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"Sustainable Urbanisation" key to fighting urban poverty

[Kenya] The new UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki -moon, in Soweto village, Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, 30 January 2007. The Secretary-General toured Soweto village in Kibera slum giving a message of hope to residents. He promised more UN support for the governmen
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (Manoocher Deghati/IRIN)

The number of slum-dwellers worldwide is set to reach a new high in 2007, making alleviating poverty a global priority, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday.

"Urban poverty should be unacceptable in the new urban era, and yet this is the year in which the number of slum dwellers worldwide is forecasted to reach one billion," Ban said in a statement read by the deputy executive director for UN-Habitat, Inga Klevby, during the opening of the 21st Session of the agency's Governing Council.

Ban called for a more concerted international effort to improve the lives of 100 million slum-dwellers worldwide.

The meeting, under the theme: "Sustainable Urbanisation: Local Action for Urban Poverty Reduction", focuses on finance and planning, and runs until 20 April.

"The urban poor are the most vulnerable to natural disasters, made more frequent by climate change patterns since they live in places prone to disasters," Ban said.

The executive director for UN-Habitat, Anna Tibaijuka added that many governments in developing countries are facing cash shortages and are unable to provide better housing, sanitation and health for low-income households.

"It is time to include the private sector more in addressing the plight of slum-dwellers. A government cannot work alone and hope to provide workable solutions and housing for the poor," said Tibaijuka.

The majority of urban households, she added, could only afford to build gradually and in stages, as and when financial resources were available. They could, however, seek support from the many micro-finance institutions now emerging and willing to lend money for low-income shelter development.

Another important trend in shelter development in the last decade has been community-based financing of housing, for both settlement upgrading and building new houses, which has helped low-income households, said Tibaijuka.

''It is time to include the private sector more in addressing the plight of slum-dwellers''

"Other non-financial challenges include land legislation that makes it difficult to use real estate as effective collateral, as well as inappropriate national and regulatory frameworks governing land use, occupancy and ownership," she added.

Opening the meeting, Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki said local authorities had a central role to play in creating an environment for sustainable urbanisation, but that their inability to provide adequate facilities to their citizens was a key challenge.

"Many cities in the developing countries face problems of securing and distributing sufficient supplies of clean water to the residents, constraints in solid waste disposal, and proper sanitation. These shortfalls are attributed to weak and poorly financed local governments," he said.

Kibaki called for public, private and community partnerships to address the challenges of urbanisation, saying Kenya had launched a slum upgrading programme. The plan is to improve the livelihoods of about 5.4 million people living and working in unplanned settlements at a cost of US $12million over a period of 13 years.

Kenya has one of the world’s biggest slums in Africa - Kibera - with over 750,000 inhabitants in need of sanitation, water, health services and decent housing.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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