Monday, June 30, 2008

South Asia Leadership Conference 2008

Habitat's South Asia Leadership Conference 2008 Opens
“Good housing contributes to efficiency, enthusiasm and energy”

Dhaka, 19 June 2008 - The necessity of decent housing for the urban poor was the main focus at the opening of the South Asia Leadership Conference 2008 organized by Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI). Good housing contributes to efficiency, enthusiasm and energy was a common thread through the speeches and presentations.

This sets the stage for the rest of the conference to be filled with lively discussion and information exchange on the conference theme of "Scaling up Urban Housing Solutions in South Asia." The three-day international conference, held in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, saw more than 100 participants from 12 countries, mainly in Asia.

During his inaugural speech, the Chief Guest for the opening of the conference, Mohammad Ali Khan, Director General of the NGO Affairs Bureau in Bangladesh underscored the need for safer and hygienic habitation for all. The other speakers included Kyle Scott, Regional Program Manager for HFHI and Rick Hathaway, Area Vice President, HFHI Asia-Pacific.

The keynote paper was presented by Prof. Dr. Nurul Islam Nazem, Dept of Geography and Environment of the University of Dhaka on ‘Trends in Urban Housing in South Asia with a Focus on Bangladesh.'

In his paper Dr. Nazem opined urbanization as an asset rather than liability. The paper says, more than 25 percent of the population of Bangladesh live in urban areas with a growth rate of 3.5 percent. Dhaka city alone has a population of 13 million and the number is growing faster. Identifying slum dwellings as the biggest constraint for urbanization in Bangladesh, Dr. Nazem said, 35.2 percent of the urban population live in slums.

Beside resource constraints, lack of political commitment and policy framework, the elite’s apathy towards the poor, the lack of institutional support, non-recognition of the poor as city dwellers and poor governance have been identified as main constraints to the delivery of urban housing solutions in Bangladesh. These factors are also faced by other Asian countries.

The speakers also underscored on environmentally sustainable urban housing. And added that to avail to the solutions, coordination and cooperation among South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) members and at global level is necessary.

The three-day conference will include several plenary and workshop sessions and a field visit to develop effective ways to scaling up urban housing solution in South Asia.

On second day of the conference Jonathon Reckford the CEO of HFH International, based in the U.S.A. will attend the Welcome Dinner of the conference. The Chief Guest for the dinner will be Professor Nazrul Islam, Chairman, University Grant Commission.

Habitat for Humanity is working in Bangladesh since 1999 and providing assistance to low income people for building low cost affordable houses.

Emelda S. Mullick
PR & Resource Development Manager