The theme of this year's World Habitat Day celebrations - "Cities without Slums" - is one that concerns us all, collectively and individually. One billion poor people live without adequate shelter and basic services in slums and squatter settlements.With over half of humanity now living in cities and towns, the challenge of the urban millennium is to improve the living environment of the poor. On this World Habitat Day, we must all dedicate ourselves to the task of ensuring that, one day, we will live in a world without slums.
Earlier this year, at Istanbul + 5, the Special Session of the General Assembly, Governments issued a Declaration on Cities and other Human Settlements. Amongst the many pledges, Governments resolved to promote the upgrading of slums and squatter settlements within their countries. In particular, they reiterated their commitment to meeting the goals of the Millennium Summit. They endorsed the specific target of making a significant difference in the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. If we are to meet this target, we need to begin now.
World Habitat day is dedicated to reminding us of our responsibilities to improving human settlements everywhere. I therefore call upon all concerned citizens to work towards the goal of creating cities without slums. Decisive action needs to be taken by national and city governments to enable the poor to help themselves. In particular, local authorities must initiate and implement policies that:
attack poverty and not the poor;
get rid of slums and not slum dwellers;
remove squatting but not squatters.
As made clear by the Habitat Agenda, it is the primary responsibility of national and local governments to ensure an enabling environment of peace, order and good government. Focusing on policies that encourage good urban governance will create the space for the poor in general - and women in particular - to contribute their energy and resources to improving their own conditions.
To support these policies, UNCHS (Habitat) has launched the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure and the Global Campaign on Urban Governance to emphasise that the poor - in both rural and in urban areas - can and must be recognized as developmental partners and as citizens.
Habitat's Campaign for Secure Tenure rejects unlawful forced evictions and its fundamental premise is that security of tenure is among the most important of housing rights. Security of tenure is also one of the most important catalysts for attracting corporate and individual investment in order to improve the living conditions of the urban poor. At the same time, our Campaign on Urban Governance envisions an 'inclusive city' as a place where everyone including the urban poor can contribute productively and enjoy the benefits of urban life.
UNCHS (Habitat) and the World Bank have also launched the Cities Alliance to mobilise resources to tackle the growth of slums on a global and sustainable basis - we are delighted that this partnership now includes the international associations of local authorities as well as major bilateral development agencies.
These campaigns and initiatives are committed to ensuring that the poor have the political and economic space to improve their physical environment. Furthermore, The Declaration on Cities and other human settlements in the new millennium provides all of us, governments, local authorities, non-governmental organisations and local communities with a battle plan to provide adequate shelter for all and to tackle the problems of human settlement development. Together we can meet the targets set by the international community so that, one day, our children will live in cities without slums.