With the New Urban Agenda crucial to sustainable human development, Member States were urged to strengthen the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today addressed the role of cities and other issues faced by developing countries.
Chris Williams, Director of UN-Habitat, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the “Follow-up to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme” (document A/77/310), noting it spotlights the system-wide strategy for sustainable urbanization — a whole-of-system approach to assist countries in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. Rather than create new structures, it calls upon United Nations entities to work through existing inter-agency processes at global, regional and country levels.
He urged Member States to empower UN-Habitat so it can focus on adequate housing, as homelessness and inadequate housing know no borders. He further recommended harnessing sustainable urban development to promote climate action, protect biodiversity and reduce pollution. How cities are regenerated, built and linked with rural areas will determine the future of the planetary ecosystem. Further, cities are key to crisis reduction and recovery — be it health emergencies, the climate crisis or conflicts and disasters, cities are increasingly the loci of crises. Cities, he continued, are also the front-line responders to crisis, as how they respond, stabilize and regenerate informs national recovery.
Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, presented the Secretary-General’s report on South-South cooperation for development (document A/77/297), noting that developing countries continue to support one another through South-South and triangular cooperation, including on vaccine access and equitable distribution. However, they face further shortfalls in financing for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, requiring scaled up and improved access to development finance on concessional terms. Southern-based development banks and funds could play an important role in further scaling up external financing for developing countries.
While COVID-19 accelerated the digital transition from on-site to online collaborative platforms, increasing the reach of South-South and triangular cooperation, the digitization divide is nonetheless large, and technology-driven foreign direct investment (FDI) among developing countries is still relatively small. She stressed the need for a wider base of actors embracing digital technologies, including voluntarily sharing licenses, technologies and know-how with least developed countries. She noted that in 2021, several United Nations entities expanded their programme portfolios of South-South and triangular cooperation.
Addressing urbanization, the representative of Thailand, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), cited challenges brought on by rapid urbanization, requiring a coordinated global response. ASEAN prioritizes sustainable urbanization, with half its population living in urban areas; however, while its cities are a crucial driver of economic growth, many are among the most vulnerable in the world to natural hazards. He cited the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, comprising 26 cities, aiming to catalyse cooperation through technological and innovative solutions.
The representative of Iraq said that his Government set up a working group focused on cities and human settlements, in line with the principles of the New Urban Agenda. Stressing that ensuring access to housing for every household is a serious challenge for his country, he noted it has undertaken measures to address the matter, including providing financial assistance and tapping public-private partnerships to harness investment opportunities. He further proposed that UN Habitat should establish a voluntary trust fund to better manage urban crises.
Pakistan’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, noted that while urban areas occupy 2 per cent of global land, they account for nearly 60 per cent of energy consumption and generate 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and global waste. He stressed the need for appropriate and realistic planning and regulations for better resource-utilization and sustainable development. He emphasized the need to mobilize concessional and grant finance on climate change, especially for adaptation.
Turning to United Nations reform, other delegates stressed the need for it to begin apace, and the importance of South-South cooperation and a properly aligned resident coordinator system.
The representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the current health crisis represents the “first big test” for the repositioning of the United Nations development system. He expressed hope that it will effectively assist African Governments to address cross-border challenges such as the COVID 19 pandemic, climate change and food security. He welcomed cooperation frameworks to help eradicate poverty and called for assistance on the field tailored to the continent’s specific needs in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The delegate of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, stressed that for her bloc, “our once sailing ship to development is now losing momentum and on the verge of sinking”. It is no longer acceptable for the United Nations development system to be present in the countries, while at the same time complaining about their lack of data, with no concrete actions to address the systemic issue. She stressed that South-South cooperation remains critical in providing the resources to help facilitate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, this sort of cooperation cannot be a replacement or a substitute for North-South partnerships or obligations to commit official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries.
The representative of Zambia called for effective coordination of United Nations country teams in monitoring, formulating and assessing the impacts of their assistance programmes on national development strategies. This includes effective and timely reporting from the resident coordinators to host Governments, she added. Similarly, Indonesia’s delegate underscored that South-South and triangular cooperation should act as an enabler to ensure stable and affordable connectivity in the Global South. She further stressed the need to enhance the United Nations development system’s capacity to provide support in a way that aligns the resident coordinator’s role with the national priorities of Member States.
A report was also presented by the Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Also speaking were the representatives of Botswana (on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries), Norway (on behalf of the Group of Nordic Countries), Malawi (on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries), Bangladesh, South Africa, El Salvador, Belarus, Ethiopia, China, Kenya, Viet Nam, Thailand (national capacity), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Russian Federation, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cuba, Malaysia, Honduras, United Republic of Tanzania, Morocco, Cameroon, Nigeria (national capacity), Türkiye, Bahrain, Iran, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
A representative of the International Renewable Energy Agency also spoke.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 17 October.
Introduction of Reports
CHRIS WILLIAMS, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the “Follow-up to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme” (document A/77/310). He highlighted the eleventh session of the World Urban Forum held in Katowice, Poland, 26-30 June 2022 — with 17,000 people participating online and 11,000 attending in person, among the most inclusive, accessible and climate neutral international forum of its kind. The report spotlights the United Nations systemwide strategy for sustainable urbanization, a whole-of-system approach to assist countries in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. Rather than create new structures, it calls upon United Nations entities to work through existing inter-agency processes at global, regional and country levels.
He urged Member States to strengthen UN-Habitat so it can support commitments including a deeper focus on adequate housing, as homelessness and inadequate housing know no borders. He further recommended harnessing sustainable urban development to promote climate action, protect biodiversity and reduce pollution. How cities are regenerated, built and linked with rural areas will determine the future of the planetary ecosystem. Multilevel governance and localization also warrant serious attention, as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will be won or lost at the local level — and success at the local level will hinge on how national, provincial and local governments work together.
Further, cities are key to crisis reduction and recovery — be it health emergencies, the climate crisis, or conflicts and disasters, cities are increasingly the loci of crises. Cities, he continued, are also the frontline responders to crisis, as how they respond, stabilize and regenerate inform national recovery. Among the myriad types of financing, perhaps the most crucial are endogenous resources of fast growing urban areas. Strengthened municipal finance and local fiscal systems, as outlined in the New Urban Agenda, provide the foundation for financing sustainable infrastructure.
MARION BARTHELEMY, Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the follow-up to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and strengthening of UN-Habitat (documents A/77/69 and A/77/69/Add.1). In highlighting that significant progress has been made on integrating United Nations regional assets, she noted that resident coordinators’ leadership, impartiality and focus on common results has improved. All 131 United Nations country teams have implemented the business operations strategy ahead of schedule, she continued, offering significant potential to unlock efficiency gains. Meanwhile, she pointed out that the establishment of common premises and common back offices is lagging behind. Stressing that no progress has been made towards the 30 per cent target for core funding, she further underscored that funding for the resident coordinator systems continues to fall short of needs.
Introducing the “cross-cutting levers of change” as laid out in the report, she first highlighted the need to strengthen United Nations country teams’ expertise to deliver integrated support to countries’ transitions in energy, food systems and digital connectivity. The convening role of the United Nations is essential to help Governments attract partnerships, know-how, financing and development solutions on an unprecedented scale, she added. Further stressing the need to complete the reforms, including on business operations’ efficiency, delivery of regional expertise to the country level and providing coherent support to humanitarian, development and security needs, she also called for the acceleration of behavioural changes required to maximize the system’s collective offer, including through the revised Management and Accountability Framework. It is indispensable to fully deliver on the funding compact commitments, starting with the full funding of the resident coordinator system, she concluded.
XIAOJUN GRACE WANG, Deputy Director, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, presented the Secretary-General’s report on South-South cooperation for development (document A/77/297). The report outlines the current global development context, as well as analyses South-South and triangular cooperation trends and new opportunities. It also provides important recommendations for the consideration of Member States, and for the United Nations system to strengthen its support to South-South cooperation.
Highlighting the efforts of developing countries to grapple with challenges to achieving sustainable development due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises, the report notes that developing countries continue to support one another engaging increasingly on a multilateral basis through South-South and triangular cooperation, including on vaccine access and equitable distribution. However, due to the broad and long-term impact of the pandemic and compounded crises, developing countries face further shortfalls in financing for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, she continued. Therefore, the report underscores the need to further scale up and improve access to development finance on concessional terms for developing countries. In this regard, Southern-based development banks and funds could play an important role in further scaling up external financing for developing countries.
Noting that COVID-19 accelerated the digital transition from on-site to online collaborative platforms, increasing the reach of South-South and triangular cooperation, the report points out that the digitization divide is nonetheless large, and technology-driven foreign direct investment (FDI) among developing countries is still relatively small. Therefore, it stresses the need for South-South and triangular cooperation to have a wider base of actors, who embrace digital technologies, including voluntarily sharing licenses, technologies and know-how, and for scientific innovations to be introduced to the most vulnerable, especially the least developed countries.
Turning to the follow-up to the Second High-Level Conference on South-South Cooperation, she highlighted instances of the entrenchment of South-South cooperation in the operational activities of the United Nations development system, noting that in 2021, several United Nations entities expanded their programme portfolios of South-South and triangular cooperation; enhanced digital networks for knowledge-sharing, codifying good practices and brokering partnerships, advanced policymaking and promoted the development, transfer and dissemination of technologies to developing countries.
Questions and Answers
The representative of the Dominican Republic, associating herself with the statement to be delivered by the Group of 77 developing countries and China and the Alliance of Small Island States, asked Mr. Williams how the resident coordinator system can be reinvigorated and regional offices strengthened.
The representative of Malawi asked how the United Nations system can help with housing and resilience to climate change. She also requested information on how to reverse the trend of rural development lagging behind as people flock to cities for income.
Mr. WILLIAMS responded that the resident coordinator system has been working very closely with UN-Habitat on joint programming across the board. In one country that prioritizes climate change, it is important to apply urban development strategies in that focus, while another country may focus on poverty eradication.
Responding to Malawi’s delegate, he said housing is a priority in the global North and South, not just in fulfilling the needed housing stock, but ensuring that it uses appropriate building materials for a lower environmental impact. Noting he has spent much time in East Africa, he further addressed how to reuse waste in building materials. Urbanization affects rural and urban areas, he noted, and it is important to figure out how to strengthen smaller towns, and create job opportunities.
The representative of Brazil asked about the dynamic of growing urban centres and avoiding loss of fertile agricultural land.
Mr. WILLIAMS noted concern over urban sprawl worldwide, and the importance of looking at the type of agricultural development that will be preserved, stressing the right mix of smallholders and large-scale agribusiness.
MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, pointed out that while urban areas occupy 2 per cent of global land, they account for nearly 60 per cent of energy consumption and generate 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and global waste. In this regard, he stressed the need for appropriate and realistic planning and regulations as steps forward to better resource-utilization and sustainable development. Noting that severe effects of climate change are adding challenges to attaining Sustainable Development Goal 11, he emphasized the need to mobilize concessional and grant finance, especially for adaptation. A facility to deal with loss and damage should be established at the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, he added.
Further noting that development activities tend to get side-lined and do not receive as many resources as humanitarian issues and other areas, he proposed that the United Nations development system provide more capacities and access to concessional finance. Expressing concern over inadequate funding of the resident coordinator system, he underscored that adequate, predictable and sustainable funding for the development system’s activities is crucial for sustainable development. Such resources should be utilized in accordance with national priorities, he added. Reiterating that South-South cooperation cannot be measured and assessed in the same way as official development assistance (ODA) as its value “goes beyond direct and indirect costs”, he expressed hope that the conceptual framework by the Statistical Commission would further be developed.
GEORGE EHIDIAMEN EDOKPA (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group and aligning himself with the Group of 77, pointed out that the current health crisis represents the “first big test” for the repositioning of the United Nations development system. He expressed hope that such a system will be able to effectively assist African Governments address cross-border challenges such as the pandemic, climate change and food security. Also stressing the importance of eradicating poverty to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he welcomed cooperation frameworks in this area and called for assistance on the field tailored to the continent’s specific needs in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Noting that that the pandemic will likely place further pressure on the United Nations development system and on countries struggling to cope with related economic challenges, he called for immediate efforts to strengthen regional capacities in the areas of economic and digital transformation and climate action. These must be then translated into integrated national and regional programmes and projects, further reinforcing coherence between these levels to provide greater support for regional priorities. He added that the United Nations development system must be able to deploy the necessary expertise, and that its repositioning must facilitate country-led development, calling for intensified cooperation between the system and Member States to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
LORATO MOTSUMI (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said the pandemic has highlighted deepened existing inequalities and created new vulnerabilities in many of the States in her bloc, while additional challenges such as climate change, geopolitical tensions and a poor economic outlook have led to an increased dependency on welfare and social protection, homelessness, poverty and hunger. Therefore, she called on UN-Habitat to do more to facilitate and support the group in accelerating its implementation of the New Urban Agenda. Turning to the recommendations of the quadrennial report, she underscored the need for the follow-up and review of the New Urban Agenda to have effective linkages with the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda, to ensure coherence. More needs to be done to support the most vulnerable States, as well as developing countries of the South.
While welcoming the Secretary-General’s declared commitment to focus on landlocked developing countries as a distinctive vulnerable group, she said the repositioned United Nations development system needs to focus on the bloc’s priorities, addressing the impacts of the pandemic and helping it build long-term resilience to future shocks. She called for the resident coordinator system to strengthen the coordination of the Programme of Action by the United Nations system at the national level, through strengthened collaboration between humanitarian, development and peace agendas, as well as joint analysis, planning, programming and funding mechanisms, among others. Moreover, it is vital to strengthen coordination and support towards her bloc of States, through the Inter Agency Consultative Group for Landlocked Developing Countries, and elsewhere.
MARGUERITE ST. JOHN-SEBASTIAN (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating herself with the Group of 77, stressed that her bloc is stuck with economic and financial “long COVID”, resulting from the debilitating impacts on health care and productive sectors. Further, escalating climate change is, for those States, a fight for survival. “For us small island developing States, our once sailing ship to development is now losing momentum and on the verge of sinking,” she stressed. She voiced concern over a deeper regression to nationalism and protectionism, while noting the proposal to begin recruiting resident coordinators from small island developing States. This is critically important in having more resident coordinators who can hit the ground running and diminish the steep learning curve.
It is no longer acceptable for the United Nations development system to be present in the countries, while at the same time complaining about their lack of data, with no concrete actions to address the systemic issue. She stressed that South-South cooperation remains critical in providing the resources and peer-to-peer partnerships to help the facilitation of the 2030 Agenda. However, this sort of cooperation cannot be a replacement for or a substitute for North-South partnerships, and obligations to commit ODA to developing countries. She expressed regret that in spite of the evident vulnerabilities of small island developing States, it is the country group least prioritized by contributing countries when making funding decisions. Citing the ongoing work on the development of a multidimensional vulnerability index for her bloc, and the contributions of the resident coordinators and other partners to make this become a reality, she further called on renewed efforts by development banks and donors to engage, and entities of the United Nations development system, international financial institutions to contribute to this process.
SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the multiple crises faced by the world, which have hindered development gains and exacerbated challenges brought by rapid urbanization, have highlighted the need for a collective and coordinated global response. ASEAN prioritizes sustainable urbanization, with half its population living in urban areas; however, while its cities are a crucial driver of economic growth, he pointed out that many of them are among the most vulnerable in the world to natural hazards, due to climate change.
He went on to outline a number of sustainable, resilient urbanization strategies adopted by the Association, including the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, a collaborative platform comprising 26 cities, aiming to catalyse cooperation through technological and innovative solutions; a structured pathway to transition to a low-carbon economy; and the adoption in 2021 of the Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on the Strategic and Holistic Initiative to Link ASEAN Responses to Emergencies and Disasters. ASEAN welcomes progress made to put into effect the Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations (2021–2025) and reaffirms its commitment to intensifying cooperation in the implementation of the Complementarities Roadmap (2020-2025). To this end, concrete ideas and alternative approaches, including the Bio-Circular-Green Economy and other sustainability models, have been explored to complement regional efforts to advance the Sustainable Development Goals and work towards a more sustainable and resilient future. Underscoring the need for vigorous international cooperation, he spotlighted the Global South-South Development Expo, co-hosted by Thailand in Bangkok in September, as part of the bloc’s continued efforts to promote exchange of best practices and technical cooperation through South-South and triangular cooperation.
RAFEA ARIF (Norway), speaking on behalf of Group of Nordic Countries, said, while the ambitious reform of the United Nations system is underway and three years in, mostly moving in the right direction, it is a complex task, and a goal towards which United Nations entities must align their policies and procedures. She underscored the need for transparency, to enable active and meaningful engagement in the governing bodies and intergovernmental processes, as well as at country level, pointing out that the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) case has highlighted the significance of this aspect, and the importance of all internal system-wide guidance documents and relevant reports being publicly available as well as drafted in an easily accessible and understandable way. She called for a “whole-of-system” approach to be undertaken in conflict-affected countries, which learn how strengthened linkages between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding work at country level.
She went on to highlight a number of important areas for consideration, including the need to genuinely empower resident coordinators to lead the United Nations development system at the country level, which will only happen with the full implementation of the Management and Accountability Framework; the need for the Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework to reflect the United Nations comparative advantage in each country; the full implementation of the United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality; the need to address the insufficient funding for the new resident coordinator system, which impedes reform; and to effectuate cultural and behavioural changes to make the reform self-sustaining, including through embedding ownership and buy-in across both United Nations entities and Member States.
AGNES MARY CHIMBIRI-MOLANDE (Malawi), speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries and aligning herself with the Group of 77, pointed out that 50 per cent of programme country expenditures in 2020 were dedicated to least-developed States. While this sounds promising, the reality behind this is alarming, as humanitarian assistance accounts for approximately 70 per cent of total expenditures in such countries. The other 30 per cent was spent on development activities, and it has decreased from 2019 to 2020. Expressing concern over the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda against this backdrop, she called on agencies to ensure that at least 50 per cent of individual agencies’ total expenditures are channelled to least-developed countries.
She went on to point out that some international organizations and United Nations entities — including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — do not recognize the category of “least-developed countries”. It is also concerning that such agencies — who are tasked with promoting sustainable development — do not consistently apply this category in their strategic planning and resource allocation. She therefore called for universal recognition of such category, and for a specific percentage of resources to be dedicated thereto. She also called for more focused and tailored support to match the needs of least-developed countries and accelerate transition at the scale needed.
MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh) noted that implementation of the New Urban Agenda remains slow due to multiple and interlinked crises. As a result, housing remains largely unaffordable both in the developing and developed world, and a 2022 UN-Habitat World Cities Report finds that 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing. He called for more global solidarity, enhanced multi-stakeholder partnerships, better planning and scaled-up investments to implement the agenda, underscoring the need for country ownership and local initiatives to build sustainable, affordable, climate-resilient and inclusive cities. Financing the New Urban Agenda needs to be addressed, he said, emphasizing the need for concrete actions to be taken to implement the recommendations of the Secretary General’s 2018 quadrennial report to create long-term and predictable financing mechanisms for the implementation and monitoring of the New Urban Agenda. Further, development assistance and capacity-building to developing countries must be scaled up.
BULELANI MANDLA (South Africa), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the pandemic’s devastating global impact impedes the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 11 by 2030, and pointed out that a good entry point to implement the New Urban Agenda is through tackling poverty and inequality, and improving the quality of life of people living in informal settlements through informal settlement upgrading. While recognizing the leading role of national Governments in implementing inclusive policies and legislation for sustainable urban development, he also recognized the role of other stakeholders, including sub-governments and civil society. In addition to national policies to foster environmental sustainability, South Africa’s cities are making strides to move towards a just urban transition, and have developed policy instruments for climate change mitigation and waste management, among other concerns.
CARLOS EFRAÍN SEGURA ARAGÓN (El Salvador), aligning himself with the Group of 77, noted that his country, located in the dry corridor, has recently faced the consequences of Tropical Storm Julia with many people living in high-risk areas which lack basic infrastructure. Stressing the need to plan comprehensively in promoting resilience and adaptation in cities, he shared that his Government has invested $466 million in its various resettlement programmes aimed at delivering aid and allowing greater access to loans for land possession. At the global level, he called on Member States to strengthen the role of UN-Habitat and increase its cooperation with development banks as well as with the private sector for further technical and financial assistance, which in turn will strengthen developing countries’ capacity in line with the three pillars of sustainable development.
VADIM PISAREVICH (Belarus) said that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review is a key component of strengthening the efforts of the entire United Nations development system, as it lays the foundation for addressing medium and long-term challenges. He also welcomed the resident coordinator system, which has helped to ensure an integrated approach for United Nations country teams in the field. Such efforts assist Member States in achieving national development priorities, and Governments must act as key partners in this process. He went on to say that it is unacceptable that Belarus is facing discrimination, noting that some have obstructed its receipt of organizational assistance to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
NEBIYU TEDLA NEGASH (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77, African Group, Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, noted that support for South-South cooperation has been well mainstreamed but that there needs to be a stronger focus on poverty eradication, and more robust support for the creation and strengthening of national institutions. However, United Nations agencies must enable developing countries to improve their capacities, in particular the least developed countries, especially in agriculture and industry. Emphasizing national ownership, he called for sustainable and predictable funding to avoid any risk of fragmentation of United Nations system activities on the ground.
HANGBO WANG (China), associating herself with the Group of 77, noted that her country has built the world’s largest housing supply, and looks forward to contributing more Chinese wisdom and solutions. She called on the United Nations development system to respect the ownership and leadership of developing countries, leveraging the role of resident coordinators and strengthening communication with host Governments. It is further important to implement the quadrennial comprehensive policy review and support the United Nations office for South-South cooperation, focusing on targeted measures to boost recovery. China has contributed $1 billion to global development and the South-South Cooperation Fund and has carried out more than 130 projects in more than 50 developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
JEAN W. KIMANI (Kenya), aligning herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, pointed out that the implementation of the New Urban Agenda will only be realized through enhancing endogenous resources; building the capacities of Governments and relevant institutions to collect data; grass roots-led planning processes; continuous exchange of information and learning amongst peers; and the submission of timely reports on the topic. Noting that UN-Habitat cannot credibly continue to execute its mandate with insufficient resources and inadequate staffing, with the annual non-earmarked voluntary contributions on a gradual decrease, she stressed the need for urgent mobilization of adequate, predictable and sufficient financing.
THOA THI MINH LE (Viet Nam), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, expressed concern about decreased funding at all levels for activities of the United Nations development system in helping countries implement the 2030 Agenda, and the continuing decline in ODA. In this regard, she emphasized the need for adequate, flexible and predictable funding for the United Nations development system, and for the closing of the imbalance between core and non-core resources. She called on donor partners to increase core funding of operational activities so they remain neutral, voluntary, universal and multilateral.
CHANITNAT YANKITTIKUL (Thailand), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and ASEAN, said that while rapid urban development, unplanned growth and the COVID 19 pandemic have posed many challenges, including extensive and unsustainable resource consumption and housing shortage, cities also have a key role to play in responding to emergencies like the COVID 19 pandemic and natural disasters. Noting that the New Urban Agenda calls for access to adequate and affordable housing, she spotlighted Thailand’s “Baan Mankong”, also known as the Stable Housing project, which enables the active engagement of local communities in decision-making and has provided housing to approximately 250,000 low-income households. She also stressed the need to move forward on the mandates from the 2020 quadrennial comprehensive policy review, reiterating her call to the entities of the United Nations development system to assist countries in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
ANAIS ALOSTAD (Kuwait), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said she hoped to see more cooperation within the South-South framework, especially in terms of ODA and other international commitments made by developed countries. Emphasizing that South-South cooperation is not limited to technical cooperation, but also includes many other areas of partnership to meet global challenges more effectively, she noted that innovation is also necessary to address the development priorities and needs of the Global South. Her Government’s development fund has provided soft loans, grants and other forms of financial assistance in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she added.
HASAN BADRI MHALHAL AL-KHALIDI (Iraq), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that his Government has set up a working group focused on cities and human settlements, in line with the principles of the New Urban Agenda. Ensuring access to housing for every household is a serious challenge for his country. To that end, it has undertaken measures to address the matter, including providing financial assistance and tapping on public-private partnerships to harness investment opportunities. He further proposed that UN-Habitat should establish a voluntary trust fund to better manage urban crises.
MOHAMMED ALGHOFAILI (Saudi Arabia) said that his country is implementing initiatives and programmes to address climate change, including the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative. To reduce carbon emissions in the region, it will plant 50 billion trees, along with developing a roadmap to protect the environment and contributing to international efforts to address climate change. Further, the Government will continue to work to increase forested area, preserve marine biodiversity and create a conducive environment for a prosperous society. He also spotlighted national efforts to achieve sustainable urbanization, noting that these human-centred measures aim to develop an “unprecedented urban quality of life”.
NIKOLAI KOMARKOV (Russian Federation) expressed concern that United Nations humanitarian spending has increased by a factor of 2.5 – while addressing consequences rather than root causes. He called on developed countries to honor their promise to allocate 0.7 per cent of their GDP to ODA, noting that in 2021, his Government boosted its aid to developing countries to $1.2 billion – an increase of almost 25 per cent, and much of it through the United Nations system. Expressing regret that illegal banking sector restrictions have complicated his Government’s relationship with the United Nations development system, he stressed that the hardest-hit will be developing countries. He called for an updated resident coordinator system that is compact, agile and cost effective. He also voiced support for South-South cooperation with respect for national sovereignty and non-interference.
NATTHAKITH THAPHANYA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, ASEAN, Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, stressed that appropriate monitoring and reporting mechanisms should be put in place to ensure the effectiveness of operational activities carried out by the United Nations system. In this regard he encouraged development partners to provide predictable and sustainable funding to the United Nations development system to support countries in special situations. He further requested the United Nations development system and its development partners to help strengthen capacity for related national mechanisms to enhance national ownership.
DALIA TORRES (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, stressed that the United Nations development system must address the current inequalities considering the specificities of developing countries. Noting that her country has faced the blockade imposed by the United States on top of the pandemic, she reported that due to the policy crucial products and services such as medication and food had to be provided through third party at “much higher prices”. She emphasized that such inhumane policies impede her country from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
YANG AISHAH BINTI ADNAN (Malaysia), aligning herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, outlined steps taken by her country towards sustainable urbanization in its development planning, including initiatives taken to localize and align the Sustainable Development Goals into its twelfth National Development Plan. On implementing the mandates of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review, she said the United Nations development system (UNDS) continues to be an invaluable development partner to Malaysia in delivering transparent and results-based progress, tailored to its national priorities and capabilities. Turning to the housing affordability crisis, she pointed out that a staggering figure of more than 1 billion people still live in slums in developing countries. Greater political will was needed to translate policies into reality, she stressed.
RAMÓN EMILIO FLORES (Honduras), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, recalled that poverty increased by up to 74 per cent in his country throughout 12 years of dictatorship. The new Government, however, is focusing on creating decent, humane conditions for the population, pursuant to its new urban agenda. That agenda has three main components: decentralizing funds to allow local authorities to implement the same directly and rapidly; promoting basic-service projects in the poorest parts of the country; and ensuring transparency and citizen participation in decision-making processes. He also stressed that the Government made the moral, social and political commitment to reduce poverty by strengthening investment in health, housing and infrastructure, and by empowering communities to implement sustainable projects.
JOSEPH ARON MWASOTA (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, noting that developing countries still lag behind in implementing the New Urban Agenda, with adequate housing and basic services still not universally available, underscored the need for people-centred and place-based strategies for housing construction, finance and governance systems, to advance sustainable urban development for all. The capacity of UN Habitat must be enhanced for it to be able to effectively implement its mandate. He went on to outline a number of initiatives undertaken by his country to implement the New Urban Agenda, including an increased provisioning of housing loans by banks and conducting its first national building census in August.
MERYEM HAMDOUNI (Morocco) called for further action to advance affordable and sustainable housing — only achievable through strengthening multilevel governance systems and the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals. Morocco is making significant progress on urban management, with inclusive urbanization and integrated and sustainable human settlements that are open, accessible and adaptable to natural hazards. She noted it is proven that repositioning of the United Nations development system helps in reaching the Goals, welcoming its repositioning, including its improved leadership, impartiality and consultations with host countries. The continuity of performance of resident coordinators cannot be achieved without adequate and predictable funding.
ADWITYA HAPSARI (Indonesia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, stated that as this year’s president of the Group of 20, her country has strived to achieve strong and inclusive recovery, especially for the most vulnerable States. Noting that the pandemic has exposed the existing digital divide, she underscored that South-South and triangular cooperation should act as an enabler to ensure stable and affordable connectivity in the Global South. She further stressed the need to enhance the United Nations development system’s capacity to provide support in a way that aligns the resident coordinator’s role with the national priorities of Member States.
JOHN BILLY EKO (Cameroon) detailed his country’s progress in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 11, highlighting national housing and urban policies. Such efforts have improved living conditions and livelihoods in cities — particularly in slums — thanks to proactive policies designed to use local materials and reduce construction costs. Further, a Government project to build 10,000 social housing units and develop 50,000 plots of land is underway, and ongoing efforts towards land reform emphasize the involvement of local authorities, women and young people. He added that challenges resulting from the pandemic prompted a surge towards developing infrastructure, and also highlighted the need for accurate data relating to housing and vulnerable households.
EZEKWESIRI DAVID ANYAEGBU (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, expressed concern regarding the World Cities Report that 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing. This was especially concerning when juxtaposed with the finding of the recent United Nations report that projects Africa’s sub-Saharan population to hit 3.8 billion by the year 2100. He called for concerted action to address the housing deficit, especially in Africa, where inadequate infrastructure, slum proliferation and safe sustainable mobility challenges abound. With overlapping crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate disasters, escalating the cost of housing, he also underscored the urgent need for enhanced stakeholder engagement in urban planning to help co-create sustainable and resilient cities.
MERVE KARATEPE (Türkiye) welcomed the second quadrennial report on the progress in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda acknowledged her country’s efforts in promoting vocational training and employment of youth, including for its Syrian population. She further shared that her Government recently launched a new countrywide social housing campaign aimed at meeting the housing needs of low-income groups in her country. Recalling that Türkiye launched a zero waste project in 2017 to promote urbanization as well as sustainable production and consumption patterns, she further invited Committee members to support the draft resolution on zero waste, which her country recently tabled.
MWILA M. DAKA (Zambia), aligning herself with the Group of 77, African Group, Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, called for effective coordination of United Nations country teams in monitoring, formulating and assessing the impacts of their assistance programmes on national development strategies. This includes effective and timely reporting from the resident coordinators to host Governments, she added. Stressing the need to address funding gaps for developing countries, she stated that there must be flexibility in accessing financing for development from United Nations development agencies and “non-core sources” such as the World Bank to support efforts towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
MARYAM ALBINKHALIL (Bahrain) cited the need for political commitment to promote urbanization. Bahrain is committed to implementing the New Urban Agenda, while the Government endorses the principle of urban expansion as a priority to increase and accelerate sustainable development. Bahrain is among those States suffering high population density, and is implementing a major programme to expand urban areas, with $11.9 billion in funding. Calling for increased cooperation with the private sector, she noted the new housing strategy was developed in collaboration with UN-Habitat. She pointed out that the capital city, Manama, has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a health and hygiene city of 2021 — the first city in the Middle East to achieve that status.
NOOSHIN TEYMOURPOUR (Iran), associating herself with the Group of 77, echoed the view put forth in the Secretary-General’s report that while the repositioned United Nations development system provides more integrated support to country’s needs on sustainable development, progress remains modest, including on funding compact commitments. She emphasized the need for poverty eradication to remain the overarching focus of the development system, and for it to have predictable and sustainable financial resources, which will be allocated to developing countries free of discrimination and without taking into account political considerations. Moreover, the system should provide coherent and integrated support tailored to the changing needs and priorities of developing countries, she said.
RUSLAN BULTRIKOV (Kazakhstan) called for existing gaps to be addressed in the United Nations development system. Pointing out that, as the world’s largest landlocked region (Central Asia), common problems necessitate a rapprochement between the five Central Asian countries, he emphasized the need for greater regional coordination to streamline the work of United Nations teams in the field. Spotlighting the proposed establishment in Almaty of a United Nations Regional Centre for Sustainable Development Goals for Central Asia and Afghanistan, to provide practical support for the reform of the development system in the region, he added that it would be funded by voluntary contributions. In addition to the cost of maintaining the Centre, Kazakhstan is ready to take on a coordinating role in mobilizing funds to finance its projects and activities, he said.
YASHA ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) noted with concern the current financial situation of UN-Habitat, adding that his Government is committed to its work and allocated a voluntary contribution of $1.5 million and recently pledged the same amount bringing its total financial support to $3 million. After the liberation of over 10,000 square kilometres of its formerly occupied territories, Azerbaijan embarked on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the conflict-affected areas to build back stronger by introducing the concepts of “smart cities” and “smart villages”. Unfortunately, the massive mine contamination of those territories and failure of “the responsible party” to provide accurate and complete maps of minefields is the main obstacle to the ongoing recovery and to the safe return of almost 1 million internally displaced persons to their homelands, he added.
SOFJA GILJOVA, International Renewable Energy Agency, said that countries need more renewable energy to fuel the Sustainable Development Goals. As a member of UN-Energy, her organization has rolled out several energy work packages and used a suite of planning tools and methodologies for dedicated flexibility analysis, and rural electrification planning elements, depending on a country’s or region’s priorities. The organization has also established a new global finance facility to accelerate the transition to renewable energy in developing countries and has started organizing investment forums to mobilize more resources for the deployment of more grid and off-grid energy solutions in developing States. The first investment forum took place in Indonesia for South-East Asia in August and the next one will be in Nigeria in November for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Source: United Nations