World Habitat Day, observed every year on the first Monday of October, is meant to reflect on the state of our urban areas and the basic human right regarding provision of adequate shelter to all human beings. World Habitat Day (WHD) also aims to remind the planners and government officials of the collective responsibility for the habitat of future generations and a day to encourage grassroots action from civil society organizations to advocate for universal decent housing.
Each year, World Habitat Day takes on a new theme chosen by the United Nations based on current issues relevant to the Habitat Agenda. The themes of WHD are selected to bring attention to UN-Habitat’s mandate to promote sustainable development policies that ensure adequate shelter for all. These themes often promote important subjects such as housing and social services, a safe and healthy living environment, affordable and sustainable transport and energy, promotion, protection and restoration of green urban spaces, safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, healthy air quality, employment generation, improved urban planning, slum upgrading and better waste management.
The theme for World Habitat Day 2017 is Housing Policies: Affordable Homes. The purpose of WHD is to reflect on the conditions of our cities and towns and on the basic right of all to acquire an adequate shelter. It 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 WHD will focus on promoting at all levels of decision making on how to implement concrete initiatives to ensure adequate and affordable housing for all socio economic groups of people in the context of implementation of the New Urban Agenda based on Sustainable Development Goals.
An analysis of housing affordability over the last two decades reveals that despite increasing demand, owned and rental housing has been largely unaffordable for the majority of the world population mostly in developing countries. Around 1.6 billion people globally live in inadequate housing, of which 1 billion live in slums and informal settlements. While millions of people lack suitable homes. Ensuring housing availability and affordability is a complex issue of strategic importance for development, social peace and equality. Addressing the housing needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, especially women, youth and those who live in slums must be a priority in the development agendas.
The WHD is aimed at drawing the people’s attention towards the basic desire and need of poor people for an adequate housing. We need to understand that promoting sound housing policies is also crucial for climate change, resilience, mobility and energy consumption. For housing to contribute to national socio-economic development and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda calls for placing housing policies at the center of national urban policies along with strategies to fight poverty, improve health and employment.
The purpose of celebrating the WHD is to pay serious attention towards the need for better shelter all over the world, to share the priority of affordable and adequate housing, to bring the positive changes in the systems including policies and attitudes, to reflect on the states and towns and pay attention on the basic human rights for adequate shelter and to increase the awareness worldwide of joint responsibility for the future generation’s shelter.
Providing and improving housing is a gigantic task and cannot be dealt only by the governmental authorities. It require involvement of all stake holders including communities, NGOs and experienced developers to optimize urban densities and provide land zoning with efficient services and utilities that are environmental friendly and have minimum carbon footprint.
With the shortage of urban space, we need to develop in a sustainable manner to keep room for future growth and accommodate population in the coming decades. In the Middle East, the concerned authorities are giving due attention to the subject of planning and providing decent housing to citizens and to avoid any social, health and environmental problems.
Let us whole-heartedly support and celebrate the WHD and organize any activity or event in our own community including an awareness campaign, a fun activity, area cleanliness and get together in parks and public spaces.