Compiled by Sandra Antonovic
World Habitat Day is observed on October 3rd each year, and this year's global observence will be held in Mexico under the theme "Cities and Climate Change".
The theme of "Cities and Climate Change" was chosen because climate change if fast becoming the preeminent development challenge of the 21st century. Indeed, no one today can really foresee the predicament in which a town or a city will find itself in 10, 20 or 30 years time.
In this new urban era with most of humanity now living in towns and cities, we must bear in mind that the greatest impacts of disasters resulting from climate change begin and end in cities. Cities too have a great influence on climate change.
In tackling urban poverty and climate change we need to understand that the fastest way to mitigate against climate change disaster is to reduce urban poverty and save as much energy as we can.
According to the UN-HABITAT's 2011 Global Report on Human Settlements greenhouse gas emissions spewed out by cities account for up to 70% of the world's pollution - much of it coming from our fossil fuel consumption for electricity, transport, energy use in commercial and residential buildings, industrial production and waste.
(abridged from UN-HABITAT's World Habitat's Day booklet)
This seems like a perfect opportunity to remind ourselves on the notes we took at Goethe Institut's Forum For Creative Minds we attended in March this year (forum was themed 'Cities and Climate Change'):
1/ improve the quality of life - especially for the estimated 1 billion people living in slums and other sub-standard housing around the world. Improved access to safe and healthy shelter, secure tenure, basic services and social amenities such as health and education are essential to a better life for every individual.
2/ invest in human capital - this is a condition for socio-economic development and a more equitable distribution of the urban advantage. This will also enable cities and regions to implement policies more effectively and to ensure that they are properly adjusted to local needs.
3/ foster sustained economic opportunities - cities can stimulate sustained economic growth for the poor through labour - intensive projects. These include primarily public works and the construction industry. Cities in the developing world are starting to provide social security to give better access to economic opportunities for those traditionally excluded.
4/ enhance political inclusion - today, more and more municipal and national authorities share the same basic philosophy: bringing government within the reach of ordinary people through enhanced mutual engagement. This means engaging people and their neighbourhoods in dialogue and participation in decision making as a fundamental aspect of local democracy.
5/ promote cultural inclusion - culture has historically been left out of the conventional international development agenda. More and more local development policies take into the account the cultural dimensions of urban life, such as social capital, tradition, symbols, a sense of belonging and pride of place. This helps integrate ethnic minorities, preserve regional values, safeguard linguistic and religious diversity, resolve conflicts and protect the heritage."
Deputy Executive Director