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Remarks by Achim Steiner at the Opening of the 23rd Session of the Governing Council of the UN-HABITAT

Theme for this session is Sustainable Urban Development through Expanding Equitable Access to Land, Housing, Basic Services and Infrastructure.

Nairobi, 11 April 2011— H.E. Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic of Kenya;

President of UN-HABITAT Governing Council, Hon. Clifford E. Warmington

Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT

The Representative of the Secretary General Ms. Inga Bjork-Klevby

Secretary of the Governing Council, Chris Mensah

Colleague and friends; distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the UN in Africa, headquarters of UN-Habitat and UNEP and many country offices of UN agencies.

The theme of this Governing Council is broad, but at its heart is one word 'sustainable'.

A sub theme would be partnership.

For no one UN agency, government, NGO or private sector company can hope to address the multiple challenges or deliver on multiple opportunities out there in the world of today.

Both sustainability and partnership are the foundation and the cement of UN-HABITAT and UNEP's relationship.

Two weeks ago we had the pleasure to host UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Chief Executives Board of the UN which he chairs.

It was the opportunity for the UN Secretary-General, along with HE the President of the Republic of Kenya Mwai Kibaki, to formally open our two agencies' new office facility.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a highly visible example of UNEP and UN-HABITAT's ever closer cooperation.

Along with local architects and construction companies, alongside international technology companies and UNON, our two agencies have built and are now working in an energy neutral building in the heart of East Africa.

Many said it could not be done, or could not be done on time or on budget or incorporate the latest energy and water saving and renewable energy technologies.

I would urge you honorable delegates to perhaps find a little time during a coffee break or at lunchtime to go and look and see at first hand this remarkable edition to sustainable construction and building and meet the staff involved.

But the building is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of UN HABITAT and UNEP's joint work.

Often what we do together can be less visible, perhaps much is below the surface—but it is there: we just get on with it without the fan fare of a new office opening.

And this partnership, this cooperation is as we speak evolving to an even higher and potentially transformational phase.

This is in part emerging as a result of:-

  • The Partnership Framework for the period 2008–2013: here out two agencies have been stepping up their cooperation to provide better and more extensive services to local and national governments in the field of the urban environment

  • A joint operations and coordination group that meets once a month to coordinate and promote cooperation between the two agencies

  • A decision by the two Executive Directors to sharpen our joint focus and joint programmes into two or three specific areas, such as for example sustainable transport and urban mobility

This has in part be given wind by the interest in sustainable urban development by the new President of UNEP's GC, Spanish Environment Minister Rosa Aguilar Rivero

  • The imperative to articulate and to demonstrate in clear and concrete terms how a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy can be realized in the places where now the majority of people live and work—in other words cities—in the run up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012, or Rio+20.

Distinguished delegate, this represents a new and exciting phase for our two agencies.

Under the current work plan we are together working on cities and climate change.

  • Inventories of urban greenhouse gas emissions

  • Assessments of urban vulnerability to climate change impacts

  • Development of innovative adaptation mechanisms, for example, working with ecosystem services

  • Mitigation efforts at the city level, particularly in the building and transport sectors

In collaboration with the World Bank and the Cities Alliance, we together launched a process for developing a global standard on greenhouse gas emissions from cities at last year's World Urban Forum.

  • Information on the baseline emissions of over 45 cities is already available

Meanwhile UN-HABITAT's Global Report on Human Settlements 2011: Cities and Climate Change not only addresses the challenges of climate change, but outlines Green Economy strategies for addressing opportunities

Indeed, whether it be through joint activities in the various Rio+20 preparatory meetings or actively engaging in the cities chapter of the recent Towards a Green Economy—Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication report, UN-HABITAT is the partner of choice in bringing a wider urban lens to UNEP's work.

I have also extended an invitation to Dr Clos and his staff to join UNEP at the upcoming Commission on Sustainable Development meeting next month in New York.

Here the UNEP-hosted International Resource Panel will launch a landmark report on decoupling of economic growth from resource use.

Cities are pin pointed as central and critical for achieving this given their enormous ecological footprint, and yet inordinate potential for economies of scale and efficiency gains across the full suite of sustainability challenges.

As acting Director-General of UNON, welcome again welcome to the UN in Africa. I trust you have a fruitful and productive meeting as the world is again on the Road to Rio.

As Ban Ki-moon said when here less than two weeks ago during the opening of the new office facility.

" Rio+20 is not just a meeting of governments to review international progress on sustainable development. It is about our very future – and the future of life on our planet. Our ecosystems and our air … our food supply and our water … our shared fate on this earth".

"The opening of this facility … this model for green architecture in Africa and beyond … is a milestone on the road to the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio," he added.

I believe that it is also a milestone in UNEP and UN-HABITAT's partnership as we together enter a new and even more cooperative era on behalf of member states and the close to seven billion people we ultimately serve.

Thank you

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director UN Environment Programme



Further Resources

UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)

UNEP: Green Economy Initiative


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