UN forum kicks off with call to improve conditions for the urban poor

UN-Habitat Governing Council kicks off in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: UN-HABITAT.

15 April 2013 – A United Nations forum in Kenya today called on governments to improve living conditions for millions of people in urban areas across the world, stressing that they need to respond to the demands of young and poor citizens who make up a significant portion of city dwellers.

“The majority of the world’s urban growth is taking place in developing countries, where many urban centers already have inadequate infrastructure and where many authorities are looking for ways to respond adequately to the demands of their rapidly expanding urban populations, especially the young and the poor,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message to the 24th session of the UN-HABITAT Governing Council, delivered by the Director-General of the UN Office in Nairobi, Sahle-Work Zewde.

Half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and a third of them are in slums and informal settlements. By the year 2050, over 70 per cent of the world’s population will be living in cities.

UN-HABITAT Executive Director Joan Clos reminded delegates at the forum that earlier this month Mr. Ban called for accelerated action from governments, international organizations and civil society groups in the next 1,000 days to reach the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the deadline of the end of 2015.

“We have met the quantitative target of improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers out of a total of 760 million in 2000,” Mr. Clos said. “This is an achievement, but this figure hides a reality. This welcome cut has been dramatically surpassed by the increased number of new arrivals to the slums. The total number of people living in slums has increased from 760 million in 2000 to 863 million in 2012.”

Mr. Clos added that the way governments develop their villages, towns and cities in the near future will have a significant impact on the quality of life of millions of citizens.

The week-long forum is being attended by government ministers from around the world, who will discuss urban policy guidelines as well as the work and budget of UN-Habitat. The forum occurs every two years and this session’s theme focuses on the role of cities in creating improved economic opportunities for all, with special reference to youth and gender.

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