Excellency Mr. Suharso Monoarfa, Minister of Housing, Republic of Indonesia
Honorable Bibit Waluyo, Governor of Central Java,
Excellency Mr. Ali Nikzad, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Islamic Republic of Iran,
Mr. Sunil K. Singh, Chief Coordinator of APMCHUD Secretariat,
Honourable Ministers present in Solo today,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT who will address the Ministerial Segment, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Indonesia for inviting UN-HABITAT to participate in convening this conference. I wish to convey our gratitude to the people of this great country for the warm welcome and for the hospitality accorded to us since our arrival.
In the first session of APMCHUD held in New Delhi, India in 2006, you created this consultative body and elected its Bureau. At that occasion, the distinguished Ministers also adopted an Enhanced Framework of Implementation for Sustainable Urbanisation, which underscores a commitment by the Member States to work together in the pursuit of a number of objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals. In the second session held in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran in 2008, the distinguished Ministers agreed on an Action Plan for Regional Cooperation on Promoting Sustainable Urban Development among Asia-Pacific Countries, which focused on five areas: urban and rural planning and management; slum upgrading; delivery of MDG on water and sanitation; financing sustainable housing – enhancing affordability and quality of low-income housing; and development of sustainable urbanization with a focus on natural disasters.
You have now reconvened in this historic city of Surakarta, or Solo, with a view of exploring ways in which you can undertake joint actions. It is my understanding that the positive momentum being generated in your respective countries can be enhanced for the mutual benefit of all if you share experiences, exchange knowledge and insights, forge common positions and embark into joint initiatives. For us, at UN-HABITAT, we cannot but strongly support and fully encourage such an undertaking. Apart from the geographical, social and cultural diversity, which itself is a powerful strength, this region has a lot in common – the creativity and resilience of its people to meet old as well as new challenges. APMCHUD is an appropriate vehicle for fostering that collaboration on housing and urban issues which permeates to the lowest level of communities and neighbourhoods.
In our view, the coming together of all countries that constitute the Asia-Pacific region is a very important initiative in our field of expertise. As you all know, this region in its totality represents 60 percent of humankind. Moreover, Asian cities are home to nearly half the urban population of the world. The State of Asian Cities Report 2010, which is currently being finalised, shows that in 2010, the urbanization in the region stands at 42.2 per cent, and with current rapid urban growth, Asia is expected to turn "urban", with over 50 per cent of population living in cities, by the year 2025. Indonesia itself is already 44% urban (103 million urban out of 232 million inhabitants) and will reach 50% before 2025. Along with these phenomenal demographic changes, the region is also experiencing unprecedented rates of economic growth – actually it has emerged as an economic power-house in the world, and has been successful in dealing with the painful blows of the global economic recession since 2008. The State of Asian Cities Report 2010 shows that as high as 80 per cent of the economic growth in the region is led by cities and towns.
In recent years, substantial investments in housing and urban development have been made in several Asia-Pacific States. As a result, the region has been able to improve lives of 172 million slum dwellers between the years 2000 and 2010. The region is also going through major reforms and introducing remarkable innovations in financing, service delivery, management and technology relating to housing and urban development. Yet, this is also a region still confronting the challenges of poverty, slum settlements, urban environmental pollution, and climate change including the increasing number and severity of natural disasters. The State of Asian Cities Report 2010 underlines that 240 million people live in the coastal areas below 10 metres elevation in Asia.
The challenges of housing and urban development, in their broad sense, are critically linked to both the positive dynamics that are evolving in the region, and the dysfunctional shortcomings that are still widespread. Your Ministries are of course responsible for specific sectoral functions, but the operations of your Ministries have also a major impact on the macro-economic and social systems of your respective nations. Your deliberations, in forums such as this Solo Conference are therefore very critical for the entire economic and social future of the region. This is more profound when, as it is intended, your deliberations and recommendations will be action-orientated.
The sub-themes that you will be considering at this expert segment of the Ministerial conference have a bearing beyond the specific sectors of housing and urban development. They are linked to the welfare conditions of the people of this region, to the role of communities in planning and governance, to how slums can be upgraded involving local communities, to the progress made on MDG on water and sanitation in the region, the manner in which financing is and can be mobilized for housing and urban development, and in what ways local communities can contribute to addressing climate change impacts. Your exchanges, sharing of experiences and identification of areas of common interest should lead to concrete efforts and increased regional cooperation in order to make a difference in the living conditions of a very substantial part of humanity.
At the opening of the expert segment of the Conference, I wish to submit a few issues for the consideration of the working groups which are going to meet today and tomorrow. Naturally, detailed background papers have been prepared and are available on each topic. They will be presented and discussed by the five groups with a view to defining a number of joint activities at regional or sub-regional levels, and possibly at global level. At this stage, I only suggest that the following questions be examined carefully.
The first issue is about community participation in planning and governance. Asian countries have made substantial progress in terms of decentralization. A result of this process has been the empowerment of civil society organizations to be part of formal systems of participation in governance. Direct community participation has mainly benefitted programme and project implementation – this in turn has generated a wealth of knowledge. However in many countries, Master Planning seems still to hold sway, often preventing meaningful community participation in planning and governance. What role can community-based and civil society organizations play in both urban and rural planning and governance? How best to utilize the knowledge already gained for improving the urban development process? How to enhance the capacity of planning agencies for better planning and management? We recommend therefore that you share your experiences on community participation in different levels of planning and governance.
The second and related issue is about participatory urban slum upgrading, a key focus area for UN-HABITAT. Despite the national governments' efforts and achievements in slum upgrading, the Asia-Pacific region still accounts for about 60 per cent of the world's slum dwellers. Experience from many countries in the region shows that slum dwellers contribute to urban upgrading as well as informal sector development when they are systematically involved in this process. Various national and local governments, regional agencies as well as UN-HABITAT have been working on this issue, and this cumulative learning has led to the development of what has come to be known as the "People's Process of Development", including community organization, community action planning, community contracting, community saving and credit, and community monitoring. While local governments are best placed for proper urban planning, the strengths, resources and skills of the local communities need to be harnessed for slum upgrading, moving from project-based interventions to citywide up-scaling. How to support participatory development of informal sector including micro-enterprises? How to strengthen the role of women and community-based organizations in slum upgrading? How to promote people-based and community-based policies and programmes? How to enable the upgrading of informal settlements with an emphasis on the People's Process and citywide approaches? Which financing approaches for slum upgrading have worked for the low-income groups, and how to build capacity of major actors? Slum upgrading is a huge challenge for the region, and I invite you to share your successes and difficulties in order to address this challenge systematically.
The third issue is about the delivery of the MDGs for water and sanitation. As we have said on several occasions 'water is life, sanitation is dignity". The good news is that most countries in the Asia-Pacific region are on track to meet the MDG target on safe drinking water. But the bad news is that sanitation remains a major challenge as 1.9 billion people in the region still lack access to improved sanitation. In addition, the number of people in urban areas without improved sanitation is increasing due to rapid growth of urban populations, which calls for community-based and locally-suited sanitation solutions. Climate change is a critical challenge to effective and sustainable water management, and vulnerable cities need to prepare their infrastructure for the impacts of climate change. What are your experiences in planning for water supply systems, and collection and treatment of wastewater? What can we do to optimize management of water and wastewater systems and reform the public sector? Which financing approaches for resource mobilisation for expanding water and wastewater infrastructure have worked? How can we enhance the role of local communities in water and wastewater management at the neighbourhood-level? We expect to learn from your experiences to meet the MDG targets on water and sanitation.
The fourth issue is about resources, financial resources for both sustainable housing and urban development. Investment in housing and urban infrastructure is not keeping pace with the growing needs in the Asia-Pacific region. The demand for housing and developed land far exceeds their supply in the fast growing Asia-Pacific cities. And we all know about problem of "rich cities and poor local governments", which hints toward the need for further decentralization of powers for cities to mobilise financial resources. While a number of Asian countries have seriously developed their housing finance systems in recent years, other countries have focused on supporting microfinance institutions. Land is a potential resource, and unlocking its monetary value is an excellent source for capital for urban development. Whilst there are lessons being learnt from the global economic recession, how do we create better understanding of urban land dynamics for the development of urban land market in the region? How can national and local governments facilitate access to financial resources for middle- and low-income housing? What are the financing instruments available for urban development including infrastructure? How to better utilize public-private partnership for urban development? This is a very difficult challenge on which we expect to hear your views and experiences.
Finally, the last issue is about the role of communities in addressing climate change. Climate change will have a significant impact on the future urban development in the Asia-Pacific region. As mentioned earlier, coastal cities will be affected not only by sea-level rise, but also from extreme climate events, such as floods and storms. Small island nations, such as Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pacific island states, have specific needs related to climate change adaptation. The experience from the Asia-Pacific region shows a wide range of climate change adaptation measures are already being applied. We need to clearly understand what role local communities play in building climate and disaster resilient human settlements related to their planning and development, and design and retrofitting of infrastructure. How can we strengthen the role of communities in addressing climate change impacts, building on their assets, skills and traditional knowledge? There is a need to strengthen community preparedness, through improved education, training and public culture, in order to build climate resilient communities. Where to start? How to upscale? The region has rich experience in post-disaster reconstruction – how to mainstream community-led reconstruction approaches, such as the People's Process, in the face of climate change impacts including the increasing number of natural disasters. We are expecting some strategic suggestions in this crucial area.
I hope that each of the five working groups will discuss, inter alia, the issues that I have just highlighted and agree on common initiatives and networks which would allow an expansion of the cooperation between your respective Ministries. We, at UN-HABITAT, pledge our full support to all types of regional cooperation. We have been working with the Bureau of APMCHUD, its Secretariat as well as with the host country – the Republic of Indonesia, in devising ways of harnessing your collective efforts. We will continue to render our support during your deliberations at this conference. Indeed, we look forward to work with your governments in following-up on the decisions that Ministers will adopt at their high level segment.
Before I conclude, I would like to bring to your attention a few figures derived from the recently issued "World Urbanization Prospects: The 2009 Revision". They are the only official statistics on urbanization, compiled and updated by our colleagues of the UN Population Division in collaboration with all Statistical Bureaus of the world. We have made a synthesis in six slides which show the magnitude of the urbanization process in the region as well as the forecast until 2050. As demonstrated in the State of the World's Cities Reports, urbanization is a positive and progressive phenomenon which encompasses challenges and opportunities. The role of policy-makers is to address the challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities. For that purpose they need to be fully aware of the state of their cities and towns, both qualitatively and quantitatively. I believe therefore that the following figures could provide a useful background to our deliberations.
Ladies and Gentlemen
In view of these figures, the present meeting is very timely. At UN-HABITAT, we are implementing a six-year Medium-Term Strategic and Institutional Plan whose over-arching goal is to promote sustainable urbanization and we are launching an ambitious World Urban Campaign. Our vision is to see change on the ground – in your countries, in the well-being of the people of your nations, in the way the critical facets of land, housing, livelihoods and services are procured and accessed.
We endeavour to work with you in building the necessary institutional capacities at all levels. We aspire to ensure responsiveness to climate change, disasters and to sustaining the environment now and for the future generations. Your deliberations at this conference will help us in charting out a viable normative and operational path for such an ambition.
I would like to conclude by wishing this expert group segment of the Ministerial conference successful deliberations. My colleagues and I stand ready to provide the required technical inputs, with a view to ensuring that the outcome of this segment meets the expectations of the Ministers for the benefit of the peoples of the Asia-Pacific region.
I thank you for your attention.