Urban October refers to the series of urban habitat related events taking place this month, which aim to raise awareness about the living conditions of slum dwellers around the world and of the important role of cities in addressing sustainable development.
Today, 3 October 2014, marks World Habitat Day 2014 which is celebrated in spirit of this year’s theme ‘Voices from Slums’. It aims to acknowledge the hardships of life in slums by giving voice to slum dwellers to air their own experiences and share their knowledge and ideas about improving their living conditions, as well as highlighting the efforts made towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
World Cities Day is a new event being celebrated on 31 October as part of Urban October. It will be celebrated under the theme ‘Leading Urban Transformations’. It is expected to bring to the attention of the international community the importance that urbanization plays in development and to promote cooperation between countries towards meeting opportunities and addressing challenges on a global scale.
World Habitat Day 2014: the plight of slum dwellers around the world
A quarter of the world’s urban population is living in ‘slums’, informal urban areas characterised by inadequate and harmful living conditions. In some regions, this is as high as 70 per cent. In the developing world in particular, an estimated one billion people have few housing options but to live in unplanned settlements, creating communities of under-recognised citizens of which the majority are youth. As a result, the developing world has some of the least prosperous and most inequitable cities on earth. Considering that, in the world’s least developed countries, urban population growth rate is higher than the total population growth rate and vulnerable employment still accounts for about 80 per cent of total employment, urban poverty is not just a present problem but an ever-growing concern posing development and humanitarian threats to humankind.
In response to this challenge, UN–Habitat has over the years focused in conceiving ways of improving the life of slum dwellers, such as the establishment of the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme (PSUP) in partnership with the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Commission (EC). The overall objective of PSUP is to contribute to improving the living conditions of the urban poor by providing technical support for ACP country stakeholders to tackle the multi-dimensional nature of the challenge. This is done by improving the capacity of relevant urban actors, from concerned authorities to slum dwellers themselves, to collectively assess their urban development needs, devise city-wide strategies to improve living conditions, and to implement these solutions. A sustainable response to improving the living conditions of the urban poor can only be achieved through the concerted and coordinated efforts of all relevant urban stakeholders. Participatory Slum Upgrading provides an action framework for the mobilisation of the appropriate capacities and resources for the realisation of this goal. Participation starts with your voice being heard, as highlighted by this year’s World Habitat Day.
Inaugral World Cities Day makes 2014 an Urban October
For the first time this year, the World Cities Day will be held on the last day of the month, October 31. As such, Urban October is a month for stimulating debate and generate commitments from urban stakeholders in order to improve the lives of slum dwellers around the world. Moreover, Urban October is the perfect setting for governments and media houses to organize and promote actions and activities around the four pillars towards a New Urban Agenda: awareness, participation, knowledge and engagement.
Urban October will gather advocacy, outreach and communications initiatives undertaken by UN-Habitat during the month. Urban October is a month for raising awareness on urban challenges and opportunities with the media and communications networks. It is the month for stimulating debates and moving forward commitments.