Since its inception by the UN General Assembly in 1985, World Habitat Day has been celebrated annually on the first Monday in October.
This year, the global observance will be held in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro on Monday 6 October 2003. It will focus on the theme of Water and Sanitation for Cities to highlight the world’s urban water and sanitation crisis – a situation far worse that official statistics suggest.
According to a new report by UN-HABITAT, Water and Sanitation in the World’s Cities, in Africa alone, for example, there are as many as 150 million urban residents – up to 50 percent of the continent’s urban population – do not have adequate water supplies. Even more people, an estimated 180 million lack adequate sanitation.
Slums without clean water, proper sanitation and basic services can be amongst the most life-threatening environments on earth. The idea behind World Habitat Day is to remind governments, municipalities and the public at large about the urgency of striving to improve human settlements.
The Rio de Janeiro celebrations, hosted jointly by UN-HABITAT and Brazil, will present the Habitat Scroll of Honour and World Habitat Day awards to those individuals, institutions, countries, municipalities, and others who have excelled on the frontlines of the challenge for sustainable urban development and adequate shelter for all.
Other events on World Habitat Day will include an international water conference, the launch of a Water for Latin American and Caribbean Cities programme, and other innovative projects aimed at improving slums and helping the poorest of the poor tackle issues ranging from their rights to secure tenure.