With less than two years to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline in 2015, the United Nations, state parties and partners have been collaborating towards the development of a successor framework, taking into consideration lessons from the MDGs and the present development realities.
Consequently, Nigeria a week ago in Abuja hosted a round of National and Thematic Consultations, apparently to get the inputs of citizens on the character and content of the next global development goals. The event was organised by The Presidency, MDGs Office Nigeria and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The two-day forum brought together Nigerians from across different spectrums of the society – government officials and policy makers, the civil society, media, faith-based groups, women and farmers’ associations, as well as the disabled and youths – to explore their perspectives to development realities beyond 2015. This is considered top priority for the country building on the MDGs and other national policies such as the Vision 20:2020 and the MDGs Countdown Strategy.
Some of the thematic topics were: Governance & Accountability, Inequalities, Education, Environment & Sustainable Development, Food & Nutrition, and Health.
Others included Housing & Urban Development, Rule of Law/Human Rights & Poverty, Population Dynamics, Growth & Employment, and Water.
For instance, the session by the Thematic Group on Housing & Urban Development (HUD) that involved about 70 participants was chaired by the Director of Urban and Regional Development in the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing & Urban Development (FMLHUD), Dr. Olatunbosun Ayileka, and deliberations were guided by a lead paper presented by Professor Mustapha Zubairu of the Centre for Human Settlements and Urban Development at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State.
The session was coordinated by the Abuja office of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).
There were two panel discussions by the Special Assistant to the Ondo State Governor on Urban Renewal, Oladunni Oyewumi, and Deputy Director (MDGs) at the FMLHUD, M.T. Babakobi.
Zubairu’s paper highlighted the relevance of the HUD policies to repositioning the sector, as well as advocated innovative and futuristic planning. It was noted that, Nigeria, with a total population of about 169 million, has an urban population of about 48 percent (over 80 million city dwellers), of which up to 66 percent (about 53.7 million people) live in slum conditions, which is believed to be significantly higher than the proportion in most other regions of the world.
It was observed that Nigeria is at the moment far from meeting the goals and targets on issues related to HUD under the current MDGs regime. The group also noted that the issue of HUD was not isolated as a specific item under the current MDGs dispensation but subsumed under MDGs Goal 7, Targets 10 and 11, which focused on improving the status of the urban poor as represented largely by slum dwellers.
Participants described efforts made so far in addressing HUD issues as “winning isolated battles but loosing the real war”, adding that management of Nigerian cities requires confronting the unique challenge of addressing mostly settlements under transition, and that HUD issues have not been properly integrated into the entire MDGs framework.
Upon extensive deliberations with specific respect to determination of Post-2015 Development priorities, the group found that the implementation of MDGs programmes in the HUD sector in Nigeria had the advantage of securing appreciable funding from the Federal Government, especially through the Debt Relief Gains. The programme has, however, not been guided by proper Needs Assessment Studies and has oftentimes been hijacked by isolated “Constituency Projects” for federal legislators, participants lamented.
They noted that while such projects identified critical needs of concerned communities, they are not the best way of articulating all the composite urban renewal and slum upgrading needs of the people in such communities.
“MDGs programme in the HUD sector has been handled as isolated projects and not sufficiently integrated into national development agenda, and there is continuous decay of rural areas due to neglect, thus accentuating the ‘pushing’ of rural areas into the cities.”
They want a change in the attitude of city dwellers to human settlements planning and development, stressing that proper and comprehensive Needs Assessment Studies should be instituted forthwith such that urban renewal and slum upgrading needs of the people will become more robust and comprehensive.
The group suggested that, in view of its cross-cutting influence, post-2015 MDGs should recognise HUD as a separate and distinguishable focus area, even as deliberate efforts at rural rejuvenation should be made.
While clamouring that concerted efforts should be made to strengthen institutional and human resource capacities for HUD, the gathering maintained that physical planning should precede housing development so as to prevent the continuous creation of slums.
“It may be necessary to set up an umbrella organisation to coordinate and exercise overarching monitoring of all projects and activities in HUD, and a programme should be established to address the issue of maintaining basic infrastructural services that have been provided in the communities,” participants emphasised, stressing that the current HUD policies have basic ingredients of transforming these sectors and the provisions contained in these policies should be vigorously implemented to complement ongoing and future MDG frameworks.
They added: “Concerted effort should be made to create and sustain robust information base and data sources for HUD. There is a glaring need to innovate on sources of funding for HUD in the post-2015 era. There is need to take steps to address the growing security challenges by adopting special programmes for engaging the youth in productive ventures and generating employment towards boosting Local Economic Development, which will also enhance revenue generation for cities.”