Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), along with Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), yesterday introduced legislation to address the challenges of urbanization in developing countries and expand existing U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) efforts to craft better strategies for sustainable urban development.
The Sustainable Urban Development Act of 2010 (S. 3229) seeks to deal with unprecedented growth from enlarging slums, increasing levels of pollution, overburdened transport systems, and the lack of affordable housing. The bill would direct the USAID Administrator to: 1) develop a strategy to foster sustainable urban development; 2) consider establishing a senior advisor for urban development; and 3) establish a pilot urban strategies initiative that will help a select number of cities create a policy framework for future growth and development.
“We all recognize that the 21st century is the century of the city. There is an explosion of urban growth around the globe – already the majority of the world’s population lives in urban areas, with approximately one billion people residing in slums. The phenomenon of urbanization will be ignored at our own peril. Responsible citizens of the world must consciously harness their creativity and ingenuity to increase the livability, economic viability, and environmental sustainability of our cities,” said Chairman Kerry.
“For the first time in recorded history, the majority of the world’s population lives in cities,” said Senator Durbin. “Rural flight strains cities’ ability to provide clean water and sanitation, safe housing and basic infrastructure. This bill will put an emphasis on smart growth that will ensure that today’s cities not only meet the basic human needs of their residents, but also become the economic and cultural hubs of the future.”
“Half of all the world’s poor live in cities and town. To tackle the growing poverty at the root of this problem, we must pursue solutions that increase the sustainable capacity of local and national actors, boost cooperation between stakeholders and focus on the needs of those most affected, particularly women,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations International Development and Foreign Assistance Subcommittee.
MFAN partners International Housing Coalition (IHC), Habitat for Humanity, and InterAction all hailed the introduction of the Sustainable Urban Development Act.
Peter Kimm, Chairman of the IHC Board, said, “This legislation represents a milestone in the thinking about current foreign assistance. This legislation would be an important first step toward ensuring access to basic shelter and affordable housing, particularly by residents of slums, informal settlements and impoverished urban areas.”
Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, said, “This important and timely legislation will act as a crucial vehicle for supporting sustainable solutions to expand access to basic shelter and affordable housing. Additionally, the bill’s focus on security of tenure, access to basic services, and other essential programs will ensure a more holistic and effective approach to U.S. development assistance.”
Samuel A. Worthington, MFAN Principal and InterAction’s President and CEO, states, “Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) recognize the overall strategic importance of urban issues in the 21st century. We are particularly concerned about the plight of the urban poor and the rate at which urban poverty is accelerating. Meeting today’s urban challenges will require a focus on the causes and effects of poverty, including housing, governance and livelihoods, and the engagement of all stakeholders, including the urban poor, in order to achieve more equitable, inclusive and prosperous cities around the globe.”