Surabaya, Indonesia 6 October 2020— During the second day of the virtual Global Observance of World Habitat Day 2020, from Surabaya, speakers discussed the various aspects of the overall theme of Housing for All and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Urban Agenda Platform, which was launched as part of the Global Observance high level ceremony on World Habitat Day itself, was discussed in more depth during the first Roundtable on The launch of Urban Agenda Platform: Reporting progress and sharing knowledge in the Decade of Action.

Ms. Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of the United Cities and Local Governments network (UCLG), who moderated the Roundtable said that “the New Urban Agenda is much more than SDG11, but SDG11 is a building block and the cornerstone of all the other SDGs.”

Poland’s Minister of Development Funds and Regional Policy, Małgorzata Jarosińska-Jedynak, said that the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030 and the New Urban Agenda were important for her country in designing a National Urban Policy and an Urban Policy.

 “Poland is determined to implement the 2030 Agenda and approaches this programme as a long-term investment,” she said.

Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure, Claver Gatete,  said that reporting progress on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda mattered to governments because they could assess and evaluate their performance progress level against commitments, goals, and indicators.

In her opening remarks at Roundtable Two on Responding to resilient, inclusive, gender-equal and green economic recovery in informal settlements, the Mayor of the host city, Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini said the city aimed to protect the rights and dignity of people living in informal settlements.

“The city has never encouraged demolition of informal settlements to pave the way for new developments; instead, we embarked on campaigns to teach them on how to better their living conditions,” she said.

The Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Yvonne Aki-Sawyer said that due to the lack of development and planning control, they had 74 informal settlements across the city. She added that successful interventions needed everyone on board, including informal settlements’ residents.

Kenya’s State Department of Urban Development Principal Secretary, Charles Hinga, said that the right to adequate housing was enshrined in his country’s constitution and that the provision of housing was key in ensuring social justice.

In his address, the European Commission’s Lars Groenvald, Team Leader urban development, advocated for an all-inclusive plan for cities which included those living in informal settlements.

South Africa’s William Jiyana, Chief Director in the Department of Human Settlements, said they were committed to working with other governments to find solutions to the current pandemic.

During Roundtable Three on Housing at the centre of the COVID-19 response Mexico’s Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Martha Delgado, said the pandemic had highlighted the critical role of housing.

 “I firmly believe one of most outstanding opportunities during COVID-19 for both national and sub national goverments is to develop strong policies that not only ensure adequate housing but help strengthen urban sustainability and the resilience of communities in order to create a new normality,” she said

Cities Alliance Regional Manager for Latin America and Caribbean, Anacláudia Marinheiro Centeno Rossbach, said: “In the global south the informal settlements are very prevalent and COVID has affected the financial capacity of families here so we have observed an increase in people living on the streets and an expansion of informal settlements.” 

According to Marissa Plouin, Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: “COVID did not create a housing problem but it  turned a lot of chronic housing challenges into a housing crisis and they become much more visible and hard to ignore.”

 From the European Investment Bank, Senior Housing Specialist Grzegorz Gajda, said one key lesson from the pandemic was the importance of public spending and public services such as health.

In her closing remarks, UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif underscored the unique circumstances during which this year’s World Habitat Day celebrations were held. However she pointed out that there were 81 World Habitat Day events being held in 44 countries and 57 cities around the world.

“World Habitat Day 2020 is historic for many reasons. For the first time since 1986, we held the Global Observance in hybrid fashion,” she said. “For the first time, World Habitat Day is truly global in its reach and scope.”