Casablanca — Global development experts are urging countries to improve the living conditions of the estimated one billion people living in slums.
The challenge of getting rid of slums around the world, particularly in southern countries, brought together a range of international experts and institutions in Morocco recently.
During the three-day meeting in Rabat that wrapped up Wednesday (November 28th), participants examined urgent solutions to clean up shantytowns.
"Urban development is of prime importance at the economic, social and environmental level," Moroccan Minister of State Abdellah Baha said on the side-lines of the opening session. He stressed "the need to face up to the challenge of stamping out shanty towns to meet the needs of citizens".
Alioune Badiane, director of the UN's Habitat projects struck a similar chord, highlighting the partnership which has existed for more than 20 years between Morocco and the UN on the issue.
"Morocco's commitment means that it figures among the list of the countries who signed up to the millennium declaration, the ambition of which is to have towns cleared of shantytowns by 2020," Badiane said, adding that "shantytowns have become residential areas characterised by social and economic isolation".
This international gathering was also an opportunity to turn the spotlight on Morocco's experience dealing with the problem.
In a statement to Magharebia, Housing Minister Nabil Benabdallah explained that Morocco remains a textbook example in this area, "its successful experience is based on a system of governance and strong political will."
He added in its fight against slums, Morocco "has mobilised more and more endogenous financial resources without the need to rack up external debt".
In a similar statement, the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), Joan Clos, said that "a number of factors have contributed to the successful experience in Morocco," particularly "the political will and commitment, the introduction of a coherent strategy integrated with other policies addressing urbanisation issues, alongside improvements to the institutional framework."
In Morocco, the national "Cities without Slums" programme, launched in 2004, is now 70% complete, extending to 1.8 million people in 85 towns.
However, 13% of the population has no access to decent housing, which will require 3,000 hectares of land to be earmarked for development, with 170,000 new homes built every year and 250,000 jobs created.
The conference ended with the "Rabat Declaration" on improved protection for communities from the shantytowns which house more than a billion people in southern countries across the globe.