The second day of the Second Session of the UN-Habitat Assembly (UNHA2) featured several First Ladies, UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif and other female guests to discuss “women shaping cities and communities,” providing inspiring examples from Botswana, Kenya and Türkiye. A special high-level thematic session was also held on universal access to adequate housing.
The “Women Shaping Cities and Communities” session featured presentations by Sharif and the First Lady of Kenya, Rachael Ruto, and a moderated discussion with both, plus video presentations by the First Lady of Botswana, Neo Jane Masisi, and the First Lady of Türkiye, Emine Erdoğan. Ruto discussed her Mama Doing Good organization and its empowerment, environment and “faith diplomacy” projects. Masisi presented her work on gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS, youth drug dependency, and economic and social empowerment.
Erdoğan focused on her work championing Zero Waste. Sharif highlighted how UN-Habitat helped get women to “be at the table” by involving them in urban planning and design, citing the UN-Habitat initiative, Her City Toolbox. Two representatives of the Kenyan organization Joyful Women also provided testimony on how the organization helped empower them.
UNHA2’s second special session focused on the right to housing, and the role of “inclusive and stronger multilateralism” in realizing this aspiration. Echoing an assertion by Moderator Shipra Narang-Suri, UN-Habitat, that slow progress in advancing the right to adequate housing “is a structural failure of our systems to deliver on the most fundamental promise to humanity,” the discussions underscored that while a comprehensive international framework on adequate housing exists, stronger multilateral and inclusive platforms are needed to operationalize it.
The high-level panel included Bahrain’s Housing Minister, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary for Urban Development, UN-Habitat’s Executive Director, and municipal leaders and high-level representatives from international development, housing funds and urban policy think tanks from, among other countries, Mexico, Canada, UK, France and the Philippines.
Meanwhile the Committee of the Whole (COW) met in parallel to discuss the following agenda items:
- UN-Habitat activities, including coordination matters;
- Implementation of UN-Habitat’s Strategic Plan and related programmes;
- Progress in implementing the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and
- The World Urban Forum (WUF).
The Executive Director’s report on UN-Habitat activities outlined achievements during the intersessional period, such as the initiation of the UN Innovation Technology Accelerator for Cities to promote a people-centered approach to urban digital development; and co-convening the first Ministerial Meeting on Urbanization and Climate Change.
The NUA and 2030 Agenda discussion noted some progress toward achieving both, but still much to do, with only 39 national NUA reports received so far.
The WUF discussion touched on legacy WUF initiatives, including alumni advocacy networks, and financing and knowledge-sharing, notably the Legacy Fund and the City Investment Facility. Also discussed were preparations for WUF12 in Cairo, Egypt, in 2024.
As for the Strategic Plan, the COW discussed the need to extend the current plan until 2025. Also discussed were intentions to add three new policy areas - adequate housing, climate action and urban crises recovery - in the new plan covering 2026-2029, and to ensure the new plan has a stronger evidence base, incorporates lessons learned, and provides for monitoring and reporting on project delivery and impact.
The Drafting Committee began consideration of draft resolutions on topics such as resilient cities, localization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), smart cities, World Cleanup Day, and monitoring implementation of Assembly resolutions.