The administration of President Barack Obama this week paid a glowing tribute to UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka saying she has done a commendable job at the agency.
At a dinner to mark World Habitat Day in Washington DC, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said the tenacity with which Mrs. Tibaijuka had campaigned for adequate shelter for all was commendable.
“I am grateful for what you have done for UN-HABITAT,” the Secretary said during the celebratory and emotional event attended by hundreds of guests at the National Building Museum. Others at the function included Presidential Advisor Ms. Valerie Jarret, Director of Planning Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, Rockefeller President Judith Rodin and Habitat for Humanity International President Jonathan Reckford.
Mr. Donovan said he would be leading the American delegation to the Fifth Session of World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro in March 2010. “I am very happy with your achievements and see you in Rio next year,” he said.
In her speech, Ms. Jarret said the Obama administration’s plans for housing dovetailed with the work of UN-HABITAT. “The government’s role is to offer support to the grassroots organizations,” she said.
On her part, Dr. Slaughter warned that the issues of urbanization and health were complex and interconnected and that the challenge was to address them as they occurred. “The challenges need to be looked at from both diplomatic and developmental levels,” she said.
The director said the urban poor should be helped to benefit from telephony and connectivity. However, she added, even greater benefits would be realized if women and girls were empowered.
Mrs. Tibaijuka sounded the alarm that after HIV, the next biggest challenge facing the world especially in the global South was chaotic urbanization.
Meanwhile, a panel discussion at the Howard University put a strong case for smart planning if urban centres were to effectively deal with the problem of chaotic urbanization.
The ‘Livelihoods Forum’ was part of the World Habitat Day celebrations and the panelists explored issues around urbanization including planning, transportation and climate change.
Those taking part in the forum included the Director of White House Urban Affairs office Aldolpho Carrion, Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer, Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Ron Simms, Johannes Linn from Brookings Institution and Mrs. Tibaijuka