Development & Aid, Global, Global Geopolitics, Headlines

DEVELOPMENT: Wanted – 500 Best Efforts

Kunda Dixit

DUBAI, Nov 22 1995 (IPS) - An international conference on housing and human settlements that ended here Wednesday officially launched a worldwide search for 500 best efforts to improve urban living conditions as a way to curb the environmental and social degradation of the world’s cities.

The Nairobi-based U.N. Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT- UNCHS) calls it the Best Practices Initiative, and will give the awards to the winning candidates at a big conference in Istanbul next year – The City Summit.

“The Best Practices Initiative will create a global network that will work by setting an example. I have not seen a better idea, a more concrete outcome of the birth of this new culture of sharing,” says Waly N’Dow, who heads HABITAT.

The Dubai meeting was attended by 600 municipalities, mayors, national government officials, urban experts and non-governmental organisations (NGO’s), and adopted the Dubai Declaration which set out the guidelines and criteria to search for best practices.

Delegates in Dubai got a preview of some 28 exemplary initiatives undertaken by municipalities, local governments and activists to better living conditions for city and town dwellers.

Some examples: how Hong Kong has managed to provide low-cost housing for millions of its citizens, how the city of Cebu in the Philippines is bringing better health care and education to slum dwellers, or how Gothenburg in Sweden has controlled industrial pollution.

The HABITAT office has already received 300 entries from 86 cities around the world for the contest, and expects at least a thousand more in the next few months.

An independent technical committee will pick 500 of the best entries and short list 100 for the Best Practices List. The other 400 will get honourable mention as “good practices”. And from among these, the Top Ten most outstanding efforts to make cities more liveable will be selected.

As a parallel initiative, HABITAT has also started work with a New York-based voluntary group on a five-year plan to build up a database of best practices for easy reference by the INTERNET or CD ROM.

“The Best Practices Award is basically recognition of a job well done, but the more important long-term process is the database which will give a chance for other cities around the world to learn from the experience of others,” says Nicholas You of HABITAT who is helping with preparations for the Istanbul meeting.

You says the Best Practices Initiative has changed the way big United Nations conference are run. “It is a new concept, and it will have a long-term impact on where we live and how we live in the next century,” says You.

HABITAT says urbanisation is bringing about one of the most dramatic demographic and social transformations ever seen in human history. By the year 2000, the number of people in the world living in cities will overtake those living in villages, and in the next 30 years there will be twice as many people in the world living in cities as in rural areas.

Jaime Ravinet, the mayor of the city of Santiago in Chile, told delegates at Wednesday’s closing session conventional wisdom had it that global problems needed global solutions and local problems needed local solution.

“The problem of the world’s cities has shown us that we also need local solutions to global problems,” Ravinet said.

The focus of the meeting was on devolving more powers to local bodies and municipalities. Said Ravinet: “We deal every day with local problems, we can be most effective in being part of the solution. Local governments need constitutional and financial recognition.”

The Dubai Declaration lays out local initiatives as crucial to resolving the problems of the world’s cities. It also provides criteria for selecting the best practices: they should inspire change, potential for replication and promotion of equity.

But a group of grassroots activists and experts on urban issues were disappointed with the declaration’s failure to address the specific problems faced by women like domestic violence.

Some also found flaws in the selection process, saying that a competition between urban renewal in Gothenburg and Guatemala City would be like comparing apples and oranges.

“It’s a little like a Miss Universe contest. Can we honestly say at the end of it: this is most beautiful woman in the world?” says Susanna George of the Asia Women and Shelter Network based in Malaysia.

But the fact that so many entries are already pouring into HABITAT’s Nairobi centre is testimony to the interest among the world’s cities to shine in Istanbul.

Sums up George: “We have finished the talking for now. Let’s see some real action.”

 
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Development & Aid, Global, Global Geopolitics, Headlines

DEVELOPMENT: Wanted – 500 Best Efforts

Kunda Dixit

DUBAI, Nov 22 1995 (IPS) - An international conference on housing and human settlements that ended here Wednesday officially launched a worldwide search for 500 best efforts to improve urban living conditions as a way to curb the environmental and social degradation of the world’s cities.
(more…)

 
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