Launching Qassim Urban Observatory workshop

Dec 14, 2015

Remarks by Dr. Ashok Nigam

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

On the occasion of the launching of the Qassim Urban Observatory workshop


Your Royal Highness Prince Faisal Bin Mishal Ibn Abdulaziz, Governor of Qassim Province,

Your Excellency Mr. Salih Al-Ahmed,


Al Saalam Alaikum


It is my great pleasure, on behalf of the United Nations’ resident and non-resident agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), to attend this ceremony and congratulate you on the launching the Qassim Urban Observatory

Qassim Province is today declaring the production of its first set of 110 urban indicators, covering the globally agreed upon indicators along with the Qassim-specific ones.

The urban indicators are a measurement system of the current situation that are intended to lead to participatory and evidence-based decision-making which in turn can lead to improved ‘quality of life’ that respond to the multiple needs of the people and their environment.

Urban indicators can be used to leverage decision-making that can lead to development which is sustainable as well as holistic. It is the type of development that has been earnestly sought by the Government of Saudi Arabia as evidently demonstrated in the successive five-year national development plans.

Special emphasis has been placed on urban development in the objectives of the Tenth Development Plan. The Plan emphasizes sustainability, promoting economic diversification, enhancing productivity of the human resources, boosting the competitiveness of the economy and calling for a balanced regional development.

It is on the desire to achieve this holistic development that a strong partnership between Saudi Arabia and the United Nations has been forged since 1970s.  In 2003, UNDP assisted Al-Madina Municipality to establish the first Saudi urban observatory, which has become a success story for replication at the local and regional level.

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) has recently forged partnership with the Ministry of Municipalities and Rural Affairs (MOMRA) with the objective of developing the City Prosperity Index (CPI) for 17 cities in the Kingdom as part of the comprehensive Future Saudi Cities Programme.

As you are aware, the City Prosperity Index is an analytical tool to monitor the performance of urban policies and support a well-informed assessment of these policies and their impact on the overall quality of life in cities.  

This process makes the CPI a dynamic tool to support decision making that has a direct impact on the form, functionality and structure of cities.  The CPI looks at various dimensions such as environmental sustainability, urban governance and legislation, productivity, infrastructure development, quality of life, and equity and social inclusion.

Last September the UN General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a solid foundation for an ambitious development agenda to the year 2030 for people and the planet. The 17 SDGs are expected to set the nations in a pathway of inclusive, sustainable, resilient and firm development. Building on decades-long experiences of development successes and failures, the SDGs provide strong evidence that development should be dealt with in a holistic manner if its results are meant to be sustainable and inclusive.

The SDGs address systemic barriers to sustainable development such as income inequality, unsustainable consumption patterns, weak institutional capacities, human settlements and their inclusive dimension and ecological deterioration. In addition to this, the SDGs provide better coverage and greater balance between the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, the social, and the environment.

Among the SDGs, Goal 11 addresses urbanization and urban management. It calls for making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. There are 10 targets or indicators toward the successful achievement of this goal by 2030.

For instance, the first target ensures access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services; the second approaches safe, affordable and sustainable transport systems; the third calls for enhanced sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning; the sixth addresses reduction of adverse environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management; and the seventh target addresses provision of universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces.

On the 12th of December, the Climate Change Conference, COP21 adopted another ambitious set of goals and targets.  This was another momentous achievement in 2015.

Urban settlements play an important role in the SDGs and in the Climate Change actions that are required.  The urban indicators provide the basis for measuring the changes that are being made and for ensuring that they are making a positive contribution to the SDGs and climate change.  What Qassim province has, therefore, achieved is very much in line with the objective of achieving the global goals.  Each city needs to contribute and Qassim Province is showing its foresight by the measurement of the urban indicators.

Distinguished guests,

With the national priority for economic diversification and enhancement of the competitiveness of the national economy, Qassim can be an example of a well-planned regional development.  It is fortunate that these indicators reflect persistently high satisfaction rates for the basic services of education, health, housing, water, electricity, telephone, traffic, among others. In this context, it is advisable to go a further step by benchmarking to compare performance with cities that are among the best practices around the world.

The urban indicators can constitute a sound basis for development of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the productivity of all sectors of the economy in the region. This might seem as an ambitious agenda, but Qassim, under the wise leadership of Your Highness, can rise to the challenge.

Your Royal Highness, the UN Agencies stand ready to provide every possible assistance, technical and capacity building, that Qassim Province may identify as it goes forward to take action.  

I wish all the participants a fruitful workshop that results in reaching Qassim-wide consensus around the urban indicators and their significance for evidence-based decision-making in the region.

Finally, I would like to thank Your Highness and the officials and citizens of Qassim for this great generosity and partnership with the UN agencies.


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