On World Habitat Day, UN Encourages All to Build on Urban Opportunities
In celebrating this year’s World Habitat Day in Embu, Kenya, the UN’s city agency, UN-Habitat has called for nations and citizens alike to harness the opportunities found in cities and towns to encourage social and economic development.
In the context of pressing economic times and increasing urban populations, especially among the youth, this year’s theme Changing cities, building opportunities rings especially true. In an official statement, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said “This year’s Rio +20 conference on sustainable development recognized the importance of cities to economically, socially and environmentally sustainable societies…On this World Habitat Day, let us urgently commit to work together for integrated, holistic management of the urban environment for the benefit of people and the planet.”
In his statement, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Joan Clos, said that the quest to improve our cities is now more urgent than ever.
“Given that, historically, urbanisation has been a source of development rather than a result of it, it is clear that it can be used as a powerful tool for transforming production capacities and income levels in developing countries,” said Clos. “This requires a mindset shift on the part of decision makers, away from viewing urbanisation as a problem, and instead towards seeing it as a tool for development.”
Hosted by the Government of Kenya, the day’s events were held at the Embu Municipal Stadium and opened by Joan Clos; Soita Shitanda, the Kenya Minister for Housing; George Owuor, Permanent Representative of the Kenya Mission to the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON) and Peter Muriithi Nyaga, the Mayor of Embu.
The theme Changing Cities, Building Opportunities was chosen for this year’s event because cities are the engines of growth. When planned well, cities can continue to provide opportunities to current and future residents, while the unplanned growth of cities leads to chaotic development and urban sprawl. This ties in with the new UN-Habitat campaign, I am a city changer which seeks to involve all in making their cities a better place to live.
The latest edition of UN-Habitat’s flagship report, The State of World’s Cities 2012 -2013: the Prosperity of Cities, calls for new thinking on how we can advance towards the urban future, particularly in seeking for shared and holistic prosperity. By concentrating on the urban future, this year’s event aims to focus international attention to the impact of rapid urban growth and opportunities that cities can offer.
The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day. It offers a chance to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter, basic urban services and urban mobility. The day also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.