Beirut, 23 March 2022--Under the patronage of the Lebanese Prime Minister, Mr. Najib Mikati, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), opened the first National Urban Forum of Lebanon (NUF1) today. The event was held at the UN House, in-person and virtually.
The Forum, “Towards a more sustainable and inclusive future for Lebanese cities”, was opened by the Minister of Environment, Mr. Nasser Yassine, in the presence of the United Nations Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, Ms. Najat Rochdi; the UN-Habitat Regional Representative, Mr. Erfan Ali; the Leader of the Gender Justice, Population and Inclusive Development Cluster at ESCWA, Ms. Mehrinaz El Awady, representing the ESCWA Executive Secretary, and the UN-Habitat Head of Country Programme, Ms. Taina Christiansen.
“Cities are always regarded as the centre for establishing civilizations, nurturing innovation and fostering diversity – Beirut, the one we are living in, is no exception,” said Yassin, representing the Lebanese Prime Minister, quoting poet Mahmoud Darwish. “Beirut has witnessed a golden era of cultural, political and intellectual diversity and development. Yet it has always struggled to overcome any kind of oppression; I see it today sad and dampened, a fact that we all need to be aware of and join hands to restore life into its streets and neighbourhoods,” he continued.
“The clock is ticking. It is time to seek sustainable urbanization as a top priority. We owe it to present and future generations. We owe it to our planet,” El Awady warned. “It is not too late to reverse the effects of unsustainable urbanization. Let us begin with providing reliable urban data and enhancing multi-stakeholder dialogue and cooperation,” she added.
In her remarks, Rochdi said: ‘’As the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohamed said, it is in cities where the battle for sustainability will be won or lost. The same can be said for Lebanon. As the UN family continues to support the country in advancing the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, improving housing, infrastructure, transportation, and basic urban services in Lebanese cities becomes a major priority. We need all-hands-on-deck to ensure inclusive, safe, and sustainable cities in Lebanon and lay the foundation for its sustainable recovery.’’
‘’The National Urban Forum of Lebanon is being held at a time when Lebanon is going through its most severe socioeconomic crisis in recent decades, along with other compounded crises. UN-Habitat Lebanon, along with other UN agencies and governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, have been working together to help the country navigate through these challenging times and respond to these crises. Noting the country’s high degree of urbanization, addressing these crises and planning for a sustainable future from an urban lens is imperative,’’ said Ali.
“Hosting the first National Urban Forum of Lebanon, is a key milestone for UN-Habitat. As Lebanon is one the most urbanized countries in the region, re-initiating the discussion among key experts on urban challenges and solutions, for the better future of cities is the first step towards the country’s recovery. We are glad to see the high level of engagement and interest in our NUF1 as it is a clear testament of the commitment the people of Lebanon have to help the nation recover and become better than it was,” said Christiansen.
The two-day Forum – aimed at raising awareness and catalysing important discussions around cities in Lebanon where almost 90% of residents live in urban settings – seeks to place cities at the centre of the future development discourse of the country. The NUF1 will introduce through a series of panel discussions, four reports revealing focused data and insights with a particular focus on the overall status of urbanization in Lebanon, energy, housing and transport. Thematic session panellists will shed light on the importance of why an urban lens is indispensable to contribute to finding solutions out of the current complexities, and in fostering a sustainable and prosperous Lebanon.
The State of the Lebanese Cities report, co-developed by UN-Habitat and ESCWA, analyses ten cities across 19 themes, identifying entry points for moving towards a more sustainable urban realm. It shows that urban growth in recent decades has for some cities been explosive – and mainly unplanned. The ten cities together grew in this way by a total area equivalent to four times the size of Tripoli over the last three decades.
Key recommendations are for urban municipalities to set up multistakeholder ‘city partnerships’ to collaborate on urban development at the whole-of-city scale; and for the existing national physical framework decreed in 2009 to be reanimated.
With many of Lebanon’s longstanding and more recent challenges concentrated in cities where most people live, the report shows how urban planning can help link humanitarian and development goals, providing concrete recommendations for a future sustainable, inclusive and holistic urban Lebanon.
About the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)
UN-Habitat works in over 90 countries supporting people in cities and human settlements for a better urban future. Working with governments and local partners, its high impact projects combine world-class expertise and local knowledge to deliver timely and targeted solutions. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes a dedicated Goal on cities, SDG 11 – to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
One of five United Nations regional commissions, ESCWA supports inclusive and sustainable economic and social development in Arab States, and works on enhancing regional integration.
For more information: