H. Peter Oberlander, a founding father of UN-HABITAT, passed away peacefully on 27 December 2008, his family announced this week. An architect and teacher who became Canada’s first Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, he was 86.
Peter Oberlander with UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, in Vancouver at the third session of the World Urban Forum two years ago
Photo © Centre for Human Settlements, University of British Colombia
Professor Oberlander played a crucial political role in convening the UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat 1) in Vancouver in 1976 and the third session of UN-HABITAT’s World Urban Forum 30 years later.
In 1970, he was called to initiate Canada’s first Ministry of State for Urban Affairs, and become its inaugural Secretary (Deputy Minister). He served in that post for three years, and after the Habitat 1 conference he founded the Centre for Human Settlements at the University of British Colombia in Vancouver.
Between 1980 and 1990 he served on the Canadian Delegations to the annual meetings of the UN Commission on Human Settlements, Nairobi, Kenya.
“He was a father to us all. Peter was one of the greatest and most prominent supporters of the creation of UN-HABITAT,” said the agency’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka in a message of condolences.
“When Mr. Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister, he started the Federal Ministry of Urban Affairs that brought cities to the cabinet table in Canada. His personal efforts then helped bring the United Nations Habitat Forum to Vancouver in 1976. Thirty years later, he played the pivotal role in bringing UN-HABITAT back to its birthplace in Vancouver for the third session of the World Urban Forum,” she said.
Habitat founding figures, left to right, Enrique Penalosa, Michael Hayward, Darshan Johal, Peter Oberlander and Arcot Ramachandran, at the birth of the
agency in 1978 Photo © Centre for Human Settlements, University of British Colombia
Professor Oberlander, OC, PhD FRAIC LLD (HON), was born in Vienna on 29 November 1922, moved to Canada in 1940 as the Nazis rose to power. The first Canadian to obtain the Master of City Planning and subsequently the PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from Harvard University, he served as the UBC Professor Emeritus in Community and Regional Planning, pursuing an active research programme at the UBC Centre for Human Settlements until his death. Concurrently, since 1995, he served as Adjunct Professor in Political Science at Simon Fraser University. Between 1998 and 2008, he also served as a Federal Citizenship Court Judge.
Mrs. Tibaijuka recalled: “Peter followed our work closely, and in the weeks before his death, he took great trouble to write the cover story for the first issue of UN-HABITAT’s new flagship magazine, Urban World. He was most concerned that the momentum of the Forum in Vancouver should be maintained in Nanjing at the fourth session in November 2008.
Among the many honours in his lifetime, he and his wife were both named Officers of the Order of Canada. He is survived by his wife, three children, and four grandchildren.
For further details see: http://www.chs.ubc.ca/people/oberlander.html. For condolences,