UN Scribe Guterres
  • Affordable housing key for devt, social equality, says global body

Abimbola Akosile

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on people around the world to overcome their differences to address global challenges that go beyond national borders, in his first United Nations Day message.

Mr. Guterres, in a video message delivered on the UN Day Tuesday, said “Our world faces many grave challenges. Widening conflicts and inequality, extreme weather and deadly intolerance, and security threats – including nuclear weapons. We have the tools and wealth to overcome these challenges. All we need is the will.”

In his message, the UN chief stated that the challenges faced by the world transcend borders and, therefore, everyone needs to transcend their differences to transform the future.

“When we achieve human rights and human dignity for all people – they will build a peaceful, sustainable and just world,” he added, urging humanity – noted in the Charter of the United Nations as ‘We the Peoples’ – to make this vision a reality.

The 24th of October, the day in 1945 when the UN Charter entered into force, is celebrated annually as United Nations Day. In 1971, the General Assembly recommended that the day be observed by UN Member States as a public holiday.

Around the world, governments and UN offices marked the day through various programmes and events on the core pillars of the organisation. This year, at the UN Headquarters, in New York, the organisation’s Department of Public Information was billed to organise a concert featuring the Slovak National Folklore Ballet, Lúčnica.
The theme of the concert was “Potential in Diversity” and it was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic to the UN.

Also, Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, on behalf of the Secretary-General, was expected to present the 2017 Secretary-General awards in categories, including innovation and creativity; implementing efficiencies; gender equality and parity; and champion of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Meanwhile, with 1.6 billion people living in inadequate housing, one billion of whom reside in slums and informal settlements, the United Nations highlighted affordable homes on the World Habitat Day, which also marked the official start of Urban October – a month of worldwide celebrations and citizens’ engagement in urban life worldwide.

“While millions of people lack suitable homes, the stock of vacant houses is gradually increasing,” said Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Dr. Joan Clos, in a message commemorating the Day under the 2017 theme ‘Housing Policies: Affordable Homes.’

“Ensuring housing affordability is therefore a complex issue of strategic importance for development, social peace and equality,” he added.

This year’s celebrations coincided with the first anniversary of the New Urban Agenda,” adopted at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, better known as Habitat III, in Quito, Ecuador, which enshrines urbanisation as an indispensable for development and a prerequisite for prosperity and growth.

“It is thanks to this paradigm shift that urbanization and development are indivisibly linked one to another,” Clos said. ‘Handing over housing to the market has proved a failure’

An analysis of housing affordability over the last 20 years reveals that despite increasing demand, housing – including rentals – has been largely unaffordable for the majority of the world population.

“We all remember well that housing was at the epicentre of the eruption of the global economic crisis of 2008, instead of being at the heart of the urban policy. Today, 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing, of which one billion live in slums and informal settlements,” he underscored.

Clos emphasised that addressing the housing needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, especially women, youth and those who live in slums, must be a priority in the development agendas, and added that promoting sound housing policies was also crucial for climate change, resilience, mobility and energy consumption.

“For housing to contribute to national socio-economic development and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the New Urban Agenda calls for placing housing policies at the centre of national urban policies along with strategies to fight poverty, improve health and employment,” he stressed.

Each year, World Habitat Day takes on a new theme to promote sustainable development policies to ensure shelter for all – often promoting one of UN-Habitat’s focal areas such as inclusive housing and social services; a safe and healthy living environment, with consideration for children, youth, women, elderly and disabled; affordable and sustainable transport and energy; and job creation.

“As we strive to create cities for all, an urgent action for achieving affordable homes requires a global commitment to effective and inclusive housing policies,” Clos concluded.