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The occasion of the XXIII World Congress of Architecture,Round Table on the theme:“Architecture is for everyone”, Address by Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka,Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT
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Riccardo Bedrone, President of the XXIII World Architects Congress
Leopoldo Freyrie, General Speaker of the XXIII World Architects Congress
Mr. Gaetan Siew, President, International Union of Architects
Esteemed Architects and other Professionals,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to thank the organisers of the XXIII World Architects Congress for inviting me to participate in this important Roundtable on the theme of ‘Architecture is for Everyone’.

I wish to commend the International Union of Architects and their partners for taking up this essential topic. As the UN Programme in charge of housing and urban development, UN-HABITAT strongly associates itself with this powerful message. In a world that is rapidly urbanising, architectural solutions have to be found for everyone. Also, I would add, Architecture is key for the future of cities if we want to build sustainable and livable cities.

I am also delighted to be here because this meeting will further serve to consolidate the close ties UN-HABITAT enjoys with the International Union of Architects.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The combined impact of rapid urbanization and globalization is resulting in increasing inequalities, which pose enormous social, economic and environmental challenges. One of our major concerns, at the United Nations, is the plight of the estimated one billion women, men and children who eke out an existence in slums. One out of every six human beings is currently deprived of the most basic amenities such as water, sanitation, security of tenure, durable housing and sufficient living space.

The deprivation suffered by these people constitutes a major threat not only to their own welfare, but also to the overall stability of their respective societies. If present trends continue, their numbers are likely to increase to two billion by 2030.

Needless to say, if these trends are not stabilized and subsequently reversed, the slum crisis will become yet another threat in the long list of threats to global peace and security.

The Millennium Declaration of year 2000 sets out eight goals, known as the MDGs. Goal 7 on environmental sustainability includes target 10, seeking to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015. Target 11 of this MDG goal seeks to make significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. Recognizing how modest the slum target is, in 2005, world leaders meeting in New York have revised the target to include prevention in the growth of new slums by paying proper attention to physical planning, land reform, and investments into affordable housing for the urban poor and low income earners.

Another major concern is the impact of rapid and chaotic urbanization on our environment and the ability of our planet to sustain the diversity of life as we know it. As human activity concentrates in cities, irreversible changes occur in our production and consumption patterns. We change the way we use land, forests, water, energy and other natural resources.

With half of humanity is living in cities, cities already consume 75% of the world’s energy and generate an equally significant proportion of the world’s waste, including greenhouse gas emissions. The ecological footprint of megacities and large metropolises is growing at an alarming rate.

At this juncture, the question that needs to be posed is how can we harness the positive aspects of urbanization to promote social inclusion, smarter growth and thus contribute to our collective stability and prosperity? How can urbanization become the cornerstone of a new inclusive civilization? How can we help create vibrant and socially cohesive urban communities?

Ladies and gentlemen,

As architects you have an ethical if not moral obligation to help confront the urban challenge ahead. While architecture is a reflection of the social and economic values of a given society and acts as a mirror of cultures, it is also a deliberate act of design. As architects, each time you draw a line, you define a space. That space can either perpetuate the existing reality or help create a new reality that is socially more inclusive and environmentally more sound.

Let us also not forget that what you design also becomes part of the urban landscape for generations to come. And the users of what you design will either love you for it or curse you for it.

Ladies and gentlemen,
There is a new challenge that was not only absent from our agenda twenty years ago, it was not even part of our vocabulary. This challenge is climate change. Here I would like to focus on two issues of direct relevance to our theme.  
The first issue has to do with adaptation. How can architects design buildings, neighbourhoods, indeed entire portions of our cities to make them more resilient to the risks and threats of more extreme weather or more frequent flooding.
The second aspect is mitigation. How can architects help reduce the carbon footprint of human activity through greener buildings, more intelligent use of building materials, more pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods, and less dependence on non-renewable sources of energy.
Both these aspects, I believe, are not just a matter of strengthening design standards and building codes. They are also a matter of creativity in design.
While architects are known to be good at thinking out of the box, the challenge before you is to work with others that may not be so inclined to do so. How do you work with city authorities to integrate flood plains into a cityscape of natural wetlands and parks and gardens? How do you work with developers to make the next housing estate part of a more compact and complete community that reduces unnecessary travel and commuting?
How do you do the above in collaboration with concerned stakeholders and communities so that your designs are not only well understood but also become part of a process that enhances democracy through effective participation and inclusion.

Ladies and gentlemen,
These are very issues that have led UN-HABITAT to recognize the importance of architecture and planning. Our new Medium Term Strategic and Institutional Plan approved by our governing body last year, has housing and urban planning as two of its four thematic focus areas. The other two focus areas are closely linked as they deal with environmentally sound infrastructure and basic services, and with innovative housing finance.

We are about to engage in a Global Campaign for Sustainable Urbanization that will advocate for better designed urban spaces, safer and healthier communities, more equitable and harmonious cities, as well as a better quality of life for everyone.

The theme of the roundtable today ‘Architecture is for everyone’ echoes our call for inclusive cities. Yes, I believe that Architecture is for everyone. I would like to add, Architecture is also the future of our cities. .

Ladies and gentlemen,
The role of architecture is critical to our quest for sustainable urbanisation and for sustainable development. Contrary to many other professions, architecture is by definition holistic. It involves creativity and the harnessing of technology. It is informed by the social sciences and forms part of the arts and culture. It is a driver of the construction industry that generates more jobs and economic opportunities than any other sector of the economy.  
It is this ability to think holistically that places the architect in a unique position of being able to work with a wide range of stakeholders, a wide range of professions and, most importantly, with people.
UN-HABITAT, the agency for sustainable urban development, stands ready to work with you.

Once again, let me take this opportunity to thank the organizers of this World Congress for giving me the opportunity to share with you my perspectives on the theme of Architecture for everyone.  

Thank you.

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