UNECE Ministerial Meeting 2021
In this article, Meron Habte discusses the UNECE Ministerial Meeting of 2021.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) hosted the UNECE Ministerial Meeting on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, on October 6 and 7, 2021, as part of the 82nd session of the Committee on Housing, Urban Development and Land Management, held from October 6 to October 8, 2021. Ben Winter, deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Policy Development; Cynthia Campbell, director of International and Philanthropic Affairs Division; and I were able to participate in the meeting remotely.
According to Doris Andoni (Albania), the chair of the committee, more than 400 delegates attended the meeting, and registered observers of the meeting represented 45 ECE countries.
The meeting was opened by Tatiana Valovaya, director-general of the United Nations Office at Geneva; Olga Algayerova, ECE executive secretary; Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of UN-Habitat; and Rajagopal Balakrishnan, special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.
Presentations at the meeting included the outcome of the study “#Housing2030 — Improving Housing Affordability in the ECE Region” and the “Place and Life in the ECE – A Regional Action Plan 2030: Tackling challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate and housing emergencies in region, city, neighbourhood and homes.” Following the presentation, the ministers and heads of delegations endorsed the Regional Action Plan.
The meeting also served as a catalyst for the launch of the report "#Housing2030: Effective policies for affordable housing in the UNECE region" that the ECE secretariat developed in cooperation with members of the #Housing2030 initiative, Housing Europe, and UN-Habitat.
The study, a collaborative effort of more than 100 experts and policymakers, urges governments to embark on housing policy reform focused on governance, finance, land, and climate neutrality. Using more than 70 case studies, the report delivers findings and recommendations “including and not limited to, the need for governments to play a greater role in housing delivery, showcasing a wide array of social housing financing mechanisms and highlighting the role of social housing in the achievement of climate neutrality.”
Among the highlights of the 3-day meeting were updates from representatives throughout the ECE region on their nations’ progress on Sustainable Development Goal 11 and plans for recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic. Deputy Assistant Secretary Winter delivered remarks on behalf of the United States. The presentations highlighted common issues that ECE members share despite their differences in development status. Ministers shared issues such as soaring housing and utility costs, housing supply shortages, and inadequate planning and financing tools.
Several countries also emphasized the role governments should play as we move into a postpandemic world. Highlights included government expansion in housing delivery and financing, updating and modernizing planning regulations, enhancing efforts to digitalize land administration, and increasing funding for social housing programs.
Overall, the Ministerial Meeting served as an opportunity for us to learn from ECE member states and share our commitment to furthering a resilient recovery focused on initiatives that address climate change, racial equity, employment, affordable homes, and infrastructure.