Mexico's Minister for Social Development (SEDESOL), Heriberto Félix Guerra, announced that Aguascalientes will host this year's global World Habitat Day celebrations.
He made the announcement at a news conference flanked by his Vice Minister, Ms. Sara Topelson, the Governor of Aguascalientes Carlos Lozano de la Torre, United Nations Resident Coordinator Magdy Martinez-Soliman, and other officials from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SEDESOL, UN-HABITAT and the host city.
Minister Guerra highlighted Mexico's achievements and ongoing work on urban development in a country where over half of its 112 million people live in cities, and where one-third of the urban population live in informal settlements. He said Mexico's urban planning priorities include lowering carbon emissions (70 per cent of which are generated by cities), the creation of a fund to support cities with higher population densities that are environmentally friendly, and which have reduced the risks of natural disasters. Around 6 per cent of Mexico' population lives in peri-urban areas vulnerable to natural disasters.
United Nations Resident Coordinator Martinez-Soliman welcomed the hosting of World Habitat Day in Aguascalientes, a city that is taking the lead in urban planning implementing climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. He praised Mexico's leading role on the global stage in climate change mitigation, notably its hosting of the 2010 United Nations climate change conference in Cancún.
The Governor of Aguascalientes outlined achievements made in his city which include better safety, land conservation and use of alternative energy sources. Aguascalientes Secretary for Urban and Land Management, Mr. Oscar López Velarde, a past Habitat Scroll of Honour winner and member of the Global Habitat Parliamentarians, who is playing an instrumental role in the organization of the World Habitat Day celebrations, was also present.
In response to questions from some of the 50 journalists present, the Minister outlined Mexico's measures to tackle urban problems including security, delinquency and climate change. These include creation of a fund for urban planning, integrated urban development and housing strategies with a special focus on those in extreme poverty, building more public spaces, creating education and employment opportunities for youth, land regularization, enhancing community cohesion and creating a municipal risk atlas for better targeting of interventions. The country needs to provide housing for 20 million people in the next 10 years.
The Minister concluded by saying that World Habitat Day would provide a good opportunity for reviewing urban planning strategies to achieve sustainable urbanization that puts the citizen first. The Habitat week activities start on 3 October and will gather international and national representatives from governments, municipalities, civil society, academia and the private sector. Events will include presentation of the Habitat Scroll of Honour and other international and national awards, and meetings for local authorities and professionals, and student workshops.