ESCAP to Present Awards as Part of World Habitat Day Observance

This year’s World Habitat Day is being observed across the world under the theme “A Safe City Is A Just City”. The theme chosen is particularly significant as this year marks the first time in history that more than half of the world population lives in cities and urban areas. The number of people living in cities is expected to grow, especially in cities and urban settlements in the lowest income countries. With more poor people living in cities, efforts to avoid an “urbanization of poverty” will be needed.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is observing the World Habitat Day by organizing an award ceremony in recognition of the initiatives in improving the living conditions of slums and squatter settlements in Thailand by the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI) of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and the Treasury Department, Ministry of Finance.

Mr. Paiboon Wattanasritham, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand and Minister of Social Development and Human Security, will chair the World Habitat observance at the United Nations Conference Centre on 5 October 2007. The Deputy Prime Minister will also present awards to 60 Thai cities and towns for their local initiatives under the Baan Mankong Programme.

The Baan Mankong Program was chosen for its effective approach to empowering squatters and slum dwellers in becoming equal partners with government and civil society to tackle their housing problems and build stronger communities. Having started as a pilot project in 10 slums in 2003, it is now active in over 200 towns in Thailand. The key to the success of the Baan Mankong Program is that it gives poor people the power and the freedom to make decisions for their communities and to carry them out.

The award ceremony is the culmination of this year’s World Habitat Week in Thailand, which started on Monday, 1 October with an opening ceremony at the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre in Bangkok and a march to the United Nations Building by 1,000 slum dwellers. Workshops and meetings are being held throughout the week across Thailand.

World Habitat Day is observed on the first Monday of October to encourage the world to reflect on the state of human settlements and the basic right to adequate shelter for all. It is also a reminder of the collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.

Note to Editors:

You or your representatives are invited to attend the World Habitat Day 2007 on Friday, 5 October, starting at 9 a.m., in the UN Conference Centre, Rajadamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok.