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Closing Remarks by Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT On the occasion of the Messengers of Truth Urban Arts and Youth Summit 30 November, 2009, Nairobi, Kenya
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Distinguished Youth Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen
Friends in the arts community

It is a great pleasure to welcome all of you who have given generously of your time to participate in this Messengers of Truth Urban Arts and Youth Summit. I would like to take this opportunity to extend a special welcome to our UN-HABITAT Messengers of Truth, representatives of local and national governments, private sector, community based arts groups and other guests who have traveled from afar as well as our colleagues  based in Kenya.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you most sincerely for participating in this Summit today. Your overwhelming response to this Summit is a testament to the convening power of the arts. Given all that serves to divide humanity, the creation and appreciation of the arts is one of the few spheres of culture that unifies humanity:

  1. Where experiencing your story doesn’t negate mine;
  2. Where singing your song doesn’t invalidate mine; and
  3. Where learning your dance step adds to mine.

The many diverse forms of artistic expressions represented here today enhance each other. Each one adds to the richness and depth of our culture. It is this unique quality that gives the arts a special claim of importance to our work at the United Nations.

Making Cities Better

UN-HABITAT works towards making our cities better. This starts with the right for every human being to decent shelter, decent work, health and education. It also involves housing, building, planning, transport, energy, water and sanitation and finance.

This will be a formidable challenge as we anticipate that the urban population will reach well over 5 billion, or 60 percent of the world population, by 2030. And already, we have some 1 billion people living in slums and sub-standard housing, many of whom have little or no access to water or sanitation.

According to United Nations Population Fund, the youth population is already the largest ever in history. Young people aged 15 – 24 are estimated at 1.2 billion globally, with over 80%, living in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In summary, the cities of tomorrow will be inhabited in majority by youth, youth that will be seeking to complete their education, looking for jobs and for a voice in decisions affecting their lives and livelihoods.

This why we cannot afford to ignore the important ability of art, music and dance to harness the creativity, the energy and the spirit of youth. Art, music and dance help transcend differences and help build a unified momentum of diverse expression. In this regard, the power of young people working in arts to build bridges should not be understated.

Beyond the need for changes in how we plan and design our future cities and upgrade their infrastructure and basic services, I believe we must also recognize that youth have a legitimate role to play and their voices need to be heard.

That is why UN-HABITAT has convened this Summit as a first step in catalyzing new thinking about how urban arts and youth can contribute to the kind of urbanization we all want.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Nicholas You the brain Child of Messengers of Truth programme and acknowledge everyone who participated in the summit today. I assure you that your suggestions will inform the design of our own Messengers of Truth programme. We are honored to have the currently appointed Messengers of Truth from Kenya, Norway and Germany who are great examples of socially engaged artists.

These young artists, along with all of you, are going to help us re-launch the Messengers of Truth Programme during the upcoming World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in March 2010. UN-HABITAT hopes that the re-launch of this Programme during the Forum, will strive to make the vital connection between what you have expressed here today, and concrete suggestions for better practices at the local level.

I urge those present here today to seriously consider the value of arts and youth leadership for sustainable urbanization, and challenge you to incorporate what you learned at this Summit into your work.

As for UN-HABITAT’s role, our Messengers of Truth Program is contributing to a standard of excellence for the arts, above and beyond commercial success and fame, which values a social conscience, and specifically engagement in urban issues. To those artists who are already engaged in social issues and change, I commend your efforts, and look forward to supporting you to share your success stories. Finally, I especially challenge artists as well as those involved in the arts, to follow the example of these Messengers of Truth, who are using art as a vehicle for social betterment and engagement of urban youth.

I now have the honor of officially closing the Messengers of Truth; Urban Arts and Youth Summit, thank you all for your participation.

I now want to take this opportunity to invite you all to the World Urban Forum that will be held in Brazil next year.

Please join us now for a reception and musical performances

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