The first UN-Habitat Assembly kicks off in Nairobi

UN-Habitat officially opened its first UN-Habitat Assembly on Monday 27th May 2019 at the United Nations Office in Nairobi. (UN-Habitat Twitter page)

The United Nations Agency and focal point on sustainable urbanization, UN-Habitat officially opened its first UN-Habitat Assembly on Monday at the United Nations Office in Nairobi.  

UN-Habitat officially opened its first UN-Habitat Assembly on Monday 27th May 2019 at the United Nations Office in Nairobi. (UN-Habitat Twitter page)

The Assembly, which is scheduled to run all week (May 27-May 31 2019) will be attended by four Heads of State, over 40 ministers and high-level representatives from 116 countries with over 3,000 delegates attending. 

The theme for this year’s Assembly is ‘Innovation for a better quality of life in cities and communities’ with the sub theme of ‘Accelerated Implementation of the New Urban Agenda towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.’ 

Kenya’s President, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, officially opened the event, where senior representatives of national and local governments, business leaders, academics and other experts were in attendance. 

Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta delivers his speech during the first UN-Habitat Assembly 

President Kenyatta called for collective international action informed by scientific research and technological innovations to address the proliferation of slums and informal settlements, urbanization of poverty, and increased environmental degradation.

“In almost all parts of the world, societies are currently ill-prepared to plan effectively for the rapid urbanization that is taking place. As a result, many countries, including Kenya, have seen a proliferation of slums and informal settlements and increased environmental degradation,” President Kenyatta said.  

The President encouraged participants to explore strategic ways of transforming cities and human settlements into engines of economic growth and development in a sustainable manner.

He said accelerating the implementation of the ‘New Urban Agenda’ is urgent and important.

The president is expected return to the assembly on Wednesday and take part in a High-level Strategic Dialogue with other Heads of State and Government, including the President of South Sudan and the Prime Ministers of Fiji and Yemen.  

UN-Habitat Executive Director, Ms Maimunah Mohd Sharif said that the UN-Habitat Assembly was a chance for everyone to inspire each other with new ideas and showcase examples of how innovation can be used to maximize the opportunities offered by urbanization and how challenges to urbanization can be overcome. 

Maimunah Mohd Sharif Executive Director of UN-Habitat and Martha Delgado, President of the UN-Habitat Assembly

“The world needs to leverage innovations to improve living conditions in cities, our work must be transformational and ground breaking,” Sharif said. 

“This UN-Habitat Assembly will be a driver of change.”

Throughout the week, attendees will have the chance to visit the Urban Expo featuring innovations from over 40 companies, look at 40 milestones of innovation in UN-Habitat’s 40-year history and also use a version of the computer game Minecraft to redesign the United Nations compound alongside four different eco-houses.  

By the end of the five-day Assembly, there will have been over 50 side events on topics such as affordable housing, the blue economy, livable Somali cities, safe cities for girls, climate action and frontier technology.  

Other activities will include youth dialogues, a hackathon, receptions and concerts. The UN-Habitat Assembly will also feature a special promotional exhibition on next year’s World Urban Forum 10 in Abu Dhabi. 

The UN-Habitat Assembly was established by the United Nations General Assembly through a resolution endorsed on 20 December 2018, to help strengthen UN-Habitat’s mandate. The Assembly will meet every four years. The UN-Habitat Assembly is the highest-level decision-making body focused on sustainable urbanization and human settlements. 

It has universal membership of all 193 United Nations Member States who will be meeting in Nairobi to frame the global urbanization agenda, pass resolutions and provide strategic guidance to UN-Habitat in its work.