Pro-poor, gender-sensitive urban policies and action plans must be adopted if governments are to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) that calls for significant improvement in the lives of nearly 100 million slum-dwellers by 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a new report "Implementation of the Outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlemets Programme (UN-Habitat)".
The sustainability of cities and urban areas in much of the developing world and especially in Africa has become a key challenge for the international community, Mr. Annan says in the report to the General Assembly on efforts by the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) to help States provide affordable shelter, infrastructure and basic services.
He notes that rapid urbanization and the resulting proliferation of slums and informal settlements have left millions of people without access to safe drinking water, sanitation and other services.
“Security of tenure and improvements in shelter, water and sanitation have automatic knock-on effects in terms of health and nutrition, gender equality and the empowerment of women, and reduction of vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and other diseases,” he adds.
While efforts to achieve “cities without slums” are increasingly featured in national development agendas of many Member States, not all countries have embraced the significance of the slum target, according to the report, which states that many States continue to conduct unlawful forced evictions and demolitions.
“Rather than consult with slum-dwellers and engage in a process of shared responsibility for relocation and resettlement, and rather than recognize the urban poor as a feature of the new urban economy with the need to be empowered, there remains the unrealistic hope that they will simply return to their rural areas,” Mr. Annan says.