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close this bookHabitat Debate - Vol. 6 - No. 4 - 2000 - Urbanization of Poverty (HABITAT - UNDESA, 2000, 52 p.)
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Habitat News

Tibaijuka Urges Women to Play a Greater Role in Urban Governance

In his message on the occasion of World Habitat Day, which was celebrated in Kingston, Jamaica, on 2 October, 2000, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, called for the greater involvement of women in the governance of urban neighbourhoods. The message was read on behalf of the Secretary-General by Anna Tibaijuka, the new Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat).

"In theory, the poor are excluded from governance regardless of gender. In practice, it is women, even more than men, who must confront the consequences of other peoples decisions," said the UN Secretary General. "That is why this year’s World Habitat Day is dedicated to enhancing the role and presence of women in urban governance."

In her opening address, Mrs. Tibaijuka thanked the Government of Jamaica for hosting this year’s observances. She called upon the assembled delegates, the UN system and other partners to honour the commitments made in Beijing to ensure women’s right to equal representation, particularly in the field of urban governance.

"In a rapidly urbanizing world, where over 2.5 billion people live in towns and cities, the concerns of half of this population are not represented. Yet we know that the urban needs of women are different from men’s," said Mrs. Tibaijuka. "I therefore call for the greater participation of women decision makers in local authorities. This is the best way to address urban issues which are important to women."

Each year, the United Nations’ World Habitat Day is held on the first Monday in October; celebrations are organized all over the world. The theme for the year 2000 was Women in Urban Governance and the global celebrations were hosted by the Government of Jamaica. Delegates came from all over the world and included participants from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

The international and local delegates were welcomed by the Mayor of Kingston and St. Andrew, Her Worship, Marie Atkins, who is one of the few women mayors in the world. In her opening address, the UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Gillian Lindsay-Nanton supported the call for greater participation of women in urban governance. In his welcoming address, Honourable Seymour Mullings, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Land and Environment of the Government of Jamaica, noted that, given the theme of the year 2000 celebrations, it was fitting that the new Executive Director at the helm of Habitat should be a woman.

UNCHS (Habitat), which is the UN agency responsible for cities and other human settlements, is prioritizing the needs of women and their participation in urban governance. Habitat’s campaigns for Secure Tenure and Good Urban Governance are committed to changing the circumstances of women in poor urban areas. The increasing urbanization of poverty and the high proportion of women headed households in informal settlements makes it important to address their concerns. Evidence from projects from all over the world suggest that when women are included in the policy making process, this brings about the "politics of care".

To highlight the importance of the role of women in urban governance, the year 2000 Habitat Scroll of Honour was awarded to projects that have helped increase the influence and participation of women.

"These awards send a signal to the world that increasing the role and participation of women in urban governance is not just a question of social justice and the fulfillment of basic rights, but is also a question of efficiency," said Mrs. Tibaijuka. "Including women in urban governance will make cities and urban neighbourhoods work better."

The Habitat Scroll of Honour Award Winners for the year 2000 were:

Mr. Charles Keenja (Tanzania)
for his successful leadership in making Dar es Salaam a safer and sustainable city.

Ms. Mmatshilo Motsei (South Africa)
for having succeeded, as Director of ADAPT, in fighting violence against women by not only involving female survivors but male offenders too.

Ms. Sheela Patel (India)
for continuously promoting participatory urban governance and security of tenure in India.

Ms. Mary Jane Ortega (Philippines)
for advocating the empowerment of women and drawing support for her city’s sustainable development strategy.

Mrs. Jacqueline daCosta (Jamaica)
for her outstanding contribution to the development of shelter strategies both locally and internationally.

Ms. Caroline Pezzullo (U.S.A.)
for her work in nurturing the development of global networks of community based women’s groups, and bringing their voices into policy debate.

Ms. Ana Vasilache (Romania)
for her dedication to improving urban governance in Romania and Central and Eastern Europe.

Women and Peace Network
for reaching out to women’s organizations in war-torn societies and promoting their participation in reconstruction programmes.

International Union of Local Authorities
for its lead role in championing the role of women in local government worldwide.

For more information, please contact:
Mr. Amrik Kalsi, Coordinator
World Habitat Day
UNCHS (Habitat), P.O. Box 30030
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-623124, Fax: 254-2-624060
E-mail: [email protected]

Millennium Summit Pledges to Improve Lives of 100 Million Slum Dwellers

The 150 Heads of State and Government who attended the Millennium Summit in early September 2000 at the United Nations in New York pledged to achieve the target of the Cities Alliance Cities Without Slums action plan, and incorporated their commitment in the Millennium Summit Declaration (A/RES/55/2). Paragraph 19 of the Declaration, which adopts specific goals for poverty reduction, reads as follows: "We resolve further: (...) by 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers as proposed in the Cities Without Slums initiative." The Cities Without Slums Action Plan was developed in 1999 within the framework of the Cities Alliance, a joint initiative launched by UNCHS (Habitat) and the World Bank.

The U.N. Secretary-General had previously noted in his report to the Millennium Summit entitled "We the peoples: the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century" (paras 134 to 138) that "the World Bank and the United Nations have joined forces to respond to this challenge, by building a global alliance of cities and their development partners" (the Cities Alliance), and by launching the Cities Without Slums action plan. The Secretary-General expressed support of the action plan, asking all UN Member States to act on it. The commitment made to the targets of the action plan by the Millennium Summit is of critical importance for all partners of the Cities Alliance to achieve the goals of this initiative and contribute meaningfully to the reduction of urban poverty.

The Cities Alliance

The Cities Alliance is an expanding partnership of those institutions and donors who believe the time has come to forge a new approach to urban development and to support the initiatives of the poor. Other development agencies have joined to expand the partnership to a scale commensurate with the nature and size of the challenge.

UNCHS (Habitat) is the focal point within the United Nations system for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. Habitat has completed a comprehensive revitalisation exercise, adopting the style and profile of an advocacy agency. The World Bank has just launched a new urban and local government development strategy, indicating a wholly new orientation and importance for urban development within the institution.

The Cities Alliance provides expanded operational capacity to the urban strategy being developed within and between the two founding organizations. The decision by Habitat to launch two global campaigns provides an overarching long-term framework and a vehicle for the Cities Alliance, as it is for helping implement the Bank’s strategy. The Global Campaign for Secure Tenure provides a framework for slums upgrading, whereas the Global Campaign on Urban Governance mirrors the Bank’s search for well-managed cities. It is this synergy that is captured by the Cities Alliance.

To succeed, however, the Cities Alliance has to expand beyond the two founding partners and continue to attract a broader constituency of development agencies. The Cities Alliance is now a broad and growing partnership of bilateral and multilateral agencies, donors and associations of local authorities, poised to mobilize global commitment and resources.

At the heart of making this approach a reality is the need for city governments to demonstrate a clear vision, underwritten by solid political will. This must be the first point of departure for the Cities Alliance; it is precisely these leaders and these cities that the Alliance will seek as partners.

For further information,
please visit the Cities Alliance

Campaign for Secure Tenure Launched in Europe

Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, the new Executive Director of Habitat, presided over the European Launch of the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure, as part of the European Housing Forum Conference on Access to Housing in the European Union, held at the UNESCO offices in Paris on 14 September, 2000.

Speaking in her first public engagement since assuming office, Mrs Tibaijuka said that the Campaign marked a new style of United Nations activity. The Campaign focuses on the importance of engaging organizations representing the inadequately housed and the homeless, and pays particular attention to the role of women. which Mrs Tibaijuka highlighted as "...possibly the single most important development question we face, and one which will move to the top of the United Nations development agenda".

Habitat’s Global Campaign for Secure Tenure is part of a rights based approach to development. The campaign promotes the granting of security of tenure as an essential and catalytic element of a sustainable pro-poor shelter policy, and the removal of social and legal discrimination against women, particularly in respect of access to property title and equal inheritance rights. The Global Campaign was first launched in India and subsequently in Kosovo.

The European launch in Paris took place within the larger debate over the adoption of the right to housing in Europe. The Executive Director of Habitat and the assembled delegates from EU countries, as well as non-EU countries, were welcomed by Ms. Francine Fournier, Assistant Director General for Social Human Sciences in UNESCO. In her welcoming address, Mrs. Fournier pointed out that UNESCO shared Habitat’s concerns about humanizing the urban environment and placing human concerns at the centre of urban development. This is why they fully supported the Habitat Agenda and Habitat’s Campaign on Secure Tenure.

For more information, please contact:
Ali Shabou, Information Manager
Campaign for Secure Tenure
E-mail: [email protected]

Educational Posters on Low-cost Building Technologies

Over the years, Habitat has published many publications on building materials and technologies, the dissemination of which has been limited due to high costs. In order to reach a wider audience and to facilitate training in building skills, UNCHS jointly with the Auroville Building Centre (India), has completed (on CD-ROM) a set of educational posters on five low-cost building technologies (rammed earth, compressed earth blocks, ferrocement channels, dome construction and vault construction) to be used in construction training programmes. The posters will be distributed in paper form as well as electronically through the web.

For more information, please contact:
Rainer Nordberg
Programme Officer,
Housing Policy Unit,
UNCHS (Habitat)
Tel: (254-2) 623109
E-mail: [email protected]

Chengdu International Conference on Urban Construction and the Environment

The Chengdu International Conference was part of the preparatory process for Istanbul+5, the special session of the UN General Assembly to be held in June 2001 on the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. The objective of the Conference was to promote the sharing and exchange of lessons learned from experience.

Selected best practices formed the basis of discussions and deliberations on:

1. City Development Strategies: Presentations on this topic were made by Mafikeng, South Africa; Sevilla, Spain, Hamilton-Wentworth, Canada; and Chengdu, China.

2. Urban Governance: Presentations were made by Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; Naga City, The Philippines; Porto Alegre, Brazil; and Tilburg, The Netherlands.

3. Access to Land, Housing Finance and Shelter: Presentations were made by Villa El Salvador, Peru; Teresina, Brazil; Zhongshan, China; Vienna, Austria; and Phoenix, USA.

These cities and communities illustrated that the decentralisation and empowerment of local authorities, the participatory decision-making and partnerships between the public, private and community sectors can be effective in meeting the challenges of urbanisation and in finding solutions to some of the world’s most pressing social, economic and environmental problems. Comprehensive planning and management, good governance, secure tenure, gender equity and social inclusion, and access to information were seen as critical contributing factors to more sustainable social and economic development and the protection of the environment.

The Conference resulted in the Chengdu Declaration focusing on the role and contribution of local authorities and their civil society partners in improving the living environment, and calls for, inter alia, new and improved methods of international co-operation based on the transfer of lessons learned from best practices. The Conference report and the Chengdu Declaration are available on:

Ten Best Practices Awarded Prizes at Glittering Ceremony

On 20 November 2000 in Dubai, U.A.E.,S heikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Department of Civil Aviation and Chairman of Emirates, presented the Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment (DIABP) to 10 exemplary initiatives which brought about significant changes to cities and communities in Angola, Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, India, Nepal, Spain, Sudan and Turkey. Each winner received a golden Barjeel (traditional Arabian wind tower) trophy, US$30,000 and a certificate.

This year’s winners were selected by a five-member international jury from 740 submissions received from more than 115 countries in a three-phase process that included validations by the award’s 25 worldwide partners. The winners were selected taking into consideration the three basic criteria: impact, partnership and sustainability. Sixteen best practices had bagged this award in the previous two editions.

The award, sponsored by the Municipality of Dubai in collaboration with the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), is awarded every two years to projects that have made a positive contribution to improving the quality of life in cities and communities around the world.

The two-hour ceremony, held at a hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, was attended by ministers, members of diplomatic corps and top local and visiting officials. A short film on the evolution of the award was also screened.

The practices which received the award were:

Sulabh International (India)

Women’s Empowerment Programme (Nepal)

Shambob Brick Producers Co- operative Society (Sudan)

Luanda Sul Self-Financed Urban Infrastructure Program (Angola)

Programme in Public Security, Human Rights and Citizenship (Brazil)

Sustainable Community Programme of Hamilton- Wentworth (Canada)

Revitalization of Fu and Nan Rivers and Improvement of Urban Environment in Chengdu (China)

Democratization of Municipal Management for Equitable and Sustainable Development (Ecuador)

Greenways Programme (Spain)

Tourism and Coastal Zone Management in Ciral (Turkey).

In his welcome speech, Qassim Sultan, Director General of Dubai Municipality and Chairman of the 11-member DIABP Board of Trustees, said the objective of making a submission to the award was not only to win it but also to enable others to make use of and learn from the best practices.

"A number of countries and organizations concerned with improving the living standards of their people have already done so by transferring their best practices and expertise to others. This is what we really are aiming for," he remarked. These types of commendable works were not new to the United Arab Emirates as the region has always sought to encourage projects that serve humanity, he added.

In a message read on his behalf, Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stated that the common features of the best practices - partnership, participation, decentralization empowerment and judicious use of information - embodied the new paradigms of governance required to tackle global economic, social and environmental problems.

Mr. Annan called upon the winners to continue their efforts and to join hands with the international community to help the many others struggling to make their cities and communities safer, healthier, more equitable and sustainable.

In a message read on her behalf, Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the UNCHS (Habitat), said that best practices had become an important means of building awareness of critical social, economic and environmental issues associated with urbanization and globalization. She said that best practices had also become a highly effective tool for the sharing of knowledge and networking. Mrs. Tibaijuka added that the governments of China, India and Spain, the Economic Bank of Brazil, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), the Huairou Commission, UNESCO, UNEP and other UN agencies have all initiated similar award systems and forms of recognition. These efforts, she said, were all concrete expressions of implementing the Habitat Agenda - the global action plan adopted at the Habitat II Conference in 1996.

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Nicholas You
Information & Best Practices
UNCHS (Habitat)
P.O. Box 30030
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel:+254-2-623 029,
Fax:+254-2-623 080
E-mail: [email protected]