Global perspective Human stories

UN-HABITAT launches global Internet discussion on improving urban life

UN-HABITAT launches global Internet discussion on improving urban life

Preparing for the third session the World Urban Forum in Canada next June on improving city life, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and its partners are planning to launch what organizers hope will be the world's biggest Internet discussion to date.

For the first three days in December, thousands of global citizens, rich or poor, will present their ideas online for presentation at the biennial Forum in Vancouver on the sustainable management of urban development in a rapidly urbanizing world, the Kenyan-based UN programme said.

Planners, builders, politicians and representatives of Governments and the private sector will join in the 72-hour problem-solving blitz, moderated by Government leaders, renowned experts and key creative thinkers, HABITAT said.

Grassroots organizations, institutions, women's and youth groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are helping people who lack access to computers to register and share their views, too, on such topics as improving the lives of slum dwellers, as well as on municipal finance and governance, access to water and sanitation, environmental sustainability, safety and urban crime and the future of the world's cities. The initiative is being labelled Habitat JAM.

"We live in an increasingly urban world which is unfortunately divided between the North and the South. What is worse is that in most cities, wherever they are, people are forced to live in divided cities," UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka said in announcing the forum last week.

"Cities in developing countries are suffering from problems associated with rapid urbanization, which has led to over 1 billion people living in slums without adequate shelter and basic services," she observed. "In developed countries, citizens suffer from the effects of ill-planned cities and environmental degradation."

At the heart of the crisis has been a failure to allow the full participation of ordinary people in urban development, she said, adding: "It is my hope that innovative technologies associated with Habitat JAM will help bring people closer together to plan and develop truly human settlements."

Canadian Minister of Labour and Housing Joe Fontana said his country is pleased to partner with UN-HABITAT and IBM "to introduce this experimental form of problem-solving – a dialogue that cuts across the borders and silos of politics, culture, economics, social class and expertise to extract concrete solutions to the urgent and controversial issues facing our rapidly urbanizing planet."