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Cities in a globalising world. (Grotesque Contrasts).

United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat). London: Earthscan, 2001. [pounds sterling]20

Some of us remember friends scraping together the cost of attending the first United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I) held at Vancouver in 1976. They were part of the huge parallel gathering of voluntary and non-governmental organizations and they came back with more faith in their own priorities than in those of governments. In 1996, Habitat II was held at Istanbul, with a vast simultaneous forum of unofficial bodies. This massive report draws together strategies for sustainable social and economic development agreed as the Habitat Agenda signed by representatives of 171 member states at that conference.

The Secretary-General of the Habitat II conference felt that the principles on human settlement that came out of the Vancouver conference were mostly prescriptive and patronizing in tone and that it was consequently not surprising that the principles adopted there 'did not lead to decisive positive action.' Will Habitat II be similarly unproductive? This massive report finds that no country had an explicit policy on human settlements and that this is not unexpected, given the situation that the preparatory committee called the 'grotesque contrasts between extremes of wealth and poverty, between concentrated power and repression'. For there is in fact a gulf between politicians and the findings of the researchers they employ, and the actual value of this volume is most likely to be as a source of statistics to support the opinions of urban researchers around the globe.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Ward, Colin
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Previous Article:Auguste Perret. (Poor Perret).
Next Article:Luis Barragan's gardens of El Pedregal. (Ideal Landscape Captured).

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