World Habitat Day 2007 closed in a grand finale on Friday in theMexican city of Monterrey as part of the Universal Forum of Cultures.
This occasion marked the end of a week of activities all around the world that began in The Hague on 1 October. The various events were held to raise awareness about human settlements issues in general and more specifically to raise awareness about the safety and security of cities and towns.
In Monterrey, the World Habitat Day celebrations were part of the concluding session of UN-HABITAT's International Conference on the State of Safety in World Cities held from 1 -5 October 2007. The conference brought together dignitaries, policy makers, community leaders and professionals from around the world to discuss issues around this year's theme, “A safe city is a just city.”
In his World Habitat Day message, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, said, “At this turning point in human history, surveys show that crime in urban areas is on the rise everywhere. And fear of crime is one of the most influential factors shaping our daily lives. In too many cities around the world, it dictates where we choose to live, shop, work and play. This is bad for human progress and for economic development.”
In her address to the assembled delegates, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka said that in many parts of the world, the "state is increasingly perceived in tactical retreat, unable to tackle the root causes of crime and disorder.” She emphasized that "urban safety needs to be built from street level up to local and national planning and cannot be left to the police alone".
The Mexican Minister for Social Development, Ms. Beatriz Zavala Peniche stressed that the Mexican government was committed to enhancing the safety and security of cities in Mexico. She emphasized the need for a range of policies that integrated the needs and concerns of the urban poor. This includes providing security of tenure to slum dwellers. Additionally, policies were being implemented to minimize community vulnerability to disasters. She outlined the government's strategy to help communities take back public spaces from criminals. As part of this overall strategy, the Minister presented the joint UN-HABITAT/ Mexican Guidelines for Designing Safe and Inclusive Public Space, to the Governor of Nuevo Leon state of which Moneterrey is the capital.
In keeping with tradition, the Habitat Scroll of Honour was presented during the ceremony. Amongst the recipients who received their award in Monterrey was the Municipality of Nanning, China, for establishing the first integrated emergency response system in China. The Stavrapol City Administration in the south of Russia was awarded for modernizing their city while encouraging community participation and integration. Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, the renowned Cuban historian was also awarded for his personal commitment to the restoration of central Havana.
In keeping with a World Habitat Day tradition, at the same ceremony, the Building and Social Housing Foundation of the United Kingdom presented their annual World Habitat Award.
At the close of the conference, participants presented UN-HABITAT's Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka with recommendations which included the call to recognise urban planning as an integral mechanism for creating safer cities. The participants also agreed that safety concerns had to be incorporated with slum upgrading strategies.