Mind the Gap. Leave No One and Place Behind
We have seen migration of people from rural areas to urban areas. One of the main reasons for migration is in search of better livelihood options. Due to limited options in rural areas people are migrating to urban areas which are directly or indirectly bringing many challenges for the cities and other urban areas.
We are aware that cities are responsible for 70 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, with transport, buildings, energy, and waste management accounting for the bulk of urban emissions. By 2050, two-thirds of our global population will live in urban areas. Nearly 90% of the growth in urban population will occur in Asia and Africa.
The United Nations (UN) designated the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day (WHD) to reflect on the state of our habitats, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. The day is also intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns. This year the day is being observed on 3rd October. In 1985 the UN designated the day and the idea is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter. WHD was first celebrated in 1986 with the theme “Shelter is My Right”. Nairobi was the host city for the observance that year.
In 2022, WHD under the theme “Mind the Gap. Leave No One and Place Behind” looks at the problem of growing inequality and challenges in cities and human settlements. WHD 2022 seeks to draw attention to the growing inequalities and vulnerabilities that have been exacerbated by the triple ‘C’ crises — COVID-19, climate and conflict.
The pandemic and recent conflicts have reversed years of progress made in the fight against poverty, resulting in the emergence of newly poor people — those who would have exited poverty in the absence of the pandemic but remain poor, and those who have fallen into poverty on account of the pandemic. According to the UN-Habitat’s World Cities Report, the number of people affected was between 119 and 124 million in 2020, and between 143 and 163 million in 2021. Tackling urban poverty and inequality have become an urgent global priority.
It is known that cities and local governments play a front-line role in responding to crises and emergencies, as well as in planning for an inclusive, resilient, and green future. To prepare urban areas for future catastrophes, we need to start with cities. The Strategic Plan for 2020–2023 re-positions UN-Habitat as a major global entity, a centre of excellence and innovation.
Secretary General of the UN in his message on the occasion of WHD said that “each year, World Habitat Day focuses attention on the state of human settlements. This year’s theme – ‘Mind the Gap. Leave No One and No Place Behind’ – puts the spotlight on widening inequalities in living conditions across the world. A cascade of challenges – from climate chaos and conflicts to COVID-19 – is hitting the most vulnerable populations the hardest.”
The day is an opportunity for all of us to re-think about the progress that we made in our cities . The question is, are we making our cities sustainable? Proper planning and good policy documents are important to make cities and our habitats more sustainable and it is possible when all of us contribute positively. No one should be left behind in the process of developing cities. Every human being whether rich or poor must get dignity and a place to stay and explore habitat positively. Effective habitat management is a must if we want to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
Ranjan K Baruah
(With direct inputs from UN publication)