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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN Group Seeks to Mend Urban Ills

ISTANBUL -- More than 10,000 delegates met in Istanbul on Monday for a UN conference seeking to address the urban ills of poverty, homelessness, social and environmental decay and build global cities for the future.

"It is the destiny of our global community -- where we will live and how we will live in the new world of tomorrow -- that we have come here to determine," Wally N'Dow, secretary general of the Habitat II conference, told conference delegates.

In the opening session of the two-week conference, speakers, including N'Dow, UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, set the task of finding ways to realize a humane vision of a future that will be dominated by urban culture.

Boutros-Ghali called the Habitat agenda "a global plan of action that embodies our vision of human settlements for cities, towns and villages that are viable, safe, prosperous, healthy and equitable."

He said that by 2025 urban dwellers would number around 5 billion, 80 percent of these in developing countries.

The United Nations says about 100 million people worldwide, mostly women and children, are homeless and up to 600 million people poorly housed.

N'Dow gave a bleak vision of the growing world today:

"Cities springing up everywhere, the exponential statistics of hopelessness and inadequate shelter affecting hundreds of millions; the slums and shantytowns larger than the original cities that spawned them.

"And all the urban ills now spreading with the speed of a plague -- poverty, crime, drugs, disaffected youth, paralyzing traffic, polluted air and water, unhygienic sanitation compounded by a growing shortage of potable water."

Speakers said the cooperation of nations, local administrations, non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, and the private sector was essential to ensure Habitat II and related projects worked.

Topics to be discussed at Habitat have been mainly drawn from earlier UN conferences, including the 1994 population meeting in Cairo and the Beijing women's conference last year. They include whether housing is a human right, a greater role for women in the housing process, decreasing water supplies for cities and people made homeless by conflict.