11th April 2019


H.E. Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi

His Excellency attended an Arab League forum on housing a couple of years ago in Rabat. At one point the discussion with his counterparts from the region turned to shantytowns and cardboard cities. Later, he pulled his colleague from Morocco and expressed himself. “I was embarrassed that we were focusing on this,” H.E. Al Nuami said. “This was what we were putting forward to discuss at international forums. We need future generations to do better than us, otherwise we are failing to do our jobs. Let’s not talk about what we intended for the past but look at the major challenges in the future.”

Since that meeting progress has been made. Sudan, for example, is developing at a much higher rate than was projected. The UAE is exceeding its targets for meeting the UN’s 2030 Agenda. “This objective is very important,” H.E. Nuami said. “We need to make cities and habitats available and sustainable for everybody. The objective is to transform Arab cities so that they are on the same footing as developed countries.”

The effort put into the Pan-Arab Urban Development Symposium is an example of the kind of hard work that will be necessary to achieve these goals. PAUDS and next year’s World Urban Forum (WUF10) also brings together experts on urban planning with thinkers in other fields, and this kind of cooperation is valuable. “As Arabs we are coming together to come up with concepts that we want for generations in the future,” he said. “It is important to come together and put forward initiatives rather than working in silos.”

The other theme of H.E. Al Nuami’s address was that plans for the future must take into account all four pillars of sustainable development. Economic growth, social progress, increased environmental awareness, and cultural vitality should be integrated into solutions. “We need balanced planning for projects,” he said. “We are capable of achieving progress if we enhance the quality of life. This should be our main concern. We should not just concentrate on social housing, for example, but on facilities for the community. I am confident if we have this perspective, we will have something to take home to our countries, and that our input will be appreciated by future generations.”