Co-organizers:

Housing sector in Eurasia needs a mind shift and cooperation

To solve housing problems in the region, practical as well as strategic actions are needed with more emphasis on education and awareness among citizens about their rights and responsibilities in relation to shelter, property and housing

Geneva, Switzerland (April 24, 2013) — Raquel Rolnik, UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing, said in a video message to the delegates of the second Housing Forum for Europe & Central Asia a paradigm shift is needed from the belief that the market can solve all housing problems. She emphasized as the ongoing crisis since 2008 demonstrates, we need to redefine the responsibility of states in providing social services, including housing.

A market approach is necessary to develop housing microfinance and residential energy efficiency, among many other things, but state intervention for vulnerable groups, like the Roma, elderly, low-income, mentally and physically challenged, or refugees, cannot be overlooked. At the same time, international organizations and NGOs should shift from direct services toward shaping market solutions and policies.

These are some of the outcomes of the second Housing Forum Europe & Central Asia, which concluded on April 24, 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland. The debates and discussions touched on important thematic areas such as housing inclusiveness and equal access to adequate standards of living in cities, including the right to adequate housing.

Among the voiced recommendations were calls to increase the supply of rental housing through new models, address the problem of management and deterioration of privatized multi-household housing, work with the Roma on empowerment and legalization of informal settlements, as well as involve more stakeholders in the planning and implementation of housing projects.

The three-day gathering brought together 147 delegates and 71 organizations: UN agencies, international NGOs, Red Cross and Red Crescent, academia, financing institutions, housing experts, real estate business and donors from 38 countries.

The Forum is organized by five international organizations – Habitat for Humanity International, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). UN-HABITAT is supporting the Housing Forum for the first time in this region as part of the regional implementation of its Global Housing Strategy.

Organizing partners will start the groundwork for the third Housing Forum for this region in 2015.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is a Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built and renovated more than 600,000 homes worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 3 million people. For more information, visit www.habitateurope.org.

About International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization. It works to support and develop the capacities of its member National Societies around the world in their humanitarian mission to assist the most vulnerable members of society, without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. The IFRC’s work focuses on four core areas: promoting humanitarian values, disaster response, disaster preparedness, and health and community care. For more information, visit www.ifrc.org.

About UNDP
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the UN’s global development network, an organization advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States is on the ground in 28 countries and territories in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. For more information, visit www.undp.org.

About UNECE
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. It was established in 1947 by the UN Economic and Social Council. The overall mandate of the UNECE is to facilitate greater economic integration and cooperation among its fifty-six Member States and promote sustainable development and economic prosperity. For more information, visit www.unece.org.

About UN-HABITAT
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. UN-HABITAT programmes are designed to help policy-makers and local communities to get to grips with the human settlements and urban issues and find workable, lasting solutions. For more information, visit www.unhabitat.org.


Detailed schedule of HUB sessions

We’ve uploaded the detailed schedule of HUB sessions. ‘The Hub’ consists of a maximum of 24 (4 x 6 parallel) working sessions on a variety of themes that will be delivered by experts with practical, academic and political experience in the housing and related fields.

You can download the PDF version here.

Detailed schedule of the HUB sessions

Detailed schedule of the HUB sessions

Virginia Cram-Martos to open the Housing Forum ECA

Virginia S. Cram-Martos, Director of the Trade and Sustainable Land Management Division in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Virginia S. Cram-Martos
Director of the Trade and Sustainable Land Management Division in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Mrs. Virginia S. Cram-Martos is the Director of the Trade and Sustainable Land Management Division in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

She has many years’ experience working on trade, economic development and sustainability issues. In particular, she has been responsible for work on housing and land management, sustainable forest management, trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade and standardization issues. Educated at the University of Chicago, she holds an MBA degree in International Business. She also studied at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium where she received a Masters Degree in Finance.

Ms. Cram-Martos started her career at the United Nations in 1992 and was promoted to Chief of the section responsible for trade policy and governmental cooperation in 1998 before becoming Division Director in 2005. Prior to joining the United Nations, Ms. Cram-Martos was the Secretary General of the International Data Exchange Association (IDEA) based in Brussels and, before that, she worked for more than 12 years in the private sector in retail and international trading companies.

In the UNECE, as Director of the Trade and Sustainable Land Management Division, Mrs. Cram-Martos supervises inter-governmental programmes covering: trade facilitation; regulatory harmonisation and standards policies in trade; agricultural quality standards; timber markets; the sustainable management of forests; and sustainable housing and land management.

One objective that she has placed for herself and her team is to promote safe, healthy and environmentally friendly homes as well as secure property rights for all, across the UNECE region. Acting as an advocate for this objective, she works directly with member States in order to help them address their housing needs and priorities.

Virginia S. Cram-Martos will be the opening speaker.

Key Housing Forum speakers announced

Featured speakers at the second Housing Forum Europe and Central Asia will be Sven Alkalaj, Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and David Sanderson, Director, Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP), Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment, Oxford Brookes University.

Sven Alkalaj, Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

Sven AlkalajExecutive Secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Sven Alkalaj, Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), has dealt with political and economic issues at the national, regional, European, and international levels, gaining particular experience in enhancing regional cooperation amongst countries in the Western Balkans as well as the Eastern European and the Commonwealth of Independent States countries.

He served as Foreign Affairs Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2007 to 2012. Earlier in his career, he held the position of Ambassador to the United States of America, the Organization of American States, the Kingdom of Belgium and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Prior to this, Sven Alkalaj worked in the private sector as the Managing Director of a multinational engineering company.

David Sanderson, Director of Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP)

David SandersonDirector of Centre for Development and Emergency Practice

David Sanderson, Director, Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP), Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment, Oxford Brookes University, has worked in over thirty countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean doing project management, training, research and consultancies in development and emergencies.

After serving as a Research Associate at Oxford Brookes University’s Centre for Development and Emergency Practice, he worked as Project Manager at the Oxford Centre for Disaster Studies, focusing on disaster risk reduction, then for the NGO CARE International UK, first as Senior Technical and Policy Advisor and Head of the Policy Unit, and subsequently for four years as Regional Manager for Southern and West Africa, in CARE’s Regional Management Unit in South Africa.

His professional experience lies in urban poverty, disaster risk reduction and livelihoods. He has undertaken work for the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID), Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), European Commission (DiPECHO, EC), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Bank (EDI Section), United Nations (UNDP/UNDESA), Action by Churches Together (ACT), British Council, Christian Aid, Tear Fund and the Mott Foundation.

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…]