Diana Huynh’s introduction at the lunch meeting with Maimounah Sharif

Dear Executive Director Maimounah Sharif, State Secretary Hiim, Director General Frøstrup, friends and colleagues

Once again, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to everyone. Before leaving the floor to Mrs. Sharif, I would like, on behalf of Habitat Norway, to talk briefly about our activities, mission and mandate.

Who we are
Established in 1988, Habitat Norway, as part of the 800 member strong Norwegian Association of Housing and Urban Planning, is a non-profit NGO advocating urban and human settlement issues in global and national contexts. In our advocacy efforts we prioritize sustainable and social urban development, with a focus on women, youth, as well marginalized and segregated communities in cities and peri-urban areas.

Neglect of the urban
We contend that urban and regional development has been neglected on the global development agenda. As stated by the former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, “The struggle for global sustainability will be won or lost in cities.”
As such, Habitat Norway is one of the few organizations in the country that has advocated a higher priority of urban issues in national and global development policies. We have continuously called for stronger involvement of Norwegian business enterprises, research institutions, consultancy firms and other NGOs.

Some of our key milestones & achievements in recent years include:
• The Urban Journalism Academy that was co-hosted with UN-Habitat earlier in May this year. The Academy has been held in many places, incl. Habitat III in Quito, but this was the first ever held in Norway with more than 70 media workers and other stakeholders from more than 15+ countries internationally.
• As a result of our advocacy work we convinced Parliament in 2017 to agree that the New Urban Agenda shall be taken into account in urban and regional planning in Norway. A number of municipalities – Oslo and Asker for instance – have followed suit.
• In addition, following discussions at last year’s Habitat Day event during Urban October, Habitat Norway have brought the Norwegian Pension Fund before its Council of Ethics because of investments in Spanish housing banks and investment institutions. The latter’s eviction practices have strongly been condemned by the EU Commission as well as the United Nation’s Human Rights Commission.
• We are now working with other NGOs and CSOs such as youth-led “Spire,” in advocating the need for a Parliamentary Whitepaper on global, urban and regional development that analyses new global development trends, identifies change agents and specific, targeted measures to fight poverty, climate and environmental challenges. At the same time, requesting increased assistance to social urban and housing activities. With the recent findings of the IPCC Special Report on Land Use & Climate the urgency of such a Whitepaper is obvious.
• Related to this, we are presently negotiating a closer cooperation with the Norwegian Mapping Authority.
• Finally, Habitat Norway was also present at the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur in 2018, and hope to be present at the next one in February 2020.
• For more information, talk to our board members that are here.

I’d like to conclude by thanking the Ministry of Local Government and Modernization once again for being a consistent and supportive partner of our work. 31 years ago, it was through the efforts of Director General at the Norwegian State Housing Bank, Jens Seip, that Habitat Norway was established As the Norwegian Representative to the UN Human Settlements Commission he then invited Executive Director Ramachandran of the Habitat Centre – the predecessor of UN Habitat, to Oslo to discuss the road ahead.

In advocating and implementing the new UN Habitat Strategy for 2020-23 under the leadership of ED Sharif, Habitat Norway is incredibly excited and humbled to be part of this evolving history. Since Habitat III, the New Urban Agenda’s focus on the right to the city – or the city for all – if you prefer, including the basic right to land, property and housing – continues to be at the centre of our work.

Thank you again.
Diana Huyhn,
Board Member, Habitat Norway