UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, will attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony on 8 August ahead of talks with senior Chinese officials on how the agency can further support China at a time the country is experiencing the most rapid urbanisation in its history.
Mrs. Tibaijuka, who carried the Olympic flame when it passed through her home country, Tanzania, will also discuss arrangements for the fourth session of UN-HABITAT’s biennial World Urban Forum being held this year in the Chinese city of Nanjing 3-6 November.
“The President of the International Olympic Committee invited me to participate at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in view of the importance of sports activities in sustainable urbanization,” Mrs. Tibaijuka said.
She pointed out most sporting activities are urban phenomena, and the Olympics like much else, are taking place in cities. The planning of cities must therefore take into account the allocation of space for sports. However, in numerous cities and towns of the developing world many communities are denied space for sports and playing grounds. Children in the slums have to make do with playing on dirty footpaths and alleys.
“The IOC wishes to work with UN-HABITAT in this important area,” she said. In her remarks, Mrs. Tibaijuka cited the Kilimanjaro Initiative which was started in 2006 to raise awareness about crime among young people in East Africa.
On the eve of the opening ceremony, Mrs. Tibaijuka addressed the Executive Committee of the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group.
Mr. Jean-Jacques Nyenimigabo, Minister of Youth , Sports and Culture of Burundi supported her recommendation that national governments and international agencies to pay attention the role of spatial planning and the provision of open spaces, sports and recreation facilities, especially in countries recovering from conflict and civil war. He also appealed to Right to Play and other the United Nations bodies to work with his government and UN-HABAITAT in building capacities for urban planning, with attention to spatial planning and the engagement of young people in building facilities for sports.
Mrs. Tibaijuka’s meetings in China will also include talks with the President of the China Development Bank, Mr. Chen Yuan, in which they will discuss a new strategic partnership for promoting global housing finance initiatives.
After the opening ceremony, Mrs. Tibaijuka will travel to Chengdu, in Sichuan Province, to discuss technical assistance and rehabilitation following an earthquake in May that claimed tens of thousands of lives and destroyed countless of homes. She is scheduled to members of the Provincial Government and the Mayor of Chengdu, Mr. Ge Honglin.
She will also visit Shanghai, Nanjing and the nearby cities of Shaoxing and Zhang Jiagang whose mayors recently toured UN-HABITAT’s global headquarters in Nairobi. In Shanghai she is expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the Better Cities – Better Life Shanghai 2010 World Expo at which UN-HABITAT will be the lead agency. UN agencies will showcase the best they have to offer at the Expo’s big One Earth - One UN pavilion.
The Fourth Meeting of the Executive Committee of the International Working Group on Sport for Development and Peace was attended by government ministers and senior officials from 38 countries. Mrs. Tibaijuka told them sport is an important agent in promoting peace and development, but not with out spatial planning, open spaces and community engagement.
The meeting was convened by Mr. Johann Olav Koss, President and CEO of UN-HABITAT’s new partner the international humanitarian organization called, Right to Play. It uses sport and play programmes to improve health, life skills, and foster peace for children and communities in the most disadvantaged areas of the world. It is timely that the four-year mandate of the working group culminates on the eve of the Olympics with the launch of its report, Harnessing the Power of Sport for Development and Peace: Recommendations to Governments. Key issues it raises are tied in with UN-HABITAT’s mandate in the field of child and youth development, gender equity, inclusion of people with disabilities, health, conflict resolution and peace-building.
If the right to play should become a reality for all including those one billion people living in urban slums around the world, city planning and development planning should go hand-in-hand in this era of urbanization, Mrs. Tibaijuka said. She added the agency’s work in slums had reminded it time and again that sports is not a luxury for all, and that Right to Play had to take this into account. Also important at the country level is the need for different ministries and departments in every country to come together on this issue. “For example, the finance sector has to interact with the education sector and the youth sector”, she said. Since UN-HABITAT attaches great importance to planning and it has expertise in planning, the agency is willing to support governments in planning cities and towns, including playing spaces and green spaces, that are lifelines of communities. Sport and recreation should be one of the building blocks of planning and delivery of sustainable communities.
She cited UN-HABITAT’s work in Papua New Guinea PNG. Hon. Dame Carol Ann Kidu, Minister for community Development, Papua New Guinea, linked the need for gender mainstreaming and youth mainstreaming to sports mainstreaming.
Mr. Wilfred Lemke Special advisor to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace chaired the meeting. The Ministers of Burundi and Tanzania echoed the UN-HABITAT’s view that urban planning, provision of open spaces, play and sports facilities are key to making right to play a reality. The Minister from Burundi provided examples where sport is succeeding in building communal harmony after 13 years of civil strife.
The meeting concluded with the adoption of the Beijing Declaration on Sport for Development and Peace.