8 April 2020 – The first session of the Executive Board in 2021 took place with more than 250 participants online.
The Executive Board aims to increase the oversight of UN-Habitat’s operations by Member States and to strengthen UN-Habitat’s accountability, transparency and effectiveness. It comprises 36 Member States elected by the UN-Habitat Assembly and convenes two to three times a year.
On Wednesday, the first day of the two day meeting, the participants were welcomed by the Chair of the Executive Board and Permanent Representative of Iran to UN-Habitat. Mr Jafar Barmaki, The Chair’s remarks were followed by a statement by Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), who outlined the challenges faced due to COVID-19 and the measures put in place by UNON to minimize its impact and ensure business continuity.
The President of the UN-Habitat Assembly, Ms Martha Delgado, Mexico’s Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights called on Member States to “consider UN-Habitat as a public good that needs nurturing for the sake of all inhabitants, particularly those in a disadvantaged situation, and who require better housing, adequate transportation, and inclusive spaces.
“In an unsettling scenario caused by the pandemic, we have come face to face with inequality gaps that prevail in our societies. But we are also in front of an opportunity to guide cities into a significant change for more equitable, green, and healthy settlements,” she said
In his welcoming remark, Mr. Charles Hinga, Kenya’s Principal Secretary for the State Department of Housing and Urban Development said his country was “proud to be associated with the progress and achievements of UN-Habitat and the Executive Board with regard to implementation of the resolutions and decisions of the Habitat Assembly.”
UN-Habitat Executive Director Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif outlined the work undertaken by the agency as part of its response plan during the pandemic.
“COVID-19 is essentially an urban pandemic,” she said. “Our mandate to support sustainable urbanization is more important today than ever. UN-Habitat’s mandate goes beyond building back better and challenges us to address underlying structural problems.”
The Executive Board was briefed on UN-Habitat’s three priorities namely adequate, accessible and affordable housing and basic services, addressing the climate crisis and building resilience and localizing the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Board also heard about the normative and operational work being done by UN-Habitat and projects in the field as demonstrated by its impact in Lebanon and the COVID -19 response.
The Executive Board discussed the financial situation of UN-Habitat and the draft annual work programme and budget for 2022 which will be further considered at the second session later in year 2021.
On the second day, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development of Cameroon, Ms Celestine Ketcha Courtès praised the ‘tremendous work’ by UN-Habitat despite COVID-19 and she encouraged the Executive Director to “continue in the same vein.”
The Executive Director gave a status update on the implementation of resolutions and decisions adopted by the UN-Habitat Assembly at its first session in May 2019. She noted that the lack of consistent voluntary funding had made this work challenging particularly during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Member States expressed appreciation and support for UN-Habitat’s work on UN System wide reforms and urged UN-Habitat to position itself strategically to maximize the impact of its work.
There was a briefing on how UN-Habitat is working hard to ensure adequate safeguards and appropriate actions to prevent and respond to allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), or sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Executive Director of UN-Habitat highlighted the “whole of house” progress made towards the reform and restructuring of UN-Habitat despite scarce resources. UN-Habitat informed the Executive Board about the consultative process put in place to implement reforms, and about the new organizational structure developed to strengthen the organization.
The new Bureau of the Executive Board was elected as follows :
- Chair: Poland
- Vice-Chairs: Egypt, Pakistan and France
- Rapporteur: Chile
The Executive Board finally proceeded to the formal adoption of five decisions (presented in document HSP/EB.2021/CRP.1/Rev.2) by consensus and as an expression of the formal outcome of the Executive Board session as follows:
- Draft Decision 2021/1; Status of the draft Work Programme and Budget of UN-Habitat for the year 2022; implementation by UN-Habitat of the UN Development System reforms and alignment of the planning cycles of UN-Habitat’s Strategic Planning peocesses with the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review process.
- Draft Decision 2021/2: Financial, Budgetary and Administrative matters of UN Habitat including the improvement of the internal management, policies and procedures of UN-Habitat and actions by UN-Habitat to strengthen protection against sexual and any other type of exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Draft Decision 2021/3: Implementation of normative and operational activities of UN-Habitat including resolutions and decisions of the UN-Habitat Assembly and including reporting on the programmatic activities of UN-Habitat in 2020 and the implementation of subprogrammes, flagship programmes and technical cooperation activities, and update on the UN-Habitat response to the coronavirus pandemic;
- Draft Decision 2021/5: Election of officers of the Bureau of the Executive Board for the term 2021-2022.
The Executive Board decided that the second session of the Executive Board in 2021 will be held for two or three days between 16 and 18 November 2021.