|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by UN-Habitat Executive Director on World Urban Forum
The upcoming World Urban Forum would address the question of equity in development, the head of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat) said at a Headquarters news conference today.
“It would provide a good mixture of local experiences and best practices worldwide,” UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos said, highlighting that the biennial event, to be held from 5-11 April in Medellin, Colombia, would be a key platform for discussing the role of sustainable urbanization within the framework of the post-2015 development goals.
The Forum would gather 10,000 participants, including high-level Government officials, mayors, representatives of non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders, to explore ways to address inequity, which had become a universal problem, he said. Cities faced unrest and many other problems stemming from inequity while also drawing people displaced by natural disasters and conflicts.
The Forum would provide an opportunity to share experiences from each continent. For instance, participants from North Africa could share challenges following the Arab Spring democratic movements while those from sub-Saharan Africa could share how they were trying to equally distribute wealth to the population.
Replying to questions on sustainable cities and the 100 million people who lived in slums worldwide, he said that what was required was reducing the number of those in slums and providing clean water and sanitation. However, the reality was that the number of people living in those conditions was only increasing. Capacity of local authorities to address the issue and that of national governments to support them was not at the level to meet the challenge.
He said urban settlers would markedly increase over the coming decades, testing capacity to provide water, sanitation, energy and food. It had taken an entire human history for the number of urban settlers to reach 3.5 billion. It would take only 30 to 40 years for that number to nearly double.
Inequality diminished security and productivity, he stressed, noting that gated communities were an example of a failed equity and that segregation would make the flow of goods, services and information inefficient.
On the Millennium Development Goals, he said the international community was doing well in providing safe drinking water but performing poorly in the area of basic sanitation, which would require institutional capacity, capital investment and measures to maintain systems.
Asked if the Forum would produce an outcome document, he reiterated that the event was an opportunity to listen to academia, local authorities and other stakeholders, adding that an informal declaration would be adopted.
Regarding UN-Habitat’s response to the recent Philippine typhoon, he said that his agency was helping the affected communities to rebuild. He, however, stressed that they should leave 30 to 35 per cent of land public so that they could later develop basic services. Acquiring occupied land would be costly and make the price of public services too high to pay for. Asked about private sector companies contributing to UN-Habitat following the disaster, he said they were complying with the principles of the United Nations Global Compact.
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