NAIROBI—At the first United Nations Habitat Assembly to convene under the new governance structure of UN Habitat, states and stakeholders convened at Nairobi on 27–31 May 2019. There, on 28 May 2019, the Arab States organized a regional group meeting ostensibly to discuss how to implement the New Urban Agenda (NUA).
Although the regional meeting convened with no specific agenda, its panel included representatives of Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, the State of Palestine, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen. The event unfolded As a celebration of Morocco, Egypt and Bahrain have been elected as members of the Executive Board of the new Habitat Assembly, the supervisory governance body of UN Habitat.
The Bahraini delegate reviewed his country’s role in implementing the NUA, focusing on Bahrain’s election to the Executive Board. The UAE representative cited his country’s role as host of the 10th World Urban Forum to be held in November 2020 and its preparation of an Arab Urban Forum and the revival of Arab Housing Day on 7October 2019, coinciding with World Habitat Day, which falls on every first Monday of October.
The presentations of the Arab countries focused mainly on how to involve and support the role of the private sector in implementing the NUA, envisioning a future in which basic services and utilities in urban areas will no more be the subject of “government monopoly.”
The event involved no discussion of the role of civil society or other stakeholders as partners in the implementation of the NUA, notably omitting any reference to the evolving stakeholder mechanism, or even the Stakeholder Advisory Group that has been newly appointed to provide input to the Office of the Executive Director on stakeholder engagement.
In addition, no member of the Arab Group at the regional meeting presented any reaction to the Yemeni representative`s call to engage in international cooperation and assistance with the Yemeni government in the context and aftermath of the ongoing war in that country, in which several Arab states have participated and which has destroyed urban and rural facilities and infrastructure. They only pledged to strengthen the private sector’s role.
The Habitat International Coalition – Housing and Land Network representative attending the regional meeting posed three questions:
1. Does the Arab Group have a vision to promote and involve civil society in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the NUA, as well as the promotion of the private sector?
2. Is there a strategy to deal with Israel`s plan—announced at the Assembly—to implement the New Urban Agenda, including Jerusalem/al-Quds and, in that connection, does the Arab Group have a regional strategy to support the State of Palestine to implement the NUA?
3. Have the Arab states developed a methodology or vision to help states affected by conflict and wars to ensure reparation for victims, displaced persons and the recovery of their housing land and property?
The Arab delegates offered no answer to any of these questions. The representative of the Permanent Mission of Palestine replied only that the statement by the representative of the State of Israel on the implementation of its sustainable-development plan is an internal affair that does not concern us in any way.” He also did not mention the City of Jerusalem in his statement, but said that he resented the question as doubting the Arab states’ intentions.
No discussion or exchange of views followed the Arab Group meeting on mechanisms or policies to implement the NUA, nor did it reflect on the results of the Second Arab Forum on Sustainable Development, held in Beirut in April 2019.
In a separate remark, his highness, the Bahraini delegate, expressed his opposition to any discussion of remedy or reconstruction in the region’s countries currently undergoing conflict, occupation and war.
Photo: The UAE delegation takes part in the first UN-HABITAT assembly in Nairobi. Source: Gulf Today.