Global perspective Human stories

UN urges countries to improve living environment of poor on World Habitat Day

UN urges countries to improve living environment of poor on World Habitat Day

Highlighting the plight of the 1 billion poor people living without adequate shelter and basic services in squalid conditions and squatter settlements, the United Nations today urged the world community to rid its cities of slums during its annual observance on the state of human settlements and the basic right to adequate shelter.

"With over half of humanity now living in cities and towns, the challenge of the urban millennium is to improve the living environment of the poor," said Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), in her opening remarks to this year's global observance of World Habitat Day in Fukuoka, Japan.

The theme of this year's celebrations is "Cities without Slums." Earlier this year, at the UN General Assembly's follow-up session to a 1996 meeting in Istanbul on human settlements, Governments pledged to promote the upgrading of slums and squatter settlements within the legal framework of each country. They also reiterated their commitment to meeting the goals of last year's Millennium Summit, at which governments endorsed the specific target of making a significant improvement in the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a message delivered on his behalf by Ms. Tibaijuka, said slum dwellers in India, South Africa, the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere have all demonstrated their willingness, skills and ingenuity in improving their living conditions. He called on the international community and citizens everywhere to "pledge to do their part in turning slums into sustainable neighbourhoods fit for families, fit for living, fit for the future."

For his part, Dr. Han Seung-soo, President of the UN General Assembly, urged the world community to work together to build a world without slums, where everyone could live in housing that provided safety and comfort, while enhancing human dignity.

"To achieve the goals set forth in the Habitat agenda, ensuring transparent, effective and accountable governance at city and national level are of vital importance," he said. "We need to address in an integrated manner all relevant socio-economic parameters, including poverty, homelessness, unemployment, vulnerable and marginalized groups and the environmental dimension. Forging public-private partnerships is also crucial to translating policies into concrete measures, taking into account the ever-growing global interdependence."