7 June 2001


(Reissued as received.)

NEW YORK, 4 June (UNCHS) -- The central challenge of the 21st century will be how to make both globalization and urbanization work for all the world's people, instead of benefiting only a few. The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) has now released a report that describes the impact of globalization on cities and what can be done to ensure that the fruits of globalization are shared more equally.

"Cities in a Globalizing World: Global Report on Human Settlements 2001" argues that technology-driven options for growth and development -- which spur globalization -- have led to divided cities where the lines of stratification between people, places and groups are becoming more magnified. The costs and benefits of globalization are unevenly distributed both within and between cities. "Homeless people are living in cardboard boxes on sidewalks of gleaming corporate skyscrapers, whose budgets exceed those of many countries," says the report, which was launched today in New York.

Studies presented in the report indicate that while some population groups have improved their housing conditions, a disproportionate share of the world's population has seen its housing situation deteriorate further. In many countries, real incomes have fallen, the costs of living have gone up and the number of poor households has grown, particularly in urban areas. Sixty countries have become steadily poorer since 1980.

Cities, home to one-half of the world's population, are bearing the brunt of declining living standards. The report notes that one billion urban inhabitants live in inadequate housing, mostly in the slums and squatter settlements in developing countries. In Africa, only one-third of all urban households are connected to potable water. In Asia and the Pacific, a mere 38 per cent of urban households are connected to a sewerage system. In Europe, the processes of social exclusion marginalize many low-income and minority households, while urban crime and the decline of peripheral housing estates undermine the social cohesion of many communities. In North America, problems of residential segregation, discrimination in housing markets and affordability persist, particularly in larger cities, despite recent economic growth.

A consistent theme throughout the report is how to overcome the limits of market mechanisms that have characterized globalization processes, which are dominated by transnational corporations seeking to maximize profit. It emphasizes the importance of "globalization-from-below", with goals of social justice and environmental sustainability. Access to goods and services required for meeting daily needs, the report argues, should be less dependent on people's ability to pay and based more on basic human rights recognized in international agreements.

Relying on some 80 background papers prepared by urban experts worldwide and on extensive statistical information, the report analyzes the effects of growing poverty and deepening inequality on access to housing, safe water, adequate sanitation, transportation and other basic services.

The report argues that traditional goals of urban planning and development, aimed at supporting cities as engines of economic growth, are too narrow. "In the face of rising poverty and inequality, governments require a new vision and new approaches to more adequately support the role of cities as agents of social change," says Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat), the United Nations agency that produced the report. "Policies must focus on capacity building, especially at the local level and in civil society, and fostering good governance."

As United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan points out in his foreword, "The central challenge of the international community is clear: to make both globalization and urbanization work for all people, instead of leaving millions behind." Cities in a Globalizing World shows the way forward.

"Cities in a Globalizing World: Global Report on Human Settlements 2001" Published for the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) by Earthscan Publications Ltd., London, 2001.

ISBN 1-85383-806-3 June 2001 (Paperback), ISBN 1-85383-805-5 (Hardback)

To order, write to: Earthscan Publications Ltd., 120 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JN, United Kingdom; e-mail: earthinfo@earthscan.co.uk; Web site: www.earthscan.co.uk

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Sharad Shankardass, Spokesperson or Zahra A. Hassan, Media & Press, Relations Unit, UNCHS (Habitat), tel: (254 2) 623153, fax: (254 2) 624060, e-mail: habitat.press@unchs.org, Web site: www.unchs.org

Ms. Rasna Warah, Information Officer, Urban Secretariat, tel: (254 2) 623988, fax: (254 2) 623080, e-mail: ransa.warah@unchs.org.

Zahra A. Hassan, Media Liaison, Media & Press Relations Unit, Office of the Executive Director UNCHS (Habitat) P.O. Box 30030; tel: (254 2) 623151; fax: 624060; e-mail: habitat.press@unchs.org; Web site: www.unchs.org

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