|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on 2009 Global Human Settlements Report
At a Headquarters press conference today, the United Nations Agency dealing with human settlements launched a global report that backed a unified approach to urban planning -- one that recognized key factors shaping twenty-first century cities, especially the demographic, environmental, economic and socio-spatial challenges -- by all stakeholders involved in the process of accommodating the lives of millions of people in rapidly growing cities around the world.
Five days after World Habitat Day in Washington, D.C., the first time the annual global celebration was hosted by the United States, and less than six months ahead of the World Urban Forum, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) launched its new publication Planning Sustainable Cities: Global Report on Human Settlement 2009.
Naison Mutizwa-Mangiza, lead author of the report and Chief of Policy Analysis and Dialogue Branch, Monitoring and Research Division at UN-Habitat, said climate change and other environmental concerns -- demographics, poverty, public transportation systems dependent on fossil fuels, and aging cities -- were among the challenges that faced cities and urban planners in all regions. The report looked at urban planning systems around the world and assessed the effectiveness of urban planning as a tool to deal with the twenty-first century’s challenges.
“How can (urban planning) be reformed to contribute to the economic and social goals of sustainable organizations?” asked Mr. Mutizwa-Mangiza, adding that urban planners were responding to increased decentralization, democratization and calls for greater participation by urban actors.
Moreover, as cities in the global South coped with sprawling slums and the cities in the developed North dealt with the impact of climate change and urban sprawl, urban planners everywhere needed to revitalize the field with new institutional and regulatory frameworks, the involvement of community groups and updated education curriculum.
“We are making good progress and the report has been taken on board by professional associations in the North and South,” he said. Joining Mr. Mutizwa‑Mangiza at the press conference was Sharad Shankardass, Spokesperson for UN-Habitat, who added: “A consensus has emerged. All the think tanks, non-governmental organizations, the Governments […] they want to make sure urban planning is resuscitated.”
In response to a reporter’s question on how to ensure that all actors involved in the urban planning process were engaged in the same sound practices, Mr. Mutizwa-Mangiza said UN-Habitat had also published a report on policy directions that was meant for Government policymakers at the national and local levels. Workshops would also be held in cities around the world to bring the information contained in the reports to city planners, Government leaders and others involved in the process.
He also said it was important to make urban planning relevant to people in developing countries, where such planning was frequently seen as irrelevant and a “cumbersome idea” from the North. It was also important to bring investors on board to show how they could contribute through, for example, the building of infrastructure.
In response to a question about forced evictions and the situation in Angola, where World Habitat Day was held in 2008, Mr. Shankardass said the United Nations was against forced evictions that were not legally moderated. Any evictions should include a mediation process with the affected community that first found alternative land for people evicted from their homes. But the Agency could not be against all evictions as, at times, people needed to be removed from hazardous living locales.
One key message of the 2009 Human Settlements Report was that Governments needed to take a more central role in cities and towns to lead development initiatives and ensure basic needs were met. Curriculum in many urban planning schools also needed to be updated to meet today’s challenges, added Mr. Mutizwa‑Mangiza.
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