1st Asia-Pacific Housing Forum In Singapore Draws Over 200 People

Habitat’s Innovative Programs And Zealous Volunteers Are Also Recognized At Asia-Pacific Leadership Conference Held In Same Week

SINGAPORE, 9th October 2007:Lessons were learnt and ideas exchanged at the recent 1st Asia-Pacific Housing Forum organized by Habitat for Humanity’s Asia-Pacific area office and Singapore Institute of Planners. About 230 government officials, academics, housing specialists, planners, bankers and activists from 30 countries converged at the forum in Singapore to glean insights from experts who shared knowledge, housing solutions and best practices. The forum was especially pertinent given that more than 550 million people in Asia are in need of decent housing and have virtually no basic access to water and sanitation.

(Top) Panelists at the roundtable discussion on the first day of the 1st Asia-Pacific Housing Forum held in Singapore.(Bottom) Mah Bow Tan (left), Singapore’s national development minister, Darlene Williams (center), assistant secretary for policy development and research in the US government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development and Patricia Herbold, US ambassador to Singapore at the forum.

Well-done: (Top, from left) Tony Lanigan, vice-chairman elect of Habitat’s international board of directors with representatives from award-winning programs – Mark Estes (Vietam), Charles Joliffe (Mongolia), Farhan Mall (Pakistan) and Bert Jugo (the Philippines).Kudos: (Bottom) Thirteen countries that donated toward or implemented Habitat’s tsunami reconstruction programs were recognized, as was the Singapore Red Cross that funded Habitat’s rebuilding in Meulaboh, Indonesia.

Rick Hathaway, Habitat for Humanity’s area vice-president for Asia-Pacific, said in his address to the delegates: “The year 2007 is a landmark year as more people will be living in cities than in rural areas. The demand, supply and usage of housing go to the heart of this region’s development where 60 per cent of the world’s slums exist.

“Singapore with its successful public housing program is a good fit to hold an initiative that builds on Habitat for Humanity’s ongoing efforts to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness in the region.”

A range of topics was covered through roundtable discussions, plenary sessions, panel presentations and breakout sessions. Delegates examined housing needs in terms of scale, ownership, financing and policies. They also gained insights from various presenters about achieving the Millennium Development Goals, housing policies for the poor, the promise of housing microfinance, community-based disaster mitigation, slum upgrading in Thailand, bamboo as a 21st century building material, among other topics. Presentations and papers from the forum are being posted on .

The guest of honor was Mah Bow Tan, Singapore’s minister for national development, and the special guest was Darlene Williams, assistant secretary for policy development and research in the US government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development. Among the speakers were representatives from Singapore’s public housing authority, Housing & Development Board; UN-HABITAT, the UN Millennium Campaign, the International Housing Coalition, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Asian Development Bank, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

The housing forum received media coverage in Singapore as well as on international wire agencies Dow Jones and AFP. Asia-Pacific area vice-president Rick Hathaway was also interviewed about Habitat’s catalytic role by BBC and AFP.

On the last day of the forum, some delegates visited two new towns in Singapore while others toured the prefabrication technology center of Singapore’s public housing authority, Housing & Development Board.

After the housing forum ended, Habitat continued to play host to more than 100 staff who were in town to attend the eighth Asia-Pacific Leadership Conference, held back-to-back with the forum. During the conference, Habitat staff learnt that bigger and better go hand-in-hand. Hathaway said in his opening address: “Our challenge is to improve our efficiency and compliance as we move to greater scale and impact. While we should strive for bigger numbers – they must be ‘better’ numbers – filled with stronger adherence to mission principles and donor accountability.” The three-day conference featured presentations on various country programs and sessions on resource mobilization, advocacy and community-based disaster mitigation.

The highlight of the conference was the International Board of Directors’ Awards dinner held on 27th September 2007. Innovative programs and enthusiastic volunteers were recognized with nine winners in five award categories receiving plaques and cash of between US10,000 and US20,000. The winners were HFH Nepal for its innovative bamboo technology (Clarence Jordan Award); HFH Korea’s Cheonan/Asan affiliate for its programs on many fronts and HFH Singapore for Operation Homeworks (Isaiah Award); HFH Indonesia’s Yogyakarta affiliate for its disaster reconstruction program (Joshua Award) and HFH Mongolia for funding partnerships (Koinonia Award). Winners of the Nehemiah Award for distinguished volunteer service were Chevron Bangladesh’s Naser Ahmed, P.T. Dow Chemical Indonesia, Singapore’s Victoria Junior College and Cargill Siam’s Dennis Seah.

Thirteen countries that donated toward or implemented Habitat’s tsunami reconstruction programs were recognized. Also lauded was the Singapore Red Cross, which contributed an estimated US9 million from the donations of the people of Singapore for Habitat’s rebuilding program in Meulaboh, Indonesia.

With more than 60 per cent of the world’s slum dwellers in Asia, there is much to be done. Habitat remains committed in its fight against poverty housing and works with home partners, volunteers and like-minded organizations to ensure that those in need have a secure, stable and affordable home.