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The first in-depth examination of threats to the safety and security of urban dwellers

The new UN-HABITAT Global Report on Human Settlements 2007, entitled Enhancing Urban Safety And Security, is published by Earthscan to coincide with World Habitat Day 2007: A Safe City is a Just City, on 1st October.

"The report highlights the key role urban planning and governance have to play in making our cities safe and secure for generations to come" states Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. "Through its documentation of many successful experiences, it promotes learning and sharing of knowledge on urban safety and security. I commend it to all those interested in the health of cities around the world".

Three major threats to the safety and security of cities are addressed in the report: urban crime and violence; insecurity of tenure and forced evictions; and natural and human-made disasters.

The report examines a broad spectrum of crime and violence, all of which are generally on the rise globally. Over the period 1980–2000, total recorded crime rates in the world increased by about 30 per cent, from 2300 to over 3000 crimes per 100,000 people. Over the past five years, 60 per cent of all urban residents in developing countries have been victims of crime. The report shows that while the incidence of terrorist-related violence is quantitatively smaller in relation to other types of violence, it has, however, significantly worsened the impacts of violence on cities in recent years.

The report estimates that at least 2 million people in the world are forcibly evicted every year, and that evictions invariably increase, rather than reduce, the problems that they aim to ‘solve’. The report documents a number of recent policy responses to the threat of tenure insecurity, including, at the international level, legislation against forced evictions and secure tenure campaigns and, at the national level, policies on upgrading and regularization, titling and legalization, as well as improved land administration and registration.

The report shows that, between 1974 and 2003, 6367 natural disasters occurred globally, causing the death of 2 million people and affecting 5.1 billion people. A total of 182 million people were made homeless, while reported economic damage amounted to US$1.38 trillion. The report also shows that the aggregate impact of small-scale hazards on urban dwellers can be considerable. For example, traffic accidents kill over 1.2 million people annually worldwide. An increasingly important factor is climate change. There has been a 50 per cent rise in extreme weather events associated with climate change from the 1950s to the 1990s, and major cities located in coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise.

An international conference to mark World Habitat Day will be held on the 1-2 October in The Hague and will feature Naison Mutizwa-Mangiza, author of the UN-HABITAT Global Report on Human Settlements 2007, as a keynote speaker.

Dan Harding | alfa
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