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16 August, 2007


The United Nations agency tasked with promoting socially and environmentally sustainable housing has launched a new worldwide alliance with water operators that aims to improve to clean water and basic sanitation in impoverished communities.

The new Global Water Operators Partnership Alliance is designed to strengthen the capacities of the public water operators that provide more than 90 per cent of water and sanitation services in developing nations.

The operators will be able to share information more easily with each other and draw on professional capacity and other resources provided by governments and donor agencies, the UN Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) said in a press statement released yesterday.

The Alliance is expected to cost $7 million to run in its first three years, with UN-HABITAT to provide $1.8 million of that and Alliance partners to contribute the rest.

Speaking at yesterday's launch of the initiative at the Stockholm World Water Week, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka said the Alliance would form a key part of efforts to meet one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that calls for halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, by 2015.

In 2002 in Johannesburg the World Summit on Sustainable Development also set a target to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation.

Earlier this week, Mrs. Tibaijuka told a symposium being held in Stockholm that water will become the dominant global issue this century, and the availability of its supply could threaten the world's social stability.

The UN-HABITAT chief said rapid urbanization is placing enormous pressure on the availability of clean water and other natural resources, especially for the poor, and she called for “a fundamental change” in the way the world approaches water and sanitation to ensure that enough clean water remains affordable for all for future generations.

UN statistics indicate that, for the first time in history, this year more people live in cities than in rural areas – and that by 2030 the global urban population will reach 60 per cent.

The Alliance was formally launched yesterday by the Prince of Orange, Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

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2 October, 2006


With more than 1 billion people living in urban slums, the United Nations today marked World Habitat Day with calls for major government action to prevent the scourge from doubling in the next 30 years.

While this year’s slogan – Cities magnets of hope – highlights the important status of cities as refuge for the displaced and home to expanding populations in search of a future, Secretary-General Kofi Annan emphasized that they can also be places of considerable despair.

“Never before has the world witnessed such a large proliferation of urban slums,” he said in a message, stressing that 6 billion people, or two-thirds of humanity, will be living in towns and cities by 2050. “Today,
1 billion people, or 1 of every 3 urban dwellers, live in slums. If municipalities and governments fail to manage urban growth and migration sustainably, this number is expected to double in the next 30 years.

“Almost everywhere, cities are the destinations for people escaping poverty, conflict and human rights violations, or simply those looking for ways to build better lives,” he added, noting that major cities such as Dakar, Jakarta, Johannesburg or Rio de Janeiro are having trouble accommodating new migrants while so many long-standing citizens are still struggling.

The Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), Anna Tibaijuka, launched this year’s celebrations in Naples, Italy, where she stressed that cities have to be able to provide inclusive living conditions for all their residents, rich or poor, with a decent living environment, clean water, sanitation, transport, electricity and other services.

“How we manage this is arguably one of the greatest challenges facing humanity,” she said, calling for the protection of the human rights of trans-border migrants and warning that inner city slums or “ethnic”
ghettoes can become hotbeds of social unrest and civil strife, as recent events in Europe have shown.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) emphasized the considerable ecological impact of urban growth with the prolific use of natural resources, generation of waste and production of most of the greenhouse gases causing global climate change.

“They often degrade local water quality, deplete aquifers, pollute the marine environment, foul the air and consume the land, thereby devastating biological diversity,” it said in a statement.

“Creating environmentally friendly cities is admittedly a big challenge, but the technologies and expertise we need already exist. Clean transport, energy-efficient buildings, safe sanitation and economical water use are possible now, not just in the future, often in a manner that is affordable for all.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari, called for “a holistic approach” that includes addressing the cause of rural migration to the cities.

“Such migration is generally not voluntary but a result of the loss of hope in rural areas, the loss of means of subsistence resulting from a lack of priority to agrarian reform, growing landlessness and indebtedness, failure to promote rural infrastructure, displacement induced by large projects, distressed housing conditions, or the state and corporate takeover of farmland for industry,” he said in a statement.

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