Sanandaj, Iran, 23 May 2016—Hundreds of delegates gathered for the International Conference on Urban Slums, Towards Upgrading and Sustainable Urban Regeneration, made the ‘Sanandaj Declaration’ which is a rallying call for action on informal settlements in Iran. The conference held early this month had participants from all over Iran and abroad. Among those who addressed the meeting included the Ministry of Road and Urban Development, Ministry of Interior, Urban Development and Revitalization Corporation, University of Kurdistan, UNHABITAT, UPMCHUD, Sanandaj Municipality, New Towns Organization, Tehran Urban Research and Planning Center, Iran Construction Engineering Organization, NGOs and many researcher institutions.

The Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development attended the Conference. The opening ceremony started by a series of speeches: Dean of the Faculty of Art and Architecture of Kurdistan University, Kurdistan University President, Deputy for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the Management and Planning Organization, a senior member of Tehran City Council, and the Acting Chief of UN-Habitat Tehran office. Mr. Siamak Moghaddam, from UN-Habitat’s Office in Iran stated that countries have been experiencing rapid urbanization, and this would continue to happen globally. Referring to around one billion slum dwellers worldwide, he stated that solving this problem required planning and partnership between central governments, local authorities and municipalities, the academia, professional institutions and organizations, NGOs and experts.

He mentioned that the current deliberations on the New Urban Agenda would provide a unique opportunity to consider urbanization challenges in the next two decades, and that its adoption in the Habitat III Conference in Quito in October 2016 would underscore the commitment of the member states and the international community in overcoming those challenges. By introducing the SDGs with special emphasis on Goal 11, and linking them to the Habitat III, he expressed hope that the debates at the national level on the Sixth Development Plan and the New Habitat Agenda would pay due attention to the SDGs and that the conference results could contribute to the deliberations on the achieving the New Urban Agenda in Habitat III. Further, UN-Habitat conducted a workshop on sustainable regeneration and referred to the international frameworks like the Sustainable Development Goals and the Habitat III process that both emphasize the importance of addressing informal settlements and slums.

Ms. Kerstin Somer from UN-Habitat introduced the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme and its integrated approach for sustainable, participatory and inclusive slum upgrading, and responded to the questions that followed from the floor. The conference lasted three days, including a field visit. Conference participants showed high interest and their concern and called for the urgent need for new approaches in addressing slums. It is estimated that Iran has about 10 million slum dwellers and more than 24 million people in dilapidated housing. This issue can be addressed with the resources and human capacities Iran already possesses but, despite a rich and diverse urban culture, it appears to lack coordinated efforts, a common vision and a clear prioritization. The urgency to reduce inequalities and improve the quality of life for all urban dwellers is clearly needed and acknowledged by the Government.

The conference aimed at exchanging on approaches to tackle urban poverty and reduce inequality. Organizers felt that there is a lack of comprehensive approaches, institutional and financial capacity, integrated urban management systems and good governance practices. Shared learning and skills networks as well as inadequate attention to proactive measures planning ahead and catering for better solutions for low-income housing as well as a more strategic approach to informal settlements by local and national governments. At the end of the conference participants stated their strong commitment to follow-up on the outcomes of the International Urban Slum Conference based on the Sanandaj Declaration and also their support to the Habitat III process concluding in Quito, Ecuador in October this year.

The released conference declaration emphasizes on issues such as controlling the disaster and urban poverty, promoting social and spatial justice, balance between physical and social aspects in urban upgrading, advocating innovative and development-oriented concepts, empowerment and participatory upgrading, and ensuring security of tenure and integrated planning.

Sanandaj Declaration Calling for Action in Informal Settlements in Iran_1