The 22nd session of the UN-HABITAT Governing Council was held March 30 to April 3 at its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
Composed of 58 member states, the Governing Council is a high-level forum of governments at the ministerial level that meets every two years to examine UN-HABITAT’s work and relationships with partners.
The Council also establishes policy guidelines and UN-HABITAT’s budget for the next two-year period.
Delegates from over 101 countries attended the event, whose theme this year was “Promoting affordable housing finance systems in an urbanizing world in the face of the global financial crisis and climate change.”
The Cities Alliance Secretariat was represented at the Governing Council by Programme Manager William Cobbett, Sr. Urban Specialist Julian Baskin, Urban Specialist Jean-Christophe Adrian and Regional Adviser Tewodros Tigabu Alemu.
While in Nairobi, the Cities Alliance delegation held the first City Development Strategy Sub Group meeting, a platform for Cities Alliance members that aims to strengthen collective knowledge and experience on CDS.
Housing for the poor can be bankable
A variety of other discussions and events were also held over the course of the week, including dialogue sessions on affordable housing and climate change.
At one March 30 event, participants concluded that it is still possible to provide financing for houses for the poor. Ms. Ayanthi Gurusinghe from Sri Lanka provided evidence that poor people could be helped to access loans for housing, and noted that the default rate among the poor was very low – making them bankable.
There is a definite need for such financing. Kecia Rust, a Housing Finance Coordinator from South Africa, cited recent research conducted by FinMark Trust in eight African countries. The research found that at best 17 percent of the population in South Africa and less than 10 percent in Zambia, Botswana, Rwanda, Mozambique, Namibia and Kenya are eligible for mortgage finance.
Swedish State Secretary for Local Government Dan Ericsson highlighted the importance of making investment in housing in developing countries attractive to global investors.
A separate meeting held by participants from Latin American and Caribbean countries focused on urban security. They highlighted the role of local governments in providing security for city residents and discussed strengthening the UN-HABITAT’s Safer Cities Programme in Latin America and the Caribbean.