6 May 2003

Challenges of Rapid Urbanization at Heart of Millennium Anti-Poverty Goals, Says Secretary-General in Message to UN-Habitat Session

NEW YORK, 5 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the nineteenth session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) delivered by Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka, in Nairobi on 5 May:

It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to this nineteenth session, which is also the first meeting of the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme. I would like to express particular gratitude to President Kibaki, and to the Government and people of Kenya, for hosting UN-HABITAT in Nairobi since 1978. That support is just one measure of Kenya's enduring commitment to the United Nations.

The decision by Member States to upgrade the Centre to a full Programme indicates the seriousness with which the international community regards the problems caused by rapid urbanization. Indeed, such concerns and challenges -- including the need to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020 -- are at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals and other commitments made by world leaders, including at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Your role, as a newly transformed Governing Council, is to help the international community meet these targets. Your session offers an opportunity for progress in several critical areas. Good governance, for example, is a crucial factor in securing financing to improve conditions in slums and to provide safer water and sanitation services. Partnerships with local authorities and community groups will also be necessary to mobilize political and practical support and, not least, to ensure that projects and policies accurately reflect local needs and aspirations. And sustainable urban development will be incomplete unless it addresses the rural dimension. Therefore, I urge you to consider a holistic approach, to take into account the economic and environmental concerns of neighbouring rural communities, and to encourage decentralization as a way of reducing the divide between rural and urban areas.

In the past, under guidance from its governing body, UN-HABITAT has been at the forefront of helping governments manage the complex problems of urbanization, including successful post-conflict rehabilitation and the reconstruction of urban areas. The international community continues to look to you to create a strategic vision that will help implement the Habitat Agenda and guide our collective efforts to build peaceful, prosperous cities and other human settlements. I wish you every success in your deliberations.

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