United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), created in 1978, is mandated to “promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.” The Programme plays a key role in helping countries manage urbanization in order to maximize a city’s capacity to generate wealth and higher living standards for its citizens. Until 1997, UN-Habitat received little support from the UN and struggled to help developing countries deal with problems stemming from massive urban growth. By 2002, when half the world’s population resided in urban areas, the organization had completed a major revitalization, with an increased budget and a more focused mandate. The Programme became central to the work on achieving the seventh Millennium Development Goal to “ensure environmental sustainability” through efficient habitat development and reduction of poverty. Today, UN-Habitat’s work spans may of the current Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.
Topic A: Developing Adequate Housing for Refugees in Latin America and the Caribbean
In 2012, one in every three families in Latin America and the Caribbean lived in informal settlements. 21 percent of houses lack electricity and sanitation, 11% lack legal titles for the property, and 6% have walls made from discarded material and dirt floors. These inadequate living conditions are felt especially by migrants and refugees, who flee their homes to unfamiliar lands and are often hurriedly settled into poor conditions. These refugees often lack access to safe drinking water and basic hygiene, which increases their exposure to waterborne diseases. This situation continues to grow more dire as the region is experiencing two dramatic upheavals that are generating massive numbers of refugees: the crisis in Venezuela and the exodus of people from Nicaragua to Costa Rica. This huge flow of refugees and migrants have made it difficult for states to create inclusive policies for their integration into society. However, UN-Habitat can work to support these communities by creating communities of solidarity, which are support systems that help to reduce vulnerabilities they may suffer. This committee’s primary goal will be to work to establish decent, safe, and sustainable housing and mitigating the many consequences of displacement.
Topic B: Fostering Sustainable Urban Development for Repatriated Refugees in East Africa
The East-African Community (EAC) has been plagued with internal conflicts over the past few decades. Countries like Sudan and Somalia have been torn apart by violent conflict, which has led to the destruction of many homes and settlements. These conflicts have created millions of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) over the years. However, with stability returning to many of these countries, many are seeking to return to the places they grew up in search of a better future. However, their homes have changed dramatically, and the urban centers are often not ready to provide adequate housing for a wave of repatriated refugees. Accessible and sustainable human settlements must be constructed in order to aid in socially and physically reintegrating them back into the area. Returning refugees and other vulnerable groups face great difficulty in building sustainable livelihoods and gaining access to land, shelter, and basic services. Most settlements lack quality water, sanitation, and other basic types of habitual infrastructure. In addition to this, these settlements often do not offer social infrastructure, and many who suffer from diseases like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have no recourse for treatment. In Kampala, Uganda, only around 20 percent of households can afford to own a house. A completed two-bedroom house sells for approximately USD 13,500 on average, which is beyond the means of most Ugandans. UN-Habitat must take steps to ensure that decent housing is being constructed to welcome home returning IDPs and refugees while maintaining a quality of life that will support long term sustainability.