Date: February 23rd, 2023
His Excellency Dr. Shaikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies “Derasat”, stated that the remarkable strides achieved by the Kingdom of Bahrain in sustainable urban development and infrastructure paved the way for ambitious plans that are worth replicating in various Arab countries. He attributed this success to the vision and wise guidance of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain, and the relentless efforts of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, which led to an exceptional and unique case in responsible and sustainable urban planning, reflecting the vision’s depth and its interaction with various challenges and opportunities.
This was part of an opening speech His Excellency gave during the launch ceremony of the 2022 ‘State of Arab Cities’ report, titled ‘Sustainable Financing for Urban Areas and Infrastructure’, on Thursday, 23 February 2023 at the Sofitel Zallaq Hotel and Resort. The report was prepared in cooperation between Derasat Center and the Regional Office for Arab countries of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Several senior local and regional officials attended the ceremony, including Her Excellency Mrs. Maymouna Mohammed Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, with representatives of national institutions in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and various media outlets.
Dr. Sh. Abdulla said, “Many challenges threaten all countries at the domestic, regional and global levels, including that Arab cities have increasingly become attractive living destinations, thus posing enormous challenges for decision makers to develop their infrastructures, and prevent fast successive waves of migration to them, besides mitigating climate change effects.” He added, “We are here today to demonstrate successful examples to inspire others on finding effective solutions to fulfill the 11th Sustainable Development Goal, which calls for making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.”
His Excellency also indicated that the Covid-19 pandemic and its grave implications revealed many gaps in the infrastructure of some Arab cities, requiring all countries to complete lacking areas and benefit from successful regional and global experiences in implementing development plans. His Excellency described the report as, “A culmination of extended partnerships between organizations concerned with these issues, in the UN and Derasat, which renews the confidence of international organizations in Derasat as a regional intellectual partner in high-level research, beginning with the “Human Development” report for Bahrain in 2018, besides a series of joint studies, reports and events between Derasat and UN programs to study the Covid-19 socioeconomic impacts on the Kingdom of Bahrain.”
Dr. Fernanda Lonardoni, Head of the Country Program at UN-Habitat’s Bahrain office, praised the Kingdom’s efforts in supporting the United Nations’ programme to issue informed reports that guide future urban policies for Arab countries to fulfill the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
She said, “The second regional report for the ‘State of Arab cities 2022’ reflects the role of the UN’s Human Settlements Programme as a center of excellence and a thought leader in the field of sustainable urban development, which aspires to increase knowledge and contribute to understanding urban challenges in Arab cities. and enhancing the role of urbanization in advancing sustainable development.”
His Excellency Mr. Firas Gharaibeh, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program in the kingdom of Bahrain, noted that, “The report aims to empower the capabilities of urban decision-makers to formulate policies, and contributes to progress towards fulfilling SDG 11, pointing out that achieving progress in the areas reviewed by the report will require multilevel improvement of urban infrastructures, effective regulation, and capacity building at the local level.”
During the launch event, Her Excellency Mrs. Maymouna Mohamed Sharif indicated, in her dialogue with Dr. Erfan Ali, that, “Regional representatives of the UN-Habitat programme operate in nearly 90 countries, and the Arab region – the Middle East and North Africa – is considered one of the most important locations for its work to implement urban development projects: basic services such as water, sanitation, transportation, smart cities, municipal administration, and humanitarian projects related to conflict areas, including inputs for rehabilitation and reconstruction of infrastructure and public spaces.”
Her Excellency also confirmed that, “Some Arab countries showed positive trends in performance towards achieving some of the SDGs, especially in education, clean energy and climate action; while some regions were affected by conflicts and their progress towards achieving these goals was slowed down.”
Her Excellency praised Bahrain’s great efforts and achievements to fulfill the UN sustainable development goals, and the Kingdom’s cooperation and support for UN urban development programmes in the region.
Dr. Omar Ahmed Al-Ubaidly, Director of the Studies and Research Department at Derasat Center, presented the report’s highlights, indicating its aim to present perceptions of urban conditions, trends and impacts; and define obstacles that prevent the achievement of sustainable urban development, through monitoring, analyzing and reporting on existing and emerging trends, while explaining the full reality facing urban policy makers.
He pointed out that, “The report is in line with the SDG 11, and local and regional perspectives should be adopted to address issues in the Arab region, and account for the peculiarity of Arab cities in general, and the importance of partnerships in providing comprehensive visions for all urban challenges.”