By Silindzelwe Nxumalo
The Kingdom of Eswatini joined other countries in the commemoration of World Habitat Day and officially launched Urban October on Monday.
The celebrations were held at the Royal Villas, under the theme “Resilient urban economies: Cities as Drivers of Growth and Recovery”. Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary (PS) Dr. Simon Zwane mentioned that World Habitat Day marked the launch of Urban October.
He said World Habitat Day was commemorated annually on the first Monday of October. Zwane mentioned that World Habitat Day was first celebrated in 1986 in Nairobi, Kenya, with the theme ‘Shelter is my right’ and that it was in recognition that all world citizens had a right to access this basic human right for survival.
He stated that this year’s theme was aimed at looking into the role that cities, and all partners, play in recovery after crises, be it Covid-19, economic downturns, conflicts, or climate emergencies.
“The Ministry takes this opportunity to implore all development partners including UN-Habitat, UNDP, local authorities, and utility agencies EWSC – EEC, etc. to work together to realize the goal of developing resilient urban economies and other SDGs to which the Kingdom is affiliated to,” he said.
The PS mentioned that the discussions of the day were aimed at exploring ways in which cities could position their towns towards being resilient communities and economies to benefit their residents and communities.
He stated that from Monday various activities and engagements would be scheduled by the Ministry during the month. “These will include a green walk and will end with the commemoration of World Cities Day on 31st October 2023,” he said.
Moreover, Zwane explained that the Urban October initiative was launched by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) to raise awareness, promote participation, generate knowledge, and engage the international community in creating a better urban future.
He stated that in line with the Ministry’s mandate to facilitate the development of sustainable and efficient towns and human settlements throughout the country and the oversight responsibility of functioning local authorities, the ministry saw it fit to participate in this international commemoration and conversation with our stakeholders this year.
Zwane said the Ministry was committed to improving and managing the country’s urbanization through the development and implementation of policies that promote sustainable development.
“Particularly, the Government is committed to working towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11: making human settlements and cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable,” he said.
He added that the recent visit by the UN-Habitat Director, Regional Office for Africa, not only underscored how critical it was to have important conversations around the challenges and opportunities created by the fast rate of urbanization in our cities and towns.
“These include amongst others, issues of urban planning; access to scarce resources; development of good housing policies and land information systems; smart cities development, and the challenges of climate change to development,” said the PS.
PS stated that the month gave an opportunity to stakeholders involved in sustainable urbanization from national and local governments to universities, NGOs, and communities to hold or participate in activities, events, and discussions that support the creation of a sustainable future.
“Urban October activities begin with the commemoration of World Habitat Day and end with the commemoration of World Cities Day,” he said.