Background and objectives:
All the urban centres of Eritrea have been affected by 30 years of war, and many were seriously damaged. There is an extreme housing shortage, especially now that many Eritrean refugees are returning, most of them to urban areas. At the same time, there is a serious lack of qualified and experienced civil officials and almost no private sector. Eritrea has not yet articulated policies and plans for human settlements. National reconstruction is the priority which will evolve into sustained development.
The Government has adopted a cautious and practical approach of learning by doing and institutional capacity-building. This programme helps the Government to build capacity in crucial areas, while developing the processes that will define long-term national human settlement policies and programmes. This programme is designed to improve the institutional capacity of local administrations to manage urban services, stimulate economic development and facilitate development of housing. The programme is funded by UNDP with UN-Habitat as the cooperating agency. A number of United Nations volunteers, mainly from developing countries, are providing technical assistance.
The programme's activities were directed towards training surveyors, cartographers and planners in the latest geographic information system techniques in the first phase of the programme. The aim of these activities is to provide direct assistance to the municipalities of Asmara and Massawa in preparing urban development strategies and improvement of infrastructure and development of a national human settlements strategy and action plan.
The programme, which became operational in August 1996, has provided training in geographic information system techniques, technical assistance to Asmara and Massawa on the development of infrastructure and strategic planning. Training programmes for physical planning officers were conducted as planned. Officially, this project has been completed, however, the Government and UNDP support the preparation of a national housing policy. UN-Habitat submitted a programme proposal for a pilot project low-cost housing, in the housing sector. The new project was submitted to the Ministry of International Cooperation and Macro-Policy and UNDP for approval in November 1999 and was approved in January 2000. However, activities have been disrupted by the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which has caused a delay in implementation of activities in the second phase of the programme.