Press Releases

     
    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/SG/2669
        20 September 2000
     Women Bear Burden of Incomplete, Flawed Urban Governance
    Says Secretary-General in World Habitat Day Message
     

     NEW YORK, 19 September (UN Headquarters) – Following is the statement of Secretary- General Kofi Annan on the occasion of World Habitat Day 2000:  Women in Urban Governance, which is observed on 2 October:

     Over the course of the next generation, the global urban population is expected to double from 2.5 billion to 5 billion, meaning that most of the world's citizens will soon live in cities.  The rapid pace of urbanization has deprived enormous numbers of citizens of basic services and forced them to live in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, especially in the developing world.  Systems of governance have clearly failed to keep pace.  Among the worst defects is that the poor play little part in making the decisions that affect their everyday lives.

     In theory, the poor are excluded from governance regardless of gender.  In practice, it is women, even more than men, who must confront the consequences of other people's decisions.  Determined to create homes for their families in the grimmest surroundings, women clear mountains of garbage from public areas in order to dig drains.  Resolved to feed their families, they grow food on tiny scraps of land.  Concerned about their families' health, they undertake arduous searches for clean water.  Indeed, the daily routine of a woman in an urban slum shows vividly that women bear the burden of incomplete and flawed urban governance.

     Out of the sheer desperation that such situations create, many women start savings groups, agricultural programmes and sanitation campaigns.  Such efforts to forge real change make women the unsung heroes of poor urban areas.  But unless women are involved in the governance of their neighbourhoods, and until women's concerns become the concerns of entire communities and the larger body politic, the urban crisis will only grow worse.

     That is why this year's World Habitat Day is dedicated to enhancing the role and presence of women in urban governance.  There must be more women leaders at all levels of governance, and decision makers, male and female, must address the issues that affect poor women.  On this first World Habitat Day of the twenty-first century, let us pledge to do more to reinvent urban governance.

    * * * * *