President of the Governing Council,
Executive Director of UN-Habitat,
Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honour and pleasure to welcome you to Nairobi on behalf of the people and the Government of Kenya.
I am informed many of you have been here for several days, attending the second Preparatory meeting of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, to be held in Ecuador next year. I trust you have enjoyed your stay so far in Nairobi.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Governing Council session is uniquely positioned to contribute to the success of Habitat 3, since it is already clear that sustainable urbanisation will be a fundamental part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
It follows then, that we should all focus on addressing housing and sustainable urban development as critical aspects of the world’s socio-economic development.
When the United Nations was established at the end of the Second World War, 70 years ago, only about 30% of the world was urbanised. In the intervening decades, urbanisation, particularly in the developing world, has been the most rapid in human history, topping 50% in the last decade.
In the regional groups represented here, most are overwhelmingly urbanised, with the exception of Africa and Asia where a majority still live in the rural areas and represent the bulk of the world’s rural population. Yet these two continents are the fastest-urbanising with projections that they will be responsible for 90% of the 2.5 billion new residents of urban areas by 2050.
We all know the costs of planned urbanisation are far lower than those of coping with unplanned urbanisation.
The cost of the latter, as we have seen globally, and particularly in the global South, has been rapid population growth into unplanned, disadvantaged urban and human settlements where the potential of our people is stunted by poor health, criminality and violent conflict.
We also know that there are no hard boundaries between the urban and rural spaces.
They shade into one another, with resources and products from the country side sustaining our cities, while basic services are often delivered to villages using the financial resources states gain from city-driven economic growth.
The well-planned and vibrant city does not stand in opposition to a village in which basic services are available to all. They complement one another.
We now understand that the poverty-reducing impact of urbanisation is not merely a result of the relocation of the rural poor to towns and cities, but is driven more by urban-rural economic linkages. The urban demand for rural products is the largest driver of rural prosperity growth, which is added to by the remittances from urban dwellers to their rural relatives.
An important reason for Kenya’s transformation of its governance structure at the constitutional and political level is our recognition of this dynamic continuum of human habitats.
Devolution allows Kenyans to participate in shaping their development priorities at the local level, whether it is in large cities like Nairobi or in the villages dotting the countryside where the majority of our people live.
The result has been increased prosperity in both urban and rural areas, increased equity through participation, and improved health and dignity from the broadened delivery of basic services.
While there is much more to do, we foresee a future in which the trend of migration into urban areas is driven more by the pull of diverse opportunities and experiences, than by the push of hopelessness in rural areas.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We need to imagine the inevitable future of almost total urbanisation, and dare to be bold enough to set its foundations today. That is why I applaud the theme “contributions of the United Nations Human Settlement Programme to the Post-2015 Development Agenda”.
It is not timely and relevant in seeking to join the work of this programme with the realities of a highly urbanised future, and the aspirations of those billions, particularly in the global South, who are still living in rural areas but whose links to the global economy are increasingly defined by urban dynamics.
Access to housing, clean water, sanitation, affordable mobility and other basic services are, not merely the consequence of development.
Providing them throughout the world is the engine that will drive inclusive global growth and prosperity, social inclusion, peace and security for the next generation.
The realization of this vision demands that we harness and deploy our collective knowledge and experiences. This, in effect, is what we have done for the past four decades by investing in UN-Habitat so that its intellectual property, expertise and linkages with states, local authorities, civil society and academia can be available to us.
We will need it even more in the coming years as rapid urbanisation continues to present us with immense opportunities.
Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Delegates,
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that UN-Habitat is ‘Fit for Purpose’ to seize this moment.
To effectively support sustainable urbanisation in this first half of the 21st Century, UN-Habitat will need to be strengthened in its governance processes and financial resources.
This will allow the body to be a more effective partner to Governments, at both national and local levels, and to productively engage with the spectrum of stakeholders pursuing sustainable urbanisation. UN-Habitat must also be empowered and encouraged to comprehensively engage the private sector whose expectations and investments are doing more to shape the urban space than any other sector.
We all agree that governance must be strengthened if UN-Habitat is to effectively pursue the mandate we are shaping for it.
It is, therefore imperative that the spirit of cooperation drives your negotiations so that we make progress immediately while remaining conscious that we are in a process that will allow further enrichment as we go forward.
From the richest cities in the most urbanised countries, to the villages and small towns in the least urbanised countries, the need for a UN-Habitat that can develop relevant knowledge, effectively deliver it and build capacity in its utilisation, is key.
Such expectations have a cost and can only be fulfilled by a financially stable UN-Habitat. Kenya therefore wishes to lend its further support to the work of the UN-Habitat secretariat and to the effort to secure a successful Habitat III Conference. To this end, Kenya pledges one (1) million US dollars, a portion that will be directed to the Habitat III Trust Fund, and another to Non-earmarked Funds to support the work programme of UN-Habitat.
Let me finish by again recognising the pivotal moment that we occupy. As we work to strengthen UN-Habitat, an organisation that the Kenyan people are enormously proud and privileged to host, I urge you once again to align your work this week with the transformative possibilities that we have allowed ourselves in seeking a Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The road to sustainable development runs through the neighbourhood of urbanisation.
No country or region will escape the consequences, positive and negative, of worldwide urbanisation. We must, therefore, possess the tools and resources to make it a success. I strongly believe that a more effective, visible and resourced UN-Habitat will be an important part of that success.
With these remarks, I now declare the 25th Session of the Governing Council officially opened.
I thank you.