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Kigali, 6 Sept 13

Prime Minister of Rwanda, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Pierre Habumuremyi gives his remarks during the 2nd Tripartite Conference ACP/EC/UN-HABITAT in Kigali, Rwanda 2013 © Julius Mwelu/UN-Habitat

The Prime Minister of Rwanda, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Pierre Habumuremyi has called on African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to work towards improving the living conditions of people in cities by adopting a jointly developed Declaration and Action Plan, which would help them to achieve well-coordinated urban development and manage the challenges of rapid urbanisation in a sustainable manner.

Rt. Hon. Habumuremyiwas speaking at the opening of the High level segment of the Second International Tripartite Conference on "Sustainable Urbanization as Response to Urban Poverty Eradication" on Thursday 5 September in Kigali, Rwanda. The conference is jointly hosted by the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the European Commission, UN-Habitat and the Government of Rwanda.

The conference aims to take stock of achievements towards Millennium Development Goal 7 on improving the living conditions of slum dwellers, harmonise contributions towards the post-2015 Development Agenda and work towards further reinforcing the tripartite partnership to respond to continuous interest and demand from additional ACP countries to join the programme. The meeting is also serving as a preparation for ACP Countries ahead of the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) coming up in 2016.

The conference is being attended by 396 from 51 countries, among who are over 25 Ministers, Deputy Ministers and City Mayors.

Speaking on behalf of President Paul Kagame, Rt. Hon. Habumuremyi told Ministers and senior officials attending the meeting that “The post-2015 agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals and Habitat III are strong global instruments that we have to take advantage of and influence from the ACP perspectives. It is against this background that strategic, action-oriented national housing and urban policies are needed.”

In addition, he said, each country needs well formulated national targets, monitoring frameworks and efforts to increase knowledge management and networks for efficient learning. Strategic actions have to be well thought through, to have the anticipated effect.

The Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Dr Joan Clos, reminded the Ministers that the global context is constantly changing and with it, rising urbanization has brought about emerging new challenges which are being driven by three factors; the growing demographic challenge, the need for massive job creation and, the need to develop financing capacities to fund these needs.

“This resulting rapid urbanization is particularly challenging and UN-Habitat is strongly monitoring this process. Most of 20th century urbanization was driven by industrialization, particularly post-WWII, as evidenced in many Southern and East Asian countries. But now, at the beginning of the 21st century, there are new challenges emerging which are not driven by industrialization but by the lack of provision of infrastructure services.

“Our vision at UN-Habitat is that these challenges should be an essential part of the practice of urban planning. Housing cannot be achieved without the guarantee of a livelihood. Traditional methods have not been successful, so we must adopt initiatives, such as the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programmed (PSUP), as a good platform for confronting the problems of urbanization,” he said.

Assistant Secretary-General of the Secretariat of the ACP Group of States, Ms Michele Dominique Raymond said issues being discussed at the Conference, such as the decentralization of basic services, participatory urban planning, and the development of e-participation in urban governance have demonstrated advances in achieving sustainable urbanization and improving economic growth. “Nevertheless, we all must have a commitment to this mission and these objectives in order to improve the quality of life of our citizens and confront the challenges of urbanization together.

In a goodwill message, ACP Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Ms Joyce Laboso said that for developing countries to address the demands of the current economic trends, parliamentarians have a responsibility to work towards achieving sustainable urbanization. “In this regard ICT plays a remarkable role. We have worked intensely in this regard but many components are still pending, such as development of national ICT policies and stronger e-capacities at all levels, as well as regulation of the ever changing market pricing strategies, which are required in order to support sustainable urbanization and eradication of poverty.  

Ms Laboso said that with one third of the population of developing countries today facing the lack of access to affordable health, the agenda of sustainable urbanization should consider health facilities. “One of our responsibilities is to improve this situation,” she stated.
Describing sustainable urbanization as the most important challenge facing the world today, European Union Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Mr. Louis Michel added however, that there cannot be sustainable urbanization without a good management of land and resources, such as effective agricultural production and the inclusion and equality of women in society and community.

Mr. Michel stated that urbanization is changing the fabric of society for all, especially women and youth, and through housing and economic markets, noting that “The challenge is now to address the issue of political will to change the status quo by assuming responsibility in the fulfillment of the rights of all citizens in our countries by opening and integrating slums into the rest of the city through public and private investment in them.”

The Deputy Director of the Development and Cooperation - EuropeAid Directorate-General (DEVCO) Mr. Klaus Rudischauser, in a televised message said that from the EU perspective, sustainable urbanization without the inclusion and active participation of communities, women and youth people is incomplete. Women should therefore be the drivers of this process.

The EU has underlined that local authorities have a decisive role in sustainable urbanization and encourages the definition of slum upgrading policies including citizenship for slum dwellers, which is also key for the Post-MDG agenda.

“The definition of predictable and flexible budgets to support sustainable development should be one of the main objectives of national agendas on this matter. As a partner of UN-Habitat we encourage other donors to support the UN-Habitat’s work in this area. Let us be aware that donors will not be capable, and it is not their role, to finance infrastructure for transforming slums in cities. This is the role of national governments. The national level is where the budget for sustainable urbanization should be defined and the EC’s role is to support governments in this matter,” Mr Rudischauser said.

A major outcome of the meeting will be the adoption of the Kigali Declaration documenting the commitments and political will of the participants.

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