President Lula of Brazil kicked off the fifth session of the world urban forum in the presence of high level dignitaries which included President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Department Mr. Shaun Donovan among others.
Heads of state, ministers, civic leaders, professionals as well as member of the public turned up for the ceremony held at a rehabilitated warehouse on Rio de Janeiro’s seaside.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was the key speaker at the occasion also addressed by Uganda’s head of state Mr. Yoweri Museveni.
Drawing on the Brazilian experience, President Lula said it was possible to come up with an urban design that could change the way cities are run. Because of prudent investments in the country’s cities, many job opportunities had been created and the general living standards of the people rose, he said.
“Our country is open to good practices from elsehwre and we are invite you to visit our cities and let us learn from your experiences,” the head of state said.
The president said that his government had deliberately embarked on a campaign to attract investments to cities and that it was a big break from the past when investors shied off from putting their money in urban areas.
In his speech President Museveni said sustainable urbanization must be accompanied with education. Giving an example of his own country, the president said his government realizing the need for a better educated public, embarked on a Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education and that they were now seeing the positive results.
In a message read on his behalf UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon said people living in urban areas will contend with devavstating urban poverty as well as the negative effects of climate change.
Saying that slum conditions were a violation of a citizen’s human rights, the Secretary General stressed that all people had a right to a decent living and expressed hope that the World Urban Campaign to be launched during this year’s Forum would serve as a good platform to change the lot of slum dwellers.
In her address, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka said a sustainable urban future could only be achieved through partnerships at various levels.
“One cannot do it alone. Governments cannot do it alone. Cities, big business and civil society cannot do it alone. We need clear and coherent partnerships and commitments! We need them here and now, so that the new (UN-HABITAT) leadership is bestv equipped to hit the ground running and assist member states and all habitat agenda partners to deliver the ideal of adequate shelter for all and sustainable cities and towns,” she said.
The United States’ Housing and Urban Department Secretary Mr. Shaun Donovan said his government wanted to explore ways of working together with other governments to help the people of the world improve their lives.
This commitment was evident in the fact that he was leading the biggest ever US government’s delegation to the World Urban Forum. The Obama administration, he said, was keen on combating poverty and segregation of whatever kind.
Others who addressed the meeting included Mr. Manuel Chavez Gonzalez, the Third Vice President of Spain, Mr. Noli de Casiro, the Vice President of the Philippines, Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro and Mr. Sergio Cabral, the Governor of Rio.
During the occasion, the Prime Minister of Turkey was awarded the inaugural Rafik Hariri Memorial Award while the Bento Rubiao Foundation of Rio De Janeiro was awarded the 2010 Shaikh Khalifa Bun Salman Al Khalifa UN-HABITAT Award.