Mrs Anna Tibaijuka

Under Secretary General

Executive Director -UN-HABITAT

Message on the Occasion of World Habitat Day:

City to City Cooperation

Every year since 1985, when it was first designated by the General Assembly, World Habitat Day has been celebrated on the first Monday of every month. This year we are asked to reflect about how city to city cooperation can benefit the state of our cities and human settlements. Though the global observances are being held in Brussels, Belgium, where they are being jointly hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Belgium and the European Commission, all over the world there are equally important celebrations and meetings that aim to highlight the urgent need for city to city cooperation.

With over half of the world's population now living in cities and towns, the United Nations has prioritised sustainable urbanization. Only a few weeks ago at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Political Declaration and the Implementation Plan endorsed the need for adequate shelter alongside other priorities such as Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture and Bio-Diversity. Earlier last year, at Istanbul + 5, the Special Session of the General Assembly, Governments issued a Declaration on Cities and other Human Settlements in the New Millennium which also endorsed the specific Millennium Declaration target of making a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. An indication of how seriously the international community takes the problems of urbanization was the recent up-grading of the former UN Centre for Human Settlements to a full Programme, UN-HABITAT.

What all this means is that UN-HABITAT is now poised for action. In keeping with the call of the World Summit for Sustainable Development, this year's theme of city to city cooperation, or C2C as it commonly known, is an attempt to encourage new forms of partnership to deliver the millennium development goals. C2C is the basis for people to people diplomacy and cooperation leading to peaceful human settlements.

Cities and local authorities have been fostering international cooperation since the foundation of the first international association of local authorities in 1913. Early exchange among cities in developed countries was followed by links with cities in developing countries. Today, C2C may take place between cities in neighbouring countries or between cities at opposite ends of the globe. Town twinning is one of the earliest examples of C2C. In recent years the scope of C2C has widened considerably, on the initiative of city leaders with the encouragement and assistance of international associations and networks of local authorities. Moreover, there are an increasing number of community to community exchanges taking place between cities in the developing world.

There are a number of international agencies and organizations that are working with UN-HABITAT to encourage the exchange of skills and lessons learned. For example, Sister Cities International represents over 700 US communities who are working with 1,500 cities in over 121 countries. SCI is hoping to encourage many more. The Commonwealth Local Government Good Practice Scheme is also supporting many projects that link local councils and associations. At the same time, UN-HABITAT is working with many other international associations of local authorities, such as the International Union for Local Authorities (IULA), the World Associations for Cities and Local Authorities Coordination (WACLAC), the United Towns Organisation (UTO), City Net and many others are on city to city exchange. UN-HABITAT is also eager to encourage informal exchanges at every level.

In a world where total local government revenue per person in highly industrialised cities can often be 208 times more than that in some African cities, C2C is an effective way of mobilising large scale development resources. It is also a way to actively exchange 'best practices' and to improve the management capacity of cities in the developing world. North or South, cities can learn from each other. I therefore call upon all of you to think about how these exchanges can be encouraged. From sanitation to social housing, from computer management packages to public transport planning, from slum upgrading to housing finance, there is an urgent need to transfer skills to municipalities in developing countries. Without such transfer it will be difficult to meet the millennium development goals; it will also be increasingly difficult to maintain peace in our cities and human settlements.

If we are to meet the challenge set by world leaders in Johannesburg, then all of us, governments, local authorities, the private sector, non-governmental organisations, and ordinary communities are going to have to find innovative ways of working together. On this World Habitat Day, I therefore call upon all Habitat Agenda partners to work with together to ensure that City to City Cooperation will help meet the challenges of the urban millennium.

For further information, please contact1: Mr. Sharad Shankardass, Spokesperson, or Ms. Zahra Hassan, Press & Media Liaison, Press & Media Relations Unit, Tel: (254 2) 623153/623151, Fax: (254 2) 624060, E-mail:, Website:

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