First-ever joint program in Bahrain signed between two UN agencies to review Bahrain Housing Policy

Sep 12, 2017

The United Nations Development Programme, UN-HABITAT and the Ministry of Housing signed a project document on Tuesday to revise Bahrain’s housing policy to develop an effective, efficient and sustainable housing and land sector in line with new economic realities. The agreement, “Bahrain Housing Policy Revision”, is the first of its kind in Bahrain between two UN agencies and works effectively towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The signing ceremony was attended by H.E. Bassim bin Yacoub Al Hamer, Minister of Housing, H.E. Mr. Amin El Sharkawi, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, and H.E. Dr. Tarek ElSheikh, Regional Representative for Gulf States, UN-HABITAT in the presence of in the presence of top officials from both parties and invited guests. The project document, which implies new roles for the public sector, the private sector and civil society to move towards an enabling efficient housing system, is in line with Bahrain’s Government Action Plan (2015-2018).

During his speech at the signing ceremony, H.E. the Minister of Housing said that the Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the leading countries in the region in terms of providing adequate housing for its citizens, even before it was stipulated in most international development plans and programs, including the Sustainable Development Goals. He also added that Bahrain occupies a privileged position within the category of very high countries in human development in the world according to the World Human Development Report 2016. Building on the Royal Order of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to provide 40,000 housing units for citizens, the Ministry of Housing during has been working to provide at least 25,000 new housing units by 2018. Another 15,000 units are planned for subsequent years, amounting to a total of 40,000 units. The Ministry is also working on preparing a new housing policy to ensure continuity of the smooth implementation of the housing projects and to discuss the proposed cooperation with the private sector and the relevant authorities in order to implement the government work program.

In his intervention, H.E. Amin El Sharkawi praised the Government of Bahrain for taking this first important step towards more sustainable housing options: “Today, we stand witness to the signing of the first ever joint project document in Bahrain between two UN agencies. This project document is a testament to the Government of Bahrain and the United Nations strong partnership.” 

He added: “Bahrain’s Housing Policy and Strategy 2022, which was developed as early as 2002, recognized the need to make the delivery of social housing services more sustainable, introducing positive changes to move away from being a direct provider of housing services to a more prominent role as a regulator and facilitator that stimulates Public Private Partnerships. This new project document, and the revision of the current Housing Policy, will support in the delivery an evidence-based National Housing Policy and Strategy with short, medium and long-term plans of action. The Bahrain Housing Policy Revision will help position Bahrain as a leading country in providing different financing models to its citizens, as well as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, more specifically responding to Goal 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities.”

On his behalf, H.E. Mr. Tarik Elsheikh stated: "UN Habitat is pleased to initiate it collaboration with Bahrain and UNDP as the first initiative in a Gulf country that translates the New Urban agenda endorsed at HABITAT III into action. Putting housing at the centre of development is a key element that member states including Bahrain stressed in their statements at the HABITAT III conference last year in Quito, Ecuador. During this conference,H.E. the Minister of Housing of Bahrain expressed serious commitment of the Kingdom of Bahrain to putting housing at the centre and has actively led, along with other Arab member states in Quito, the Arab States Declaration on putting the New Urban Agenda into Action. “

He added: “UN Habitat’s collaboration with UNDP and the Kingdom of Bahrain has been active for a long time. It started with the first review of Bahrain’s Housing Policy in 2002 and since then Bahrain has been a sincere advocate of the Habitat Agenda. We are now starting a new phase of collaboration for advancing the New Urban Agenda by putting housing at the centre and revising the housing policy. Bahrain’s efforts in ensuring equal access to all to housing is very clear, as well as the efforts of H.E. the Minister and his team, and there have been significant improvements in the quality, type and options of offered. Yet, the government is committed to even further improvements and more partnerships, which is evident in its partnership with the UN.”

The project document comes as a result of the ongoing cooperation between the UNDP Country Office, the Ministry of Housing and UN-HABITAT and will be conducted in two phases. The first phase will focus on developing a housing profile which analyses in detail the housing sector and provides recommendations for revised housing policy and strategies. The second includes producing a Revised Housing Policy Framework while also integrating the UN-HABITAT Global Housing Strategy (GHS) framework.

Bahraini population increased substantially, almost 8 times over the period 1941-2010. The Ministry of Housing, established in 1975, has provided eligible Bahraini families more than 106,000 housing services benefiting almost 65% of Bahraini citizens over 40 years.

It is worth noting that the project will adopt a set of principles that will guide the implementation strategy and will help to achieve the objectives of the government action plan. The new housing policy strategy will seek to support the development of the housing sector, while enhancing the government's enabling role, in parallel with increased housing production in direct and indirect cooperation with the private sector. The strategy will also focus on improving the availability of land for different income levels and improving real estate market monitoring mechanisms; Housing and diversification of financial options and guidance for the benefit of low-income families, while fully adhering to the importance of preserving the environment.

This project is part of the country program of work document 2017-2020 between the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which includes a number of programs and initiatives supporting the implementation of the Government Plan of Action 2015-2018, submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Executive Board in New York on 9th September 2016, and adopted on 9th November 2016.