Welcome remarks by Ms. Christine Evans-Klock, UN Resident Coordinator during the Multi-Stakeholder Meeting on Making Cities Resilient in Ghana

Jul 15, 2016

UN Resident Coordinator/ UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Christine Evans-Klock

Accra, 14 July 2016

Welcome

I am very glad to be here and to welcome you to this event, which has been organized by the UN Development Program in collaboration with NADMO and other institutions present here today.

I particularly welcome Brigadier General Francis Vib Sanziri, NADMO National Coordinator; Mr Ebenezer Anuwa-Amarh, NDPC Regional Commissioner for Greater Accra Region; Ms Levina Owusu, MESTI, Director of PPME; Representatives of Ministries, of the AMA, of Civil Society Groups, of Development Partners, and from the Media.

Introduction
I think that we are here this morning to think about our cities, to envision the kind of cities we want, and to share information about what we are doing to make those visions a reality.

I think we are here to prepare to advocate more effectively for the kind of cities we want; cities that increasingly provide better living conditions for their inhabitants; cities where investments in transportation and housing and public facilities can withstand the risks that mother nature thrusts upon us, seemingly with increasing frequency.

To some large degree our advocacy task was done for us just over a year ago when the tragic events of 3 June 2015 emphatically reminded us of just how serious the consequences can be of urban flooding.

And when I think now of “resilience”, it is easy for me to imagine the “absence of resilience”, in terms of consequences of failing to do what we can ahead of time to limit the human suffering and physical destruction impact of the forces of nature.
 
Sometimes this is in terms of specific events, but nowadays we also have to think of this in terms of ongoing and long-term impact of climate change – bringing it seems “permanent instability”, where weather patterns are changing, and increasing the likelihood of severe weather events.

This week we are looking at resilience of our cities, and using Accra as a case study.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
“Resilient cities” is one of the goals that Sovereign Member States of the United Nations committed themselves to meeting by 2030.

As you know, the Sustainable Agenda 2030 was adopted by nearly 200 Heads of State at the Sustainable Development Summit in September in New York.

It is one unified agenda for social, economic and environmental development, and it is a universal commitment for change by and in the least developed, middle-income and the most developed countries alike.

It sets new ambitions in 17 Sustainable Development Goals to end extreme poverty in all its forms; to decrease inequality and increase gender equality; to boost economic growth and opportunities for decent work; to improve infrastructure and cities; to speed up industrialization and slow down climate change; and to promote peace and to secure access to justice for all.
 
As the UN Secretary General again pointed out this week at the UN High-Level meeting looking already at SDG implementation: “Human Rights are at the heart of the 17 SDGs.”

These goals are inherently mutually dependent.  We cannot meet social goals to end extreme poverty without economic growth.  But we cannot count on economic growth to end poverty without inclusive participation in all levels of governance.  We cannot pursue economic growth today at the expense of compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.  This is what sustainable development means.

And I think it provides the framework for my expectations for this workshop, in three aspects.

Coordination
The first expectation is on coordination.

SDG 11 on cities is the exemplar among the 17 SDGs on the importance of a coordinated approach – across all levels of government, and encompassing many technical areas, such as infrastructure, social services, housing, security, transportation.

Through extensive consultations over the past few years, Governments have agreed on specific targets under each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  Goal 11 on inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities, includes a wide range of targets, encompassing safe and affordable housing; basic services; upgrading slums; improved transport systems; reduction in deaths and economic losses caused by disasters, especially flooding and especially on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations; and, as a necessary condition for that ambitious list, there is a specific target on participatory planning and management.

A coordinated approach starts with broad planning, but it has to extend to implementation.

It is about having appropriate zoning laws for housing and business and enforcing those laws.  And it is one thing to have a city ordinance against dumping trash in the open drains, it is another thing altogether to have trash bins, trash collection, trash recycling and sanitary landfills!  That requires working with the private sector that sees a potential business opportunity out of providing sanitation services.

Creating an enabling business environment and changing personal habits both start with advocacy, with understanding the consequences of the current situation and of how we can change those circumstances.

Human rights
Second, SDG 11 on cities exemplifies the Human Rights foundation of the Agenda 2030.  It is about making cities inclusive as well as resilient and sustainable.

Human rights in cities has become a tricky issue in many countries.  This is primarily because of the nature of rapid growth.

By 2050, it is estimated that close to 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. The most significant urban expansion is taking place in Asia and Africa.

It is estimated that Africa’s population will nearly double to almost 2 billion people over the next 25 years. This growth brings an imperative for significant urban planning.
 
It is estimated that already two out of every three people in African cities live in slums.  Slums and informal settlements grow when farming and other livelihoods in rural areas are unproductive and thus unattractive to young people who move to the cities but then find that decent housing is beyond their financial means.
 
The United Nations is clear that the right to adequate housing is a human right, and that it extends to slum-dwellers.  It is not defined by property rights.

The United National Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has underlined a broad interpretation of the right to adequate housing.  It is about living in security, peace and dignity.  In 1991 and again in 1997, the Committee made specific comments that the right to housing included protection against forced evictions. And it highlighted the imperative to provide alternative housing and working places when lawful evictions are necessary.

The UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing has pointed out the particularly important responsibilities of local governments in meeting the rights to housing.  And she recognized the growing role of mayors, other city officials, and civic and human rights non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations in securing these rights.

The next gathering of world leaders on cities, known as Habitat III, will take place in Ecuador later this year.  The preparatory meetings have already called for a New Urban Agenda that embraces the transformative potential of human rights as a necessary framework for inclusive, vibrant and sustainable cities.  As the first of these world meetings grappling with a majority of the world’s population living in citied, the current Zero Draft of the commitments expected to come out of that meeting places a high priority on meeting the human rights of minorities, the homeless, those living in extreme poverty, those who experience forced evictions and displacement, and those who lack of access to drinking water, sanitation and health services.

SDG 11 is a commitment to inclusiveness, to meeting the needs and rights of all city dwellers, from the disenfranchised to the privileged, and including their needs in urban infrastructure and planning and in disaster risk management and resilience.

Resilience
So finally, third, SDG 11 on cities reminds us of the importance of building in resilience.  It is about balancing immediate and long-term needs, and it is about ensuring that the most vulnerable urban population live in safe rather than precarious conditions.

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction launched a campaign to support sustainable urban development by promoting resilience and increasing local understanding of disaster risk.  Through this meeting today, the UN in Ghana intends to leverage this campaign and initiate a series of advocacy events on resilient and sustainable urban communities.  We are doing this also as part of a broader partnership with the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, which are currently working with national and local government institutions towards making Accra a more resilient city.  I look forward to hearing from them tomorrow about this initiative.

One of the lessons learned elsewhere is that resilient and inclusive cities is smart business. Sustainable and inclusive urban development increases returns on investments – in transportation infrastructure, in housing, in public facilities like schools and clinics.
 
Development across the entire Sustainable Development Agenda requires substantial public and private investments.  When we build in resilience, we protect that investment.  There is a strong business case that complements the strong human rights case for anticipating and preparing for severe weather events and for long-term climate changes.  

Closing
This Workshop is about understanding this complex set of issues surrounding resilient and inclusive urban development.  It is an opportunity to learn about initiatives that are already underway or being planned.  It is an opportunity to think about how we can advocate for resilient development within the GAMA Master Plan.  It is an opportunity to come up with actionable recommendations for coordinated efforts in which investments, human rights, and resilience are mutually supportive.

The scene that I have tried to set this morning, is that resilience is about both physical infrastructure and social infrastructure.  It is not only about what we plan but about who is involved in the planning, about befitting everyone, including the most vulnerable.

I hope that what we learn from each other will enable all of us to be more effective advocates for inclusive and resilient growth and development, and will enable us to hold each other accountable for acting on that commitment.

Through the panel discussions today, we will learn from Government institutions their perspectives on the trends and challenges of inclusive and resilient urban development in GAMA, based on their mandate and experiences thus far.

Then we will listen to the perspectives of non-government actors, on their views of inclusiveness and vulnerability.

Finally, we will have a discussion on how to foster coordination in the implementation for the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction agreed in March last year in Japan, and the Agreement on Climate Change agreed last December in Paris.

At the end of the event, I hope that we will come up with a communique that will summarize key recommendations and advocacy messages, and that these will be used to lead to greater commitment by local and national authorities to build up urban resilience and to motivate all of us towards attitude changes on disaster risk reduction.
 
I think there is every potential that the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area will be looked to not only by other growing cities in Ghana but across the region for how well leaders and communities pull together for resilient and inclusive development.  And I trust that the UN system in Ghana will be a faithful and effective partner in that effort.

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