Strengthening of UN Habitat for effective implementation of New Urban...

Strengthening of UN Habitat for effective implementation of New Urban Agenda

Statement by Mr. Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs,

at the High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the positioning of UN- Habitat

(New York – 5 September 2017)


Mr. President,

At the outset, I would like to thank the President of the General Assembly for organizing this meeting to discuss and firm up the operational modalities of implementing our commitments of New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

This meeting is indeed important and timely. We have already firmed up our new urban vision along with targets to achieve sustainable development goals and now the requirement is to firm up the methods and modalities for moving ahead.  We also congratulate the eminent panel and welcome the report of the High-Level Panel to enhance effectiveness, efficiency, accountability of UN-Habitat in taking these agenda's forward.

As you all will appreciate and recall the history, the India way back in 1976 played a pivotal role in establishing the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, and has since continued its consistent support to the organisation.  India has been a proactive participant in Habitat III and its processes in Jakarta, Surabaya and Quito. Currently India also holds the Presidency of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat.

Since its inception, UN-Habitat has been engaged in global campaigns and programmes towards contributing for sustainable development of human settlements across the World. In order to address new challenges, institutions and organizations need to be introspective and may have to reorient the way in tune with emerging imperatives by adopting new strategies, approaches and technologies including remoulding their roles.

India has recently merged two Ministries of 'Urban Development and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation' to set up a new Ministry: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) to stimulate integrated decision-making for productive urbanisation and balanced regional development and to improve synergy among various urban missions on housing, sanitation, urban infrastructure, livelihood and smart and sustainable cities in India.

Mr. President,

With regard to the UN-habitat, I would like to reiterate the key messages of the Government of India which were advocated earlier too:

a) to ensure that UN-Habitat is strengthened to provide high-quality support in Asia Pacific region;

b) to make the necessary and swift decisions at high level for improved and more inclusive governance; and

c) to ensure that proposed financial strengthening strategies provide effective financial support to the normative and operational functions of UN-Habitat and agile systems so as to support member states implementing transformative New Urban Agenda

We are convinced that, for a guided, systematic and purposeful progress towards achieving the vision, goals and targets of New Urban Agenda including that of the SDGs, the role of UN-Habitat would be crucial. For this, UN-Habitat needs to globally engage with numerous partner institutions, including governments, private sector entities, NGOs, academia, and community groups to identify innovative approaches and priorities, which can address integrated development of human settlements on a sustainable basis.

A stronger leadership with commensurate fiscal base is essential to address the challenges. The vision being aspirational and the goals and targets being mammoth, to address the challenges, institutional leadership needs to be in place with commensurate fiscal base.

 India strongly feels that this is the time to strengthen UN-Habitat with regard to its roles of capacity building, advocacy and engagements on the ground. The SDGs and the NUA provide now a comprehensive framework for strengthening the dual roles of normative and operational. We emphasise that the global framework is clear on what needs to be achieved, and now it is the time to deliberate for a more clear `how' and `by whom'.

Mr. President,

India appreciates an increased focus on addressing exclusion and informality. However, addressing these matters also requires an integrated approach that takes into account the policy, planning, legislative, governance and financing approach. In this regard, we would like to reiterate our view that to comprehensively take the role of a coordinating institution of implementation of the NUA and the SDGs, UN-Habitat would need substantial efforts for its financial strengthening and refocusing of its activities. In this context, our suggestions and propositions include the following:

Firstly, we would like to emphasize that the current dispensation of UN-Habitat, as an institution, which is not fully self-sustained in financial terms, may not be viable and needs further strengthening.

Secondly, we welcome the recommendation for proposed Universal Membership of the Governing Council i.e the proposed Urban Assembly.

Thirdly, we would like to stress that more emphasis is needed on the aspect of how member states will engage and align with Habitat's mandate. While a renewed focus of UN-Habitat on normative work is welcome, it is equally important to note that there is a complementarity and synergy between normative and operational work in the country context. In addition, for the UN-Habitat to provide quality technical support to member states, we strongly feel that there is a need to strengthen country offices with adequate resources and enhanced technical skill sets.

Fourthly, as of now, the Governing structure of UN-Habitat, broadly, operates based on the country representations through the system of Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) and the Governing Council. In addition, a set of operational level Committees/groups provide and facilitate decisions.  We feel that this current overall governance structure for policy and operational guidance is broadly in order, and has been effectively examining and modulating policy responses for the urban sector at large.  The renewed structure should be clearly deliberated with clearly defined roles and responsibilities and should not lead to further stress the capacities of the organization

Fifthly, Reporting on the progress made by all the member countries in implementing the NUA would be a challenging task, that too on a periodicity as envisaged. Thus, to take up this task, Un-Habitat would require a comprehensive strengthening particularly at the operational/implementation level. A suitable implementation framework arrangement is required to be contextualized by UN-Habitat and strengthened locally.

Sixthly, we need to ensure that all UN agencies and UN-Habitat work in tandem to strengthen implementation of urban agenda and sustainable development goals. In this regards, the recommendation to strengthen UN-Habitat by establishing UN-Urban, as a mechanism based in New York with the purpose of identifying opportunities for collaboration across agencies and countries needs further consideration. Therefore, a clearly defined framework is needed to articulate and define the role of UN-Urban and its relationship with UN-Habitat.  This new coordinating mechanism can only be effective in meeting its purpose of establishment, when UN-Habitat is empowered as the lead coordinator for monitoring and utilizing mutual strengths for all UN programing at country and regional levels. Therefore, clarity has to emerge on this.

Mr. President,

We once again thank the UN General Assembly for this opportunity and reiterate its commitment to stand by all the efforts towards promoting sustainable development of human settlements for the welfare of citizens at large.

Thank you.


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