The Minister for Lands, Housing and Survey, Hon. Ishmael Avui has voiced challenges facing Solomon Islands and called for extra efforts to mitigate these challenges at the 8th Asia-Pacific Urbanization Forum (APUF8) in Suwon City, South Korea.
Delivering Solomon Islands Country Statement on Monday, Hon. Avui told Forum Leaders, donors and experts that urbanization continues to prove itself as an unstoppable force with the ever increasing population migration to urban areas seeking better opportunities and greater quality of life every year.
He highlighted that over half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and this figure is expected to rise to two-thirds by 2050. In the Pacific more than one third of the population lives in urban areas.
In Solomon Islands, according to Avui, 23 percent of the national population lives in urban areas and continues to grow at a rate of 5.9 percent, which is one of the highest in the Pacific region with the figure expected to rise in the future.
“With migration to urban areas comes a host of challenges including overcrowding, traffic congestion, pollution, housing shortages and economic disparities that threaten the very essence of what cities should be as hubs of creativity, innovation and opportunity,” Avui said.
In efforts to reduce these challenges, Minister Avui told the Forum that the Solomon Islands Government is embarking on projects to develop its National Urbanization policy as a tool not only to address urban issues but also as a pathway to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As part of this process, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey officially launched the Solomon Islands National Urban Policy last week as its framework to address urban challenges to achieve its SDGs.
“The NUP will play a crucial role in achieving the SDG goals, as it is within our cities and urban centers that we must implement and live by the principles of sustainability, equity, and resilience and promote urban and territorial planning that accommodates population growth, infrastructure expansion, economic growth, sustainable food systems and natural resources,” the Minister said.
At the regional level, Avui highlighted that small Pacific Island countries need extra support and more collaboration with bigger regional countries and multilateral partners to mitigate urbanization challenges facing the region.
“In our regional context, we are not alone in this struggle to deal with urban challenges and addressing the SDGs, our Pacific neighbors are also experiencing similar or same challenges that needs sustainable and accelerated action at all levels for Inclusive, Safe and Climate Resilient Cities, Towns and Communities in Pacific Island Countries,” he said.
The Asia-Pacific Urban Forum is the region’s preeminent multi-stakeholder forum on sustainable urban development convened for the last three decades by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
Held every four to five years, the Forum is the largest regional gathering of urban stakeholders, engaging policymakers from local and national governments, financial institutions, civil society, the academia, the urban training-research community and private sector to discuss innovative solutions, identify common actions and objectives and strengthen effective partnerships to achieve sustainable urban development.
The seventh Asia-Pacific Urban Forum was held in October 2019 in Penang, Malaysia, and brought together more than 5,000 participants from across the region and world to focus on the acceleration and implementation of SDG 11.
This week, Solomon Islands is represented by a strong six-member delegation from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey attending various high-level and technical sessions at the Forum.