I want to join Jonathan Reckford and Habit for Humanity in recognizing on World Habitat Day, President Carter and Rosalynn Carter for their longstanding leadership on sustainable development; commitment to eradicate poverty; and dedication to public service and human rights.
I am honored to be here with two of our most articulate and thoughtful leaders on urbanization and sustainable development, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Maria Otero, the Department of State’s Under Secretary for Global Affairs.
I want to praise Jonathan Reckford and Habitat for Humanity’s for its over three decades long campaign to work in neighborhoods in Washington DC, in the United States and across five continents to provide safe and secure housing for countless families.
We admire your distinguished record of promoting citizen-driven, grass roots, initiatives to serve communities in an increasingly urban world, a world in which one billion people – one-sixth of the world’s population – live in substandard housing, many in slums without safe drinking water, health, sanitation and education.
President Obama recognized early in his Administration the growing challenges of urbanization, including the direct correlation between poverty, environmental degradation and poor urban planning and unsustainable development. The President’s commitment led to the United States, under the leadership of Secretary Donovan, to serve for the first time as a global co-host of UN Habitats – World Habitat Day last year.
While the U.S. has much to offer in terms of resources, technology and experience, we recognize that sustainable urbanization and development are long-term challenges that cannot be met alone but will require the cooperative effort of the entire world, including working with stalwart partners like UN Habitat and Habitat for Humanity, to end poverty and build safer and healthier cities.
Just two weeks ago, at the UN Millennium Development Goal High-Level Meeting in New York, the President underscored our deep commitment to eradicating extreme poverty, by changing the way we approach the challenge of sustainable development.
To meet these challenges, the President and Secretary Clinton spotlighted major initiatives addressing food insecurity, public health and the use of clean energy technology in developing countries. In fact, Secretary Clinton helped launch a multinational program to spread the use of environmentally safe clean-burning cookstoves to millions of homes worldwide. The U.S. also co-hosted an event led by Under-Secretary Otero, to address improving access to safe drinking water and quality sanitation in urban and rural settings. We believe that an investment in sanitation and water reinforces investments in all the MDGs.
We know that innovation and accountability are central elements of our approach to reduce poverty. So, too, is our broad, deep, and active partnership with aid donors and aid recipients, national and local governments, international organizations, NGO’s, civil society and philanthropic organizations, all committed to sustainable development rather than sustained dependence.
The United States is committed to working with an array of UN agencies who share this mission. Of particular importance on World Habitat Day is UN Habitat, which plays a central role in addressing sustainable global urban development. We look forward to working with UN Habitat and its new Executive Director Joan Clos, not just in humanitarian crisis situations, like in Haiti, but to mitigate and meet the growing challenges of urbanization.
As we seek to address urbanization we know the challenges cannot be easily defined simply by longitude or latitude or by hemispheres or borders. We believe the answers can be found in the U.S. and worldwide, through greater international cooperation and exchange of new ideas and best practices. That’s why early on in this Administration the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of State joined together to address these challenges at home and abroad.
As we reflect on World Habitat Day 2010, let’s pledge to work together to build stronger, cleaner, more prosperous, and healthier cities that will not only meet the needs of citizens today, but ensure that our cities thrive in the 21st Century. Thank you.