October 06, 2003

A Million People Live in Slums

In a recent publicaiton of UN Habitat, it was noted that we need to quickly mobilize a global movement to find better housing and a better standard of living for thouse who live in the Slums. It is imperative that we become more conscious of the number of people in the world, especially those in developping countries, who live in Slums or who are homeless and living in extremely poor conditions.

Original Entry Composed in French. Translation by: Tania Lo

Souvent les habitants de bidonvilles sont pauvres au point de ne pas pouvoir se soucier d'autre chose que de leur survie. Mais je suis persuadé que ce sont aussi des conditions pareilles qui sont au coeur d'une croissance dans l'instabilité politique et economique dans le monde. La population mondiale n'a pas fini de croitre et comme le dit le rapport mondial sur l'aménagement global "Global Report on Human Settlements ", (j'espère avoir bien tradui). Les populations rurales ont fini de croitre, c'est donc seulement dans les villes que va se passer la croissance de population mondiale.
Ce qui est encourageant, c'est qu'il est possible de trouver des solutions. Si on s'y applique et qu'on mobilise vraiment nos gouvernements à se soucier de l'aménagement mondial, on pourra vite réduire le nombre de personnes qui vivent dans de mauvais logements.
Pendant ce voyage j'espère pouvoir visiter toutes sortes d'habitations dans les campagnes autant que dans les villes. Je vais pouvoir rapporter ce que je vois et ce que les habitants pensent eux-mêmes sont les solutions pour améliorer leur qualité de vie.

A billion live in slums: UN Habitat
October 7, 2003

New York: About a sixth of the world's population , nearly 1 billion people, live in slums, and that number could double by 2030 if developed nations fail to change course and start giving the issue serious attention, a United Nations report says.

The UN Human Settlements Program's report is the first to assess slums and examine how widespread they are. Its main concern is the developing nations in Asia and Africa because the migration from rural areas to cities in Europe and the Americas has largely played out.

The report's main finding is stark - almost half the world's urban population lives in slums. Asia has the largest number of slum dwellers overall, with 554 million, while sub-Saharan Africa has the largest percentage of its urban population living in slums, about 71 per cent.

"In some developing country cities, slums are so pervasive that it is the rich who have to segregate themselves behind small, gated enclaves," the report says.

The report describes slums as poor areas that lack basic services or access to clean water, where housing is poorly built and overcrowded. Developed nations are not immune - 54 million people who live in cities in richer countries do so in slum-like conditions.

The report says the worldwide number of slum dwellers increased by 36 per cent in the 1990s to 923 million people.

The 310-page The Challenge of Slums traces the economic factors that influence the growth of slums, lays out solutions and discusses how they differ.

"We have all known for a long time that all is not as it should be," said the UN under secretary-general Anna Tibaijuka, executive director of the UN Human Settlements Program.

UN officials said the figures reveal that the world is not meeting a goal it set in 2000 to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. It said even that goal was far too narrow in scope. The promise was laid out in a declaration adopted by 189 countries at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000.

However, the report notes a few positive sides to slums. They are a stopping-off point for immigrants who cannot afford better housing when they first arrive in a city; they are a cultural mix that often spark new artistic movements; and their crowded environment can sometimes lead to "levels of solidarity unknown in the suburbs of the rich".

Associated Press

This story was found at: Article de Associated Press au SMH
See also: UN Habitat article

Posted by gwendal at 03:02 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2003

Cross town Traffic

Although I have been a little dissapointed that I was not able to leave this summer. Being in Vancouver for the summer is fantastic. I just spent the weekend at the Vancouver Folk Festival at Jericho beach. I am certain that the climatological statistics will back me up...

that it is nearly always a very beautiful sunny, warm weekend for the festival. The music was great and it was very nice to totally forget about all your daily worries and just worry about which stage you are going to lounge in front of for the next two hours.

Over the last few weeks I have been doing a lot of transiting between my mom's house at 10th and Alma to Tania's place on Commercial drive.
I beleive I have discovered a new form of street racing... bicycle stylee.
Late after dinner at my mother's house I would go back with Tania to her place.
Often we would be tired and try to put our bikes on the 99 b-line. Unfortunately we are often not the only ones and there have been times when there is only room for one more bike. So being galant a scede the spot to Tania and then the race begins. The goal is to ride accross town from Alma to Commercial drive and arrive before the 99 b-line. Early on it is very difficult as the bus takes off with few stops until it reaches Granville. Then the key to the race is to pass the 99 b-line before it reaches main cambie and stay ahead. If you are still behind at the main street stop you chances of winning are slim. But if by some fortune of well syncronized lights you are ahead you can then reach Commercial drive very hot and sweaty and look back as bus arrives.
So far I have won the challenge twice at around 12:30am in the westbound direction. I'd be curious to see if it is a challenge in the eastbound direction and if the time of day adds to to challenge.
(disclaimer: this is a lawful race and all rules of the road are mostly respected as long as the don't conflict with the laws of nature. ie: a body in motion will remain in motion as long as... and no stop sign should ever be erected at the bottom of a hill!)

This reminds me of the ancient saying: "when two sailboats are within sight of each other and going in roughly the same direction... they are automatically racing!"

That said I won't be racing up the south american continent :)

Posted by gwendal at 06:13 PM | Comments (2)

June 21, 2003

Streets! People?

Today was sunday and I had a classic Vancouver day. The kind that I know I have thought about when I am abroad. Continuously comparing the new landscape around me to the one I know best.

The morning started with a visit to Cambrian Hall on Main and 17th to see the "cruiser bike swap". Being a bicycle nut myself I thought I'd been exposed to all facets of self propelled two wheeled subcultures. I saw all kinds of unusual bikes from the 1930's to the early 80's. It was fun to be around people who thought that finding a good old "Strumey Archer 3-speed internal hub" is cool. The types of people attracted to "cruisers" is also interesting. The "cruiser" label carries connotations of the laid back 60's California surf culture, but there is also a sort of older alt/punk crowd and also the expected mechanically minded people.
But "cruiser" also refers to the classic Raleigh or Amsterdam style city bike. Although there was probably very few people under 25 and the median age of people there was somwhere closer to 35, it was really nice to see so many people interested in a different way to objectify the bicycle. The goal is not to have the newest, freshest, finest bicycle but rather historical character of the bicycle is most important. The search for a relaxed, laid back lifestyle is the paramount personification of the cruiser. When life in the city feels a little like a treadmill, I find hangin' and cruisin' to be a fine pursuit.

The next part of the day was a visit to Gastown for the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. This is one of the few summer events in the city where streets are closed to vehicle for anything other than road maintenance. Some people who know me from my travels through australia, know how highly I regard the well established aussie tradition of street festivals. Although the Jazz fest has a corporate sponsorship at every corner Water street was still closed to traffic.
It really made the area appealing and very pleasant. Even though the parkade is out of commission and under construction, thousands of people figured out a way to be there. It did not compare a community based neighbourhood street festival like the West end Street festival in Brisbane or the Glebe street festival in Sydney but it was very nice. There was even a aussie street performer there to give it an authentic street festival atmosphere. I think that there is a movement among those people who think about these things in Vancouver. That there should be a few streets in the down town peninsula that should be car free. Water street in Gastown is a good place to start. Check out the Carfree.com website to see more examples of other cities where it has worked very well. Or think about almost Any European city that has a central square or network of small streets that are devoid of vehicles, sanctuaries for the pedestrian!

To get back to the end of my sunday, I managed to get down to the Jericho sailing Centre and catch a late evening sail on a hobie 16. Sometimes I have to pinch yourself when I am living in this city.

Posted by gwendal at 12:56 AM | Comments (3)