UN chief calls for more efforts to reduce global urban poverty

10:56, October 05, 2010      

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UN Secretary-general Ban Ki- moon on Monday called for strengthened efforts to reduce urban poverty by helping billions of people who live in slums and substandard housing in cities worldwide.

"Typically living in developing countries, and largely powerless, disenfranchised and under the age of 25, the urban poor are too often condemned to a life without basic rights, hope of an education or decent work," the secretary-general said here in a message to mark the World Habitat Day.

Since 1995, the United Nations designated the first Monday of October every year as the World Habitat Day to have a day to reflect on the state of towns and cities and the basic right of all, to adequate shelter.

It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.

With the theme "Better City, Better Life," this year's observance focuses on the actions and policies that can improve the well-being for those who live in slums and other substandard housing around the world, said Ban in the message.

"Lacking adequate provision of freshwater, electricity, sanitation or health care, they suffer privations that all too often provide the tinder for the fires of social unrest," Ban said. "Vulnerable to exploitation and corruption, they need and deserve better cities and a better life."

Challenges of urban poverty which range from pollution to criminal gang culture are not "insurmountable," Ban said, adding that many cities are finding successful solutions.

"Smart cities" recognize the importance of good governance, basic urban services for all, and streets and public spaces where women and children feel safe, Ban said.

They also recognize that better cities can help to mitigate global challenges, such as climate change, by promoting energy conservation and environmental sustainability, he said.

"Creating better cities demands the combined efforts of national and local governments, civil society and the private sector, supported by the best efforts of the United Nations system, " Ban urged.

For his part, Inga Bjork-Klevby, the officer-in-charge of the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT), highlighted efforts toward improving the world's cities, adding that trends indicate two thirds of humanity will be living in towns and cities within the next two generations.

She called for planners, officials and developers to create " smarter" cities for better livelihoods, greater investment in human capital, enhanced political and cultural inclusion and sustainable economic opportunities.

Events all around the world are taking place to mark the World Habitat Day. This year's theme is similar to that of the Shanghai World Expo, where UN-HABITAT has a vibrant role, and where a series of celebrations will take place on Monday.

"On the World Habitat Day, let us pledge to join hands to make better cities for a better future for all," Ban added.

Source: Xinhua


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