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First Ever World Urban Forum Successfully Launched
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Nairobi, 29 April 2002: The first ever World Urban Forum was successfully launched today by His Excellency, Hon. Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, the President of the Republic of Kenya. The inauguration was held at the headquarters of UN-HABITAT in Nairobi and was attended by over 600 hundred delegates including about 200 slum dwellers from all over the world. The ceremony began with a candlelit procession and a play about the problems of slum dwellers by a theatre group from the slums of Nairobi.

In his opening address, H.E. President Moi reminded the participants of the Millennium Declaration Goal of improving the lives of at least one hundred million slum dwellers by the year 2020 and called upon them to design and implement deliverable strategies to meet this goal. This message was reinforced by the Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Louise Frechétte in her opening video address, who pointed out that rapid urbanization is one of the hallmarks of our times and we need to ensure that the city works for people not against them.

In her opening address, Mrs. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, welcomed the participants to the first session of the World Urban Forum. She reminded them that, in establishing the forum as the leading think tank on urban issues, the UN General Assembly had presented the world with a regular mechanism to address the problems of urbanization and, in particular, the urbanization of poverty. The challenge was to use this open-ended dialogue to discuss and debate how best to improve the living conditions in our cities. The final aim of this first session was to table the recommendations on how best to achieve sustainable urbanization at the World Summit for Sustainable Development later this year.

In the spirit of the event, at the opening ceremony, the chair of the World Urban Forum, Hon. Mrs. Sankie D. Mthembi-Mahanyele, the Minister for Housing of the Republic of South Africa, welcomed the many representatives of Habitat Agenda Partners to give their point of view. Amongst those who gave an opening speech were Mayor Joan Clos, Mayor of Barcelona and Chair of the United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities who emphasised the need for decentralisation as an important way to ensure that cities are inclusive and well managed. In his address, Jockin Arputham of the National Slum Dwellers Federation in Mumbai called for the urgent need to address the problems of shelter for the poor through partnership with slum dwellers. The central theme running through these speeches was the how best to tackle the problems of urbanization so that everyone, rich and poor alike, can fully address their Right to the City.

In an opening press conference held by Mrs. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, with representatives of all the different Habitat Agenda Partners, she emphasised the open-ended nature of the World Urban Forum pointing out that it had been specifically designed so that different view points could be expressed on how best to solve the problems of the urban millennium. Asked what the participants expected out of the event Jockin Arputham, from the National Slum Dwellers Federation in Mumbai, said he hoped that the issue of how evictions of slum dwellers all over the world could be stopped would be addressed. Hon. Mrs. Sankie D. Mthembi-Mahanyele, the Minister for Housing of the Republic of South Africa, said she hoped that discussions would be held on how best to balance the overall market demands on land in an urban environment with the urgent need for land and shelter for the urban poor.

The first day of the World Urban Forum included dialogues on Sustainable Urbanization which was chaired by Hon. Sören Häggroth, State Secretary for Housing and Deputy Minister for Finance of Sweden, who is also co-chair of the World Urban Forum. There was also a dialogue on The Right to the City. The World Urban Forum will continue until 3 May 2002.

For further information, please contact:
Mr. Sharad Shankardass, Spokesperson, Ms. Zahra Hassan, Press & Media Liaison, Press & Media Relations Unit,
Tel: (254 2) 623153/623151, Fax: (254 2) 624060, E-mail: habitat.press@unhabitat.org, Website: www.unhabitat.org

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