13 February 2001



NEW YORK, 12 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the eighteenth session of the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements, delivered on his behalf by Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT), in Nairobi on 12 February:

It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to all who have gathered in Nairobi for this eighteenth session of the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements.

As you know all too well, more than a billion of our fellow men and women around the world lack adequate shelter. The Millennium Declaration adopted at last September's Millennium Summit focused welcome attention on the fear, despair and miserable living conditions that characterize so many of the world's human settlements. Many of the development goals to which world leaders committed themselves in the Declaration were based on the work of United Nations world conferences of the previous decade, including the Habitat Agenda adopted at Habitat II in Istanbul. Among the wide-ranging commitments made by world leaders, all of which would contribute to progress in the area of human settlements, was the specific pledge to improve, by the year 2020, the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

As custodians of the Habitat Agenda, the Commission on Human Settlements and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements have a leading role to play in helping the international community to meet these challenges. The Commission can also do much to ensure the success of Istanbul Plus Five -- the special session of the General Assembly, to be held in June in New York, to review progress since Habitat II. You will have to work with a broad range of partners -- including local authorities, non-governmental organizations, private sector enterprises and other representatives of civil society. And you will have to focus on a wide range of issues -- not only the provision of services and resources, but also environmental questions and the functioning of markets, financial systems and public administration.

In a world in which half of humanity now lives in cities and towns, the urbanization of poverty is one of the biggest global challenges of the new millennium. Slums and spontaneous settlements are wellsprings of entrepreneurial energy that can and must be mobilized. Together, we must offer the inhabitants of our cities and other human settlements the prospect of security, prosperity and a sustainable future. I wish you every success in your deliberations.

* *** *