Homes build lives and strengthen the future; this is exactly the sentiment World Habitat Day celebrates. Held on the first Monday of October each year, on October 4 this year, this day aims to spread knowledge of the basic right to shelter and remind people that they are also responsible for the habitat of future generations.
History of World Habitat Day
Urbanization can be traced way back to ancient Mesopotamia (now called Iraq). Two cities flourished in this period, Uruk and Ur, which were situated close to the banks of the Euphrates River at the time. Historians also credit the rise of urban areas to such river valley civilizations in places like Egypt, India, and China. These places initially depended on agriculture and domestic cattle but soon expanded into trading centers and merchant hubs.
Data records that urbanization spread from ancient Mesopotamia to Egypt and, from there, to ancient Greece. While the Mesopotamian cities eventually faded out — we can only guess the causes like overcrowding, overutilization of natural resources, etc. — subsequent ancient civilizations took care to prevent the less desirable consequences of urbanization, especially in Egypt.
The growth of urban areas accelerated to a great extent around 200 years ago as people went in search of jobs, which were, of course, mostly in cities where factories were located. Over the past 50 years, urbanization has seen rapid growth. A huge amount of people live in urban areas around the globe, and much of this urbanization is taking place in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Today, countries around the world see the same pattern; people flocking to urban areas in search of different livelihoods and more prosperous living standards. Functioning as economic centers, cities are constantly growing and adapting but, sometimes, lack of planning and adequate resources causes major problems. In such settings, adequate housing is not a certainty for many urban residents.
To address this problem, in 1985, the United Nations created and passed a resolution to celebrate World Habitat Day each year on the first Monday in October. Multiple countries celebrate this day, partnering with global and national organizations to examine how urbanization affects human habitats and how this impacts the environment as well. Four years later, the United Nations agency for Urban Development, called the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (U.N.-Habitat), launched a special award for initiatives that have made outstanding contributions in building human habitats and improving the quality of human life. This award — which is a plaque engraved with the winner’s name and their achievement, is presented during the Global Observance of World Habitat Day.
World Habitat Day timeline
The Uruk Period in ancient Mesopotamia shows evidence of large-scale urbanization — this, along with ancient India, ancient China, and ancient Egypt civilizations, are the earliest known examples of 'cities.'
Less than one-third of the world's population lives in urban areas — scientists say around two-thirds of the world will likely live in cities by 2030.
The U.N. General Assembly passes Resolution 40/202, establishing World Habitat Day — it starts being celebrated a year after this.
A U.N. agency, U.N.-Habitat, launches a special award called The U.N.-Habitat Scroll of Honour Award — it is given for outstanding contributions in shelter provision, highlighting the plight of the homeless, etc.
World Habitat Day FAQs
What is the theme of World Habitat Day 2021?
Because cities contribute about 70% of the global carbon dioxide emissions, this year’s theme for World Habitat Day is ‘Accelerating Urban Action for a Carbon-Free World.’
How many people are homeless in the World Habitat for Humanity?
As per estimates, 1.6 billion people live in inadequate shelters. Of those, one billion live in informal settlements.
What do you know about habitats?
According to the National Geographic Society, the place where any living organism makes its home is its habitat. This habitat is also supposed to contain all environmental conditions needed to survive — shelter, water, food, and space, in adequate amounts.
How to Observe World Habitat Day
Grab all the resources you can get from the U.N. website or partner websites that celebrate this event, share the literature, or simply tell another person about this day and its significance. The more people realize World Habitat Day's importance, the stronger the impact we can have.
Support local housing initiatives
Check-in with community leaders, local charities, and organizations that focus on better housing. Ask how you can help, and donate your time and expertise to the cause.
Volunteer in habitat building initiatives
Local or global, habitat-building initiatives are always in motion. Lend your hand, and other talents, to the cause. Help give a family a new home and a better life.
5 Fun Facts About World Habitat Day
The first celebration
It took place in Nairobi, Kenya, and the theme was "Shelter is My Right."
A new year, a new theme
The United Nations selects a new theme for World Habitat Day each year based on ongoing habitat-related issues — previous themes include “Shelter for the Homeless (1987),” “Future Cities (1997),” “Women in Urban Governance (2000),” and “Cities and Climate Change (2011).”
55% of the world lives in cities
More than half of the world's seven billion people call cities and other urban areas home.
Meeting the rising demand
As per global estimates, more than 96,000 thousand housing units will need to be built each year to meet the rising demand.
Estimates for 2050
According to the present trend, urban areas will see an influx of an additional three billion people by 2050.
Why World Habitat Day is Important
Building homes builds lives
A decent place to live can eliminate barriers to success and opportunities that might not have existed for a family for a long time.
The right to shelter
This day communicates the all-important message that every single person across the globe deserves to live in a good house.
Sustainable living is also a focus
Not only is the world focusing on building shelter, but they are also investigating the environmental impact current urbanization has on future housing. With every initiative, we are trying to make the world a better place for future citizens.
World Habitat Day dates