Mrs. and Mr. Chairpersons
Ladies and Gentlemen
Please permit me, first of all, to convey to you the greetings and best wishes of His Highness Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayyan, President of the UAE as well as His Highness Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
I would also like to express our appreciation for this opportunity to address you on the important subject of Best Practices Impact for the 21st Century.
We anticipate that in the next century, humanity will be confronted with immense challenges as well as opportunities. One of the most important challenges of the 21st century is certainly going to be the mushrooming population growth with its attendant implications for the global environment, economy and international peace and security.
According to UNFPA estimates, world population is expected to increase from 6 billion by 1999 to approximately 9.4 billion by 2050. An added phenomenon of this
population challenge is the longevity factor which is the main UN theme for 1999.
It is well known that due to sustained international efforts and socio-economic advances in health, education and other services, the rates of infant mortality and fertility have declined. The positive impact of this global achievement is the fact that life expectancy has been increasing steadily. UNFPA estimates that by the year 2050 there will be 1.42 billion people over 65 years old comprising 15% of the global population. By 2045, it is estimated that the life expectancy in developing countries is expected to increase from the current 62.1 years for men and 65.2 for women to 73.2 for men and 77.8 for women. The socio-economic and environmental consequences of such a development including its expected impact on the labour force, infrastructure, social security, etc. pension, insurance and other services will certainly require the highest level of ingenuity and rethinking as well as vision on the part of planners. In addition, collaboration on international, regional and local levels. as well as a comprehensive review of our priorities and the allocation of resources become essential.
The bottom line, however, remains the need to ensure that communities in villages, towns and cities will recognize and respond effectively to this major social transformation in the 21st century.
Ladies and Gentlemen, With respect to this conference’s well chosen subject of “Caring Communities for the 21st century”, from Dubai’s perspective, our strategy has been to respond to the population challenges not only on the local but also on the international levels. On the local level, Dubai Municipality has formulated a clear strategic plan up to the year 2012 which, among other things, takes into account our society’s fundamental values and culture by, for instance, incorporating the extended family system in our land use policy.
We refer, in particular, to this year’s UN International Year of Older Persons. According to our Islamic heritage and our local culture, our society has a high respect for elderly people and it is normal practice for families to take good care of their older generation. In addition, the UAE Government provides additional facilities such as health care and homes for the aged.
On the international level, the UAE Government has positive policy and commitment to the principles of global collaboration in improving people’s living conditions. H.H.
Sheikh Zayed Bin sultan Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, has provided substantial support to numerous countries for the purpose of improving their environmental
conditions. The UAE government’s policy has been graphically expressed with the establishment, in November 1995, of the Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment comprising US$400,000/00, a trophy and a commemorative certificate.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Please allow me to take this opportunity to express our utmost appreciation to the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, for having accepted the replica of the Dubai International Award trophy which can be viewed on the third floor of the UN Headquarter building.
The Dubai International Award which is granted every two years on the World Habitat Day has three major criteria, namely:
(a) Impact achieved in the improvement of the living conditions of humanity;
(b) Sustainability; and
(c) Partnership among government, non-government, community-based, civic society, and private sector organizations as well as private individuals.
The Award was established following the Dubai International Conference on Best Practices which was held in Dubai during 19-22 November, 1995 and attended by 914 participants from 95 countries.
The conference adopted the Dubai Declaration which was acknowledged by both the Habitat II Conference as well as the World Assembly of Cities and Local Authorities held in Istanbul, Turkey in June, 1996.
In order to ensure that the Award is granted in a credible and transparent manner, clear regulations, procedures and guidelines have been formulated and are being applied in full partnership with several internationally renowned institutions including UNCHS/HABITAT, Harvard University, as well as eighteen other institutions from around the globe including the Together Foundation in New York, the Huairu Commission in Germany, CEDARE (Egypt), the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, IBAM (Latia America), the University of Pretoria in South Africa, etc all of which participate as partners and members of the Steering Committee.
They assist in the dissemination of information about the Award as well as in validating and transferring best practices submissions. We wish to express our special appreciation to all members of the Steering Committee for their excellent partnership and support.
In addition, the selection of the award winning best practices undergoes a rigorous process of a detailed technical assessment by an international group of technical experts who short-list 40-100 of the top best practices from which an international jury of eminent personalities selects the best ten award winners.
So far, the Award has been granted to 16 best practices related to environmental and human settlements issues submitted from the following countries:
5. India (2);
6. Ivory Coast;
13. The Netherlands;
14. U.S.A. (2).
The next Dubai International Award is scheduled for October 2, in the year 2000. It is our fervent hope that best practices that are relevant to this year’s U.N. theme on older generations will also be submitted for consideration.
Although the Award is only three years old, judging from the 1,200 submissions obtained from over 100 countries in all continents for the 1996 and 1998 awards, it can definitely be stated that it has had a magnificent response. This can be credited partly to the fact that the basic concept of identifying and disseminating best practices has been recognized to be of immense value. It is also a result of the enthusiastic participation and support rendered by many members of the Steering Committee, especially the UNCHS/HABITAT.
Other major developments that are expected to have a significant contributory effect on the achievement of the Award’s final objective i.e. tangible impact on people’s living conditions, include:
1. The establishment of the best practices data base which can be accessed through the Internet as well as in CD-Rom to facilitate exchange of information, education and transfers;
2. The evolving and expanding network of best practices partners dedicated to the concept of identifying and disseminating track proven and workable ideas; for easy transfer in a shorter period and at a reduced cost;
3. The establishment of the Dubai International Award Laureates Forum in October 1998 aimed at enabling the Award recipients to collaborate in the dissemination of their
respective best practices to other communities, cities and/or countries.
It is very gratifying for us to note that even at this early stage of the Award, we have already witnessed some tangible transfers of best practices of which the following
examples may be mentioned:
1. We have been informed by UNCHS/Habitat that Canada and Sri Lanka have shared the experience of the SEWA Bank for Women in India;
2. Similarly, the experience of the Banana Kelly Community Upgrading and development project in the Bronx area of New York, formerly a slum area but later transformed to a better community living standard has been of use to Los Angeles and Nairobi;
The Best Practices data base has been accessed by numerous interested parties and, as an example, mention can be made of a request for information from Guatemala on practical methods for a low cost sewerage system for a refugee settlement which was needed in that country.
We believe that the above examples graphically illustrate the fact that the international best practices movement, galvanized by the Dubai International Award, can achieve practical impact for improving people’s living conditions in the 21st century.
With regard to the issue of longevity, in particular, we are convinced that best practices in both developed and developing countries could be identified and transferred within and between each others’ communities in order to cope effectively with the looming challenge from the generational changes in the 21st century.
We, therefore, hope that ICCC will support the best practices effort so that humanity’s achievements of excellence in all the aspects of caring communities can be widely disseminated and replicated.