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Nairobi, 12 Sept 13

Qazvin, Iran, which recently hosted the first World Assembly of Islamic Cities

Mayors, urban policy makers, Islamic scholars, civil society and experts from over 30 countries have called upon the international community to intensify efforts to deal with urban challenges in the Muslim World by harmonising universal and Islamic approaches.

The calls came at the first World Assembly of Islamic Cities, a two day conference which was held in the historic Islamic city of Qazvin in the Islamic Republic of Iran earlier this month and was attended by more than 400 delegates. It was organised by the Middle East Regional Center of Best Practices and Local Leadership Progrmme (MERC-BLP), a regional partner of UN-Habitat, hosted by Qazvin Municipality, and supported by the Asian Mayors Forum, the Secretariat of Mayors of Metropolises Session, universities and the private sector.

Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati, Senior Advisor the Iranian Supreme Leader underscored the serious challenges facing Islamic cities including unemployment among youth, dominance of informal settlements, inadequate urban basic services and conflicts over land and called upon UN-Habitat to support Islamic cities.

In his message to the Assembly, Dr. Jon Clos Executive Director of UN Habitat, noted that Islamic cities had their own specific identities and valuable experiences that are significant new perspectives for improving the quality of urban environment, prosperity and governance for all. He called for a Charter on Human Settlements in Muslim countries toward achieving universal development goals.

The Mayor of Qazvin, Mr. Masoud Nosrati called upon delegates to further explore the inherent and structural relationships between the urban environment and social relations. In his keynote address, Mr. Douglas Ragan, head of the Youth and Livelihoods unit said UN-Habitat had a long history of working with Muslim countries and particularly welcomed the opportunity of partnering with young people in developing sustainable urban livelihoods and solutions. Mr. Ragan also invited the conference participants to the upcoming World Urban Forum to express and share their views on sustainable urban development.

The Assembly highlighted the significant role of Islamic principles and best practices in developing or restoring sustainable, environmentally sound, equitable, harmonious, prosperous and culturally cohesive cities in the Muslim World.

The Declaration adopted a workplan that includes preparation of a Charter of Islamic Rights to the City, Atlas of Islamic Cities, Awards for Excellence in Islamic Cities, State of the Islamic Cities Report, collaborations between Muslim cities and an action plan for youth empowerment.

As part of this, a competition was announced which calls for people to send their multi-media representations of what an Islamic City should look like.

The Declaration recognised the role of UN-Habitat in promoting sustainable urbanisation in the Muslim world and specifically applauded the best practice of the Global Land Tool Network for adopting the Islamic mechanism as a cross cutting dimension.

A permanent secretariat has been funded and set up in Qazvin, Iran. The next World Assembly of Islamic Cities will be held in 2014 in Baghdad, Iraq.

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