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3 October 1997

Press Release


Following is the text of a message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on the occasion of World Habitat Day, 6 October, 1997:

Human beings continue to face a compelling challenge: how to make cities fit places to live, work and dream. Nearly one half the world's population now lives in urban areas. Projections for the year 2025 show that two thirds of us will be city dwellers. Already straining under the pressures of meeting their peoples' needs for housing, jobs and basic services, cities must also address the environmental and social consequences of rapid urbanization. These concerns transcend the borders of developed and developing countries. Increasingly, in terms of the problems they face, the world's cities are becoming more alike than not.

Cities and towns are engines of progress, the source of much of the world's cultural, intellectual, educational, and technological achievements and innovations. However, the stress of rapid urban population growth is often overwhelming. The long list of afflictions includes urban poverty rates of up to 60 per cent. Despite growing investments, more than one third of the urban population live in substandard housing. Forty per cent of urban dwellers do not have access to safe drinking water or adequate sanitation. These and other common problems -- such as declining infrastructures, congestion, pollution and crime -- threaten not only the economic potential of cities, but also social cohesion and political stability.

Last year's United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), held in Istanbul, outlined a positive vision of urbanization. World Habitat Day this year should be an opportunity for people everywhere to continue looking at how they can contribute to implementation of the Habitat Agenda -- the comprehensive blueprint for creating sustainable human settlements in the twenty-first century.

I urge all Member States and all people, including local authorities and grass-roots organizations, to deepen the partnerships they forged in Istanbul and to work closely with the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements and the rest of the United Nations system. Cities may be home to major problems, but they are also the places where solutions to some of the world's most complex and pressing questions are being worked out. I am confident that, together, we can do much to improve the quality of life in all the world's cities.

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For more information on World Habitat Day, see

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