Under the title of “Equitable Cities”, the expert group meeting (EGM) on “Urban Governance and the Millennium Development Goals: Towards Implementing MDGs' Target 11”, was inaugurated today 10 December in Kuwait. The meeting is held by UN-ESCWA (The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia), in cooperation with the Kuwaiti Office of the Minister of State for Municipality Affairs, Arab Towns Organization (ATO), and the League of Arab States (LAS), from 10 to 12 December 2007, at the ATO headquarters in Kuwait City.
Speakers in the inaugural session were Mr. Abdel Aziz Youssef Al Adassani, the Secretary-General of the ATO; Mrs. Inas Makkawi, the Representative of the Technical Secretariat of the Arab Council of Ministers for Social Affairs in the League of Arab States (LAS); Mr. Atef Kubursi, UN-ESCWA Deputy Executive Secretary; and Mr. Moussa Al Sarraf, Kuwaiti Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Municipality Affairs, who hosted the meeting.
In his address, Mr. Youssef Adassani considered that the partnership between the ATO and UN-ESCWA was developing on the performance and program levels, wishing that it would further grow once the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) opened its regional office in the ATO headquarters at the beginning of next year. Noting the holding of a seminar on Arab and European cities this coming February in Dubai, which will be a starting point towards building new partnerships, Al Adassani listed several upcoming meetings concerning the same issue. He also shed light on meetings and projects that took place as part of the regional campaign for secure tenure, remarking that the Kuwait meeting was held concurrently with several workshops in Marrakech, Amman and Luxor, through programs on city development strategies, urban planning, Information and Communication Technology, etc.
In her address, Mrs Inas Makkawi said that the Kuwait meeting was placed within the spirit of continuity of the work undertaken since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), were issued. She said that if the programs that Arab countries established are developed appropriately, important strides can be made in the development sector in the coming decade. Similarly, Makkawi noted the progress Arab countries made towards alleviating poverty in their region.
In the address he made on behalf of the UN-ESCWA Executive Secretary Mr. Bader Al Dafa, Mr. Atef Kubursi said that the progress made in Arab countries regarding ensuring basic services to their citizens will not be sustainable should there be any shortcomings in overall governance, and especially the urban chapter of it. Other dangers to the sustainability of such basic needs are the lack of political will, discrimination, the lack of social policies and equal rights, etc.
Kubursi called on participants in the meeting to examine the proposal UN-ESCWA made to include a good urban governance indicator, alongside the secure tenure indicator, to monitor, assess and implement the 11th Target of the MDGs.
The concluding address was delivered by the Minister of Public Works and State Minister of State for Municipality Affairs, Mr. Youssef Al Sarraf, the host of the event, who said that the meeting came in the framework of a series of events and activities organized by several parties to ensure sustainable and comprehensive development . According to the Minister, Kuwait has achieved important strides in the path towards the MDGs, on the local, regional and international levels, especially in the field of secure tenure and good urban governance.
First Day’s Sessions
The sessions of the first day mainly focused on: urbanization in the Arab region and facing poverty; the typical response to urbanization in the Arab region; Target 11 of the MDGs; and the experience of the Technical Secretariat of the Arab Council of Ministers for Social Affairs in the League of Arab States, as well as that of the ATO.