- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

Anna Kaujumulo Tibaijuka, the first African woman to head a U.N. agency, has been honored for promoting sustainable urban development in countries once shattered by war and political turmoil.
Mrs. Tibaijuka, executive director of the U.N. Human Settlement Program (Habitat), received a leadership award Friday from a Washington-based advocacy group working for sustainable development.
The Alliance for United Nations Sustainable Development Programs aims to boost funding for such U.N. programs.
As she accepted the award, Mrs. Tibaijuka said urbanization and progress are irreversible but stressed her commitment to solving problems of slums and city development worldwide.
"We must remember that problems of urbanization are not a new phenomenon," said Mrs. Tibaijuka, a Tanzanian who has headed Habitat since September 2000. "Industrial Revolution shows these problems have been with us before."
Developing countries and international organizations must work together to avoid the "worst urban nightmares of the Industrial Revolution" that once plagued cities such as New York and London in the 19th century, she said.
International settlement and urbanization projects have received more attention since the September 11 attacks, she said.
Mrs. Tibaijuka cited two immediate challenges to implementing the agency's projects funding the programs and persuading local governments to provide an atmosphere in which the projects can flourish.
"Support from America is very important because America has the technology, resources and experience," she said. "If you include the interest of America in the Habitat program, we could go very far."
Habitat has been active in the global effort to rebuild Afghanistan, both during and after Taliban rule, said Sharad Shankardass, a spokesman for the agency.
It has maintained more than 80 community-based organizations in the country since 1995 and has helped Afghan women by providing basic education and involving them in political discussions activities that could have been punishable by death under the Taliban regime.
Many workers and officers of Habitat projects in Afghanistan, including the chief technical adviser for the country, are women, Mr. Shankardass said.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said women can advance, with help, even in countries with urban problems and arbitrary laws designed to curtail women's rights. In her case, she credits her father, a coffee farmer, for encouraging her to get an education.

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