Some 3,000 delegates, including four presidents, cabinet ministers, urban planners and population experts are attending the United Nations Habitat Assembly meeting this week in Nairobi. They are seeking better urban and sustainable planning to deal with rising populations as well the effects of climate change.
At the inaugural U.N Habitat Assembly, delegates will put their heads together hoping to find solutions to make big cities more habitable. For Africa, urgent solutions are needed as the United Nations estimates nearly half of the continent’s populations live in slums.
The theme of the summit is “Innovation for a better quality of life in cities and communities.” U.N. Habitat Director for Africa Naison Mutizwa-Mangaza says innovation will be key in transforming the continent’s urban areas.
“We hope there will be a lot of ideas shared on innovations on how to plan our cities, how to manage them, how to do transport in a more imaginative way and so on. For me it would be how to grow African economies using urbanization as a tool,” Mutizwa-Mangaza said.
The assembly is to be held every four years and comes as more people are living in urban areas than rural areas, posing a challenge for urban planners, according to Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Inadequate shelter and unsustainable human settlement remain a key challenge. I urge partners to exchange ideas and best practices for improving our cities. And I therefore continue to urge member countries and partners to seize this opportunities during this United Nations Habitat Assembly to exchange ideas and best practices with a view of identifying practical solutions to improving our cities and human settlements,” Kenyatta said.
At the end of the five day summit, delegates plan to come up with a ministerial declaration with proposals on how to make cities more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by 2030. Maimouna Sharrif, director of U.N. Habitat, says coordinated action is needed.
“It means that we collectively need to get our urban growth process right to sort, and our urban growth process and our cities right to solve or mitigate these problems. This is important as some of these problems do not recognize regional or national boundaries,” Sharrif said. The U.N. Habitat Assembly, will draw from the New Urban Agenda, a road map on urban development adopted by global leaders in 2016. (VOA)
Deputy UN Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has said that yoga can help the world in these troubled times by inspiring the adoption of a sustainable lifestyle to fight climate change and by promoting tolerance and peace.
Addressing the fifth International Yoga Day celebration here on Thursday, she said: “The essence of yoga is balance not only within us, but also in our relationship with humanity, with the world. As such, yoga can promote solidarity, social integration, tolerance justice and peace.
“It teaches us a holistic vision of the world encouraging us to live in harmony with ourselves, society and nature.”
The theme of the celebration was Yoga and Climate Action, and Mohammed said that yoga “has a valuable contribution in addressing climate change, the defining issue of our time, by inspiring us to shift away from the unsustainable practices towards inclusive green growth, conscious consumption and much more sustainable lifestyles”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a video message that the global significance of yoga is that like it unites tbe body, mind and soul, it can also unite the world.
The celebration was filled with symbolism relevant to the issues of the day. In a show of the nature’s challenge, week-long rains continuing into the day, turned the UN lawns soggy, forcing the event indoors into the General Assembly chamber.
And the hall that often echoes with words of disharmony and confrontation instead reverberated with chants of “Om, Om Shanti” led by the yoga gurus.
In a sign of human ingenuity meeting nature’s adversities, the yoga masters quickly changed the planned mass outdoor yoga exercises into a performance of “office yoga” for closed in spaces by the diplomats, officials and yoga enthusiasts thronging the Assembly chamber.
India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin noted that the International Yoga Day was born in that very hall through a resolution adopted by the Assembly in 2014.
“There is growing discourse among theglobal community that yoga can be one of the tools in our collective quest for promoting sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature,” he said.
Yoga drives the quest for balance and this “provides us with a framework for managing our needs and desires” he said.
“When applied to communities and societies, yoga offers a toolkit for embracing lifestyles that are sustainable, lifestyles that appeal to the human yearning for harmony.”
Celebrity yoga instructor and pranic healer Sunaina Rekhi of Mumbai’s Yoga Gallery received loud cheers as she led the audience through a freewheeling session of joyous yoga with feet stomping and jumping in place showing how to relieve stress and relax.
Swami Paramananda of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, and Kevin Tobar from the Bhakti Centre led chants and yoga exercises adapted for practice in confined spaces like offices.