Speech at World Urban Forum II Closing Ceremony
The Honourable Joe Fontana Minister of Labour and Housing and Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today, and to have this opportunity to congratulate UN-HABITAT Executive Director Tibaijuka, the City of Barcelona, the government of Spain, and all the delegates to the 2004 World Urban Forum for your incredible work over the past week. On behalf of our Prime Minister, our Canadian and international partners, UN-HABITAT and all Canadians, I would like to invite each and every one of you to continue building on everything that has been accomplished here, at the 2006 World Urban Forum in Vancouver!
Canada is honoured to have been chosen to host the next World Urban Forum, falling on the anniversary of the first HABITAT conference in 1976 in Vancouver. The world is a much different place some thirty years later. Our global village has evolved into an urban world where the actions of one country can affect the lives of each of our country's men and women. A common thread across all countries is that each of our citizens are working to build a safe and healthy life for themselves, their families and their communities. The World Urban Forum brings us together to exchange information, insights and best practices on the challenges of the new Millennium. Ultimately, it is about the quality of life of our people, helping them and helping each other.
Canada is a country that has a long history of supporting UN-Habitat in promoting socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cites, and helping to pave the way towards providing adequate shelter for all. In cities throughout the developing world, Canada has contributed to numerous projects that support improved quality of life. For example, the Canada Fund for Africa is investing $15 million in UN-HABITAT's Water and Sanitation Trust Fund, which is dedicated to increasing the proportion of people who will have access to basic sanitation or clean water. While we are one of the world's least densely populated countries, we are also one of the most urbanized nations. Nearly 80 per cent of Canadians live in cities. This number is expected to grow to 90 per cent in the next ten years. Half of these are in just four major urban areas and Vancouver — host city for the 2006 World Urban Forum — is one of them. In Canada, a country made up of some 137 different cultures, we welcome immigration and celebrate diversity
But if there's one thing for which we Canadians are justifiably renowned, it is our ability to create innovative solutions that improve the quality of life in cities and communities — in Canada and around the world. For example, three Canadian urban planning initiatives have already earned Dubai Awards. A fourth, won by the city of Rosario, Argentina, was supported by Canada's International Development Research Centre, an institution that has pioneered urban agriculture as one answer to food security and waste management issues in the South. We are excited by the prospect of sharing with our international neighbours how Canada is responding to the challenges of urbanization, and how our best practices and technologies might offer solutions that could help address similar challenges in other cities around the world.
At the same time we face significant challenges. Unemployment, homelessness, addiction and crime in inner-city neighbourhoods have resulted in difficult living conditions for many citizens. While Canada is vast in resources we are continually looking to improve our actions in the areas of sustainable development and the environment. And we have no illusions that we have all the answers. We look to you, our partners, to help us find answers as you have done in the past.
As the next host of the World Urban Forum, I invite you to join us in Canada for a Forum that will build on the successes of Nairobi and Barcelona under the leadership of the UN-Habitat.
The World Urban Forum in Vancouver Canada will be inclusive of all countries, cultures and people of the world. Most importantly it will showcase a range of different challenges and meaningful solutions — recognising the diversity of our situations. Our work for 2006 begins now as you leave this Forum and return to your country. Be inspired by the solutions you have learned about in Barcelona. At the next World Urban Forum, we look forward to seeing the results and sharing your models for success. We need to go beyond a catalogue of grievances and put our commitment into action now. It starts today.
I look forward to seeing you in Canada.