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GENERAL ASSEMBLY HIGHLIGHTS

The Second Committee of the UN General Assembly addressed Habitat II from 8 - 16 November 1994, within a cluster of issues under Agenda Item 88. The cluster included: trade and development; food and agriculture development; commodities; cultural development; integration of economies in transition into the world economy; industrial development cooperation; Habitat II; international cooperation for the eradication of poverty in developing countries; and the UN initiative on opportunity and participation. The broad scope of this cluster prevented delegates from doing justice to each sub-item. As a result, some delegates focused their statements on one or two sub-items and others tried to touch on all nine. The following is a summary of those interventions that addressed Habitat II (Agenda Item 88(g)).

Dr. Wally N"Dow, Secretary-General of Habitat II addressed the Second Committee on 2 November 1994. He said that when the century began, only one in 10 people lived in cities; when it ends, half of the world"s population will be urban dwellers. Today the vast bulk of urban population growth is occurring in developing countries and all the signs are that it will continue. By the year 2020, 85% of the people in Latin America and the Caribbean region will live in cites, as will 54% in Africa and 56% in Asia. Within this context, he highlighted the objectives of Habitat II and placed the conference within the framework of the series of UN Conferences that began in Rio and will culminate in Istanbul. Since the conclusion of the first session of the PrepCom, more than 50 countries have already established, or are in the process of establishing, national preparatory committees for the Conference and are laying out their two-year work programmes. The Habitat II Secretariat has greatly expanded its information and outreach campaign. The Secretariat has also been preparing and disseminating guidelines for the preparatory process as well as preparing the documentation for the second substantive session of the Preparatory Committee. He called on delegates to endorse the PrepCom"s recommendation to hold a third session early in 1996. He also called on donor governments and others in a position to do so to rally to the support of Habitat II and extend both financial and other assistance needed to make the Conference a success.

ALGERIA: On behalf of the G-77 and China, Algeria said that as the UN Conference on Human Settlements approaches, it is worrying to see that the issue of the direction of the Habitat Center is not yet settled and that Resolution 48/176, calling on the Secretary-General to see to it that the direction of this unit is distinct from the UNEP structure, has not been implemented. The G-77 fears that the delays in re-establishing the status and mandate of the Nairobi Center may have repercussions on Habitat II as well as the implementation of the World Housing Strategy for the year 2000. The importance of the issues that will be addressed at Habitat II, therefore, calls for a rapid decision in accordance with Resolution 48/176, as soon as possible, in this important sphere of international cooperation.

GERMANY: On behalf of the EU, Germany said that one basic element of the eradication of poverty is the improvement of human settlements. The EU, therefore, attaches great importance to the goals of the Habitat II Conference. It will address one of the most pressing issues for the future of our planet: how the world"s fast growing cities and settlements will affect the chances for social and environmental stability in the world of the twenty-first century. The EU expects Habitat II to further advance the objectives of Agenda 21 for human settlements, as expressed by the CSD in its decision on this issue. The preparatory process for Habitat II is already well under way. The EU supports the proposal to hold a third session of the PrepCom early in 1996, under the condition that it will be of short duration and can be made possible within existing resources.

BRAZIL: On behalf of the Rio Group, Brazil said that Habitat II is a unique opportunity to complete the social agenda of the UN by addressing the problems of cities and rural settlements in a comprehensive manner. However, the current resources available for the preparatory process are insufficient for the activities that are necessary and for the participation of developing countries in the preparatory process. Urgent mobilization of resources is needed to raise the contributions that will ensure an effective preparatory process at the international and national levels.

CHINA: The delegate said that shelter is fundamental to human survival and increasing urbanization is leading to housing shortages, and infrastructural and environmental problems. For Habitat II to be a success, the PrepCom must define the Conference"s objectives and key issues. The Conference should focus on the themes of housing for all and urbanization. While meeting housing demands is the role of governments, enhanced cooperation, communication, financial resources and technology is needed.

TURKEY: Amb. Inal Batu stressed that human settlement problems can no longer be considered and discussed in isolation as sectoral issues. To promote the Habitat II Conference as a summit will add more political commitment, more media coverage and, thus, more public awareness to these important issues. Habitat II should be the culminating summit in the series of recent UN global meetings. Turkey calls on participation at the Conference to be at the highest possible level. Turkey also supports the need for a third substantive session of the PrepCom to be held in early 1996 in New York. He called on the UN Secretary-General to establish a special task force to be composed of the heads of the Secretariats of all relevant parts of the UN system. Amb. Batu also noted that Turkey officially launched its preparations for the Conference in August. The site of the Conference and the Trade Fair have been identified and a national coordination mechanism has been established. The Turkish government has pledged US$200,000 for activities in support of Habitat II.

NEPAL: Dr. Suresh Chandra Chalise said that his delegation agrees with the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Human Settlements that the problem of the urban poor, especially women, must be met head on. The obvious link among population, development and environment calls for a concerted approach to both urban and rural development.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: The delegate commented on the problems caused by rapid urbanization, which has led to deterioration of economic, social and environmental conditions. The increasing number of refugees and displaced people requires clear national, regional and international policies. The Second Arab Preparatory Meeting for Habitat II was held in Abu Dhabi from 9-12 October 1994. Dubai will host an International Conference for Human Settlements from 2-5 April 1995. The theme of this conference is the best ways to improve living conditions. The discussions at this Conference will contribute to Habitat II.

UGANDA: Dr. E.T.S. Adriko, the Minister of Lands and Housing, said that Uganda has participated actively in the preparatory process leading to Habitat II at two levels. At the regional level, Uganda was elected Chair of the Group of African Ministers Responsible for Human Settlements at a meeting in Nairobi on 30 March 1994. The ministers stressed that: human settlement policies and programmes in Africa should address the needs of both urban and rural areas; the issues of land, shelter and infrastructure are of paramount importance and programmes should be formulated to ensure accessibility by the majority of the population, especially the poor, women and displaced persons; the necessity of developing supportive appropriate institutions for the sustenance of human settlements; and the need for the international community to support the preparatory process for Habitat II. At the national level, Uganda has established a National Committee on Human Settlements and has already submitted a National Action Plan to the Secretariat. Uganda supports convening a third PrepCom in early 1996 to maintain the momentum of the preparatory process. He urged that adequate resources must be made available from the general fund of the UN to strengthen the Secretariat and enhance its effectiveness in launching a full-scale preparatory process to ensure the success of the Conference.

JAPAN: The representative noted that while Japan has been satisfied with the results that international conferences have achieved, it is also a fact that almost every one of these conferences has also taken up the subject of development. While it is important to consider ways of promoting development, to do so at every major international gathering is a wasteful duplication of effort and reduces the time and energy that can be devoted to the issues such conferences are convened to address. He expressed the hope that Habitat II will concentrate on achieving its original goals and avoid any unnecessary enlargement of the scope of its deliberations. Habitat II will not accomplish as much as it should it if ignores other important UN conferences, especially ICPD. He announced that the "World City Exposition Tokyo "96," will be held from 24 March to 13 October 1995 and, as part of the Exposition, a series of meetings " World City Conference Tokyo "96 " will be convened with the support of the UN.

KENYA: Amb. Pamela Mboya noted that the living conditions of a significant and growing proportion of humanity are deplorable and migration is making things worse. Kenya hopes that Habitat II will address: adequate provision of shelter, infrastructure and services; the resulting negative environmental impacts on natural resources; and proper management of cities and the rural-urban linkages. At the national level, Kenya has established a National Steering Committee on Habitat II, which is consulting with relevant actors through workshops with a view to designing an effective national action plan. Kenya supports convening a third session of the PrepCom in early 1996 to avoid a loss of momentum. She urged that adequate resources be made available from the regular budget of the UN to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the Secretariat. She also called on developed countries and others in a position to do so to contribute to the two funds to enable developing countries to participate fully in the Conference and its preparatory process.

SRI LANKA: The representative noted that Habitat II must address the problems of overcrowded urban centers, slums and shanty towns, as well as the problem of urban migration. If utilities and basic services are made available in rural areas, the flow of urban migration can be reduced. Sri Lanka supports the proposal to hold a third session of the PrepCom and stressed the importance of providing adequate financing for the preparatory work.

THAILAND: Amb. Nitya Pibulsonggram supported the Secretary- General"s view that the global plan of action of Habitat II should incorporate tangible means of enhancing implementation of decisions and recommendations of preceding conferences. He urged governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to take part fully in the preparatory process. Thailand"s national housing strategy places special emphasis on housing for the urban poor in all parts of the country, infrastructure services and land use management.

MALTA: Joanna Darmanin noted that by the year 2000, half of humanity is expected to be living and working in towns and cities, which are seriously affected by overcrowding, environmental degradation, social disruption, under-employment, and poor housing, infrastructure and services. Habitat II will provide an excellent opportunity to address existing and potential issues and problems related to the quality of life in cities and towns.

SENEGAL: The representative reported on the results of a meeting of African ministers that was held in Dakar from 31 October - 2 November 1994. The Dakar Declaration restates priority for human settlements and notes that Habitat II will have to find solutions to problems of cities, including health, education, sanitation, infrastructure, crime, drugs, homelessness and poverty. The African ministers have set up national committees and a bilateral partnership forum for information sharing and capacity building. Habitat II needs to integrate recommendations from the other global conferences that precede it. Habitat II should be the "City Summit" and should propose a global programme of action. The Conference must have as high and as broad a level of participation as possible. He called on UN agencies and funds to support the special funds established for the Secretariat and supported convening a third session of the PrepCom in early 1996.

UNITED STATES: The representative said that the US attaches high priority to a successful Habitat II conference. Next month the US will name a National Preparatory Committee comprised of 25 prominent representatives of housing and community development organizations. The US Agency for International Development has plans to assist countries in their national preparations for Habitat II " particularly the preparation of national reports based on shelter and urban sector policy indicators. The US will contribute US$700,000 towards the preparatory process.

ECUADOR: The representative supported the Secretary-General"s initiative to make Habitat II a summit level conference. The second session of the PrepCom in Nairobi in April must focus on commitments and principles, including the principle that adequate, safe and sustainable housing is a basic human need. Each member State should set up representative national committees, including members from all sectors, to participate in the preparations for Habitat II. The Conference should develop innovative solutions to housing problems. She supported the convening of a third session of the PrepCom in New York and called on appropriate financial and technical resources to facilitate progress. She urged that sufficient resources from the UN regular budget be provided to the Secretariat and asked the Secretary- General to establish a group of experts within the UN to address and advise the PrepCom on these issues.

AUSTRIA: The representative supported Habitat II and noted that Austria is setting up a national preparatory committee.

NIGERIA: The representative supported the work of the Centre for Human Settlements and Habitat II. He said that Nigeria has established a federal housing authority and thanked Shelter Afrique for providing assistance. He appealed to the international community to address the deteriorating condition of shelter and expressed hope that the Conference will give concrete expression to its objectives.

AFGHANISTAN: The representative said that Habitat II must deal with the reconstruction of cities destroyed by war. Afghanistan hopes that the Conference will find consensus on the ways and means of dealing with this tragic problem.

ZAMBIA: The representative commended the work done thus far by the PrepCom for Habitat II and hoped that sufficient funding will be found for the preparatory process and the Conference.

MALAYSIA: The representative said that Habitat II should focus on addressing the right to decent shelter and the growing problem of homelessness. As reflected in the outcome of the first PrepCom, national governments and the international community have a major role in addressing the problems of adequate and sustainable housing for all. At the national level, there is a need for a comprehensive and pragmatic national action plan. At the international level there is a need for a global action plan to mobilize resources, create international arrangements for assistance and monitor its progress.

MYANMAR: Amb. U Hla Maung welcomed Habitat II, which provides a unique opportunity to complete the social agenda of the UN by addressing the problems of cities and rural settlements in a comprehensive manner. The Conference should integrate all aspects that affect the living and working conditions of people, such as shelter, transportation, sanitation, health and education.

PERU: The representative said that Habitat II should synthesize the results of the other UN-sponsored global conferences. He supported the call for a third meeting of the PrepCom in New York in early 1996. It is encouraging that 55 countries have established national committees, with the participation of NGOs, to prepare national action programmes and information programmes. There should be workshops on several crucial themes including: transportation and communications; urban employment; and city planning. Peru is also concerned about the budgetary problems faced by Habitat II. The UN should give more effective support to the Conference. In preparation for Habitat II, governments must: develop a global strategy for the next century; examine the role of the private sector; support investment; address economic policies and development strategies for urban and rural settlements; and elaborate and implement sustainable urban strategies.

SUDAN: The representative noted the massive rural-urban migration in the Sudan that threatens the social structure of the State. He said there is a need for policies to prevent rural exodus and improve the environmental situation.

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