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Jamaica is to benefit from a Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme (PSUP), under the aegis of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the European Commission.
This was announced by Minister of State in the Ministry of Water and Housing Hon. Everald Warmington, at the launch of the UN programme in Jamaica, at the offices of the Ministry, in New Kingston, on May 5.
“The programme aims to contribute to the reduction of regional human development disparities, including reducing the gender gap and improving environmental sustainability. As such, Phase I of the programme will consist of rapid profiling of urban conditions in Montego Bay, St. James; May Pen, Clarendon, and Old Harbour, St. Catherine. The analysis of such profiling will focus on four themes: governance, slums, gender and HIV/AIDS, and the environment,” Mr. Warmington said.
“The implementation of this programme in Jamaica is very opportune, coming at a time when there is a concerted thrust by the Government to effectively address the issue of squatting, with the establishment of a dedicated squatter management unit within the Ministry. Of high priority to us at this time also, is the identification of funds to facilitate the speedy completion of a national policy on squatting. We however, recognise the limitations posed by our resource constraints, and wholeheartedly welcome the support of UN-Habitat in all areas feasible,” he added.
Mr. Warmington lauded the work of HABITAT and the European Commission.
“I wish to publicly laud the UN-HABITAT and the European Commission, in particular, for the foresight shown in selecting Jamaica as a beneficiary of this programme. In this context, it is important that the opportunity be used to articulate the strategic vision of UN-HABITAT and define its relevance to the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme that is being launched here today,” the State Minster said.
Mr. Warmington, who is also President of the Governing Council, UN-HABITAT, for the biennium 2009-2011, said that while it may be argued that Jamaica does not have a slum problem, there is definitely a mushrooming of squatter settlements across the country.
“Our very own data, garnered by the Squatter Management Unit of this Ministry, identifies 754 squatter settlements islandwide,” the State Minister said.
He said that while there might be differences in the way residents in settlements are categorised, their characteristics are the same, noting that the conditions under which they live include, “dilapidated housing; housing constructed in violation of legislation related to subdivision of land; land use; construction; or registration of property, and all lacking in basic infrastructure.”
“All are in dire need of urgent and suitable intervention. So even though all the areas selected are geographically distinct and physically unique, they all share common problems and all stand to benefit significantly from this type of intervention,” the State Minister said.
The PSUP, according to Mr. Warmington, is to undertake a rapid overview of the critical urban issues and priorities for urban policy, programmes, and project development. He said that the PSUP is one step closer to achieving the vision of UN-HABITAT across regions.
UN-HABITAT is charged with making provisions for human settlements, and is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities, with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.
Other guests at the launch included Minister of Water and Housing Hon. Dr. Horace Chang; Regional Co-ordinator for the PSUP and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Asad Mohammed; Dean of the Faculty of the Built Environment, University of Technology (UTech), Dr. Carol Archer, and representatives of the European Commission, and the Ministry.