UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka last week put a strong case for the urban poor in Africa and Asia, saying that the two continents continued to have higher numbers of people being added to cities than any other region of the world.
Speaking in New York at the Vedropolis conference organized by Earth Pledge, Mrs. Tibaijuka called for a greater awareness about the poor in the two continents.
As part of a discussion panel during a session dedicated to Communities in Need, Mrs. Tibaijuka pointed out the problems caused by rapid urbanization in developing countries, stating that though the proportion of people living in urban areas in the United States, Europe and Latin America has stabilized at about 75 per cent, Asia and Africa, which were still predominantly rural, were in for a major demographic shift in coming years which will move the locus of poverty to cities. Other members of the panel were Cameron Sinclair, Founder/Executive Director of Architects for Humanity and David Pitt from the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Reminding the delegates that New York, together with all the other major cities in the developed world, were once surrounded by slums, the Executive Director pointed out that it had been journalists like Jacob Riis and Charles Dickens who had helped change housing policy in order to improve the living conditions of the urban poor. She, therefore, called upon the delegates to use the occasion to advocate for change and to help the international community meet the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed to in 2000 in New York by government leaders from around the world.
Mrs. Tibaijuka concluded by saying that the only true Verdopolis – or “Green City” – was a city which provided for all its citizens, rich and poor alike.
The Verdopolis conference, which brought together government leaders, architects, designers, academics and artists, had a variety of events, including a fashion show with dresses made from environmentally friendly materials such as polymers made and corn to discussions about green buildings and how to harvest energy from the oceans. The conference was held to coincide with the launch of the GATES project for New York’s Central Park, which is an environmental sculpture by the world famous artist Christo.