UN-Habitat is the United Nations (UN) agency for human habitation and settlement, first established as the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements in 1978 and becoming a full UN programme in 2002. The agency's stated aim is to provide 'shelter for all' and in this it works with both policy makers and local communities. UN-Habitat is based in Nairobi with regional offices also located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Fukuoka, Japan. The agency is funded by, and reports to, the UN General Assembly and as such its reach is global, with programmes in all five continents. It runs two major worldwide campaigns - the Global Campaign on Urban Governance, and the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure. Through these campaigns and by other means, the agency focuses on a range of issues and special projects which it helps implement.
These include a joint UN-Habitat/World Bank slum upgrading initiative called the Cities Alliance, promoting effective housing development policies and strategies, helping develop and campaigning for housing rights, promoting sustainable cities and urban environmental planning and management, and enabling post-conflict land-management and reconstruction in countries devastated by war or natural disasters. Other projects address water, sanitation and solid waste management for towns and cities, training and capacity building for local leaders, ensuring that women's rights and gender issues are brought into urban development and management policies, helping fight crime through UN-Habitat's Safer Cities Programme, and research and monitoring of urban economic development. It also helps strengthen rural-urban linkages, and infrastructure development and public service delivery. The agency also organises the biennial World Urban Forum, the world's largest gathering based around urban issues and social justice.
UN-Habitat has some 154 technical programmes and projects in 61 countries around the world, most of them in the least developed countries. These include major projects in areas of conflict such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, Somalia, Iraq, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to name a few. The agency's operational activities help governments create policies and strategies aimed at strengthening a self-reliant management capacity at both national and local levels.
Advisory Group of Forced Evictions and UN-HABITAT, Forced Evictions-Towards Solutions? (Nairobi: UN-Habitat, 2005).
UN-Habitat, The Challenge of Slums (London: Earthscan, 2003).
UN-Habitat, Water and Sanitation in the World's Cities (London: Earthscan, 2003).
UN-Habitat, State of the World's Cities 2008/9 (London: Earthscan, 2008).
"Half of humanity now lives in cities, and within two decades,
nearly 60 per cent of the world's people will be urban dwellers.
Urban growth is most rapid in the developing world, where cities
gain an average of 5 million residents every month. As cities grow
in size and population, harmony among the spatial, social and
environmental aspects of a city and between their inhabitants
becomes of paramount importance. This harmony hinges on two key
pillars: equity and sustainability."
- Anna K. Tibaijuka of UN-Habitat quoted in, State of the World's Cities 2008/9 (London: Earthscan, 2008), p. iv.
UN-HABITAT's strategic vision is anchored in a four-pillar
strategy aimed at attaining the goal of Cities without Slums. This
strategy consists of advocacy of global norms, analysis of
information, field-testing of solutions and financing. These fall
under the four core functions assigned to the agency by world
governments - monitoring and research, policy development, capacity
building and financing for housing and urban development.
- UN-Habitat Mandate; www.unhabitat.org.
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