Yesterday marked World Habitat Day; a day that’s celebrated every first Monday of October annually since 1985 and the main focus this year is “Public Spaces for all”.
Dr Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN-Habitat, gave his message marking the day saying, “Public space provides room for social and cultural interaction and can foster a sense of belonging and pride in an area. A public space that is open to all, regardless of ethnic origin, age or gender, provides a democratic forum for citizens and society.
“Public space can bring communities together, provide meeting places and foster social ties. These spaces shape the cultural identity of an area, are part of its unique character and provide a sense of place for local communities. Sharing common spaces is the soul of the city.”
Earlier this year, Dr Clos along with other male members of UN-Habitat joined the HeForShe campaign; a campaign which aims to engage boys and men as agents for gender equality. Through this partnership they have embraced gender equality as the centre of urbanisation.
Dr Clos stated that for cities and towns to fulfil their role as drivers of sustainable development, gender equality and women’s empowerment need to be at the centre of the New Urban Agenda.
Although public spaces are vital for a society as a whole, Dr Clos said it is worrying that the provision of these is limited in many cities, and often cities lack comprehensive knowledge of the public space that they have and management mechanisms to enhance its quality, access and benefits.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said also commemorated the day giving his message,
“Public spaces are crucial for poor and vulnerable citizens. Improving access to them, and making them safe for women and girls, increases equity, promotes inclusion and combats discrimination. High-quality public spaces encourage people to communicate and collaborate with each other, and to participate in public life.”
He added that public places require careful collaboration among local authorities, local inhabitants and other actors.
The Habitat III Conference, which will be held from 17 – 20 October in Quito, Ecuador, will be focusing on effectively harnessing the power and forces behind urbanisation. Secretary Ban Ki-moon says he looks forward to its success so that people everywhere can enjoy public spaces where it’s safe and sustainable for all.