UN-Habitat Governing Council kicks offThe 24th Session of UN-Habitat’s Governing kicked off in Nairobi with calls to better the lives of the world’s poor. The week-long meeting was officially opened by Kenya’s newly elected President Uhuru Kenyatta. The Governing Council meets every two years to examine UN-Habitat's work and relationships with its partners. It is a high-level forum of governments at the ministerial level during which policy guidelines and the organization's budget are established for the next two-year period.

In his speech, President Kenyatta said that the theme of this Session, “Sustainable Development: The role of cities in creating improved economic opportunities for all, with special reference to youth and gender,’ could not be more opportune. 

“Today, half of the world’s population lives in urban areas; and a third of them are in slums and informal settlements. By the year 2050, over 70 per cent of the world’s population will be living in cities. The convening of this gathering, therefore, provides member states with an opportunity to reflect on urbanization challenges and deliberate on the way forward,” he said.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Director General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi Ms. Sahle-Work Zewde, UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon said that since 2007, when for the first time the world population living in urban areas passed the fifty per cent mark, the process of urbanization has continued unabated.

“The majority of the world’s urban growth is taking place in developing countries, where many urban centers already have inadequate infrastructure and where many authorities are looking for ways to respond adequately to the demands of their rapidly expanding urban populations, especially the young and the poor,” the Secretary General noted.

In his speech, UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos reminded the delegates that on 5 April, the Secretary-General of the United Nations called for accelerated action from Governments, international organizations and civil society groups in the next 1,000 days to reach the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the deadline of the end of 2015.

“We have met the quantitative target of improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers out of a total of 760 million in 2000. This is an achievement. But this figure hides a reality. This welcome cut has been dramatically surpassed by the increased number of new arrivals to the slums. The total number of people living in slums has increased from 760 million in 2000 to 863 million in 2012,” he said.

He stressed the role of urbanization as a source of development, “How we develop our villages, towns and cities in the near future will have a significant impact on the quality of life of millions of citizens. We need to redouble our efforts to address the need of planning before the urban growth takes place”.