UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka has challenged architects to be at the forefront in the race to improve living conditions of slum dwellers.
She said that despite significant efforts by the international community, governments, the private sector, civil society and professionals, living and housing conditions, particularly in developing countries, had not improved. There were now more slum dwellers in the world today than three decades ago, and their number was rapidly increasing, she said.
In a speech read on her behalf by the head of UN-HABITAT’s Global Division, Mr. Lars Reutersward, at the 22nd World Congress of the International Union of Architects, Mrs. Tibaijuka warned that the challenge was immense.
“This is the great challenge for us all. UN-HABITAT considers architects and planners, both in their policy-making and professional capacities, as key partners in taking up this challenge. We believe that the International Union of Architects, representing nearly one-and-a-half million professionals worldwide, has a significant role and contribution to make in raising awareness of these trends and in bringing about change,” she said.
Turning to the venue of the congress, Mrs. Tibaijuka said Istanbul was the host of the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) held in June 1996, as well as the birthplace of the Habitat Agenda, the global policy framework and plan of action for adequate shelter and sustainable urbanisation.
“Holding this congress in Istanbul, Turkey is even more meaningful in this context. I am well aware that Turkey, since the mid 1960s, has adopted a comprehensive legislative and policy framework regarding slums. This has enabled Turkey to accomplish many successful initiatives in slum upgrading and low-cost housing. I believe there is much to learn from the experience of Turkey that is relevant to many developing countries and UN-HABITAT is ready to document and disseminate such best practices,” she noted.
She said that the challenges faced in a rapidly urbanizing world were not limited to developing countries. Many cities in the North are witnessing inner city decline, persistent unemployment, social exclusion, and urban sprawl. These issues could not be taken lightly because they undermined decades of achievement and social and economic progress. They represented patterns in the use of land, water and energy that were simply unsustainable.
Also present at the meeting was Turkish President, Mr. Ahmet Necdet Sezer and the Prime Minister, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan.