MISSUE NO. 3616 

April 19 - 24, 2013


 Coastweek   Kenya

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NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Students of MCEDO-Beijing School grin while facing the photographer’s camera lense during the break time in Mathare Slum of Nairobi, capital of Kenya. XINHUA PHOTO -NATURE


U.N. says slum eradication must revitalize sustainable development

Kenya’s devolved system of government to the two tier national and county governments was good for the
country as it ensures more resources to the grassroots 

Christine Lagat and Njoroge Kaburo

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Senior UN and government officials on Monday called on countries to prioritize establishment of innovative policy and legal instruments alongside new funding kitties to eradicate slums and enable urban population have access to low cost and environmental friendly homes.

The officials attending 24th Session of the UN-HABITAT Governing Council which kicked off in Nairobi, said that mushrooming slums in world’s cities place immense hurdles to sustainable development, threatens social and political order alongside human and ecological health.

“Though we have met the quantitative target of improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers, the gains have been eroded by increased number of new arrivals. To be precise, the growth of slums has been faster than their eradication,” UN-HABITAT Executive Director Joan Clos told the participants.

He said growth of slums present new challenges to sustainable development, adding that Kenya’s devolved system of government to the two tier national and county governments was good for the country as it ensures more resources to the grassroots and participation in decision making.

Clos clarified that the world has made incremental progress in attainment of millennium development targets on improving conditions of slum dwellers through provision of basic amenities like water, sanitation, health, education and availability of energy sources.

“I therefore urge all governments and the Habitat Agenda partners to ensure that the MDG targets on slums and in water and sanitation are firmly kept in mind during the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda,” said Clos.

He added that urban renewal has occupied center-stage in the sustainable development agenda globally as government’s partner with local authorities, private sector and citizens lobby groups to convert cities into havens of prosperity.

Clos noted that growth of slums present new challenges to sustainable development, noting that 57 cities globally have enlisted in a long-term slum upgrading program.

“The key components of this slum upgrading program involve expanding space for growth, development of infrastructure, increasing access to basic services like water and sanitation and promoting commercial activities to generate jobs for youth,” Clos said.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta who officially opened the meeting commended the crucial role UN-Habitat and UNEP play in helping developing countries to address sustainable development challenges, President Kenyatta assured the UN organizations that his Government will provide all the support needed to enable them to perform their mandate more effectively.

“The Kibera slum, for example, sits on 630 acres of land with a current market value of 63 billion Kenya Shillings or 765 million U.S. dollars. By giving tenure to the people living in Kibera, my government will enable them to commercialize their land,” President Kenyatta said.

The Kenyan leader said his government will continue to support the inclusion of urbanization as a key part of the post-2015 global development agenda that should transformatively address the main challenges and opportunities faced by cities and towns in the 21st Century.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon whose statement was read during the meeting noted that developing countries have experienced rapid urbanization but absence of infrastructure, policy and legal safeguards, has led to growth of informal settlements.

He urged governments to prioritize slum eradication in the national development agenda to ensure citizens have access to basic amenities like shelter, clean water, sanitation and lighting.

“We know that the millennium development goal target on improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020 has already been surpassed. Unfortunately, because of rapid urbanization, there are more slum dwellers now that there were in 2000,” said the UN chief.

The meeting is being attended by representatives from governments, multilateral institutions, local authorities and slum dweller organizations attended the governing council to deliberate on interventions that would spur urban renewal.


European Union provide funding for
slum upgrading in African cities

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The European Union on Tuesday announced a 10-million-euros financing tranche to rejuvenate slum upgrading in eight African countries through community led interventions.

An estimated 800,000 slum dwellers in Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are targeted in the new funding to enable them to access improved shelter.

“The launch of the community managed development fund for slum dwellers is aimed at ensuring the active participation of slum dwellers in the slum upgrading process. Local communities will play an active role in the design and implementation of new housing projects,” said the acting Project Leader, Slum Upgrading Unit, UN-Habitat, Kerstin Sommer.

The UN human settlement agency will facilitate the disbursement of the new funds to enable local communities in the eight African countries to initiate pilot slum upgrading projects.

Sommer revealed to Xinhua in Nairobi that the two-year program will address secure land tenure, access to water and sanitation alongside development of decent housing to alleviate overcrowding in the urban shanties.

“The management, ownership, decision making and monitoring of the projects will be undertaken by communities. The participatory nature of the projects will ensure that local communities play a major role in their implementation,” Sommer said.

She added that community-based organizations will manage the funds and monitor their utilization through regular audits.

The European Union provided the 10 million euros through its African Caribbean and Pacific (APC) fund while UN-Habiat will inject 2.5 million euros.

Likewise, each of the eight African countries will inject 2.5 million euros to inject new impetus in slum upgrading in major cities and secondary towns.

Many African countries are experiencing rapid growth of slums as populations flock cities to look for greener pastures.

Ministers and municipal officials regretted that the rate of urbanization in Africa has outpaced existing infrastructure such as housing, water, sanitation and health.

“There is need to establish policies that facilitate slums prevention and upgrading at a time when urbanization is accelerating in many African countries,” said Malawian Minister for Lands and Housing, Henry Phoya.

The minister admitted that the rate of urbanization in Malawi has accelerated and that the government has rolled out interventions to ensure that this phenomenon does not harm natural environment and people’s livelihoods.

“Currently, two thirds of people in Malawi live in deplorable conditions in the slums. This situation has worsened poverty, crime and disease in the cities,” Phoya said.

He regretted that many African countries have made negligible progress in the eradication of slums and urged governments to prioritize development of low cost shelter in the national policies.

“We need sufficient political will to accelerate progress in slum eradication. Efficient use of available resources, sensitization targeting communities and policymakers, will ensure our cities are rid off slums,” Phoya said.


U.N.-Habitat calls for new vision
to spur sustainable urbanization

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The UN human settlement agency on Friday called for the need for countries to revitalize policies that promote sustainable urbanization to ensure cities become havens of economic growth alongside social, cultural and political renaissance.

The UN Human Settlements Program (UNHABITAT) Executive Director Joan Clos said in Nairobi on Friday that urban renewal is an integral component of sustainable development.

“Urbanization affects sustainability and when done properly, it could generate massive economic opportunities for the population. Urbanization should therefore be addressed as an opportunity for shared prosperity, inclusion and renewal,” Clos said.

He spoke during a media briefing on the upcoming UNHABITAT Governing Council to be held in Nairobi on April 15-19.

The 2013 Habitat Governing Council will focus on sustainable urban development with a special attention given to expanding economic opportunities for women and Youth.

Clos told Journalists that this year’s Governing Council will devote significant attention to Rio+ 20 outcomes and the post 2015 development framework.

Likewise, the governing council will discuss critical topics like slums and provision of basic services including water, sanitation, shelter and health.

“Cities have a crucial role in reshaping the sustainable development agenda. They contribute 75-80 percent of green house gas emissions and there is need to promote dialogue with governments and local authorities to explore interventions that reduce these emissions,” said Clos.

He regretted that rampant consumption in cities threatens ecological and human health alongside civil order in countries. The world is rapidly urbanizing as rural population flock to cities in search of economic opportunities.

The UN-HABITAT contends that at the beginning of 21st century, 50 percent of global population lived in cities and if the trend continues, the figure could hit 70 percent by 2050.

Developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America have witnessed the fastest growth of cities in the last decade.

Clos noted that cities are epicenters of economic, social and political renewal and countries must establish policy and legal tools to ensure rural to urban migration is regulated and properly coordinated.

“There is need to develop national urban policies to ensure growth of cities does not harm livelihood and the natural environment. Urbanization should have positive outcomes to the population,” Clos said.

He revealed that UNHABITAT has partnered with 20 countries to develop progressive national urban policies.

“They should be pragmatic and simple national policies to ensure all levels of urbanization from market centers, towns and metropolis are properly managed,” Clos said.

He stressed that unsustainable urbanization breeds economic and social inequality and attendant surge in crime, disease and disenfranchisement.

The Governing Council is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly (GA) and serves as the intergovernmental decision making body of UNHABITAT. It reports to the GA through Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The Governing Council is composed of 58 members who are elected by the ECOSOC for a term of four years divided along regional lines as follows: Africa, Asia and Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Caribbean States and Western Europe and other States.

At the commencement of the first meeting of each regular session, the Governing Council elects a President, three vice Presidents and Rapporteur.

These officers constitute the Bureau of the Governing Council whose function is to assist the President in the conduct of the business of the Governing Council.


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