Panama City, Panama, 4 December 2021 -- The Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, visited for the first time Colombia and Panama to discuss sustainable urban development, climate change, migration, inclusion, and human rights with their national and local officials.

As part of her activities, the director participated in the 30th General Assembly of Ministers and Highest Authorities of Housing and Urban Planning of Latin America and the Caribbean, (MINURVI) held in the city of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

During her participation, the Executive Director invited regional authorities to exercise “courageous leadership” to accelerate the 2030 Agenda and the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. "I look forward to seeing you again at the World Urban Forum," she added.

Later that day, she received from President of Colombia Ivan Duque the Cruz de Boyaca, the highest decoration awarded by the Government of Colombia to personalities whose actions have benefited the country and humanity.

Ms. Sharif also met with ministers from Colombia, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador, as well as representatives of the European Union and business groups, with whom she found mutual interests in collaboration on issues of sustainable development, migration, and human rights from territorial perspectives.

During her schedule in Colombia, the Executive Director visited several cities in the country. In Cartagena, she learned about the project "Casa Digna, Vida Digna", promoted by the Ministry of Housing, City and Territory of Colombia. The programme involves improvements to low-income homes and is part of the initiatives that earned the Ministry of Housing the Scroll of Honour award by UN-Habitat in 2020.

"This is a great housing initiative that is working to improve the surrounding conditions and the construction of social facilities, give titles for houses and improve the interior of homes giving families a better quality of life," she said.

In the city of Barranquilla, Ms. Sharif visited two “Integrhabitat centres,” operated by International Organization for Migration (IOM), UN refugee agency UNHCR, and UN-Habitat. The centres receive refugees and migrants and are intended to provide social assistance and support to integrate them into host communities.

“The Integrhabitat centres are an example of how the integration of refugees and migrants can be carried out in an inclusive way, respectful of human rights and from an inclusive cities approach.” affirmed the director.

Her visit to Colombia concluded in Bogota, where the mayor Claudia Lopez gave her a guided tour of different works of cable cars mobility infrastructure, as well as other initiatives of social care, art, culture and ecological and urban development projects for the benefit of the population of the capital city of Colombia.

After her stay in Colombia, the Executive Director paid a short visit to Panama where she met with the Secretariat for the Social Integration of Central America, SISCA and the Development Bank of Latin America, CAF.