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World Habitat Day 1998, Safer cities

23 September, 1998 - UNCHS (Habitat) is the lead United Nations agency for World Habitat Day, which takes place on the first Monday of October every year. Governments, community organizations and individuals around the world will mark World Habitat Day 1998 on Monday, 5 October with a variety of national and community level events focusing on this year's theme, "Safer Cities".

The theme offers an opportunity for people living in communities everywhere to consider the current state of their city and to take action to make their communities safer and more livable.

The theme reflects the growing concern about escalating urban violence and insecurity among city dwellers around the globe. Urban violence worldwide is estimated to have doubled over the last two decades. Every five years, 60 per cent of the world's urban population becomes a victim of crime at least once. Urban violence is not a spontaneous phenomenon, but above all, the product of a society characterized by inequality and social exclusion. "Deteriorating urban environments where the urban poor are deprived of basic services and security of tenure leads to social frustration, which can lead to a culture of violence", says Mr. Klaus T"pfer, Acting Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat). "Measures that protect urban communities from deprivation, unemployment, homelessness, illiteracy, injustice and social disintegration will ultimately also protect them from crime and violence."

According to UNCHS (Habitat)'s Global Report on Human Settlements 1996, violent crime has increased in most cities in recent years. Homicide, infanticide, assault, rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence now make up between 25 and 30 per cent of urban crime in many countries. Violent crime is also growing in rural areas, though more slowly.

The Report further states that high trends of urban crime, especially violent crime, are bringing major changes in the landscape and patterns of daily living in urban areas. In many cities, fear of violence has discouraged people from using public transport, streets and public spaces. Streets where children used to play, where neighbours used to congregate and where it was common for people to stroll are now much less used. High levels of crime and fear of violence have helped to push shopping malls, office complexes and leisure activities to suburban areas, thereby having a negative impact on the economy of certain neighbourhoods and the city centre. However, UNCHS (Habitat) believes that the theme of "safer cities" should be interpreted in a broader sense, depending upon the particular circumstances of a country or a city. For example, it could include such sub-themes as: safer shelter, safer water, safer sanitation, safer transportation, safer for children, safer for women, safer for the elderly, safer for the disabled and so on.


Dubai Award for Best Practices

This year the Municipality of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, will host the major World Habitat Day celebration. Among the highlights of the event will be the presentation of the second Dubai International Award for Best Practices in Improving the Living Environment, a biennial award to raise awareness of, to recognize and to learn from, initiatives which have made outstanding contributions to addressing the challenges of an urbanizing world. This year, Dubai will present its Award to ten deserving initiatives. Each Award consists of a US$30,000 prize, a trophy and a commemorative certificate. In addition, Dubai will also sponsor the travel and hotel accommodation of up to two representatives of each Award recipient.

The Award recipients this year are:


  • Comprehensive Improvement of the Urban Environment of Zhuhai, China
  • Urban Sub-centres for Citizen Life in the Low-income Areas of Medellin, Colombia
  • Household Solid Waste Management - Zabbaleeen Garbage Collectors, Cairo, Egypt
  • Housing Programme for the Peripheral Areas of Xalapa, Vera Cruz, Mexico
  • Urban Governance, Environmental and Public Management in Surat, India
  • The Kipepeo Project, Arabuko-Sokeke Forest, Kenya
  • Participatory Planning Initiatives in Naga City, The Phillippines
  • Programmes for Improving the Urban Environment in Malaga, Spain
  • Community Infrastructure Upgrading Programme, Dar-es-Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania
  • Interface's Journey to Sustainability, Kennesaw, Georgia, United States of America

UNCHS (Habitat)'s Best Practices and Local Leadership Programme, together with its global network of research, capacity-building and training institutions, is responsible for the identification, documentation and dissemination of lessons learned from Best Practices.

Another highlight of World Habitat Day will be the presentation of Habitat Scrolls of Honour to individuals or institutions that have made outstanding contributions to human settlements developments.

For further information please contact:
Ms. Christina Engfeldt, Chief
Information & External Relatins
UNCHS (Habitat)
P.O. Box 30030
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 623067; 623151 Fax: 624060; 624333

Wednesday 23 Sep 1998
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