[Dateline: Nairobi | Author: UN-HABITAT]
Delegates from over 101 countries gathered today in Nairobi, Kenya for the opening of the week-long 22nd Governing Council of UN-HABITAT at which governments set the agency’s budget and work programme.
This year’s theme "Promoting affordable housing finance systems in an urbanizing world in the face of the global financial crisis and climate change" reflects the prevailing global mood.
"The theme is also relevant as it builds upon the focus of the 21st Session held in 2007, namely, 'Sustainable urbanization: local action for urban poverty reduction with an emphasis on finance and planning.' Both themes are a clear indication that affordable housing finance systems have a direct bearing on sustainable urbanization," said Kenya’s Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, who officially opened the meeting.
In his statement, Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon warned that the financial difficulties the world was going through threatened to roll back the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka also outlined how the global financial crisis affected housing worldwide.
"This year, our meeting takes place at a time our world is mired in the worst economic crisis in living memory," she said. "The origin of the crisis lies with a housing finance system gone wrong. Lessons learned from this experience must inform our housing policies and strategies."
Her UN Environment Programme (UNEP) counterpart, Mr. Achim Steiner called for measures to cushion the urban poor against the shocks arising from the global economic meltdown and climate change.
The proceedings opened with a dance performance by the Albino Revolutionary Dancing Troupe from Tanzania, which helped highlight the recent problems faced by albinos in this region. Ritual killings of albinos have been taking place in the region as a result of beliefs that their body parts bring about immense wealth, power and love.
The opening ceremony concluded with a graduation ceremony for young people trained in building and construction skills by the Moonbeam Youth Empowerment Programme in the overcrowded Nairobi slum of Kibera. The programme was initiated with funds from Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon.