The second session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly (UNHA), the international convening of the highest decision-making body on sustainable urbanization and human settlements in the world, was held from Monday, June 5 to Friday, June 9, 2023, in Nairobi, Kenya. Eugenie L. Birch, Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Education at Weitzman and co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research; and Nisha Botchwey (PhD’03), dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, were among the non-government (NGA) members invited to be part of the US Delegation to share their expertise in housing, infrastructure, and sustainable urban development. The US Delegation included five representatives from the US Department of State and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as 14 NGA representatives.
The UNHA meets once every four years to set policy for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme. This year, over 5,000 UN delegates were in attendance to affect policy around the stated theme “A sustainable urban future through inclusive and effective multilateralism: achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in times of global crises.”
Birch and Botchwey gave their input on 10 resolutions that were ultimately approved by the UNHA.
International Guidelines on People-centered Smart Cities
Accelerating Transformation of Informal Settlements and Slums by 2030
World Clean Up Day
Biodiverse and Resilient Cities
Enhancing the Interlinkage Between Urbanization and Climate Change Resilience
Localization of the Sustainable Development Goals
Adequate Housing for All
Urban Planning and Sustainable Infrastructure
Creation of a Human Settlements Resilience Framework for Early Warning, Foresight, Risk Reduction, Crisis Response, and Post-crisis Recovery and Reconstruction
Equitable Financing and Effective Monitoring of the Implementation of Resolutions Adopted by the UNHA
The resolutions were described as laying out the organization’s objectives for the next four years. They had been drafted by the Committee of Permanent Representatives before the convening and were revised Tuesday through Thursday before being approved by the Plenary on Friday.
Before the UNHA, Birch and Botchwey participated in the Global Stakeholder Forum, a two-day gathering that examines how to effectively participate in intergovernmental meetings, such as the Assembly. Birch was also a panel participant in a side event titled Resilient Cities, Greener Neighborhoods, Thriving Communities: The Power of Nature Based Solutions, during which she presented Penn IUR's recently published report for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), State of Finance for Nature in Cities, Time to Assess. The event was organized by the UNEP, UN Habitat, C40 Cities, and the World Economic Forum.
Thabo Lenneiye (MArch'10, MSE:IPD’10), managing director of Penn Praxis, also attended the UNHA, serving as a member of the Penn delegation. While in Nairobi, Lenneiye conducted exploratory meetings with Diane Hoskins, co-CEO of Gensler, and Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, governor of Kisumu, and others to discuss potential collaborations.