|Friday, 16 May 2003|
The 19th Session of the Governing Council of UN-HABITAT was held at the UN Headquarters at Nairobi, Kenya from May 5 to 9.
More than 500 delegates from 187 member countries of the UN including Sri Lanka along with the local authorities, parliamentarians, non-governmental organisations as well as private sector representatives from around the world and various UN and inter-governmental organisations participated in this conference.
On the invitation of UN-HABITAT's Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Vice President of Kenya Michael Wamalawa ceremonially inaugurated the inaugural session of this conference. At this inaugural session, Kenya's Vice President Wamalwa said that sustainable development cannot be achieved unless the world tackled the slum problems. He urged the UN-HABITAT and UN Environment Programme to work together in order to respond effectively to the challenges of rapid urbanisation.
At this inaugural session the UN Executive Director said that their main focus is to upgrade the slums, mainly by providing shelters and uplifting sanitation, in the world's cities and to fight urban poverty. She urged governments to formulate national policies designed to address the problem of migration from rural to urban areas, which she said was the main factor causing slums to much problems in developing countries.
Minister of Housing and Plantation Infrastructure Arumugan Thondaman led the Sri Lankan delegation for this conference. Sri Lanka was elected at this conference for the chairmanship in the Asian Group for the next two years and Minister Thondaman has been selected as the Vice President of the 19th Session of this UN-HABITAT. Minister Arumugan Thondaman said "Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture in the history. A major opportunity is within reach to restore peace and bring to an end the 20-year-old conflict that has stifled the social and economic advancement of this country".
He further said that this is also a critical period for Sri Lanka in another respect. Sri Lanka's economic growth had been slower than expected. It was due to a number of factors including the accumulated burden of the costs of the conflict and the deterioration in recent times of the management of the economy. Our human settlements strategies are accordingly developed for addressing the above objectives of the Government specially meeting the human settlements and shelter requirements of the rural, urban and estate sector poor, the Minister said.
The 19th session of the UN-HABITAT in Nairobi was held under two special themes - urban development and shelter strategies favouring the poor, and the rural dimension of sustainable urban development. It will also consider and adopt UN-HABITAT's working programme for the years 2004 and 2005 and the proposed budget for the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation for the same period. This conference focused on wide-ranging dialogues with Mayors and other local authorities, representatives from around the world, as well as youth and civil society organisations.
Other than the above main themes, conference delegates also discussed the various activities on water and sanitation for cities and the millennium development goals, reconstruction and recovery following conflict and natural disasters, UN-HABITAT operational activities and the future of cities.
Produced by Lake House