Plight of world's cities described in new UN report on urban settlements

4 June 2001

The existing institutions governing the administration of cities are not adequate enough to manage today's sprawling urban centres, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) warned today during the launch of its first ever report on "The State of the World's Cities."

Introducing the publication at a press conference in New York, Habitat Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka said the challenge of a divided city was the main message in the report. "Not unlike Charles Dickens' time 150 years ago, the city is increasingly divided," she said. "The problems are the result of poverty and exclusion, in the context of globalization."

The Habitat chief said globalization had created opportunities, but had also led to many challenges, particularly for cities, which were now engaged in cut-throat competition to attract business. "Such competition has not necessary benefited all city residents," she said, pointing out that in many urban centres, there were very affluent central business districts in one area, and slum and squatter settlements in another. Africa, she said, posed a special challenge, because people there were moving away from wars in the countryside. "Hope lay in good governance and international solidarity," she added.

Jay Moor, the coordinator of the report, told the press that one of the messages from the analysis was that institutions had not been developed well enough to manage cities. "Indeed, the process of governing cities is just now being learned, and in very few places is it being done successfully," he said. "Many people have said that national governments are losing their authority in a globalizing world. In some ways, they are losing control over liberalized financial elements of globalization, but they still play a very strong role in development and regulation."

The new report - released just two days before the UN General Assembly is due to convene a special session to appraise recent global progress in the development of human settlements - is a situation analysis that paves the way for a more analytical in-depth version of Habitat's flagship report "Global Report on Human Settlements," which was also issued today in New York.


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