About the Organisation
UN-Habitat is the United Nations’ programme working towards a better urban future. Due to the pressing needs of housing and sustainable urbanisation in the Arab Region, Arab member states pressed for an Arab regional office. In September 2010, the Government of Egypt signed a cooperation agreement with UN-Habitat on the establishment of a Regional Office for Arab States, which was accredited in April 2011. UN-Habitat ROAS has a mandate to provide technical cooperation and capacity building for 18 countries across the Arab region: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Currently there are active projects in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Sudan with a total project portfolio of about 150 million USD as of 2016. UN-Habitat works closely together with the League of Arab States (LAS) on housing and urban development issues. Recently, ROAS assisted the LAS in developing the Strategy for Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, 2030. This strategy, which was endorsed on the 30th session of the Arab Council for Housing and Construction, represents a methodology for localizing and implementing the SDGs, especially SDG 11. It proposes a set of goals and targets to develop the sector of housing and other relevant sectors to achieve integrated, inclusive and sustainable urbanization at the regional level, to be adapted and developed according to the specific context of each country at the national level. Finally, with support from ROAS the First Arab Ministerial Forum on Housing and Urban Development (AMFHUD) took place in December 2015 in Cairo and resulted in the Cairo Declaration. The conference will take place every two years.
Achieving Sustainable Urban Development
In line with the LAS Strategy, the Sustainable Development Agenda, particularly Goal 11, as well as the New Urban Agenda, the vision of UN-Habitat ROAS is to:
“Support the development of integrated, inclusive and sustainable cities and human settlements capable of providing an adequate standard of living for children, youth, women and men, being well governed and resilient to shocks.”
To face the aforementioned challenges and utilize the opportunities that accompany urbanization processes, ROAS presents a comprehensive strategy which is based upon a three-pronged approach which contains the following principles as key drivers for sustainable urban development: efficient and inclusive physical design; sustainable financial planning; rules and regulations for planning and inclusive governance. The physical planning at national, regional and city level determines population distribution, the system of interrelationships between villages, towns, cities and corridors, and the growth of urban areas, considering density, connectivity, land use, and the delineation of public space. Cities can be designed to be economically productive and socially equitable. Urban finance provides the mechanism through which the economy of the city and the value of land and property can translate into revenue as needed to provide access to basic urban services for all and to finance sustainable expansion. Planning and financing mechanisms are enabled by appropriate legislation and well-functioning institutions.
In addition to these principles, UN-Habitat’s programme of development is based on the UN Common Understanding of the Human Rights-Based Approach, and aims to further the realization of human rights as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments including the Arab Charter on Human Rights. ROAS also mainstreams the cross-cutting issues of gender, youth, and climate change and aligns its programmes within seven focus areas that are adapted to the particularities of the region.