History of World Habitat Day
In 1985 the United Nations designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day.
World Habitat Day was first celebrated in 1986 with the theme “Shelter is My Right”. Nairobi was the host city for the observance that year. Other previous themes have included: “Shelter for the Homeless” (1987, New York); “Shelter and Urbanization” (1990, London); “Future Cities” (1997, Bonn); “Safer Cities” (1998, Dubai); “Women in Urban Governance” (2000, Jamaica); “Cities without Slums” (2001, Fukuoka), “Water and Sanitation for Cities” (2003, Rio de Janeiro), “Planning our Urban Future” (2009, Washington, D.C.), “Better City, Better Life” (2010, Shanghai, China) and Cities and Climate Change (2011, Aguascalientes, Mexico).
The Habitat Scroll of Honour award was launched by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme in 1989. It is currently the most prestigious human settlements award in the world. Its aim is to acknowledge initiatives which have made outstanding contributions in various fields. Fields are like shelter provision, highlighting the plight of the homeless, leadership in post conflict reconstruction, and developing and improving the human settlements and the quality of urban life. The award, a plaque engraved with the name of the winner and their achievement is presented to the winners during the Global Observance of World Habitat Day.
World Habitat Day 2020
Having an adequate home is now, more than ever, a matter of life and death. As COVID-19 continues to spread, people have been told to stay at home. But this simple measure is impossible for people who do not have adequate housing.
At the same time, COVID-19 has reminded us that home is much more than just a roof. To make us feel safe and enable us to continue living, working and learning, a home needs to be secure. A home needs to allow us to access basic services and infrastructure for hygiene measures and to have enough room for physical distancing. It should also be located in a place that enables residents to access public green and open spaces. Moreover it should near to employment opportunities, health-care services, schools, childcare centres and other social facilities.
An estimated 1.8 billion people were already living in slums and informal settlements, inadequate housing or in homelessness in our cities worldwide before the pandemic began. Some 3 billion people lack basic hand-washing facilities. This means millions of people worldwide are more likely to experience poor health due to the absence of basic services and exposure to multiple socio-economic and environmental hazards.
Structural inequalities have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. People from minorities, indigenous peoples and migrants are disproportionally affected by housing precarity, overcrowding and homelessness.
COVID-19 has spread in areas where people lack adequate housing, and are faced with inequalities and poverty. Residents in these areas are also often not recognized by the authorities or protected and face the risk of being evicted and relocated, particularly in times of crisis. According to ILO, 55 per cent of the world’s population – about 4 billion people – do not benefit from any form of social protection.
Housing is a human right and a catalyst for all other fundamental rights. It is the only way to ensure the “Right to the City for All”.