With more than 3 billion people – one third of humanity – facing the prospect of living in slums by 2050 if present trends continue, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today dismissed evictions and demolitions as the answer, calling instead for pro-poor urban development.
“The build-up of slums and informal settlements occurs in large part because of policies and exclusionary practices that deny public services and basic facilities – including water, sanitation, health and education – to informal settlements that are deemed illegal,” he said in a message marking World Habitat Day.
“Evictions and demolitions are not the answer to the challenges of rapid urbanization. We must have pro-poor, participatory urban development in which women and men are empowered to manage their communities, and where development is carried out with respect for human rights and in accordance with international law,” he added.
World Habitat Day which is celebrated in cities around the world, is being spearheaded this year from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, to remind the world that countless thousands of homes were destroyed last December by the tsunami killer wave that so devastated Indonesia’s Banda Aceh coastline and other Indian Ocean countries.
Mr. Annan noted that recovery efforts are moving beyond immediate disaster mitigation and humanitarian relief in the stricken areas, and are now focused on establishing sound physical and land-use plans and using appropriate building technologies to protect new settlements and people from similar threats in the future.
“This approach encompasses land and property administration, local governance, institutional development, capacity-building and the special needs and concerns of women. Amid the ongoing hardship, there are signs of hope that we can help build new lives and new opportunities,” he said.
“We need to give the millions of slum dwellers who are suffering from the slow-motion tsunami of rapid urbanization the same chance.”
From the richest countries to the poorest, the Day was being marked with special ceremonies. In the West African nation of Benin, a conference was being held on poor health from water and degradation of the urban environment, while in Switzerland the non-governmental organization, Urbanistes sans Frontières, ran a special workshop.
In New York, UN-HABITAT, the world body’s human settlements agency, together with Habitat for Humanity International and the Earth Institute at Columbia University were bringing together United Nations diplomats and representatives from faith-based and civil society organizations to take part in voluntary activities with families at a worksite in Harlem.
And in Bolivia, La Paz municipality was holding a public meeting in one of the capital’s main squares and a seminar for government and nongovernmental institutions
on the right to shelter.