Interview with the Head of UN-Habitat Office in Sudan, Wael Al-Ashhab
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Head of UN-Habitat Office in Sudan, Wael Al-Ashhab
Mr. Wael Al-Ashhab, a Canadian/Jordanian Citizen, has a first degree in Civil Engineering, with more than 25 years of experience in construction and programme management, in different capacities. He has been working with United Nations as an International professional for the last 14 years. He worked for UNICEF from 1999 to 2007, when he joined UN-Habitat Iraq Programme. In 2011 he was reassigned to Sudan as the Head of Country Programme.
Q: When did UN-Habitat establish presence in Sudan? And what were the main priorities at that time?
A: The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN- Habitat) is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.
UN-Habitat has been working in Sudan since 2005, supporting the Government of Sudan in developing and implementing sustainable urbanization strategies, participatory planning and housing policies.
Q: Are you satisfied with what has been achieved ever since?
A: I am satisfied with the consistent programme that has been developed so far by our office to address urbanization trends and challenges given our relatively limited resources, but would like to see an increased coverage to other geographical areas of Sudan where the needs are also enormous.
Q:Can you give us an idea about the main projects UN-Habitat is currently managing in Sudan?
A: UN-Habitat is currently working
on enhancing the institutional capacity and providing technical support with particular focus on urban and regional planning and 10
land management of the State Ministries of Planning and Urban Development (MPPPUs). More specifically, UN-Habitat has been developing:
The Regional Spatial Strategy for reintegration of IDPs in Darfur providing guidance to the government authorities and the local leaders of the five states of Darfur, in support of decision making and guiding investments as well as the implementation of the reconstruction process.
Regional and Urban Planning Strategy for the Blue Nile State to improve the capacity of the government to plan and manage urban settlements for better provision of services and
Regional Spatial Planning for Darfur
UN-Habitat is also working with the Ministry of Urban Planning in Southern Darfur state, Darfur Land Commission, Nomads and Farmers Associations on building peace along one of major migration routes in South Darfur; through Resource Management and livelihoods.
In addition UN-Habitat in partnership with WHO is currently completing a project to establish 12 new heath facilities in 12 villages in Darfur applying the environmental friendly construction technology in effective participation of local communities.
Given the available resources and donors’ interest, so far we have been focusing on Darfur, Blue Nile and Khartoum states; however we
are trying to rollout our activities to cover East Sudan and South Kordofan in 2014 onward.
Q: What are the main sources of funding for UN-HABITAT projects in Sudan? And who are the main partners?
A: Our main donors in Sudan are USAID, Norway and MPTF/UNDP.
Q: What are the major challenges facing UN-HABITAT projects in Sudan?
A: One of the main challenges facing UN-Habitat in Sudan is that the national and international efforts have given priority to respond to the humanitarian needs
integration of displaced people and improved access to basic services and sustainable livelihood for displaced people and recipient communities.
of the population in Sudan, thus, allocating limited resources to the implementation of development initiatives. This approach has had a marked effect in urban areas where fewer activities are being directed to the provision of services and infrastructure for the urban poor, to the better use of land resources, to the promotion of improved means of livelihood and economic activities, and to the upgrading of sustainable and safe housing and urban areas.
Q: International engagement in Sudan has played vital roles in filling the huge gaps of assistance and development in many parts of the country. Yet, many people believe that much of this assistance is directed towards emergency response. As for UN- HABITAT operations in the country, do you really think this gap between humanitarian and development in policy and practice? And where does your support lie in this equation?
A: There is an urgent need to identify concrete solutions for addressing the rapid urbanization process occurring in Darfur, and facilitating the transition from relief to development, sustaining livelihoods, and reducing the dependence on relief assistance . For this purpose UN-Habitat has proposed coherent approach of regional and urban planning, land management, housing and services delivery, security and livelihoods which represent inter-linked factors which should be considered in an
integrated manner. There is clear evidence that creating the conditions for a more sustainable urbanisation will strengthen peace building and consolidation in the region.
Q: How does UN-HABITAT respond to the rapid urban growth in Sudan? How can Sudan overcome this challenge? What would the role of the UN and partners including the donors?
A: The rapid concentration of people in urban areas in Sudan is leading to additional stress on the environment. The massive displacement of people has added more pressure to the already scarce natural resources, especially around population centers and camps for IDPs. The environmental impact of IDPs camps has led to the destruction of shelter belts, forestry and farmland on the outskirts of the major towns. Sudan government with the support of UN-Habitat is planning to develop a National Urbanization Strategy where a balanced development should be adopted and implemented. UN- Habitat is currently finalizing the Regional Spatial Planning Strategy for Darfur to guide the government, donors and partners on where best to put resources and investment for larger economic development, similarly UN-Habitat is currently working with the State Ministry of Planning in the Blue Nile state to develop their own strategy.
Q: Recently, there have been a series of consultations at the global, regional and national levels on the post-2015 development agenda. What was your contribution in those consultations? And what are the key messages you would like to convey in this regard?
A: UN-Habitat has participated in the series of consultations at different levels, and is contributed to the formulation of post-2015 development agendas with the focus on urbanization as an opportunity to solve many of the challenges confronting contemporary human development. The SG has tasked UN-Habitat to lead a new Executive Committee on Sustainable Urbanization (EC-SU) and UN-Habitat's Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, to be the Secretary- General of the upcoming Habitat III summit conference.
Q: To what extent are the people of Sudan involved in the design and planning of UNHABITAT Sudan’s programmes?
A: UN-Habitat Sudan enters into discussions and dialogue with main stakeholders, counterparts at the federal and state level and local communities at the early stage of planning and design of its projects; the data collection, situation analysis and identification of needs are done jointly, with continued engagement during the implementation of the project, especially at the state and community levels.