Around 150 people attended a Partnership and Pledging Conference at the first UN-Habitat Assembly where over US$152 million in contributions and commitments were announced to finance UN-Habitat’s work to support implementation urban dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 11 to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The funds came from 38 governments, 10 local governments, and 32 other organizations including 7 companies, in a show of commitment for achieving urban related SDGs.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat outlined her strategic plan aimed to help countries reduce spatial inequality and poverty, enhance prosperity of cities, strengthen climate change action, improve the urban environment, and mitigate and respond to urban crises.
She said that the plan would be guided by the principles of social inclusion and human rights for all including women, children, youth and older persons, the disabled, and other vulnerable groups. She added that UN-Habitat would be a centre of excellence, providing a point of reference on data, norms, standards, legal frameworks, policies, strategies and urban innovations.
Representing the European Commission, Mr. Lars Gronvald from the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development said that unlike before, sustainable urbanization is now at the forefront of the EC’s development strategy because of its linkage to the transformation of society and sustainability. He stressed the need for different types for partnerships to implement the urban agenda. The EC is a leading donor, and supports major urban programmes executed by UN-Habitat.
The importance of regional partnerships was highlighted by MINURVI’s President and Housing Minister of Costa Rica, Ms. Irene Campos Gómez. The work done by the inter-governmental ministerial body covering 35 countries in Latin America includes data collection, capacity building and implementation of pilot programmes. She underscored the importance of preferential loans combined with capacity building to allow local and national governments to implement projects.
Meanwhile, Naser Adel Khraibut, responsible for Planning and Design for Housing Welfare in Kuwait, outlined the country’s partnership with UN-Habitat for in Kuwait and the wider Middle Eastern region on urban policy and planning, capacity building, knowledge exchange. In addition to urban programmes in the country, Kuwait is a major supporter of rehabilitation programmes Iraq, Syria and Yemen. “If a village collaborates, it will never be afraid” he concluded with a wise saying from his country urging all to be part of the solution.
And from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where the current population is fifty times that of 1972, Mayor Armand Roland Béouindé highlighted the need for integrated development encompassing security, housing, health, mobility, land security, waste management, environmental protection and equitable access to urban social services. His city promotes the use of local materials and appropriate technologies to support urban development. He said the will to mobilize resources, tools and capacity building was important for managing emerging cities and added UN-Habitat was an important partner for local governments.
The private sector plays an important role in providing technologies for sustainable urbanization. Microsoft’s Alexandre Pinho, Global lead for the United Nations at Microsoft, outlined the company’s partnerships with the United Nations and other development actors. The company has moved from just providing resources through corporate social responsibility to strategic partnerships to ensure fit for purpose use of technology. He highlighted the role of cities as important hubs of opportunity and where the digital dimension is critical in planning innovative and sustainable urban development. “Start with the outcomes and then build the partnerships you need to create a larger impact” , he advised.
Following the engaging panel discussion, Member States, speakers from the floor included Norway, a leading supporter for UN-Habitat’s normative work, urged other Member States to provide core funding for predictability, flexibility to fund new priorities and to facilitate cooperation with different partners.
Sweden also urged prioritization of UN-Habitat’s normative mandate as the organization contributes with knowledge, evidence, tools, policy advice and technical support so that actors can improve their capacities to address a myriad of urban challenges and opportunities within their local contexts. She said that a new global multi-year agreement would be announced in due course.
South Africa, which also pledged support said it would continue to champion UN Habitat’s work in areas such as slum upgrading, urban and territorial planning, and urban safety, while UN-Habitat’s host country, Kenya, pledged increased annual contributions for the organization’s core normative work. Kenya has also provided significant support for the UN-Habitat Assembly.
ICLEI, a global network of more than 1,750 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development, ICLEI underlined the importance of bold and innovative leadership and UN-Habitat’s continued engagement with local authorities. They encouraged Member States to increase financial and technical contributions to support UN-Habitat’s programme of work.
Other countries that spoke in favour of partnerships for sustainable urbanization and announced financial support at the Conference include China, Colombia, Republic of Congo, France, Gambia, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Madagascar, Morocco, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Senegal, South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland.
Concluding, UN-Habitat’s Executive Director, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif said “ Given the milestones reached so far, the commitment shown at the Partnership and Pledging Conference, and the progress made at the UN-Habitat Assembly, I have absolutely no doubt that together, as partners, we can raise the necessary funds to help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.