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The Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) met in Istanbul, Turkey, from 3-14 June 1996. Participants negotiated the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda, which addresses the goals of adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development. In addition to the negotiations, a number of parallel events provided opportunities for the Habitat partners and government delegations to explore the Conference themes. Statements regarding the state of human settlements were offered by approximately 180 speakers during Plenary and 120 speakers during the High-Level Segment, including a number of Heads of State or Government. One Committee held hearings regarding the role of partners in implementation. In addition, the UNCHS launched its Best Practices Initiative.

Habitat II, as the culmination of a cycle of UN conferences, may best be remembered for the ground-breaking participation of local authorities, the private sector, parliamentarians, NGOs and other “partners” in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. Another significant accomplishment of the Conference was the reaffirmation of the commitment to the “full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing.” A debate on the future of the UN Centre for Human Settlements identified a continuing role for the Centre, and invited the General Assembly and ECOSOC to review and strengthen the mandate of the Commission on Human Settlements.

The Conference was stymied by procedural delays and attempts to reopen contentious issues from previous UN conferences. Once the dust settled, however, participants emerged with a lengthy but substantive Agenda that provides an effective tool for creating sustainable human settlements for the 21st century.