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Reflecting on the humanization of cities: outcomes from the 3rd Arab Ministerial Forum on Housing and Urban Development

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Ruler of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates hosted the 3rd Arab Forum for Housing and Urban Development (AMFHUD3) 7–8 October 2019. The forum was hosted in collaboration with the Ministerial Council for Housing and Construction of the League of Arab States and the Regional Office for Arab States of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat ROAS).

AMFHUD3 provided a platform for discussion, exchange and presentation of innovative solutions, lessons learned and cooperation initiatives that would act as drivers of change to accelerate progress on the urban components of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA). The forum was guided by the Action Framework for Implementation of the NUA and the urban components of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, in particular SDG 11 ‘making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’.

As of 2010, the Arab population was estimated at 357 million people, 56 per cent of whom live in cities. By 2030, this population is expected to increase to 487 million people, of whom 63 will live in urban areas. Therefore, achieving sustainable development is vital to accommodate rapid urbanization. Many Arab countries have realized significant progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in the region, particularly in health and education. However, economic growth was limited during the 1990s and the early 2000s, probably as a result of the recent global economic crisis, lack of peace and security and a continuation of foreign occupation in some Arab countries. Across the region, around 18 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, with significant economic disparities among Arab countries. With 60 per cent of the population below 25 years of age, most Arab governments confront the challenge of providing adequate employment opportunities for youth (Ref: League of Arab States: Arab Strategy for Housing and Sustainable Urban Development 2030)

A major topic of the AMFHUD3 has been the humanization of cities, which should not provide only shelter for their dwellers but all factors able to promote their wellbeing. These factors are economic opportunities, health, educational and other vital services, environmental quality, social and cultural activities as well as safety. All these factors are, in particular, included in the UAE National Program for Happiness & Wellbeing.

The Global Land Tool Network was represented at the AMFHUD3 by Rafic Khouri of the Arab Union of Surveyors which is a GLTN Partner and member of the Steering Committee. Mr. Khouri presented on the land readjustment procedures used in France after WWII in the framework of reconstruction of towns. This presentation received very good reception from the audience, given the context of the massive damage inflicted on a number of Arab towns by ongoing conflicts.

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