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UN-HABITAT Governing Council Focuses on Sustainable Urban Development

15 April 2011: The 23rd session of the Governing Council (GC-23) of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) took place from 11-15 April 2011, in Nairobi, Kenya, under the theme “sustainable urban development through expanding equitable access to land and housing, basic services and infrastructure.”

During GC-23, delegates convened in a high-level segment and a Committee of the Whole to consider: the activities of UN-HABITAT; the special theme for GC-23; the work programme and budget of UN-HABITAT for the biennium 2012-2013; and the provisional agenda and other arrangements for GC-24. Delegates also met in a drafting committee from Tuesday to Thursday to consider the 19 draft resolutions before GC-23. In addition, on Wednesday, delegates conducted a dialogue with local authorities and other partners, on the special theme of GC-23.

During the Dialogue, Elizabeth Thompson, Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Coordinator of the Rio+20 Conference, noted that environmental issues such as wastewater, energy, sustainable consumption and production, climate change and natural disasters, are at the heart of cities' challenges. She further underscored that the “green economy” concept will be central to resolving these issues. She stressed that cities are at the heart of the proposed transition to a green economy and said governments must develop dedicated financial mechanisms and incentives to spur clean technology innovation, together with green economy policies and practices to mitigate environmental pressures. Sheila Patel, Chair, Shack/Slum Dwellers International, called for a mind change that would ensure that citizens' rights to basic services are addressed, in terms of providing adequate housing and access to public spaces, and making cities more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

GC-23 concluded its work by adopting 18 resolutions on issues relating to, inter alia: gender equality and empowerment of women in sustainable urban development; the World Urban Forum; the implementation of the Bamako Declaration and Action Plan and strengthening of the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development; urban youth development; the third UN conference on housing and sustainable urban development; strategies and frameworks for improving the lives of slum dwellers beyond the target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target; expanding equitable access to land, housing, basic services and infrastructure; and natural disaster risk reduction, preparedness, prevention and mitigation.

In the resolution on Sustainable Urban Development through Expanding Equitable Access to Land, Housing, Basic Services and Infrastructure (HSP/GC/23/CRP.18), the GC encourages governments and Habitat Agenda partners to, inter alia: promote public transport and mass transit systems, non-motorized transport, as well as the provision of equitable space for pedestrians and cyclists; and undertake coordinated action to promote cities and biodiversity as an integral part of their sustainable urban development strategies. With regard to land issues, the GC encourages governments and Habitat Agenda partners to: implement land policy development and regulatory and procedural reform programmes to achieve sustainable urban development and to better manage climate change; promote security of tenure for all; and review and improve urban land governance mechanisms.

The Governing Council meets every two years to examine UN-HABITAT's work, policy guidelines and budget. [UN-HABITAT GC-23 Website] [IISD RS Coverage]