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AFRICA: Improved infrastructure key to slum upgrading - UN official

NAIROBI, 11 June 2009 (IRIN) - To successfully upgrade existing slums and prevent more from springing up, countries in the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions must convince their governments to allocate more resources to urban infrastructure, services and capacity-building activities, a senior UN official has said.

"Slums and urban poverty are not just a manifestation of population explosion and demographic change, or even of the vast impersonal forces of globalization," Anna Tibaijuka, the under-secretary-general and executive director of the Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), said on 10 June.

"Slums must be seen as a result of failed policies, bad governance, corruption, inappropriate regulation, dysfunctional land markets, unresponsive financial systems, and a fundamental lack of political will."

Addressing a ministerial session during the first joint ACP conference on the challenges of urbanization and poverty reduction, Tibaijuka said strategies to deal with slums need to consider much more than the provision of housing and physical services.

"They [the strategies] involve governance, political will, ownership and rights, social capital and access," she said. "Not to forget planning, coordination and partnerships.”


Photo: UN-HABITAT
Anna Tibaijuka, HABITAT executive director
Declaration approved

At the end of the 8-10 June conference, hosted jointly by HABITAT, the European Commission (EC) and the ACP secretariat, the more than 200 delegates approved a 13-point "declaration and action plan" on urbanization challenges and poverty reduction in the ACP countries.

The declaration urged the prioritization of urban issues in the overall development agenda in ACP countries and invited development partners to contribute to these efforts by establishing flexible financial mechanisms and providing "relevant resources to reduce urban poverty and tackle new challenges such as climate change, urban energy, water and food security and financial crises" to ensure sustainable urban development in these countries.

HABITAT said the conference "deepened and elaborated further" the conclusions adopted during a joint regional workshop in 2005 and the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme, currently under way in 30 ACP countries.

At least two billion people live in urban areas in the developing world, according to HABITAT, with more than 70 percent of many ACP urban populations living in slums or informal settlements. Slum prevalence is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, at 62 percent, followed by South Asia, 43 percent; East Asia, 37 percent; and Latin America and the Caribbean, at 27 percent.

Tibaijuka said: "Our latest research shows that one out of every three people living in cities of the developing world lives in a slum or other unplanned settlements. The proportion is certainly higher in ACP countries."

The main themes of the Nairobi conference were: basic urban infrastructure and service provision; pro-poor land and affordable housing interventions; urban governance and planning policies; human settlement finance strategies; and local economic development enhancement.

Urban growth, slum formation

Kenyan Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka told the conference that recent studies had shown that the rate of urban growth was near equal to the rate of slum formation in many developing countries and that slums remained a major phenomena in all urban centres of the ACP countries.

"Regrettably, slums represent the most visible manifestation of urban poverty, the failure of sectoral policies and the inability of institutions and countries to provide for the basic needs of the populace," he said in a keynote speech.

"There is therefore a compelling case for action on the vicious cycle of urban poverty. Consequently, ACP countries need to re-examine urbanization afresh and devise proactive urban management strategies to utilize the opportunities and attendant challenges in a sustainable way."

John Kaputin, ACP secretary-general, urged the ACP countries to adopt new and modern mechanisms to cope with globalization and urban development.

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Theme (s): Urban Risk,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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