A personal perspective on World Urban Forum 6 in Naples

As part of a HFHI delegation I was privileged to participate in one of the biggest global conferences on housing, the World Urban Forum, organized biannually by UN- Habitat. Between two Europe and Central Asia Housing Forums it was a perfect opportunity to meet old friends and partners from Habitat, UNECE, IFRC, International Union of Tenants and CECODHAS, to get inspiration from a wide range of speakers on the many different aspects of poverty housing, and to map new trends and opportunities in housing advocacy in Europe. As there were thousands of participants, hundreds of events and 30 parallel sessions, my brief summary will be quite subjective and biased.


Urban Campaign Poster at World Urban Forum 6 in Naples, Italy.

The 15-member Habitat delegation was greatly involved in networking sessions, trainings, panel discussions and looking after the Habitat booth in the exhibition area. I took part in 2 panel discussions based on my housing advocacy experience in Hungary. I contributed to a session sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and the Inter-American Development Bank on “Enabling Good Housing Policies Informed by Evidence-based Research”.

It was a very inspiring academic discussion about the importance of different indexes and criteria in framing and developing housing polices, for example, the Global Housing Indicators. I could present how in Hungary we started to use the UN criteria for adequate housing consistently in all our statements and communications. Interestingly enough, Claudio Acioly from UN Habitat was referring to the same criteria in his contribution. The audience was very excited when they learned that Shlomo Angel, who was a pioneer introducing housing indexes to poverty housing related research, was also present. It was great to be part of a community of practitioners who really make an effort to develop a common language and understanding which should be the basis of all future advocacy initiatives.

The second panel discussion I contributed was organized by the Open Society Institute about “The Lessons Learned from the U.S. Forecloses Crisis”. I was asked to give a European perspective by presenting Habitat Hungary’s flagship advocacy initiative, the Introduction of Social Rental Agencies to improve the social rental sector. It was fascinating to reflect that the problem of vacant housing can be regarded as a great opportunity in very different cultural and economic contexts.

I also attended very inspiring sessions hosted by the International Union of Tenants, where speakers strongly advocated for renting as a real alternative not just a necessity. There were strong arguments why housing can and should on the EU level agenda. It seemed to be the start of a new European movement which we should follow closely.

Best practices shared from the experience gained from social cooperatives in Latin America presented yet another alternative to address poverty housing issues with a strong community development focus, where I was very excited to listen to the Mrs. Raquel Rolnik, United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing who gave a very emotional, charismatic testimony of why neo-liberalism and the market approach are not adequate in many poverty housing related situations. Slum upgrading and city rehabilitation projects were presented from Sweden, France and Brazil where the common thread was participatory planning and involvement of the residents throughout the whole process to make these projects sustainable.

I stayed at a small hotel in the bay of Naples. It took me a day to realize that when I’m walking along the bay what I can see is the Vesuvius on the left and Capri on the right. Sometimes, you need to have a bigger perspective to really understand your own context. And that’s why we need these huge global meetings.

By György Sümeghy
Executive director
Habitat Hungary

Sustaining the community

As an Expert Member of UNECE Real Estate Market Advisory Group (REM), one of our main focuses is in helping to provide advice on creating affordable, environmental and sustainable homes through local communities, ideally with as much self-help and mutual co-operation as possible to encourage a sense of ownership and commitment.

New housing construction

One of the biggest construction costs can be the land.

This should incorporate the use of local labour, ideally involving the recipient of the home, local materials that are low in carbon in manufacture and maintenance, and wherever possible create and take advantage of local renewable energy. [Read more…]

News from the second Housing Forum Europe & Central Asia

Location announced:  Organizers of “Promoting Sustainable Housing Futures for All”, the 2nd Housing Forum Europe and Central Asia, are pleased to announce  to announce that the forum will be held at the Palais des Nations, home of the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland on April 22–24, 2013. This magnificent building is an outstanding testimony to twentieth century architecture, overlooking Lake Geneva, with a splendid view of the Alps and, on a clear day, the Mont Blanc.

the Palais des Nations in Geneva

Between 1929 and 1936 this palace served as headquarters for the League of Nations.

Featured Speakers:  The Forum’s Opening Session speaker is Sven Akalaj , Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Raquel Rolnick, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing will present at the networking reception, and  Professor David Sanderson, Director,  Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP), Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment, Oxford Brookes University will serve as Master of Ceremonies.

Innovative Format: In addition to presentations by experts in the housing field, the forum features ‘The Hub’. Developed in response to the feedback from participants in the First Housing Forum ECA in 2011, ‘The Hub’ is a key program element during which a maximum of 24 (4 x 6 parallel) working sessions on a variety of themes will be delivered by experts with practical, academic and political experience in the housing and related fields. During these sessions, hosts will elaborate on cutting-edge practices, ideas, technologies and approaches, with the intent of generating fruitful discussions about the future of housing. Each session must relate to one of four thematic tracks:

–          Track A: Regulatory Frameworks and Housing

–          Track B: Housing Solutions

–          Track C: Housing Vulnerabilities

–          Track D: Housing and Human Development

You can find more information about the thematic concept for the event and submission of proposals to lead a Hub session at the following

Registration: Registration is now open at the forum website, .   The forum will provide a strong platform for exchange, mutual learning and exploration between people who are committed to the cause of sustainable housing. It will focus on the four main thematic tracks: regulatory frameworks, housing solutions, housing vulnerabilities and housing and human development.

The forum will bring together representatives of government, the private sector, civil and social organizations, as well as international organizations and institutions to create a common vision for affordable and sustainable housing in the region.

Visit the forum website, to stay informed with the latest updates and to register.

If you are interested in contributing to this project or would like to receive more information please contact Jane Shapiro at

By Jane Shapiro
Program Manager
2nd Housing Forum ECA