The Past and the Progress: Towards Sustainable Housing
by ARIELLE LUDMILLA | 14 August 2021, 16:50 WIB | TIMES MAGAZINE | UN Habitat
Photo: an imagery of what a sustainable housing looks like. Taken from Environmental Green.
Photo: UN Habitat council meeting
Progress had been made in the UN-Habitat council, where around 35 countries gather to discuss the ever-persisting problem of sustainable housing. Today’s meeting saw discussions on past international actions, examining the role of poor housing and disaster resilience in urban areas, and funding mechanisms, especially for Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs). Agreeing that safe housing is a human right for all, the council attempts to secure an inclusive framework that is fair to all countries involved.
Delegates debated over the effectiveness of past international actions for sustainable housing, arguing if reform is indeed necessary or not. The delegate of North Korea questions if there is even a need for reform, arguing that improvement on existing actions is enough, such as improving the UN Habitat’s Strategic Plan for 2020-2023. However, other delegates such as Turkey have pointed out that these standards can be unfair to LDEC countries - they are held to the same solutions as developed and developing countries are without actually having the capacity to do so. However, the same question remains: “if the existing frameworks were effective in the first place, then what are we still doing here?”
There was also a debate on the role of poor housing in the perspective of each country. Countries like Chile point out that poor housing is still a problem for household wellbeing in some countries, adding that poor housing is grounds for violence which have previously gone unmentioned in the council. The US would like to take a step forward - they were willing to ask “what they can do about poor housing” and are willing to involve capacity-building and improvement of technical capacity supported by international collaboration. In this regard, most of the council agree on the importance of capacity-building under international frameworks to ensure fair building of sustainable housing in each country
But sustainable housing is inseparable from disaster resilience, a topic that is especially important today especially for slum-dwellers. UAE proposed the implementation of the IEDC plan which involved adding safety measures to existing buildings and enforcing disaster protection systems especially in residential buildings. The UAE also recommended the implementation of early disaster warning systems across residential regions. The delegate of Malaysia is in favor of this suggestion, and adds that a disaster relief framework is also necessary, especially for people living in slums who will most likely be unable to sustain their welfare after a natural disaster.
In the wake of recent urban disasters due to climate change all over the world, it is worth noting that the two blocs, one represented by the UAE and the other by the People’s Republic of China, have begun to include climate-induced disaster resilience plans for urban homes in the framework of their Working Papers. In a press conference, the representatives of each bloc explained their blocs’ plans: UAE’s blocs acknowledged that lack of frameworks for appropriate, disaster-resilient infrastructure is a problem and suggested the addition of newer technologies to existing buildings (retro-fitting measures). The representative also reports that they will install early-warning systems in urban areas and collaborate with CSOs for disaster relief. The People’s Republic of China explains that their bloc will too implement prevention measures similar to UAE’s, noting the importance of the establishment of early-warning systems, but that is where the resemblance stops. Instead, their bloc will focus on building resilient infrastructures, as opposed to the UAE’s bloc’s move to adapt existing buildings to be more climate-resilient. However, PRC’s bloc recognizes that not all member-states have the same problem - drawing an example where Japan is more vulnerable to flooding, while China’s buildings are more heat-retaining. Their bloc also recognizes the importance of building green areas and hospitals in response to climate-induced urban disasters.
These steps are especially important today in the context of building equitable, sustainable housing. The council is working to ensure sustainable housing for all, according to the human rights granted to everyone.