Urban Amnesia: The Fate of Habitat '76
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Thirty-five years ago, an event occurred in Vancouver that would change the face of urban policy worldwide. The conference was Habitat '76, usually known as Habitat I. Habitat I was actually two conferences. The first 'official' conference - the UN-Habitat Conference on Human Settlements - was held under tight security in Vancouver's downtown core. The second, the Habitat Forum attended by citizens and non-government organizations, was held in five repurposed aircraft hangars at a former army/navy base on the city's west side. The significance of Habitat was that at the time of the conference, when two-thirds of the world's population was still living in rural areas, the UN had no agency addressing the problems of human settlement and urbanization. However, as a result of the event and its proclamation, the UN-Habitat agency was established. The conference seems to have had a relatively small impact on planners. It's possible that the problems of 'Third World' urbanization were seen as not having much relevance to North American conditions. Just as the 'two solitudes' of environment and social justice are only finally being breached after many decades, so too are the experiences and realms of the 'developed' and 'developing' world.