The Campaign to fight global challenge of urban poverty got major boost during the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) held in Quito, Ecuador, 17-20 October 2016.The European Commission (EC), Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Secretariat long term partners of UN-Habitat announced that they will provide new and additional funding of €30 Million towards the third Phase of the Agency’s Flagship Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme (PSUP). This funding follows European Commission support of €4 Million in 2008 and another round of €10 million in 2011 for first and second funding cycles of the PSUP. PSUP is implemented by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) in the Africa Caribbean and Pacific Regions.

Launched in 2008 as a result of a continuous policy dialogue initiated by the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and from requests by Member States, the programme is financed by the European Commission (EC) and implemented in 190 towns and cities. Participatory planning processes engaging all key stakeholders including slum dwellers themselves are used to develop citywide slum upgrading and prevention strategies, supported by improved and enabling policy frameworks and resource mobilization strategies.

Combined with the development of practical local infrastructure improvements and livelihood generation initiatives, national/city governments and communities are therefore given the tools to improve the living standards of slum and informal settlement dwellers and to develop mechanisms to address adequate and affordable housing to avoid future slums. The renewed funding comes at a critical moment given what appears to be the increasing numbers of slum and informal settlement dwellers living in urban centers around the world. The funding will provide a vital injection of resources to deliver improved living standards for people living in slums and informal settlements within the ACP region.

“Through this programme, we have seen great success and many lessons are derived of how we are to address urban poverty in a comprehensive way. This has given rise and helped in our justification that for the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) cycle for 2016-2020. With the €30 million has been committed, our programme will now service 190 cities in 35 PSUP countries”, remarked the ACP Secretary General, Dr. Patrick Gomes in his video message address to Habitat III delegates in Quito. Created in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome and launched in 1959, the European Development Fund (EDF) is the European Union's main instrument for providing development aid to African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and to overseas countries and territories (OCTs).

Stressing the need for developing diverse and innovative financing mechanisms for slum upgrading in different countries, the Deputy Director General of the Agency for International Cooperation and Development (Devco), Ms Marjeta Jager, stated that “the EC has developed a clear policy of cost-effective mobilization of investments, by combining EU grants with loans or equity from public and private financiers with over €23 Billion worth of EU funds financing around 280 blended projects. Harnessing the potential of these blending mechanisms in the framework of PSUP, would undoubtedly strengthen the foundations for a more strategic and comprehensive implementation approach to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 11 and the New Urban Agenda”.

On the EC’s support to PSUP, Mr Paolo Ciccarelli, Devco Head of Unit 5 ( Water, Infrastructure and Cities ), highlighted key achievements of the programme in policy development, capacity building and advocacy for inclusive urbanization. “We therefore remain fully supportive of promoting knowledge and capacity development under the PSUP 3, a component which half of the countries were able to benefit from”, commented Mr Ciccarelli.

With an estimated one billion slum dwellers in the world, urban poverty and inequalities as well as inadequate affordable housing, are acknowledged as universal global challenges by key global frameworks: the Sustainable Development Goals - SDG 1 (“End Poverty”) and Target 11.1 (“By 2030, ensure access for all, to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic serves and upgrade slums“) and UN-Habitat’s New Urban Agenda are calls for action to address this global challenge and improve the lives of those living in slums and other informal settlements. Indeed, the SDG slum upgrading target endorses the “unfinished business” of Millennium Development Goal 7 “Improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by 2020”.

The bottom line is that; if no immediate action is taken, UN-Habitat projects, an increase of numbers of people living in slums and informal settlements to reach 3 billion by 2050. This will account for about 40% of the world population. Speaking to the media during the Habitat III conference, the Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat Ms Aisa Kyacira thanked the ACP and EC for their support to the PSUP and promised to augment UN-Habitat technical support to national and local governments in the ACP region to implement the PSUP.

On the importance of slum upgrading, within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Habitat III’s New Urban Agenda (NUA), Ms Kyacira pointed out that the PSUP has been identified as an appropriate programme to operationalize Sustainable Development Goal 11 Target 11.1. “Slum upgrading has moved from a target to a goal in the SDGs and is a matter of relevant focus for further investment in the NUA - which mentions the issue of slums and urban poverty more than 51 times also seeks to eradicate poverty by inclusively investing in people and their governments”, commented Ms Kyacira.

“We have experienced what the PSUP is capable of doing in creating meaningful partnerships that result in tangible improvements of living standards for urban poor by providing platforms for exchange of innovation and learning. For this reason, the programme has received full political backing in my country.’ remarked Mr. Buddley Rooney, PSUP Country focal person for the Solomon Islands.