The United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) is the UN agency for human settlements mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities, with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka took over in her current position, as head of the agency, in September 2000.
As Executive Director, Anna works with all high-level bodies of the UN system, including the Senior Management Board of the Secretary-General. The budget of UN-HABITAT has more than doubled in 2004-2005 to US$ 44 million, supporting 154 technical programs and projects in 61 countries around the world and two major worldwide campaigns - the Global Campaign on Urban Governance, and the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure. Anna explained the importance of the agency’s work asserting, “Human settlements is a very significant issue together with environment protection, as it bears on the interests of the common people of all countries in social development.”
The connection between housing and development was highlighted during one of Anna’s missions in another of her positions, as UN Special Envoy to Zimbabwe. She visited the country in 2005 to evaluate the humanitarian aspects of the eviction of about 200,000 poor people from their homes. “Operation Restore Order breached both national and international human rights law provisions guiding evictions, thereby precipitating a humanitarian crisis,” she said. “The Government of Zimbabwe should set a good example and adhere to the rule of law before it can credibly ask its citizens to do the same.”
Prior to joining UN-HABITAT, Anna was the Special Coordinator for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked and Small Island Developing Countries at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). She had previously worked as Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Dar-es-Salaam in her native Tanzania. She was the founding Chairperson of the independent Tanzanian National Women’s Council and founding Chairperson of the Barbro Johansson Girls Education Trust, an organization dedicated to promoting high standards of education for girls in Tanzania and throughout Africa. Anna holds a Doctorate of Science in Agricultural Economics from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden.
The work of UN-HABITAT in the immediate future will focus on meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and a new initiative has recently been launched to promote gender equality in access to housing. “In order to remove the barriers to gender equality in the human settlements sector, we must deal with housing laws and by-laws, urban planning regulations, laws dealing with property rights and inheritance rights, access to credit, and the list goes on,” she said, “While policies purporting to address gender gaps have been put in place in many countries, the real political will of implementing those, including by providing adequate funding, is lacking.”