VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Officials and activists grappling with growing urban poverty were warned on Tuesday to protect the poor from losing their homes in mass evictions, often done in the name of improving their lives.
Delegates to the World Urban Forum, a U.N-sponsored event in Vancouver that has drawn more than 8,000 people, were also chastised for not understanding the cultural needs of the people they are trying to help.
"Where is the teeth of the United Nations?" asked Jockin Arputham of India`s National Slum Dwellers Federation, who is calling for more protection from mass-evictions for slum dwellers and other urban poor.
The meeting in Vancouver follows last week`s U.N. report that warned that governments cannot ignore growing urban slums as people continue to move into already strained cities to escape rural poverty.
The report said the world will reach a critical point in 2007 when the majority of the globe`s population will be urbanized. By 2030, 80 percent of people will live in cities, it predicted.
The report cited evictions as a growing problem faced by the urban poor. It estimated that 6.7 million people were forced from their homes between 2000 and 2002, up from 4.2 million people between 1998 and 2000.
Miloon Kothari, the U.N.`s Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, said evictions were a problem in both the developing and developed world as "land cartels" -- often aided by governments -- buy property for redevelopment.
Kothari said the urban poor displace