Annan highlights UN agency's role in building better cities

5 May 2003

As the governing board of the United Nations agency for urban settlements opened its annual session today in Kenya, Secretary-General Kofi Annan reminded delegates that the world is counting on them to guide the collective efforts to build peaceful and prosperous cities.

In a message to the UN Human Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT) meeting, Mr. Annan noted that the agency has been at the forefront of helping governments manage the complex problems of urbanization, including successful post-conflict rehabilitation and the reconstruction of urban areas, and that the global community continues to count on this strategic vision.

The Governing Council of UN-HABITAT - the UN agency mandated to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing shelter for all - is meeting through tomorrow in Nairobi to discuss the agency's work programme and budget for 2004-2005. This year's session will also focus on themes related to urban development and shelter strategies favouring the poor, and the rural dimension of sustainable urban development.

In his message, which was delivered on his behalf by UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka, Mr. Annan said: "Indeed, such concerns and challenges - including the need to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020 - are at the hearts of the Millennium Development Goals and other commitments made by world leaders."

Mr. Annan added that good governance was a crucial factor in attracting the financing necessary to improve conditions in slums and provide safe water and sanitation services. He also urged the Council to take a holistic approach that takes into account the economic and environmental concerns of a city's neighbouring rural communities.

In her own policy statement, Ms. Tibaijuka warned that, "If we do not commit the necessary resources and the proper capabilities to managing the problems of urbanization, cities will continue to be seen as a development problem and not as a solution."