Nevsehir, Turkey, 26 Sept 05

Hundreds of delegates representing local authorities from around the world, governments, NGOs and academic experts gathered in Nevsehir this week to discuss peace and social integration in human settlements.

“We must think of peace before conflicts occur,” Mr. Hassan Ünver, the Mayor of Nevsehir, said in an speech welcoming delegates to the International Local Authorities Conference for Peace and Social Integration. The delegates included panelists from countries recently in conflict such as Iraq, the Balkans, and Somalia. “We must not wait for cities to be destroyed before engaging in reconstruction.” The mayor also said he hoped the conference would serve to strengthen links among local authorities through increased exchanges of in areas of common interest such as better roads, clean drinking water, decent sanitation and safe shelter for city residents.

The conference was organised by the municipality of Nevsehir, gatweay to the ancient Silk Road cave city of Cappadocia, with the Turkish Association of Local Authorities (TALA) and their partners in collaboration with UN-HABITAT.

The Governor of Baghdad, shared his daily experience in tackling the challenges of terrorism, violence and crime which destroy the urban infrastructure and affect the poor.

In a statement read on her behalf, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, congratulated the Mayor of Nevsehir and his partners for their initiative and briefed them on the recently concluded Millennium Review Summit at which world leaders reaffirmed their committment to a peace buiding commission and a standing police capacity for UN peace keeping operations. Leaders at that summit also agreed to strengthen the UN human rights capacity through a coordinated strategy to prevent terrorism and protect the vulnerable populations from war crimes.

Mrs. Tibaijuka also highlighted the increased collaboration in the past decade between UN-HABITAT and local authorities, who have contributed significantly to the international efforts towards achieving the international quest for peace and sustainable development and reducing urban poverty.

As the sphere of government closest to the people, she said local authorities had a critical role to play in meeting the challenges and attaining the targets of the Millennium Development Goals, especially target 11 on slum upgrading. Many participants agreed that the best way of promoting peace was to build inclusive cities where everyone had sense of belonging.

The conference will conclude with the adoption of a ‘‘Cappadocia Declaration’’ and the creation of a secretariat in Nevþehir for the coordination and follow-up activities in close collaboration with the local governments unit of UN-HABITAT.