UN-Habitat
 
Loading...
Statements and Speeches
  Home » About Us » Executive Director » Statements and Speeches » Speech on World Habitat Day in Brussels
Speech on World Habitat Day in Brussels
  Print This Page!
 

Brussels, 7 October 2002: Your Royal Highness, Honorable Ministers, Housing and Building Foundation of the UK, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great honour to be here amongst such illustrious company to celebrate World Habitat Day.

Every year since 1985, when it was first designated by the General Assembly, World Habitat Day has been celebrated on the first Monday of every October. On this day we are asked to reflect on the conditions of the living environment or our habitats, focusing on the state of human settlements and on progress made, and persistent and new challenges for their sustainable development. This year it has been decided that we should reflect on the theme of city to city cooperation.

Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, H.R.H Prince Philippe of Belgium, Mr. Eddy Boutmans

Let me start by expressing my sincere gratitude to His Royal Highness, Prince Philippe, for gracing this occasion with his personal presence. This has further enhanced the great and obvious contribution to this event by the Government of Belgium and also to the European Commission for hosting the global celebrations and for bringing so many Habitat Agenda Partners from around the world to help raise awareness about the urgent need for sustainable urbanization.

Distinguished delegates, I am particularly pleased that this World Habitat Day which is the first to be organized by the new United Nations Human Settlements Programme is being celebrated in Brussels. Let me explain, as of 1 January 2002, UN-HABITAT was elevated into a fully fledged UN programme by the General Assembly. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Belgium for playing a critical role in the upgrading of the old Centre into a Programme.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Belgium for being one of UN-HABITAT's staunchest supporters. For the last 23 years, they have provided uninterrupted support to UN-HABITAT. More recently, responding to the call by the General Assembly, Belgium has taken the lead in being the first donor country to provide predictable funding to UN-HABITAT. The Belgian grant of US $800,000 per annum for 4 years has enabled UN-HABITAT to expand. For example, UN-HABITAT has been able to increase the work of its Campaign for Secure Tenure in order to provide realistic options and opportunities for investment in shelter and housing for the poor.

At the same time, UN-HABITAT's Localising Agenda 21 programme has been working on enhancing local capacity for sustainable urbanization in cities around the world, from Vietnam to Cuba. This programme, which includes the well established exchange programme between the Municipalities of Leuven and Nakuru in Kenya, epitomizes why we are here today. This exchange programme has worked at a number of different levels and integrated everyone from city officials, non-governmental organizations, universities and ordinary citizens groups.

I am not sure how many of you are aware that the traditional art of paving streets with cobblestones is currently being taught to Kenyan artisans in the city of Nakuru, a town desperately in need of decent roads. This is part of a long-term programme that has provided a number of excellent and appropriate solutions to the problems of urban management. For example, Nakuru recently became the first city in the region to develop a city wide urban planning strategy; this has been so successful that it is now being replicated in towns across the country. I mention the example of Nakuru because it is just one of many cities in the developing world that are urgently in need of capacity building.

Your Highness, ladies and gentlemen, we live in the urban millennium when over half of humanity now lives in urban areas. Though the urban population in developed countries and in Latin America have stabilized at about 75%, developing countries are going through a major demographic shift. It is expected that within the next couple of decades the urban population in developing countries will grow from 1.9 billion in 2000 to over 3.9 billion in 2030. This is the equivalent to 70 million people a year which amounts to a country the size of Vietnam every year.

In the last 30 years, Latin America has been transformed from being a predominantly rural society to an urban one with over 75 percent living in cities and towns. At present Asia has an urban population of about 36 percent while Africa has about 37%. In fact, many cities and towns in Africa are growing at a rate of about 5-10 percent per annum. This means that the population of the cities double every 10 to 15 years. For example, Lagos which already has a population of 13 million and is the sixth largest city in the world will have a population of 20 million in 2010 by which time it will be third largest city in the world.

The result of such rapid urbanization is that most local authorities are ill equipped to manage: they lack the resources, they lack the capacity to provide for their citizens. In many cities in the developing world, between 50 to 70 percent of the population live in spontaneous settlements, slums, kampungs and favelas, depending on the continent. It is estimated that there are about one billion poor people living without adequate shelter and basic services.

The magnitude of the problems of the urban poor has been recognized by the international community. Many of the Millennium Development Goals are targeted at improving the conditions of the poor; this includes the specific target of improving the living conditions of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. This is a modest but realistic goal, as it only targets 10% of all slum dwellers. More recently, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Political Declaration accepted the urgent need for adequate shelter, while the Plan of Implementation set targets for providing sanitation and clean water as well. It is also important to note that both the Millennium Summit and the Johannesburg Summit are really calls for action. There is an urgent need for innovative partnerships to implement the development goals.

However, last week, Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations tabled a report on the Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals that indicated that the world is already falling short in meeting these objectives. Distinguished delegates, if we are to meet the challenges set by the international community, there is much to be done. City-to-City cooperation was chosen as this year's theme precisely because it offers an innovative way to overcome the shortfall in international resources for aid. City-to-City cooperation is also an excellent way to encourage more decentralized partnerships.

Cities and local authorities have been fostering international cooperation since the foundation of the first international association of local authorities in 1913. Early exchange among cities in developed countries was followed by links with cities in developing countries. Today, in a globalized world, when cities are increasingly important actors in the international economy, it makes sense to look to local authorities to provide support for urban development. In a world where total local government revenue per person in highly industrialized cities can often be 200 times more than that in some African cities, City-to-City cooperation is an effective way of mobilizing large scale development resources. It is also a way to actively exchange 'best practices' and to improve the management capacity of cities in the developing world.

The success of City-to-City cooperation is premised on the sheer diversity of options and opportunities. North or South cities can learn from each other. There are also increasing numbers of West/East and South/South cooperation agreements. Moreover, in this day and age of improved communications technology, we live in an era of people to people diplomacy with an increasing number of community to community exchanges.

In view of this potential, and being the focal point for all activities related to local authorities in the UN system, UN-HABITAT has been working with international associations of local authorities and other Habitat Agenda partners to find better ways to formalize the possibilities offered by City-to-City cooperation. In particular during the World Urban Forum, UN-HABITAT, coordinated with the World Associations for Cities and Local Authorities Coordination, (WACLAC), the International Union of Local Authorities, (IULA), United Towns Organization, City Net, Slum Dwellers International and others in order to launch a "Partnership for Local Capacity Development".

Amongst other things, this will involve setting up a clearing-house to provide an overview of City-to-City cooperation. This will include establishing a dedicated website which will feed into a periodic analytical report which will help encourage dialogue about City-to-City cooperation. At the same time, I would like to congratulate the Dutch Habitat Platform for their support in organizing a follow up European Conference on Cities in 2003 that will be dedicated to furthering the cause of City-to-City partnerships. The Habitat Scroll of Honour Awards which are to be given today are also designed to reward those who have helped increase City-to-City networks.

Your highness, distinguished delegates, these are important beginnings and I call upon all of you to think about how more such exchanges can be encouraged. From sanitation to social housing, from computer management packages to public transport planning, from slum upgrading to housing finance, there is an urgent need to transfer skills to municipalities in developing countries. What we are calling for is more effective partnerships for action. For example we are seeking support for a Coalition for Sustainable Urbanization in order to rationalize the process of investment by all the different partners. Our success at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in the area of water and sanitation has lead to us establishing a trust fund to enable more investment in the delivery of clean water and better sanitation.

Distinguished Without increased resources and more partnerships, it will be impossible to meet the millennium development goals. It will also be increasingly difficult to maintain peace in our cities and human settlements. If we are to meet the challenge set by world leaders in Johannesburg, then all of us, governments, local authorities, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and ordinary communities are going to have to find innovative ways of working together. On this World Habitat Day, I therefore call upon all Habitat Agenda partners to ensure that City-to-City cooperation will meet the challenges of the urban millennium. Thank you.

 
Site Map | Site Directory | Contact Us | Feedback | Terms & Conditions | Fraud and scam alert