DSC_0813Surabaya, 26 July 2016 –  The League of Arab States in collaboration with UN-Habitat Regional Office for Arab States organised a side event at Habitat III PrepCom3 in Surabaya, Indonesia - Towards an Arab Urban Agenda.

The event outlined the key challenges the Arab region is facing with regard to housing and sustainable urban development. It also addressed the future prospects and opportunities for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda ‐ particularly the Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG11) ‐ make human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Dr. Aisa Kacyira, the UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, opened the discussions by highlighting the particularities of urbanization issues in the Arab region. She emphasised the role of women and youth, as “at the end of the day, it is about people. Particularly, youth are important for shaping the future. Hence, we need to work together in order to ensure opportunities for youth and women in the Arab region and beyond.”

While outlining the evolution of urban development discourse from Habitat I to Habitat III and beyon, H.E. Bassem Yacoub Alhomar, Minister of Housing, Kingdom of Bahrain, stressed the challenges and opportunities of housing and urban issues in the Arab region. “We lack capacity to deal with housing, urbanisation and human issues.” He emphasised that continuous collaboration with UN-Habitat and technical support in strengthening local capacities is vital, as much as are “long term interventions and commitments from our governments.”

IMG-20160726-WA0023Dr. Abdelrahman Alsheikh, Deputy Minister of Municipalities and Rural Affairs, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, highlighted the role of legislation and policy in forming urban development. In addition, he called for “inclusion of different civil society stakeholders is important to plan our cities in Saudi Arabia.”

Mrs. Naela Haddad from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) summarized the key messages from the Habitat III Regional Report for Arab States and stated that: “everyone in the Arab region needs equal access to opportunities.”

Salim Korkmaz from United Cities and Local Governments – Middle East and Western Asia (UCLG-MEWA) emphasised the role of local authorities in dealing with crises and accommodating refugees in the Arab region as well as he stressed the fact of capacitating local governments in localizing and monitoring the implementation of the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda alike.
The event concluded with discussions on the positions of Arab states towards the New Urban Agenda and their visions for regional cooperation. The role of UN-Habitat in technically supporting housing and sustainable urban development in the Arab region was stressed. Mr. Waleed Al‐Araby from the League of Arab States encouraged regional and sub-regional cooperation to implement the Arab Strategy for Housing and Sustainable Urban Development 2030 as a “human centred strategy and builds on the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda.”