BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE FIFTY EIGHT SESSION
OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
ON WORLD HABITAT DAY
6 OCTOBER 2003
more than one billion of the world's people living in slums,
World Habitat Day should not only compel us to reflect on
their plight, but should also give added impetus to our
goal of providing adequate shelter for all.
urban poor is the focus of this year's World Habitat Day.
The theme, "Water and Sanitation in the World's Cities"
reminds us that so many of the world's people live without
adequate shelter or basic services such as clean water or
sanitation. According to the latest report from the United
Nations Human Settlements Programme, "The Challenge
of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlements 2003",
the population of urban slum dwellers could double to two
billion within the next thirty years. This is a alarming
prospect. It is equally alarming that 40 per cent of the
urban population in developing countries live in slums.
Millennium Declaration, signed by world leaders, commits
all member states to take specific action to address issues
such as poverty, hunger and shelter. It is fitting, therefore,
that the theme for World Habitat Day reinforces the Millennium
Development Goals, which aim to achieve, "significant
improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers
by the year 2020". The theme provides the context within
which we may all work to implement the specific Millennium
Development Goal to halve the number of poor people living
without clean water or adequate sanitation by 2015.
to safe drinking water, proper sanitation and adequate shelter
is taken for granted in many countries. But for tens of
millions of slum dwellers, a majority of whom live in developing
countries, the reality is very different. They are denied
the dignity of having a roof over their heads, clean water
to drink and proper sanitation. In an age of great leaps
in scientific and technological advancement, it is unacceptable
that so many people should be so disadvantaged. The world's
knowledge and resources would surely best be utilized to
improve the quality of life of human beings.
placed development at the top of my list of priorities for
the fifty-eighth session. I have done so not only to emphasize
the imperative of sustainable development but also because
global problems such as poverty, hunger and shelter belong
to all of us. Therefore, we must all work together - governments,
international organizations, civil society and individuals
- to ensure that people are given the means to lift themselves
out of the morass of poverty and to improve the quality
of their lives. We should not wait for our projected statistics
about how many will be living in slums, or how many will
not have access to clean water and sanitation to become
a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must commit the necessary
resources and exercise the political will to fulfill our
obligations to the people of the world now.
World Habitat Day, let us consider how each of us can work
together effectively to meet our goal of providing adequate
shelter for all, and to promote socially and environmentally
sustainable towns and cities. Improving sanitation and water
is a key element of meeting the habitat challenge.