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The discussion on human settlements began with an overview of the Secretary- General's report (E/CN.17.1994/5) and the background paper prepared by the Task Manager, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), on promoting sustainable human settlements development. Both the Secretariat and Habitat were highly praised for the quality of these reports.

The Chair's draft text reflected the strong support for the forthcoming United Nations Conference of Human Settlements (Habitat II). The rural-urban debate that had been addressed last month at the Habitat II Preparatory Committee meeting emerged again when China noted that urban growth is primarily from within cities while India noted the opposite -- that rural migration to urban areas was an important factor. The final text addresses both rural and urban problems. India, with 80% of its population in rural areas, managed to shift the focus substantially to "small and medium-sized settlements in rural regions."

UNICEF, India, the Nordic countries, Australia, Kenya and many NGOs' strong support for local authorities and community-based organizations is reflected in the text. However, the suggestion that the international community develop joint programmes with local authorities and groups raised sovereignty issues with several countries (including China, Algeria and Pakistan) and, accordingly, the text now specifies that this should be done "through appropriate channels."

The final text (E/CN.17/1994/L.3): invites the task manager (Habitat) to continue monitoring progress in the implementation of Chapter 7 of Agenda 21; requested governments, the international community, UNCHS, the private sector and NGOs to support the preparatory process for Habitat II; called upon governments and international organizations to emphasize "best practice" in delivery mechanisms; invited the appropriate UN agencies to launch a demonstration initiative for environmentally friendly urban transport; invited appropriate UN agencies to consider the feasibility of preparing and implementing demonstration projects for human settlements in three mega-cities; called on governments and international agencies to support and encourage local, small and micro-enterprises; urged more concerted attention be given to the management of solid wastes; and urged the UN and other international bodies to use appropriate indicators to measure the environmental performance of cities. [Return to start of article]