Cairo, 15 December 2014 – UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr Joan Clos, has met with Mr Ibrahim Mahlab, Prime Minister of Egypt, during an official visit to the country to promote the importance of sustainable urban planning and development in economic progress.
During the 2-day visit, Dr Clos also met the Egyptian Minister of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development, Dr Mostafa Madbouly, Ms Laila Iskander, Minister of Urban Renewal and Informal Settlements, and Ambassador Madgy Rady, Assistant foreign Minister for multilateral economic Affairs, as well as Dr. Mohamed Abdel Zaher, Governor of Qualyoubeya and General Said Abdel Aziz, Governor of Sharkeya; and a group of Urban Think Tanks and Decision makers.
Dr Clos spoke at the First Arab Forum on Sustainable Communities & Green Building and attended a roundtable debate for Ministers and Governors involved in urban development. He also met with representatives of urban think tanks, civil society academics and practitioners.
During his meetings, Dr Clos iterated that, done well, urbanization has the potential to drive development. Urbanization brings about the proximity of people, and in doing so creates opportunities for the exchange of goods and services which in turn generates business and economy. The effectiveness of cities in driving development depends on appropriate planning, with sufficient public space, connectivity, density and mixed uses; appropriate normative arrangements with the right legislation and governance systems; and finance mechanisms.
A new urban agenda for Egypt
However, to do this, countries need to adopt a New Urban Agenda when considering planning and urban design. Through integrating principles of urban planning, urban economy, urban management and legislation the New Urban Agenda seeks to create economically vibrant cities that are socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable.
Dr Clos also emphasized the need to empower local government, which is best placed to meet the needs of urban communities. He articulated that this does not necessarily imply the decentralisation of central resources, which is often a challenge in less wealthy countries, but should enable local government to develop their own revenue systems and to provide local services effectively. He urged strengthened collaboration across relevant ministries, and between central institutions, local institutions and communities, under a common vision that will harness the potential of urbanization to drive development and increase GDP.
Under the banner of Achieving Sustainable Urbanization in Egypt, UN-Habitat offers a comprehensive package that includes supporting the formation of the National Urban Policy and related strategies for housing and local governance; preparing new city plans; implementing local initiatives in planned city extensions, informal settlement development and inner city revitalization; and capacity building of local government in urban management and finance issues.
Dr Clos conveyed his deep appreciation of the Government of Egypt’s hosting and support of UN-Habitat’s regional office for Arab States situated in Cairo, and welcomed the Government’s intention to host the first Arab Ministerial Forum on Housing and Urban Development in 2015. He also assured the Government of Egypt of UN-Habitat’s commitment to supporting the achievement of sustainable urbanization in Egypt.