Sunday, October 3, 2010

World Habitat Day - Sharing Knowledge about Cities and How We Live in Them

In the public arena, knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS) is often experienced in official observances and celebrations. Most participants are usually not aware that they are engaged in an activity as significant in their lives as KD/KS, but that's fine, too. Knowledge development and knowledge sharing are such a universal human trait, it's not necessary to be always aware when it's happening.

Nevertheless, when there are such events, it's good to take notice of them, for they are an essential element in society. We are  better people (and better informed) when we take part in these activities.

A case in point is World Habitat Day, observed internationally on the first Monday in October is. This year - October 4 - the theme is Better City Better Life.

Designated by the United Nations to call attention to the right of all citizens to safe and secure urban housing, World Habitat Day is sponsored by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.

Started in 1978, UN-HABITAT is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities, with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. The programme is a fully fledged programme of the UN system, positioned squarely in the mainstream of the UN’s development agenda for poverty reduction. Through its work (known as the "Habitat Agenda"), UN-HABITAT contributes to the UN's overall objective to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development, with most of the programme budget coming in the form of contributions from multilateral and bilateral partners for technical cooperation (with about 5 per cent from the regular UN budget). Its partners range from governments and local authorities to a wide international cross-section of Non-Governmental Organisations and civil society groups.

Executive Director Designate Joan Clos, the former two-term Mayor of Barcelona and most recently Spain's Ambassador to the Republics of Turkey and Azerbaijan, takes office on October 18. Until then, Deputy Executive Director Inga Björk-Klevby is UN-HABITAT's Officer-in-Charge. In a recent statement, Mrs. Björk-Klevby discusses World Habitat Day:

In her comments, Mrs. Björk-Klevby identifies five steps for society to take if sustainable urbanization is to be realized:
  1. Improve quality of life for people living in slums and other sub-standard housing
  2. Invest in human capital
  3. Foster sustained economic opportunities
  4. Enhance political inclusion ("bringing government into the reach of ordinary people")
  5. Promote cultural inclusion, noting that culture has in the past been conventionally left out of the international urbanization agenda
Probably one of the best examples of KM/knowledge services in action, World Habitat Day provides an excellent opportunity for strategic knowledge professionals to consider their role in society and, particularly, their role in addressing one of the major global issues of our time.

[Disclosure: UN-HABITAT is a current client, and I am presently working in Nairobi as a consultant in knowledge strategy development for UN-HABITAT.]

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