The Forum was attended by Felice Zaccheo, Head of Unit at the European Commission Directorate-General for International Partnerships (INTPA-EuropeAid), Irene Campos Gómez, Costa Rica’s Minister of Housing and Human Settlements, Darío Herrera, the Ecuadorian Minister of Urban Development and Housing, José Luis Ábalos, the Spanish Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Affairs, Jonathan Tybalt Malagón González, Colombia’s Minister of Housing, City and Territory and representatives of EUROsociAL+, ECLAC, UN Habitat, SISCA, European Investment Bank, OXFAM Mexico and EUROCLIMA, among others.
The territorial approach in policies and actions developed in the context of socio-economic recovery is essential for national policies that enhance regional development and the economy while generally improving people’s quality of life.
This is the thinking behind the Latin America-European Union Roundtable, promoted by the current Presidency of MINURVI, the Assembly of Ministers of Housing and Urban Development of Latin America and the Caribbean held by Colombia’s Ministry of Housing, City and Territory in association with UN-Habitat and the European Union’s EUROsociAL+ programme in order to exchange experiences between the two regions in tackling the socio-economic crisis derived from the pandemic.
In particular, this round table sought to address the contribution made to socio-economic recovery responses in cities by urban and territorial development and the housing and the construction sector.
The ministers stressed that socio-economic recovery is going to take place within a context of general distrust, not only in the social sphere, but also in the relationship that people have with institutions, indicating that without the provisions that lead to such cooperation and the construction of broad social pacts, any socio-economic reactivation plan will be fraught with difficulty.
Colombia’s Minister of Housing, City and Territory, Jonathan Malagón, said that whatever the outcome, “there is no recovery strategy for a post-crisis economy that does not include housing.” Indeed, the construction sector in Colombia has been the driving force behind the recovery with a number of strategies. These include 200,000 subsidies for the purchase of new housing that will be in force until 2022, 100,000 of which are for affordable housing and 100,000 for the middle tier, an initiative that is considered one of the most ambitious in the region.
Carlos Ruiz, Colombia’s Vice Minister of Housing, added that construction has the capacity to link more than 34 sub-sectors – “For every job created by the sector, an additional 2.14 are promoted, which has been decisive in coping with the impact of the pandemic. In fact, construction was the first sector to open in April 2020. By May we already had the programme offering 200,000 subsidies.”
In addition to the construction of new housing, the Colombian government has promoted the Casa Digna Vida Digna (Decent House, Decent Life) improvement programme to address the qualitative deficit, as well as promoting initiatives to expand the supply of drinking water. It recently launched Young Homeowners, a scheme that supports the purchase of new homes among younger people.
In a recorded presentation, José Luis Ábalos, Spain’s Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda stressed that “social cohesion, to which we are all committed, must be linked to political initiatives in our societies that place urban development and mobility at the centre of our priorities.” “Our countries, both in Latin America and in Europe, are a clear example of growing urban development that pose us policy-makers major challenges to create habitable environments for all citizens”, he added.
Ministers also highlighted the need to improve the regional situation through the transformation of sustainable production and consumption systems, the promotion of a circular economy, energy efficiency and the sustainable management of environmental resources. The Costa Rican Minister for Housing and Human Settlements and Vice President of MINURVI, Irene Campos Gómez, pointed out that within the framework of post-COVID-19 economic recovery strategies, inclusive and sustainable urban housing is being developed in her country, consisting of small-scale mixed-use vertical housing projects with a small physical footprint and which are located in existing urban centres.
In her capacity as the secretary pro tempore of the Central American Council for Housing and Human Settlements, the minister indicated that “with the support of the EUROsociAL+ programme for social cohesion in Latin America, the Council recently approved the Regional Plan for the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda in Central America and the Dominican Republic as the key tool to providing more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements and moving toward the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Felice Zaccheo, head of unit of the Directorate General for International Associations of the European Commission, argued that cities need to be able to define strategies aimed at providing comprehensive responses to the challenges posed by the new reality, the path through which we are beginning to travel along, calling on them to be “the engine for recovery, social reconstruction and resilience in the post-covid phase. This role is reinforced in the New Urban Agenda, whose objective is to work so that no-one inhabiting an urban area has to abandon it or live in unacceptable conditions due to poor conceptions of urban planning and development”, he added.
Finally, Elkin Velasquez, representing UN Habitat, stressed that “economic reactivation plans in Latin America must further promote local action and financing tools that activate communities and the economy from the neighbourhood level. Specific plans built from the perspective of the four pillars – Home, Connectivity, Care and Community, can be very powerful.”
On the second day, international experts will present specific topics such as the intensification of migratory flows, the challenges of multilevel governance, urban mobility and green recovery in Latin America, the approach to informal settlements for sustainable urban development and the challenges and opportunities for an urban recovery with gender equality.