THE slogan of this year's UN-sponsored World Habitat Day was "harmonious cities", a message especially appropriate for Cambodia, organisers say.
"Right now there is a strong focus on rural development, but while you invest a lot of money in the rural areas, you do not stop people from moving to the city ... urbanisation is a very important issue," said UN-Habitat Executive Director Din Somethearith.
At a news conference Monday, Din Somethearith urged the government and donors to focus on Cambodia's urban challenges, particularly as the Kingdom's most recent census showed that one in five people now lives in a city - and UN documents predict that this figure will increase to some 37 percent of the population by 2030.
How to live together
UN-Habitat suggested three ways to a more harmonious urban future. Firstly, investment in residential areas in other cities such as Siem Reap and Sihanoukville should be encouraged as a means of preventing Phnom Penh from growing too fast.
Secondly, poor people in inner-city slum areas should be given better access to sanitation, job opportunities and security of tenure to prevent forced evictions. Thirdly, economic development and environmental concerns must be balanced.
Yap Kioe Sheng, chief of the Poverty Reduction Unit at the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said the government must recognise the fact that cities are for all - not just the wealthy.
"Cities need different kinds of workers, and authorities should make housing also for poor people," he said.