By Dan Petrie (Associate Director of Congressional Relations, Habitat for Humanity International)
June 18, 2012
With less than three years until the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire, talk about what went right, what went wrong and what might be included in the next go ’round is beginning to fill the halls of the United Nations, governments and NGOs alike. While the MDGs raised awareness and provided a common framework for the alleviation of poverty worldwide, the World Bank estimates that in 2008 (the most recent year in which global data is available), 2.47 billion people still lived on less than $2 per day. A global financial crisis, polarized international powers, and shifting demographics of those living in poverty make the world a very different place than when the Millennium Declaration was signed in 2000.
In 2007 for example, for the first time in history, more people were living in cities and towns than in rural areas. Urban areas have grown exponentially as people flock to cities in search of economic opportunity and the promise of a better life. While one could argue that the MDG Goal 7, Target 11 “improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers” has been met, perhaps even several times, the absolute number of those living in slums has increased from 776.7 million in 2000 to 827.6 million in 2010 according to UN-HABITAT. That number is expected to rise to nearly 2 billion in next two decades. What role then, does the growth of slums and rapid urbanization have beyond 2015 and how will the MDGs support the global need for adequate shelter?
The UN Millennium Declaration ratified in 2000 by more than 150 heads of state, which recognizes slums as critical to “development and poverty eradication,” should serve as a good starting point for future discussions. This is an idea people can get on board with. It’s also hard to imagine conversations around economic growth, environmental sustainability, climate change, health, housing, education, water and sanitation taking place without considering the trend of urbanization and the growth of slums. We should not be talking about how to keep people from moving to cities, but rather focusing our efforts on careful planning and management of growth to make cities as productive as possible. Given this, ensuring shelter and slums are represented in the next Millennium Development Goals will be essential.