regional donors in addressing pressing urban development and management concerns.

Returning from a recent mission to Palau and the Marshall Islands the UN-HABITAT Pacific Programme Manager, Sarah Mecartney, said: "Governments need to give urban planning greater attention. We discussed in Palau how the main urban area of Koror is the gateway to the nation, and yet the national government provides little support for planning in Koror."

Main highway, Koror, Palau, November 2009

Koror Planning Commission workshop with UN-Habitat and ESCAP Advisors

"The same set of issues are magnified in Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands, where poor high density housing and inadequate sanitation pose major social and environmental risks, particularly given the lack of land and few, if any, open spaces. We visited Jenrok village in Majuro. In this place we have nearly 2000 people living in a tiny area. Household sizes range between about 9 and 30 adults and children. This is one of the most densely populated places in the Pacific," Mecartney said.

"Our Pacific cities are important as they provide employment, are responsible for a significant proportion of GDP and are the only places where key social services are provided, particularly major hospitals, schools and tertiary training institutions," said Alastair Wilkinson, Regional Adviser for United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Housing and water supply, Jenrok, Majuro,
Marshall Islands

"Our mission to Vanuatu focused on the need for a national policy framework for urban development and in the Solomon Islands we focused on informal or squatter settlements. The results of the November 2009 Census in the Solomon Islands will provide important insights into population growth in Honiara," he said.

“Papua New Guinea is starting to address their serious urban planning issues through the development of a national policy which is in its final stages of development and Samoa has established a Planning and Urban Management Agency to address planning in Apia. Fiji has also made good progress over the last few years, although expanding squatter settlements in greater Suva threaten to overwhelm local authorities. We can learn from the experiences of other Pacific Island countries," said Mecartney.

Squatter settlement, Port Vila, Vanuatu

“Governments request assistance and where we are able we provide technical expertise in support of national efforts. We have seen an increase in demand for assistance in this area over the last few years and we expect to do more over the coming years. Even the smaller atoll countries such as Tuvalu are struggling to come to terms with urban planning, housing and waste management. We will be undertaking a joint mission with the Commonwealth Local Government Forum to Funafuti, Tuvalu, early next year. We also hope to explore in detail community planning concerns within squatter settlements around Honiara in collaboration with the Honiara City Council and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum,” said Wilkinson.

UN-HABITAT and ESCAP work closely with a range of other regional organisations to assist and advise Pacific Island countries to implement the Pacific Urban Agenda on urban planning and management. The Pacific Urban Agenda was developed at a regional workshop convened by UN ESCAP, UN-HABITAT and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in 2003. The Pacific Urban Agenda was identified in the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s Pacific Plan as a priority concern in 2005.

UN ESCAP, UN-HABITAT together with the Commonwealth Local Government Forum Pacific Office, Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat make up a coalition of organisations based in the Pacific region with expertise to assist countries address urban development concerns.

For more information contact:

Sarah Mecartney,
Pacific Programme Manager
United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)

Tel +679 3319669 Ext: 105
Mobile : +679 9085795
Email : mecartney-unhabitat@un.org


Alastair Wilkinson
Regional Adviser Social Development and Planning
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific,
Pacific Operations Centre (UN-EPOC)

Tel: +679 3319669 Ext: 103
Mob: +679 9997958
Email: wilkinsona@un.org

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