WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), along with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced legislation that will meet 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) will target the challenges of urbanization in the developing world, whose cities face unprecedented growth from enlarging slums, increasing levels of pollution, overburdened transport systems, and the lack of affordable housing. It directs the Administrator of USAID to develop a strategy to foster sustainable urban development. This legislation urges USAID to consider establishing a senior advisor for urban development, and to establish a pilot urban strategies initiative that will help a select cities create a policy framework for future growth and development.
“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.
“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.”
The International Housing Coalition (IHC), Habitat for Humanity, InterAction, and Cities Alliance strongly support the introduction of the Sustainable Urban Development Act of 2010.
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. The International Housing Coalition strongly supports the passage of this bill.”
Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, said, “As CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, I would like to express my profound appreciation to Senators Kerry, Durbin, and Cardin for introducing the Sustainable Urban Development Act of 2010. 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. I look forward to working with each of you and your colleagues in Congress to build support for and achieve swift passage of this critical legislation.”
Samuel A. Worthington, 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.”
William Cobbett, Manager of the Cities Alliance, hailed the introduction of the Sustainable Urban Development Act as internationally significant. “This is an extremely welcome initiative, which recognizes the potential of urbanisation to contribute to economic growth, and poverty reduction in urban and rural areas alike. In many developing countries, cities will double their population in the next fifteen years. This legislation is designed to help governments turn challenge into opportunity, and ensure that future urban growth is both equitable and efficient'. Mr Cobbett said that Cities Alliance members would particularly welcome the attention given to the property rights of women.”
Facts about the Sustainable Urban Development Act of 2010
Ø This legislation is born out of the recognition that urban development issues have been an overlooked component of U.S. foreign assistance. With an estimated four billion people living in developing world cities by 2030, including a doubling of people living in slums, urban development must become a higher priority issue.
Ø The bill includes a statement of policy that recognizes urban development as an objective of United States foreign policy and overseas development assistance, particularly programs that foster improved urban governance, management, and planning, promote the formal provision of and access to essential urban services and infrastructure, expand access to basic shelter, affordable urban housing, promote economic growth and alleviate poverty, and respond to and prepare for environmental and climatic challenges.
Ø It directs the Administrator of USAID to develop a strategy to foster sustainable urban development that will update the Making Cities Work Urban Strategy. Specifically:
o Assess the feasibility of establishing a senior advisor for urban sustainable development at USAID, who would provide leadership for coordinated programming, technical support for urban development, disseminate best practices, guide urban programming, and help build the capacity of government officials in developing countries to more effectively manage urbanization
o Consider establishing a pilot urban strategies initiative that would support, through technical and financial assistance, a select number of cities in developing countries by identifying, developing, and implementing long-term sustainable urban development strategies to provide a framework for future growth and development in identified countries
o Review and assess existing or past U.S. programs and foreign assistance strategies designed to improve urban development and ensure that strategies to address urban development and slums in developing countries are integrated into the broader strategic foreign assistance plans of USAID and the Department of State
o Develop a strategy for providing long-term United States support for sustainable urban growth and development initiatives that draws upon the expertise of U.S. city and regional elected officials and professionals, private foundations, NGOs, policy, education and research organizat