UN-Habitat Assembly: 38 countries pledge over $152 mn for sustainable cities

The five-day assembly, with the theme ‘innovation for better quality of life in cities and communities’, began from May 27, 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya  

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 30 May 2019
Delegates at the UN-Habitat Assembly. Photo: @sarbentz, Twitter__

India is among 38 countries that pledged to contribute more than $152 million towards making cities more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable at the first ever Assembly of United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN- Habitat) in Kenya.    

The five-day assembly, with the theme ‘innovation for better quality of life in cities and communities’, began from May 27, 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Cities will have to continue to drive innovation in ground-breaking ways,” Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of the UN-Habitat said in a statement.

Cities drive national economies by “creating prosperity, enhancing social development and providing employment,” and thus can become breeding grounds for poverty, exclusion and environmental degradation. So there is a need for “new knowledge and solutions to improve living conditions for all in cities and communities”, Sharif said.

According to the World Bank, cities are ill prepared to address challenges of rapid urbanisation and managing solid waste is one of them. The total municipal waste generated in the world will double from 2.01 billion tonnes annually to nearly four billion tonnes in 2050 and three billion people lack access to waste disposal facilities, it said.

In a bid to recognise cities that are taking initiatives to manage their waste, Sharif, also gave a call-for-action on ‘Waste-Wise Cities’. The initiative asks communities, cities and towns around the world to “rethink, reduce, recycle, refuse and reuse waste”.

Communities, cities or towns that improve their solid waste management and reduce their waste management expenditure will be publicly recognised as ‘Waste-Wise Cities’, Sharif said. Six Kenyan cities — Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Kirinyaga and Kisii — committed to sustainable waste management and have signed up for the global campaign, taking the total number of cities to 76.

It is interesting here to note that India already has a similar “forum of cities that segregate”, where more than 100 cities in eastern and north-eastern India committed to adopt sustainable waste management practices in February 2019.

Sharif also asked delegates to consider how to promote smart urban technologies that can handle the major systems a city requires — such as water, transport and clean energy — to improve the quality of life for all citizens; how countries should create an environment that encourages innovative solutions to poverty; and how best to make use of new knowledge to better serve communities.

Further, Sharif introduced the strategic plan of the UN Human Settlements Programme for the period 2020–2025. The plan aims to advance sustainable urbanisation as a driver of development and peace, to improve living conditions for all.

Participating nations also presented their statements on efforts to promote the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and sustainable urban development. Asian and African countries like India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Rwanda and Uruguay presented an overview of the national policies and practices. 

Representing the African nations, Burundi shared the African vision regarding urbanization and human settlements. The country representative stressed that well-planned urbanisation could contribute to cities’ transformation and structural reform of the economies, and called for strengthening human and institutional capacities.

While, Venezuela suggested considering social housing as an important public good, Korea stressed upon the potential of artificial intelligence and virtual reality technology to address urban problems.

The countries also shared their national-level initiatives and programmes as well as progress towards achieving sustainable urbanisation and reducing urban poverty.

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