• Evelyn VanDenBerg

World Habitat Day: The Right to Shelter in a Growing World

Updated: Oct 19

World Habitat Day: The Right to Shelter in a Growing World

By Evelyn VanDenBerg (2022-23 Iowa UNA College Ambassador from Drake University)


October 3rd, 2022 marks the global observance of World Habitat Day. The UN General Assembly established World Habitat Day in 1985 to address the issues of rapid urbanization, and it is held on the first Monday of October each year. This year’s theme, focusing on habitat instability in a growing and developing world, is “Mind the Gap: Leave No One and Place Behind.” By 2050, over two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban centers, and this year’s World Habitat Day is especially important due to the intersecting challenges of COVID-19, the climate crisis, and violent conflict across the globe. These challenges have heightened the inequalities already present in urban areas and increased the numbers of people living in slums.


Addressing habitat inequality is an urgent global priority interconnected with many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set concrete, measurable targets for global progress that countries commit to working towards by 2030. Making progress on SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and SDG 13 (Climate Action) will be particularly important in global efforts to address habit inequality.


Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities sets targets for promoting inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities and human settlements, objectives that are an integral purpose of World Habitat Day. SDG 11priorities include increasing the number of countries with disaster risk reduction strategies, improving municipal solid waste management, improving air quality in urban areas, increasing access to public transportation, and improving living standards for slum dwellers. According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022, only thirty-seven percent of urban areas have access to public transportation (500 meters walking to low-capacity transportation and 1,000 meters to high-capacity transportation). SDG 11 has set ten targets to expand access to safe and affordable housing, improve transportation and road safety, enhance sustainable urbanization, reduce deaths and economic loss from disasters, and lessen the environmental impact of cities by 2030.


The global climate crisis exacerbates efforts to promote a right to shelter in an urbanizing world. Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action is deeply intertwined with issues of habitat insecurity and inequality. By 2030, sea levels will rise between 30-60 cm, the frequency of disasters will increase by 40% since 2015, and an estimated 700 million people will be displaced by droughts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and UN Secretary-General António Guterres designated that the climate crisis was now a “code red” situation for humanity. With land loss due to rising sea levels, the habitat becomes even more vulnerable and a luxury to have. Jakarta, Indonesia is home to more than 10 million people and is officially the fastest sinking city. By 2050, it is estimated that over one-third of the city will be submerged.


As climate change continues, urban centers and the people who live there will continue to be put at risk. Addressing SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities and SDG 13: Climate Action is of the utmost importance to address the inequality and challenges in urban centers.


The Iowa United Nations Association encourages the support of this cause by first raising awareness for World Habitat Day. To learn more about these issues, the UN-Habitat Settlement Programme leads Urban October, a month of activities and events to join the discussion about sustainable urbanization. The SDGs identify local implementation as an essential basis for making global change. Accordingly, supporting local housing initiatives and volunteering in habitat building is another local way to support World Habitat Day. We encourage all Iowans to educate ourselves about housing insecurity in our own communities. Resources that include general information and statistics on housing insecurity in Iowa include the National Low Income Housing Association and National Alliance to End Homelessness.


The Iowa Division of UNA-USA appreciates your advocacy for sustainable development and shelter as a basic human right.







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