22 May, Cairo.- Gathered today in Cairo on the occasion of the 2nd Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Ministerial Conference on Sustainable Urban Development, the Ministers in charge of housing, municipal affairs and urban development from the 43 UfM Member States agreed on a UfM Urban Agenda to step-up regional cooperation on sustainable urban development, with a view to delivering common responses to the pressing challenges facing urban areas, which are key drivers for stability and prosperity in the Mediterranean region.
At the Ministerial Conference, Co-chaired by H.E. Corina Creţu, European Commissioner for Regional Policy and H.E. Walid Almasri, Minister for Municipal Affairs of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and hosted by H.E. Moustafa Madbouly, Minister for Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities of the Arab Republic of Egypt, in the presence of H.E. Fathallah Sijilmassi, UfM Secretary General, the Ministers endorsed the final Declaration and adopted a comprehensive and operational UfM Urban Agenda for the Euro-Mediterranean region.
The UfM Urban Agenda represents an action-oriented roadmap for the future. It is aimed at addressing the multi-faceted challenges of the region, both at local and regional levels, through an integrated and holistic approach, as well as at ensuring urban sustainability and resilience with a greater socio-economic impact on the ground, thus improving the quality of life of the peoples of the Mediterranean region.
UfM Ministers agreed to set a structured framework for UfM cooperation efforts in the years to come, through the creation of the UfM Regional Platform on Sustainable Urban Development, its thematic platforms and working groups, as well as through the organization of the UfM-IFIs (International Financial Institutions) Urban Development Project Committee Meetings. This will result in enhanced policy dialogue among UfM Member States, financial institutions, regional organisations and stakeholders from both the public and private sectors, and will translate it into concrete projects and initiatives.
The Conference concluded with the launch of the UfM labelled project “Imbaba Urban Upgrading” by H.E. Minister Madbouly, which amounts to 100 million Euros. In his intervention, the Minister highlighted the added value of the UfM label and the socio-economic impact of such an integrated urban regeneration project in one of Greater Cairo’s most populated areas, through the improvement of the living conditions of its 2 million inhabitants within the Giza Governorate.
This launch also confirms of the good preparatory work done by the Urban Projects Finance Initiative (UPFI). Since 2014 UPFI operates under the umbrella of the UfM Secretariat and is managed by the French Development Agency (AFD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) with the financial support of the EU. UPFI currently supports five UfM labelled urban projects of regional importance, including the “Imbaba Urban Upgrading”, helping them to access financing.
The UfM Ministerial Conference also gathered high-level representatives of key institutional and financial partners, including the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
On the margin of the Ministerial Conference and following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the UfM Secretariat and UN-Habitat in April 2016, both organisations signed a Letter of Intent to further strengthen their institutional collaboration with the aim of catalysing effective, coordinated support to countries and cities towards the common aim of harnessing urbanisation as a solution to barriers to sustainable development.
The Conference was also an opportunity to present the results of a study UN-Habitat conducted for the UfM Secretariat outlining an action plan for the effective implementation of the UfM Urban Agenda with a view to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals in particular SDG 11 “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, through joint actions, projects and initiatives for a socially and environmentally sustainable urban development in the Mediterranean region.
Furthermore, a side event was organised by the UfM Secretariat in cooperation with the European Commission’s Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy and UN-Habitat. On this occasion, the European Commission and the URBACT Secretariat explained the experience of the URBACT programme in the EU and raised its potential replicability in the southern and the eastern Mediterranean countries. URBACT enables cities to work together and develop integrated solutions to common urban challenges and to ensure the implementation of urban projects for a positive socio-economic impact on the ground.
Minister Almasri stated: “The 2nd Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Ministerial Conference on Sustainable Urban Development serves as an exceptional opportunity for the Mediterranean countries to enhance and develop cooperation at regional and international levels. The aim is to achieve security and stability in the Mediterranean region through enhancing a sustainable urban development and creating projects to develop the local communities and provide job opportunities for young people to empower them to effectively participate in the development of their local communities”.
Commissioner Creţu underlined: “Like the EU, the Union for the Mediterranean has adopted a real urban roadmap and I very much welcome that. I hope you will draw on the experience and best practices of the Urban Agenda for the EU, and make cities close partners. They have a unique insight and their involvement in policy-making on key urban matters, together with local stakeholders from the civil society or the business sphere, will benefit the lives of millions of people around the Mediterranean”.
Minister Madbouly emphasized: “The Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS): Egypt Vision 2030 represents a foothold on the way towards inclusive development. The strategy compromises of ten pillars. One of which is the urban development pillar. This pillar aims at achieving a balanced spatial development management of land and resources to accommodate population and improve the quality of their lives. Subsequently, the national housing strategy was developed. A strategy of integrated sustainable urban development.”
UfM Secretary General Sijilmassi recalled: “Today’s meeting demonstrates the common will of 43 countries and key institutional partners to give a new impetus to the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation on sustainable urban development. The UfM Secretariat will continue its active contribution to ensuring that political decisions are translated into concrete actions and regional projects, with a view to implementing the UfM Urban Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.
With the adoption of this Ministerial Declaration, the UfM Secretariat will continue its active contribution to improving sustainable urban development in the region though regional dialogue and the implementation of regional projects in line with sustainable urban development priorities, with a view to strengthening regional cooperation and integration.