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UN-Habitat Executive Director awarded prestigious environmental prize
25 November 2009 / 11:51

[Dateline: Nairobi | Author: iSeek]

's Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka was awarded 
the Göteborg Award for sustainable development  for 2009, for her lifelong work towards making urban habitat a better place to live.

She will officially receive her prize on 26 November in the Swedish town home of the ten-year-old Award alongside Enrique Peñalosa, the former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia and Sören Hermansen, who contributed to making the island of Samsö, Denmark, carbon-free.

Mrs. Tibaijuka’s share of the prize money - one million Swedish crowns ($147,000) split among the three recipients - will be 
allocated to a global UN-HABITAT youth fund that supports young people living in slums and other sub-standard housing.

The Göteborg Award is widely considered equivalent to the Nobel Prize for the environment.

“Projections show that by the year 2030, two-thirds of humanity will be urbanized. Cities represent 75 per cent of all energy consumption and generate 80 per cent of the carbon emissions that cause climate change. Yet our urban centres continue spewing out more and more of the pollutants that cause climate change and thus contribute to the increasing numbers of freak storms, floods, droughts and other disasters we are experiencing,” said Mrs. Tibaijuka.                                                                     

“Today some 1 billion people mainly live in slums and other sub-standard housing around the world, and they are most vulnerable of all when it comes to disasters caused by climate change,” she added.

According to its Executive Director, UN-HABITAT is one of the few UN bodies that works with organizations at every level, including local governments to build, manage, plan and finance cities without slums that are livable places for all, and which do not pollute the environment or deplete natural resources.

An economist by profession, Anna Tibaijuka was also just yesterday awarded an honorary doctorate  by the Warsaw School of Economics, at a glittering ceremony marking the first time that the university has bestowed such an award on a woman in its more than 100 years of existence.

She was highly commended for her achievements in increasing global awareness of poverty and social injustice, especially among the world’s 1 billion slum dwellers and others living in sub-standard housing.  Her 
commitment to improving the lives of disadvantaged youth was especially emphasized.

“She demonstrates what African women can achieve if given a chance,” said Professor Havenevik of the Warsaw School of Economics, who also described her as a “social activist in her own right who has been at the forefront of the gender equality and women’s empowerment movement in Tanzania, and globally.” 

Mrs. Tibaijuka just published in October a book entitled Building Prosperity: Housing and Economic Development, with a foreword by Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon. 

Mrs. Tibaijuka says housing provision is so central to social and economic well being that policy makers need to act on this rather than continue to treat the activity as a mere social good. The book calls for adequate and decent housing to be provided for people around the world, adding that due to its widespread impact in developing skills, decent housing would improve workers health and increase their productivity.