World Habitat Day 2023: Celebrating Resilient Urban Economies

World Habitat Day 2023: Celebrating Resilient Urban Economies
Baku, Azerbaijan/Mombasa, Kenya, 3 October 2023 —

On Monday 2 October 2023, the city of Baku, Azerbaijan hosted this year’s Global Observance of World Habitat Day under the theme “Resilient urban economies. Cities as drivers of growth and recovery”, which sought to deeply examine how cities can position their economies to benefit residents.

Some 500 people from 28 countries attended the event in-person while 250 live audiences were recorded online during the high-level opening session, joining the celebrations. More than 30 press representatives attended.

“Cities are vibrant ecosystems of human potential and innovation; they are our future ”, said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat at the opening ceremony of the Global Observance of World Habitat Day.

“In our challenging times of conflicts, economic hardships, and climate disasters, cities have proven their resilience time and time again. Let us recognize that resilient urban economies are not only about financing growth and competing to be at the top. It is also about nurturing the human spirit, embracing innovation, putting technology to serve human needs, and creating inclusive societies”, she added.

In his video speech, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said: “Through our Local 2030 Coalition, we are mobilizing the entire United Nations system to tackle … crises from the ground up and advance sustainable urbanization.” He added: “Building greater resilience and better protecting vulnerable populations requires far greater investments in sustainable infrastructure, early warning systems, and affordable, adequate housing for all.”

Shahmar Movsumov, Assistant to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, said: “In the post-COVID-19 era, cities are epicentres for recovery and SDG achievement. World Habitat Day reaffirms our commitment to vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable communities. World Habitat Day urges collaboration to shape resilient, inclusive, and prosperous cities and communities. It paves the way for a brighter, sustainable future.”

In his speech, the Chairman of the State Committee on Urban Planning and Architecture of the Republic of Azerbaijan Anar Guliyev said that sustainable urban development was vital in the present dynamic era of urbanization, adding that cities held the key to the world’s collective future.

“Localization of the SDGs is crucial, translating global goals into local contexts. The Public-Private People Partnership prioritizes People agendas during project implementation. Azerbaijan’s journey of urban renewal is a testament to resilience and commitment. We’ve transformed into an upper-middle-income country, focusing on sustainability and green growth,” he said.

Samuel Rajan, member of UN-Habitat’s Stakeholder Advisory Group Enterprise (SAGE) noted that cities were integral to sustainable development and that citizen involvement, private sector collaboration, and diverse resources were vital for improved service delivery. He added that housing was a key economic driver, creating jobs and growth opportunities, and becoming a scalable asset for communities when affordable financing options were available.

UN-Habitat showcased some of the tools available to cities for financing sustainable urban development, including the Cities Investment Facility and the Rapid Own Source Revenue Analysis (ROSRA) tool.

The Executive Director of UN-Habitat presented the 2023 UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour Award to this year’s five winners, recognizing their outstanding initiatives and contributions in the field of sustainable urbanization and improving the quality of urban life.

She further presented special recognitions certificates for achievements in promoting sustainable urban development to:

  • Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action for over 25 years of exemplary work in organizing and coordinating demining operations with the aim of clearing the territories in the Republic of Azerbaijan from landmines and other explosive munitions;
  • Rohey Malick Lowe, Mayor of Banjul, Gambia for her exemplary leadership at the local level and for her dedication to the empowerment of women and youths in the capital city of Banjul;
  • Yücel Yılmaz, President, Union of Municipalities of Türkiye for exemplary leadership at the local level and for his organization’s continued support to the Zero Waste global initiative;
  • Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi, Secretary-General, United Cities and Local Governments Asia-Pacific in recognition of her role and efforts to mainstream sustainable urbanization at the local level in the Asia and Pacific region.

World Habitat Day 2023

The Global Observance of World Habitat Day 2023 launched Urban October – a month of activities, events and discussions on urban sustainability – which will end with World Cities Day on 31 October under the theme of “Financing sustainable urban future for all”.

Apart from the Global Observance, 12 national observations took place in 12 countries and 14 cities across the globe in Kenya, Spain, Colombia, Japan, Yemen, Iran, Viet Nam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the United States of America, and South Africa.

National Observance in Mombasa, Kenya

During the National Observance of World Habitat Day held in Mombasa, Kenya, UN-Habitat reiterated its commitment to help Kenya’s coastal counties achieve sustainable urban development.

Oumar Sylla, UN-Habitat Regional Representative for Africa, noted that UN-Habitat was already involved in Kenya’s coastal urban development through the “Go Blue” project, which aims to establish land-sea planning as a tool for sustainable coastal and marine development in the six counties that make up Kenya’s coastal region.

“We are working in the area of waste water management, and will soon embark on water transport as well as lending a hand in urban planning”, he said.

Deputy County Commissioner Ronald Mwiwawi, who had requested UN-Habitat’s assistance in the area of urban planning, said that the construction boom being witnessed in the city of Mombasa posed a challenge for its future.

“We see buildings coming up every day. What we know is that the available infrastructure is not capable of supporting this expansion. This is why we see blocked sewers causing spillages on the roads which is not a good sight for a tourist town like Mombasa. We need urgent help in urban planning,” he said.

Mombasa Governor Abdullswamad Sherrif Nassir said he was committed to solving the issue of land tenure insecurity in the county once and for all. He issued titled deeds to some area residents who did not have the document.

In his speech, Principal Secretary for Housing and Urban Development Charles Hinga said the theme for this year was very relevant. He said: “This is in recognition of the fact that our cities play a critical role in establishing strong urban economies that serve as engines for development and recovery. It is for this reason that we are gathered here to renew our commitment towards having resilient urban economies for a sustainable transformation of our cities and communities and hence safeguard a better urban future.”

Speaking at the occasion, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to UN-Habitat Ambassador Jean Kimani said Kenya was proud to be the only country in the developing world to host the headquarters of two United Nations agencies, UN-Habitat and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

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