Cairo 1 December 2014 - As part of a series of regional consultations lining up to the 3rd United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (HABITAT III), the UN-Habitat Regional Office for Arab States (ROAS) facilitated a session with youth – mostly students from the Arab region from various backgrounds – on the challenges of integrated, inclusive and sustainable urbanization in the region.

The discussions were focusing on the challenge of informal areas and slums. The session was organized at the 6th International Conference on Informal Urbanism which took place from 25 – 27 November 2014 in Cairo, Egypt organized by Cairo University, the Informal Urbanism Hub and UN-Habitat. This session is one of several events to be organized to feed the Habitat III Arab Regional Reports and the regional preparations for Habitat III, as input for the New Urban Agenda.

The session started with the introduction to the Post2015 Development Agenda and the need for an Urban Sustainable Development Goal, alongside the elaboration of the HABITAT III national, regional and global preparations. An excerpt of the Egyptian HABITAT III National Report was presented (focusing on housing and informal area issues) in addition to a focused briefing of a key urbanization challenge in the Arab region (impact of migration and displacement on cities in the Arab region).

Important Key Focus Areas 

Subsequent round tables discussions focused on three key areas:

(1) Urban Planning, Legislation and Governance

(2) Quality of Life and Social Inclusion

(3) Housing and Slum Upgrading

Key challenges and opportunities deliberated during the round table session addressed gaps that hinder integrated and inclusive sustainable urbanization in the Arab Region, taking into consideration spatial, economic and legal aspects. Each round table was composed of young professionals as discussants who contemplated in an open debate with the audience on current urban development challenges and lessons learnt addressing the issues related to informal urbanism from a regional youth perspective.

The main recommendations by the participants of key issues for inclusion into the HABITAT III Arab Regional Report have been compiled in the proceedings of the day. They emphasized the fact that,social mix is the way forward to overcome social exclusion in cities. Moreover,wide stakeholder participation in decision-making related to the provision of adequate housing and urban basic services will contribute to better urban governance. Urban upgrading has been considered crucial in enhancing the quality of life for urban dwellers, while the development of coherent and integrated legislative frameworks were highlighted as a means to prevent informal urbanism in the 1st place.