[Dateline: Nairobi | Author: iSeek]
As communities across the world mark World Habitat Day 2008 on Monday, 6 October, the Nairobi-based UN agency, UN-Habitat, is urging all staff to encourage their children to join in the celebration by taking a few minutes at home or in class to reflect on how to live in harmony with others.
To help them do this, the agency has designed an exercise dubbed "Harmonious Cities" and is encouraging staff to share it with their children’s class and teacher or to work on it at home with their children.
"Harmonious Cities," which is also the theme for World Habitat Day 2008, seeks to help teach children the values of tolerance, respect for others, caring for the environment and sharing what they have with others.
The agency is encouraging children around the world to take part in the celebration by taking a few minutes to download and complete the exercise.
About the Day
World Habitat Day is a special United Nations day marked across the world on the first Monday in October. “It is a day when we think about cities and where and how we live,” explained the agency. The global observance of the occasion this year will be led from the Angolan capital, Luanda.
Experts say more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, with some lacking the basic necessities of life, such as sanitation facilities. “This year, World Habitat Day is about Harmonious Cities and how all of us, rich, poor, young and old can live together better in more caring and cleaner cities.”
On the occasion of World Habitat Day 2008, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Ms. Anna Tibaijuka said in her message, “The challenges of climate change and urban poverty are inextricably linked and both depend on making our cities more harmonious.”
She explained, “Our experience working with Governments, local authorities, communities and the private sector around the world gives us good insights into tackling these challenges.”
Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon in a statement to mark the day said m any of the world’s most pressing challenges - poverty, natural disasters, escalating prices for food and fuel - have important links with rapid urbanization.
Housing on the UN Agenda
As of 2005, slightly more than one third of the urban population in developing regions lived in slum conditions. In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion was over 60 percent, meaning that large investments will be necessary, for example to provide access to water, sanitation, durable housing or sufficient living space. “But even in that region, and in others where deprivation is not as acute, simple, low-cost interventions could go a long way,” said the Secretary-General.
The Millennium Development Goals call for a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. Cities, Mr. BAN said, have tremendous potential to be places where balanced development prevails, where diverse people live in harmony, and where healthy living conditions coexist with low levels of energy consumption, resource-use and waste.
Urbanization, he says, changes forever how land, water and energy are used. “Done well, it can bring people choices and help them thrive. Done poorly, it reduces safety, despoils the environment and exacerbates the marginalization of those who are already suffering and excluded.”
A rapidly urbanizing world cannot claim to be harmonious, if slum-dwellers do not enjoy opportunities to find jobs and improve their living conditions. “Nor will it be harmonious if the growth and expansion of urban areas comes at the expense of the natural environment,” he stated.
He called on all partners to do their utmost to realize this potential, and to build decent living conditions for all women, men and children in a way that preserves natural heritage and promotes greener and smarter growth.
In Bangkok , the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and UN-HABITAT are launching free on-line Quick Guides to help policy-makers deal with the key issues of housing the urban poor in the region and in response to the unprecedented growth of slums and squatter settlements, which have become home to over 500 million people in the Asia-Pacific region.
The seven Quick Guides are presented in an easy-to-read format. They include an overview of trends and key issues, and recommendations of policies and tools.
It will be released on 6 October as part of the observance of World Habitat Day and will be launched in Cambodia simultaneously and in Indonesia in late October. It was launched in Nepal on Monday, 29 September.
A statement by ESCAP and UN Information Services in Bangkok said the work presents inclusive and sustainable policies needed to empower the urban poor to leap out of poverty - a critical first step towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals.