25 September 2003




(Reissued as received.)



NAIROBI, 24 September (UN-HABITAT) -- World Habitat Day will be held on Monday, 6 October 2003. On this day, the United Nations calls upon the international community to help raise awareness about the state of our cities and, in particular, the 1 billion poor people living under the most appalling conditions in the slums and squatter settlements that surround so many cities and towns around the world.


This year's theme of ‘Water and Sanitation in Cities’ has been chosen to help raise awareness about the urgent need to meet the Millennium Development Goal committed to halving the number of poor people without clean water and adequate sanitation by 2015.


“If the Millennium Development Goals, and in particular, if the specific target concerned with water and sanitation are to be met, there needs to be increased commitment in terms of time, money and political will from all sectors of society”, said Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). “This is the time for governments, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and journalists to renew their commitment to helping grass roots communities to improve their living conditions. I call on all HABITAT Agenda Partners to make this day a success.”


On this World Habitat Day, the Global Observances will be hosted by the Mayor and city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and will be attended by the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT and senior dignitaries from the Government of Brazil and other countries.


At the same time, in cities all over the world, governments, local authorities and local communities are organizing public events. For example, in New York, at the United Nations Headquarters, a panel of eminent persons will discuss how to improve the delivery of water and sanitation to the urban poor. In the Russian Federation, Gosstroy is to organize similar meetings in a number of cities including Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Vladivostock. In the United Kingdom, the Department of International Development will hold an event at its headquarters that will be addressed by Hon. Hilary Benn, MP, the Minister of State for International Development. In India, the National Institute of Housing and Management will organize a one-day workshop on how globalization is affecting the delivery of water and sanitation to slum dwellers. In Japan, there will be an exhibition of children's drawings on the theme of "Water and Sanitation in Cities".


The Slum Challenge: Global Report on Human Settlements


On 6 October, UN-HABITAT will also launch this year's Global Report on Human Settlements: The Slum Challenge. This book is the first global assessment of slums and emphasizes their problems and prospects. Using a newly formulated operational definition of slums, it presents estimates of the numbers of urban slum dwellers suggesting that the slum population could double to 2 billion by 2030. The book examines the factors leading to slum formation at all levels, from local to global, as well as their social, spatial and economic characteristics and dynamics. It goes on to evaluate the principal policy responses to the slum challenge of the last few decades.


UN-HABITAT Scroll of Honour


Every year, during the World Habitat Day celebrations, the UN-HABITAT Scroll of Honour is awarded to a number of recipients. This year the following winners are to be presented with their Scroll of Honour during the ceremony in Rio de Janeiro:


  • National Association of Municipal Sanitation (ASSEMAE), Brazil -- for promoting water and sanitation services in Brazilian Municipalities.


  • Margaret Catley-Carlson, Canada -- for her outstanding contribution to placing water and sanitation issues high on the global political agenda.


  • Weihai Municipal Government, China -- for outstanding improvements in shelter and urban environment.


  • German Garcia Duran, Colombia -- for defending the cause of sustainable human settlements in key international negotiations.


  • Zena Daysh, Commonwealth Human Ecology Council (CHEC) -- for setting up ComHabitat, the Commonwealth Habitat Committee which is committed to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda within the Commonwealth.


  • Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, India -- for developing and helping to build twin pit pour flush toilets all over India. Commonly known as Salabh Shauchala.


  • Nasreen Mustafa Sideek, Iraq -- for her outstanding commitment to the welfare of the displaced and vulnerable persons in Northern Iraq.


  • Pamoja Trust, Kenya -- for playing a key role in upgrading informal settlements in Nairobi which includes providing slum dwellers with clean water and decent sanitation.


  • Senkie Mthembi-Mahanyele, South Africa -- for spearheading the South African Government's strategy to ensure the delivery of 1.45 million housing units over 8 years, housing 6 million poor people.


  • Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WASH), Switzerland -- for their contribution towards sanitation and hygiene for the urban poor. The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) is at the forefront of contributing to global human settlements development and improving the quality of life in cities and communities around the world.


  • Teolinda Bolivar, Venezuela -- for working on social and physical problems in low-income settlements, including the legalization of land tenure in low-income urban neighbourhoods.




Governments, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, journalists and all those interested in helping to make World Habitat Day a success can download a range of resources from the UN-HABITAT Web site -- www.unhabitat.org -- including messages by Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and by Anna Tibaijuka, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. There is a press release with more details about this year's winners of the Scroll of Honour and a press kit on the Slum Challenge: The Global Report on Human Settlements, which is embargoed until 6 October 2003.


For further information, please contact: Sharad Shankardass, Spokesperson and Head, Press & Media Relations Unit, or Zahra Hassan, Media Liaison, tel.: (254 20) 623153, 623151, fax: 624060, e-mail: habitat.press@unhabitat.org, Web site: http://www.unhabitat.org/, or Amrik Kalsi, Coordinator, World Habitat Day, Design, Production & Special Events, tel.: (254 20) 623124, fax: 624060, e-mail: amrik.kalsi@unhabitat.org