Kofi Annan of Ghana is the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. The first Secretary-General to be elected from the ranks of United Nations staff, he began his first term on 1 January 1997. On 29 June 2001, acting on a recommendation by the Security Council, the General Assembly appointed him to a second term of office, beginning on 1 January 2002 and ending on 31 December 2006.

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Kofi Annan appeals to world’s cities
to embrace inclusiveness and equity
By Tann vom Hove, Editor

18 September 2004: The Second World Urban Forum in Barcelona closed on 17 September 2004 with a call from urban leaders to governments to give local authorities more support, saying urbanisation is greatest challenge facing humanity in the new millennium.

World Urban Forum 2006

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the world's cities to embrace inclusiveness and equity where cultures can enrich each other and educate all about the planet's "wondrous diversity." Mr Annan made the call in a message delivered by Mervat Tallawy, executive director of UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, to the UN World Urban Forum. “Otherwise, they will remain reservoirs of poverty and potential flashpoints of conflict, and ultimately, barriers to advancing the human condition," the UN chief said in his message.

Nowhere said Mr. Nicophore Soglo, Mayor of Contonou, Benin , was the challenge of urbanisation greater than in Africa . In remarks to the packed forum convention hall on Barcelona´s newly refurbished waterfront, he said: “The world´s urban population is approaching the characteristics of a time-bomb. We must disarm it immediately.”

Africa´s challenges were double those of elsewhere in the world: “We must never forget that Africa has undergone four centuries of deportation – the slave trade followed by colonization and now we have unviable states, governance problems, conflict and HIV/AIDS. Its world market access is derisory. Decentralization and democracy is only beginning in many countries.”

Keynote speakers called for a renewed drive for decentralization, and expressed concern that millions people in cities around the world still lacked access to safe water and sanitation, health care, education, shelter, and security of tenure.

Mr. John Ashe, President of the Commission for Sustainable Development warned that poverty continues to consign millions of people in the developing world to urban slums. “Nowhere is the challenge greater than in the sprawling slums of the developing world,” he said.

The Huairou Commission, representing grassroots women´s organisations around the world, called on UN-HABITAT to convene an expert-group meeting on women´s concerns, and said the Third World Urban Forum in Vancouver should have a “special place” for a women´s caucus. Ms. Esther Mwaura Muiru, of the commission, said governments had to address the issues of the Millennium Development Goals with particular attention to plight of women.

In a conclusion to the Second World Urban Forum, UN-HABITAT´s Execuctive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, signed an historic agreement with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) that will elevate the working relationship between the United Nations system and local governments around the world to a new level. The agreement is aimed at localising the MDGs to which world leaders committed themselves in the year 2000.

“Since 2002 the World Urban Forum has established itself as the world's premier urban development platform. The 1,100 people at the inaugural event in Nairobi in 2002 would scarcely have dared believe that more than 4,000 participants would come to Barcelona for a week of networking, discussion and debate,” she said. “We have witnessed intensive debates on city management, finance, housing and infrastructure, sustainability, inclusiveness and urban risk.”

UN-HABITAT also strengthened its relationship with the European Union (EU). For the past three years, UN-HABITAT and the European Commission have been engaged in a process of reinforcing collaboration in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), with specific reference to urban poverty reduction. At the World Urban Forum, the EU Research Directorate and UN-HABITAT launched a joint publication on Creating a World of Sustainable Cities , marking the beginning of a further stage in the ongoing cooperation between UN-HABITAT and the European Union. Mr Eric Ponthieu, Head of Sector, Directorate General for Research, European Commission (EC) announced the establishment of a common database of research results and a joint EU-UN-HABITAT Conference scheduled in China in the autumn of 2005.

Meanwhile, officials representing Dubai in Barcelona told City Mayors that Arab cities should come forward to participate in significant international events such as the World Urban Forum so that they can express the Arab view points towards various issues that are currently being discussed by world's cities today through constructive dialogues. “At present, the only city which participates in this Forum is Dubai,” they said.

At the closing plenary, Mrs. Tibaijuka accepted Canada´s invitation to host the Third World Urban Forum in Vancouver .

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