From May 31 to June 11, 1976 the first UN-Conference on Human Settlements, Habitat I, was held in
Parallel to the UN-Conference, Non-Governmental Organizations, other interested groups and individuals from the community were meeting at an open Forum, to debate on the same themes the governmental delegates were discussing; to exchange knowledge and experience to search for solutions. The estimated number of attendants and visitors was over 6,000. The Forum, organised by an ad hoc Habitat Committee, proposed to increase public awareness of human settlement problems and to disseminate peoples view and concerns to the governmental conference.
At the World Urban Forum III in 2006, this will be different. The Conference -defined as a closed meeting of experts on a definite area of interest- and the Forum -defined as an open space for debate– has turned into one single meeting, named Forum: open for public registration but being partially closed in the definition of themes, events and speakers, and held under the umbrella of UN-Habitat Programme and the Government of Canada.
By assembling the Habitat – Conference in 1976, the issues addressed were treated as a priority for the first time. Many people, who have been affected by bad housing conditions or problems related to their settlements, as well as NGOs working in this area, had been waiting for a meeting like this for a long time.
For the first time it was realized and recognised by a broad international spectrum that there is a crisis within human settlements and housing, that the living conditions of mankind are unacceptable, that problems are spreading and – finally – that something has to be done to avert possible catastrophic consequences of a worldwide urbanisation and the increase of slum areas.
The frameworks and statistical data on the main issues of the Conference and the Forum differ now in 2006 than when the summit took place in 1976.
In the 1970s the world did not move as fast as it does today. Transportation and communication have become easier now. Networks were not that big and widespread as they are in the 21st century. The number of people inhabiting this planet has doubled during the last thirty years. In 2000, world population reached 6.1 billion, and is growing at an annual rate of 1.2 per cent. By 1950, only 30% of the world population was urban, in 2000 it was already 47%. And more than half of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2008. It is estimated that there are almost a billion of poor people in the world. Today’s problems have different dimensions – but the problems already existed thirty years ago. An example is the problems related to housing and settlement issues that still call the international community for action.
The question is: what has been done since Habitat I to face these problems? And more: did the efforts to reduce poverty and bad housing conditions have any effect on the reality of the people? Target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals fixed in 2000, for example, aims to achieve by
To understand what really happened in