The new head of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) has vowed to prioritize strengthening the housing agency to effectively tackle the challenges of rapid urbanization.
Maimunah Mohd Sharif, the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, said she will be guided by the principles of the new urban agenda and the UN’s universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in tackling urbanization challenges.
Sharif added that the UN housing agency has innovative solutions that have been tried elsewhere with success.
“I want to make the agency more responsive to the needs of countries by helping them in addressing the challenges of rapid urbanization and at the same time harness the benefits of good urbanization,” she told journalists in Nairobi.
“It is time to strengthen UN-Habitat and ensure we can effectively support countries to implement the new urban agenda in collaboration with all the United Nations system, all levels of government and stakeholders,” she added.
The new urban agenda is the outcome document agreed upon at the UN-Habitat 3 cities conference in 2016. It guides the efforts around urbanization of wide range nation states, city and regional leaders, international development funders, UN programs and civil society for the next 20 years.
According to Sharif, tackling challenges in the cities was urgent since they are centers of economic growth and contribute to 70 percent of global GDP. If urbanization is well planned, it will lead to the achievement of SDGs, she said.
“While working on the new urban agenda, it will mean we have created jobs, this way she shall be curbing poverty, we shall improve on sanitation and we shall have handled the climate change challenge. All these are SDGs we shall have achieved to mention just a few.”
Shariff said she has formed a task force to help re-strategize and harmonize its operations in Kenya, noting that the task force will help program activities in line with the government’s vision and other development plans.
“We intend to scale up the good experiences in close collaboration with other stakeholders,” Sharif said, noting that the UN agency is ready to offer expertise in supporting the government to realize its goal of availing one million houses within a specified period.