Nairobi, 27 October 2020—The Second Session of UN-Habitat’s Executive Board began its three day meeting  with the COVID-19 pandemic featuring as a key theme in discussions.

Participants at the  virtual meeting discussed financial, budgetary and administrative matters, UN-Habitat’s work programme budget  and the  geographical and gender composition of staff. The Chair of the Executive Board, Mr. Jafaar Barmaki of Iran, opened the meeting.

The President of the UN-Habitat Assembly, Ms. Martha Delgado said that since the Executive Board last met on 29 June, the world continued to be in the grip of the pandemic. However, she said, thanks to the work of multiple UN agencies, including UN Habitat, more was known about the virus and how to manage it. 

 “It has become evident that those cities that work with communities and central governments are recovering faster and better. Similarly, on the world stage, it is symbiotic multilateralism that will underpin the socio-economic recovery of countries. Hence the importance of working with organization such as UN-Habitat to ensure the effective alignment and implementation of national polices at the local level,” said Ms Delgado who is the Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

UN-Habitat Executive Director Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif said the agency was now  ten months into the first year of the implementation of its Strategic Plan 2020-2023 and most of that time had been dominated by the  COVID-19 pandemic.

She said this had “radically changed our way of working, revolutionised the way we serve and is expected to usher in a mixed modality of virtual and operational way of life… Our operations remain robust, with 174 active projects in the field.”

Mr Charles Hinga, Kenya’s Principal Secretary at the  Ministry of Housing, Urban Development and Public Works said  pandemic had served as a “strong reminder of the importance and urgency of prioritising urban and human settlements development now than ever before ..  particularly in densely populated urban and informal settlements, that in most cases lack basic infrastructure.”

He added that “UN-Habitat’s relevance and key role as lead global agency in promoting sustainable urbanization and human settlements and as a global focal point in implementation of the New Urban Agenda cannot be over emphasized. Its existence provides an anchor for Member States to leverage on its normative work and technical expertise in promoting sustainable human settlements.”

The Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) network, Emilia Saiz said it was critical to support UN-Habitat’s normative work and for Member States to continue financing local level activities and programmes.

“In a context of unprecedented and universal challenges we, the local and regional governments around the world, are at the forefront of the efforts to overcome these … times as allies of other spheres of government, of the scientific community, and as global actors with important transformational and convening power,” she said.

Hannes Juhlin Lagrelius of the World Blind Union said the organization was fully committed to sustaining the “vibrant and constructive partnership with UN-Habitat”, and recognized the critical