Pope Francis gives thumbs to Habitat III
Nairobi, 27 November 2015—On a visit to the United Nations compound on Thursday, Pope Francis gave an endorsement to the Habitat-III Conference, planned for Quito in October 2016, saying it could be a significant occasion for identifying ways of responding pressing urbanisation challenges. The pontiff set aside a special session where he addressed members of the diplomatic corps as well as United Nations staff and their families at the UN compound at Gigiri. “There is a need to promote projects of city planning and maintenance of public areas which move in this direction and take into consideration the views of local residents; this will help to eliminate the many instances of inequality and pockets of urban poverty which are not simply economic but also, and above all, social and environmental. The forthcoming Habitat-III Conference, planned for Quito in October 2016, could be a significant occasion for identifying ways of responding to these issues,” he said. According to the Pope, alongside with neglect of the environment the world had recently witnessed a rapid process of urbanization, “which in many cases has unfortunately led to a “disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities which have become unhealthy to live in [and] inefficient”. “Together we increasingly see the troubling symptoms of a social breakdown which spawns “increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, loss of identity, a lack of rootedness and social anonymity” he said. Offering his encouragement to all those working on the local and international levels to ensure that the process of urbanization becomes an effective means for development and integration, Pope Francis said such an effort meant working to guarantee for everyone, especially those living in outlying neighbourhoods, the basic rights to dignified living conditions and to land, lodging and labour. Also speaking at the occasion were Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi, UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos and his UNEP counterpart Mr. Achim Steiner.