Cairo, 10 October 2019 - The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and UN-Habitat celebrated their successful cooperation by hosting a joint high-level panel discussion on improved urban equality in Egypt. The event took place on 10 October 2019 at the Swiss Embassy's Office for International Cooperation in Egypt. It hosted numerous high-level representatives from the Egyptian Government, the United Nations, various academic institutions, the private sector and civil society.

The discussion focused on developing a comprehensive approach to improve inequalities among Egyptian cities and regions. UN-Habitat Executive Director, Ms. Maimunah Mohamed Sharif, addressed the audience through a video message, expressing UN-Habitat’s appreciation to the governments of Egypt and Switzerland for supporting UN-Habitat’s mandate and for the strategic partnership between UN-Habitat and Switzerland reflected in several projects, particularly in the Arab region.

The participants included high level government representatives from Egypt - Dr Ghada Wali, Minister of Social Solidarity, Gen. Mahmoud Shaarawy, Minister of Local Development, Dr Assem El Gazzar, Minister of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities, Eng Alaa Abdelfatah, Head of the General Organization for Physical Planning, Dr Ahmed Kamaly, Vice Minister of Planning, Monitoring and Administrative Reform, Gen. Abdelhamid El Haggan, Governor of Qena. Also in attendance was Mr. Richard Dictus, the UN Resident Coordinator, and a number key experts.

Panelists discussed the efforts of the Egyptian government to achieve a more equal urban system, such as the programs related to social housing like the decent life (Hayat Karima) and the Your Project initiative (Mashroak). The event was inaugurated by Ambassador Paul Garnier, Ambassador of Switzerland to Egypt, Ambassador Raymund Furrer, Head of Economic Cooperation and Development division of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, SECO, who highlighted SECO's involvement in urban development worldwide and emphasized the need to reduce urban inequalities, thus leaving no one behind.

Despite the growth and welfare attributed to urban development; over the past decades, inequality, segregation and exclusion have become the most pertinent phenomena impeding on economic growth, social sustainability and lasting peace. Over 75 percent of the world’s cities grew more unequal over the past 20 years, making urban environments a physical manifestation of inequality.

The panel discussion provided a platform for dialogue and collaboration between different urban stakeholders; that can influence the reduction of inequalities among Egyptian cities and regions. The discussion focused on the huge potential of area based action where integrating good urban planning and development with responsive service delivery ,enhanced local administration, and effective social protection mechanisms would result in a more competitive and balanced systems for the Egyptian cities. The discussion stressed the importance of integrating various efforts and joint actions to reduce spatial inequality and urban polarization to ensure that cities provide quality of life for all.

The event represents another example of the fruitful cooperation between Egypt and Switzerland, which has continuously grown stronger over the past 40 years. Urban development has gained major relevance in Egypt in the face of rapidly increasing population rates and represents an important field of cooperation. The positive impact of Swiss-Egyptian joint initiatives is best exemplified by the “Hayenna”: Integrated Urban Development Project, which was launched last year in the Governorate of Qena, funded by SECO and technically implemented by UN-Habitat and the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP). The project aims at improving the planning, management and financing of inner cities and their urban expansions.

A joint high-level panel discussion on improved urban equality in Egypt