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Plight of urban poor spotlighted by Ban Ki-moon in message to UN meeting

Plight of urban poor spotlighted by Ban Ki-moon in message to UN meeting

Observing that this year half the world’s population lives in towns and cities for the first time in history, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for more efforts to mitigate the plight of the urban poor, who are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

“Urban poverty should be unacceptable in the new urban era,” especially given that the number of slum dwellers is expected to reach one billion during 2007, Mr. Ban said in a message to the 21st session of the Governing Council of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) in Nairobi, Kenya.

In the message, read by Inga Bjork-Klevby, UN-HABITAT’s Deputy Executive Director, Mr. Ban called for the international community’s support to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of improving the lives of 100 million slum residents by 2020, since “failure would risk massive social exclusion, with national and international repercussions.”

He also noted that while cities – which consume approximately 75 per cent of global energy and emit 80 per cent of greenhouse gases – cause much environmental damage, the urban poor is rendered helpless by natural disasters, made more frequent by climate change patterns, because they tend to live in unsafe places prone to ruin.

The Secretary-General said that he witnessed this problem first-hand on a visit to the Kibera slum in Nairobi, where slum dwellers, despite having resources, had no access to affordable credit, and where banks have funds but no means to lend money to the poor.

“I have the clear sense that time is not on our side,” Mr. Ban noted.

The meeting of UN-HABITAT, the UN agency that seeks to achieve sustainable development of human settlements, will conclude on 20 April.