, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 8 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has underscored the need to reform the UN-Habitat to create smart towns and cities that are economically viable, socially liveable, environmentally resilient and politically stable settlements.
He said the capacity of the UN-Habitat should be strengthened to enable it to serve as a focal agency for sustainable urbanisation.
“That is why we must empower UN-Habitat with the resources it needs – and these resources must be adequate and predictable,” he said.
President Kenyatta was speaking Monday at the United Nations Complex in Gigiri, Nairobi, where he opened the 26th Session of the Governing Council of the UN-Habitat.
The President also welcomed the recent appointment – by the UN Secretary-General – of a high-level panel of experts to conduct an evidence-based and independent assessment of UN-Habitat, saying the initiative is timely.
“In light of recent challenges – challenges that will not be unfamiliar to any of us – I believe that the organization and structure of the agency requires reform to make it more effective, efficient, accountable and transparent in its decisions, and their making,” he said.
The President termed the 26th session a milestone for UN-Habitat, being the first meeting of the Governing Council after the adoption of the momentous 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the New Urban Agenda that sets the global strategy around urbanization for the next two decades.
The 2030 Agenda is a comprehensive, integrated and inclusive outcome document that aims to achieve peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all on a healthy planet.
President Kenyatta pointed out that the 2030 Agenda presents a renewed political commitment for sustainable development and provides the basis for reviewing the mandate of the UN-Habitat and its positioning within the UN System.
“Our immediate responsibility is its implementation. We must quickly seize the opportunities, address the challenges and implement the Agenda,” President Kenyatta said.
He added: “The first step – one we can take here and now – is to send a strong political message in support of the new Agenda.”
The President said as host of the UN-Habitat, Kenya remains fully committed to the Agency and is ready to contribute constructively to secure its objectives.
To address the challenges of urbanization, President Kenyatta said Kenya has embraced devolution which will handle much of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
“According to our National Bureau of Statistics, by 2050 about half of our people will live in cities. Indeed, in 2030, the city of Nairobi will have about 6 million people,” President Kenyatta said.
President Kenyatta said Kenya’s devolved units have great potential for economic growth and employment creation.
“To this end, our Vision 2030 is geared towards promoting integrated regional and urban planning and management in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said.
The President also rooted for new and sustainable technologies to improve human settlements, especially through industrial building systems.
He said Kenya has taken up Industrial Building Systems in the construction of housing.
“I am pleased to report that our National Housing Corporation has set up a factory for such sustainable building systems. And we are promoting the development of environmentally friendly buildings and green energy,” the President said.
President Kenyatta took the opportunity to extend a special welcome to Peter Thompson, the President of the 71st session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, who he later held bilateral talks with on the margins of the UN-Habitat Governing Council meeting at Gigiri. He commended Mr Thompson for his unwavering commitment to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Other speakers included UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos, UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim and the Director-General of the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON), Sahle Work Zewde.