25 September 2001


NEW YORK, 24 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of World Habitat Day, 1 October:

Within the next generation, the world's urban population is expected to double, from 2.5 billion to 5 billion people, with most of that increase coming in the developing countries. Millions upon millions of men and women converge on cities each year in search of jobs and a better life for themselves and their children. But for all too many of them, that dream has yet to become a reality. About one third of the developing world's urban population lives in extreme poverty, and urban poverty is now increasing at a faster rate than rural poverty. It is therefore appropriate that this year's observance of World Habitat Day focuses on the misery and squalor endured by so many of the world's city's dwellers.

At last year's Millennium Summit, world leaders committed themselves to the "Cities Without Slums" action plan and to a compelling international development target: improving the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers by the year 2020.

To turn this political declaration into action, we need new approaches to urban development.

The right of slum-dwellers to security of tenure is woefully under-recognized, yet this is among the first steps that must be taken if slums are to be upgraded.

The critical role of women must also be recognized. Women form the backbone of many community groups, and their organizing abilities have made it possible to implement innovative plans for savings and credit under the most difficult of circumstances.

And it is imperative that urban governance be given greater emphasis. The participation of the poor themselves in decision-making is the very foundation of sustainable policy for the world's urban areas.

Slum-dwellers in India, South Africa, Philippines, Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere have all demonstrated their willingness, skills and ingenuity in improving their living conditions. On World Habitat Day, let us pledge to do our part in turning slums into sustainable neighbourhoods fit for families, fit for living, fit for the future.

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