Thecontribution of cities to national economic growth is unequivocal; the factthat economic activities taking place in urban settlements account for aconsiderable share of a country’s wealth is already quite well documented. Thequestion we should ask ourselves, as national Government representatives andlocal authorities, is what we can do to enhance this potential through ourpolicies; moreover, how can we ensure that economic growth is enjoyed in tandemwith the imperatives of social equity and sustainable development.
Overarchinginterventions that can effectively address the three dimensions of urbansustainable development – social, economic and environmental – require athorough planning exercise and active policymaking. This is why the ExecutiveDirector’s initiative to propose a new urban agenda,anchored in the elaborationof national and local urban policies, is welcome. We hope this novel approachwill set the tone for the Habitat III Conference.
Werenew our support to the Global Housing Strategy to the Year 2025, whichpromotes the formulation of national and local housing policies. Brazilhas already done its homework: after the establishment of the Ministry ofCities, in 2004, we have launched an inclusive participatory process thatresulted in the adoption of a National Housing Policy.
Theassessments that prepared the ground for our National Housing Policy revealedthat Brazilhad a deficit of about 7 million housing units. In response to that, the BrazilianGovernment launched, in 2009, a program called “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” (“MyHouse, My Life”, in English), to which over 35 billion dollars were allocated.Part of that sum was invested in financing the construction of new housingunits and the refurbishment of existing ones by civil society organizations andthe private sector, notably small and midsized local building companies. It isa requirement of the program that the new and renovated units are serviced byan adequate infrastructure in terms of sanitation, drainage and roads. Theremainder of the funds was channeled to subsidized credit lines offered to lowand middle income families, with a monthly income not superior to 2500 dollars,willing to purchase one of the new or renovated housing units.One millionhousing units were already built or refurbished; our goal is to surpass the 2million mark until the end of 2014. Recalling the theme of our session, this showcasesthe positive economic impact of urban policies: it is estimated that the “MyHouse, My Life” program resulted in the creation of 1.4 million new jobs andgenerated an increase in the Brazilian GDP in the order of 0.8%. Women andyouth were particularly benefited, since women have priority in accessing thesubsidized credit lines and young persons filled the majority of the newlycreated employment posts.
Brazil canalso offer some examples of local urban policies leading to improved economicopportunities. The Municipality of São Paulo, forinstance, is planning to promote, through tax exemptions and other financialand legal mechanisms, the establishment of business hubs, furnished withadequate urban infrastructure, public education and health services, near toperipheral residential areas. The idea is to bring jobs and public servicescloser to the population, reducing mobility demands and improving the lives ofcity dwellers. São Pauloalso aims at revamping degraded areas of the city center as residentialneighborhoods, so that the underutilized equipment already in place is enjoyedin its full potential.
Stateagents should be mindful of the specific consequences of urban policies towomen and young persons, sinceurban interventions can either hinder or fostertheir economic opportunities. In order to ensure that gender and youth aremainstreamed, it is important to have institutions devoted to these issues. TheBrazilian Government has established Special Secretariats for Women and Youth,with the same status of Ministries, which have been working for the economicempowerment of those groups. We commend the establishment of the Advisory Groupon Gender Issues, as well as UN-Habitat’s engagement in efforts to increaseyouth participation in multilateral governance, which we fully support.
Lastyear, world leaders gathered in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the challenges of sustainabledevelopment. Cities perform a pivotal role in achieving sustainabledevelopment; their importance was recognized by the inclusion of a wholesection devoted to sustainable cities in the outcome document of the Rio+20conference, entitled “The Future We Want”. Cities are also an important issueunder discussion 2015 Development Agenda. By subscribing to the RabatDeclaration, adopted in 2012, Brazilhas already signaled its commitment to halving its slum population between 2015and 2030. The achievement of this goal must be undertaken hand in hand with therespect for the human rights of slum dwellers, by resorting, preferably, toslum upgrading initiatives which improve the infrastructure of existingsettlements without disrupting their established social and spatial ties withthe city. The urban agenda is a priority and we firmly believe in UN-Habitat’sleading role in flagging innovative solutions to emerging challenges. Thank you.