Upcoming General Assembly session to address global lack of adequate shelter

Upcoming General Assembly session to address global lack of adequate shelter

A special meeting of the General Assembly on human settlements set to open next week will confront the world's growing homelessness and lack of adequate shelter, according to a key United Nations official associated with the event.

Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), told a press briefing today that the General Assembly's special session on the implementation of the Habitat Agenda - a global plan of action adopted five years ago at a UN conference in Istanbul - would focus on accomplishments to date. "Basically, this special session is not negotiating anything new; it is a stock-taking exercise to try to see what we have achieved, what progress has been made, and what have been the problems," she said.

While implementing the Habitat Agenda might appear simple, the task had proved complex, she said. "Fifty per cent of humanity is now marching to cities, we are still faced with the challenges of increasing homelessness, the challenge of increasing inadequate shelter," said Ms. Tibaijuka. She noted that currently, 1.2 billion people worldwide lacked proper housing.

While there had been some progress since the 1995 Habitat Conference, many people - particularly in the developing world - were crowded into squatter settlements, she observed. "But also all is not well even in the North," Ms. Tibaijuka added, pointing out that in the developed world, "there is a high level of exclusion, inner-city decay continues, and the net effect of poverty is inadequate shelter."

The three-day special session, which starts on Wednesday, will be accompanied by a number of parallel events, including a "Meeting of Mayors" which will bring together municipal leaders from around the world.