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World Habitat Day 1998 - Safer cities. Backgrounder 2

23, September 1998 - World Habitat Day 1998 will be celebrated internationally on Monday, October 5. This year's theme is "Safer Cities". UNCHS (Habitat) invites print and broadcast journalists to work with us to sensitize citizens all over the world to the importance of making our cities safer. Below are some examples of what can be done to help mark the celebrations.


Urban violence has doubled in less than 20 years. In the next five years, it is expected that more than half of the world's population living in cities will be victims of crime of some kind.

The result of all this criminal activity is incalculable. Annual estimates try to put a figure on the material loss but far worse is the effect on the communities themselves. In many cities, people live in a state of siege.

Safer Cities

Confronted by escalating criminal activity, individuals, community organizations and businesses are joining together with local authorities and governments to design new and more effective ways of combating crime.

Over the last few years, many innovative solutions have emerged to reduce and prevent crime. The strategies vary from introducing individual and family counselling for potential criminals to the creation of safer urban design.

Communal strategies to prevent crime not only make society safer but also save money. For every US dollar spent on crime prevention, the saving can be between 2 and 7 US dollars. Rigorous investment in crime prevention has proven more advantageous than investment in criminal justice. An additional benefit of crime prevention is its effect on bringing together the community at large.

All over the world, there are many examples of how communities are preventing and reducing crime. The media needs to support these efforts and journalists should publicize the alternatives. We need to inform our communities about how they can make cities safer. We need to motivate our citizens to "take back the streets".



  • There are probably events planned in your community to mark World Habitat Day. Check with the public relations department of your Ministry of Housing or Construction or any other appropriate Ministry as to what events are planned for the Day.


  • Interview a City Council member or NGO working in the areas of housing, shelter or community development to find out their plans for the day. Interview city or town politicians, city planners or architects on how they are planning to improve your community especially with a view to making public areas safer for the citizens.


  • Investigate news stories which will help highlight the problems of safer cities and the efforts of different communities to solve the problem at the grassroots level.

UNCHS (Habitat) Resources, databases and projects: Habitat's Acting Executive Director, Dr Klaus Töpfer, is available for interviews. For Television Producers we can arrange a B-roll of interviews with the Executive Director as well as other specialists in the organization.

The March 1998 issue of UNCHS's (Habitat) publication Habitat Debate is dedicated to safer cities. You can find it on Website:

For hard copy:
Fax: (254-2) 624060/624333

Safer Cities Project, UNCHS (Habitat), Nairobi, Kenya
Fax: (254-2) 623536
The Safer Cities Project concentrates on the role of city governments in mobilising and coordinating community wide efforts in preventing crime. This includes the production of a local strategy as a joint effort between cities and stakeholders in the community. The Project is currently largely concentrated in Africa - in Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam and Antanarivo and will shortly expand to more cities in Africa.

Habitat's Best Practices Database has over 600 examples of practical solutions to critical social, economic and environmental problems, including best practices in crime prevention reduction, environmental health and safety and poverty eradication through improved access to housing, land and finance. All 600 initiatives, including the 1998 Dubai International Award-winning best practices, are available at:

Some examples of "Best Practices" in the area of Safer Cities are presented below:

In Johannesburg, South Africa, UNCHS (Habitat), the International Centre for the Prevention of crime (ICPC) and the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council are collaborating to develop a community-wide planning process to reduce delinquency and violent crime in the city and to disseminate these lessons to other African cities.

Contact Person:
Franz Vanderschueren, Technical Adviser,
UNCHS (Habitat), Nairobi, Kenya;
Fax: (254-2) 623536
Rory Robertshaw, Coordinator,
Safer Cities: Greater johannesburg Project;

"Back on stage 16/17" in Vienna, Austria reaches out to disadvantaged young people who may be potentially at risk, through streetwork and counselling. The target group is young people between 11 and 20 who are not supported by the social service network.

Contact Person:
DSA Fr. Christa Preining,
Mobile Jugendarbeit, Vienna, Austria
Fax: (43-1) 402 1764

In the Greater Mafikeng Area, South Africa, there is a project to unite a divided city with great differences in standards of living. The aim is to provide basic needs and a safe inner city. The project involves people from diverse areas such as the City Council, the Tribal Authority, Cultural Organizations and Taxi/Bus operators.

Contact Person:
Cyril H.A. Ratnam,
Mmabatho, South Africa
Fax: (27-140) 873608

In Belgium, the "Charleroi Prevention and Security Contract" is a cooperation between different parties to promote city security. It includes a help centre for drug users; assistance to victims of crime; rehabilitation of offenders; and outreach to destructive youngsters.
Contact Person: Yvano De Biasio,
Charleroi, Belgium
Fax: (32-71) 257727

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, El Agora, is targeting urban insecurity through community participation and open public dialogue. The programmes are oriented to children and youth and have a solidarity network to prevent people from exclusion.

Contact Person:
Claudia Laub,
Córdoba, Argentina
Fax: (54-51) 210060

In Santiago de Chile, Chile, a project is run to move away from the traditional nature of the legal system and to legitimize a new conflict resolution technique. The aim is to modify and improve the system of legal assistance.

Contact Person:
Sebastian Cox Urrejol,
Santiago de Chile, Chile
Web site:; E-mail:;
Fax: (56-2) 777 6196

In Edmonton, Canada, a crime prevention programme is run through social development and urban design. The programme includes a Youth Justice Committee of volunteers; a spousal violence follow up; safety for people walking at night; prostitution offenders programme and a safe housing committee.
Contact Person:
Pijush Sarker
Fax: (1-403) 496 5996

International Organizations, National Agencies and Networks dealing with crime prevention:
United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI),
Kampala, Uganda;
Fax: (256-41) 221119/344801
UNAFRI assists in the formulation of policies and training programmes for crime prevention and treatment of offenders.

United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI),
Rome, Italy E-mail:;
Fax: (39-6) 689 2638
UNICRI conducts research and training activities, in collaboration with the countries concerned. UNICRI also provides technical support to major projects on social defence policies and programmes carried out by UN.

United Nations Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (ILANUD),
San José, Costa Rica
Web site:;
E mail:;
Fax: (50-6) 233 7175
ILANUD is strengthening the criminal justice system through crime prevention, social control and gives assistance to highly discriminated sectors.

The International Centre for the Prevention of Crime,
Montreal, Canada (ICPC).
Web site: www.crime prevention;
E mail: cipc@crime prevention;
Fax: (1-514) 288 8763
ICPC has their own "Best Practice Bureau" with information on successful crime prevention programmes and projects. The Centre also has a strategic comparative analysis of trends, impacts and benefits of crime prevention actions in different countries.

The European Forum for Urban Security
Web site: HTTP//:www.FESU.Asso.Fr.;
Fax: (33-1) 4327 7952
The European Forum for Urban Security is a network of local authorities which implement actions and programmes to fight urban insecurity and treat delinquency.

Naif Arab Academy for Security Sciences (NAASS),
Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
E mail:;
Fax: (966-1) 246 4713
NAASS carries out cross-sectoral activities in crime prevention, security and safety.

National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC),
Ottawa, Canada.
Web site:;
E mail:;
Fax: (1-613) 952 3515
NCPC/Canada keeps records of statistics on the cost of crime, with Canada as an example. They also give examples of projects of crime prevention through social development.

Desepaz Cali, Colombia;
Contact Person:
Mr Cerman Cobo;
Fax: (57-2) 661 8848
In Colombia, Desepaz Cali has successfully been targeting urban violence by establishing relationships with the police; support to the judicial system's modernization; family programmes and support to high risk teenagers group.

1 The National Police Agency,
Tokyo, Japan;
Web site:;
Fax: (81-3) 3580 5091
In Japan, community policing (Koban) has greatly increased public confidence in the police and reduced violent crime. Police officers are expected to function as members in the community in which they serve and make regular patrols on foot, interacting with residents and businesses in their jurisdiction.

Lihok Pilipina Foundation,
Cebu city, Philippines
Contact Person:
Ms Tessie Fernandez;
E mail:
The Lihok-Pilipina, in Philippines, has addressed the needs and priorities of women from low-income households in Cebu City. It includes credit programmes and education. The Lihok-Pilipina has also developed a women's support and crisis centre to respond to domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS),
South Africa. Web site:;
E mail:;
Fax: (27-11) 315 7099
ISS's mission is to enhance human security in Africa, through applied research and the dissemination of information. The Institute is committed to democracy, good governance and the promotion of common security.

National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC),
Washington DC, USA.
Web site:; Fax: (1-202) 296 1356
NCPC/USA provides comprehensive crime prevention technical assistance and training to communities. The Council also develops and implements highly-acclaimed and innovative youth development programmes.

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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