Vancouver, Canada, 7 October 2019 - World Habitat Day was celebrated in Vancouver as participants reflected on the city’s history of supporting UN-Habitat, including as the host of Agency’s founding conference, Habitat 1 in 1976.
“World Habitat Day is a time to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter,” stated Dr. Jennie Moore, Director of Institute Sustainability for The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and coordinator for the Ecocities Summit,” It was here in Vancouver in 1976 that the first Conference on Human Settlements and Sustainable Urban Development took place, giving rise to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, now known as UN-Habitat.”
The celebrations focused on telling the story of Vancouver and UN-Habitat, aimed at reinvigorating the partnership and demonstrating how Vancouver has followed up on the commitments of Habitat I and the Third Session of the World Urban Forum in 2006 which it also hosted.
“The theme of the Third World Urban Forum was Turning Ideas into Action, calling attention to the importance of inclusive sustainable urban development,” stated Deputy Mayor Peter Fry, speaking on behalf of Mayor Kennedy Stewart,
“We at the City have taken this to heart and adopted many key undertakings such as the Ecodensity strategy, which promotes livable density for everyone; designating Vancouver the first ever City of Reconciliation, with commitments to strengthen local First Nations and Urban Indigenous relations, and most recently declaring a climate emergency, committing to limiting global warming to 1.5°C.”
Ken Cameron, retired Manager, Policy and Planning, Metro Vancouver who attended Habitat I said the conference allowed both governments and civil society to work together.
“From the outset, Habitat I was a conference like no other,” stated Mr. Cameron. “The Government of Canada sponsored demonstration projects to produce ideas that could be shared internationally. The Government also supported a parallel conference for the public and NGOs, who then were not welcome at UN meetings. The conference featured futurist (American architect) Buckminister Fuller and Mother Theresa, reflecting the social and human dimensions of urbanization.”
Chris Williams, Director of UN-Habitat’s New York Office , represented the UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif, saying she was asking Mayors of cities that hosted WUFs to form an alumni group that she can take advice from and which would allow the cities to share their different experiences and inform the future.
“My Executive Director, on the occasion of World Habitat Day 2019, has asked me to extend this invitation to the Mayor with the hope that he can attend the WUF in Abu Dhabi in February of 2019 and share the amazing experience and knowledge Vancouver has on sustainable urbanization.”
This year’s Ecocities Summit looks at whether cities can be ecologically healthy and socially just and also focuses on the development of International Ecocity Standards, developed by Ecocity Builders and BCIT over the last 10 years.