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In the first chapter of the Habitat Agenda, governments recognize the imperative need to improve the quality of human settlements and identify the goals of Habitat II: adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world.

In the opening discussions, the SUDAN, on behalf of the Arab Group, introduced text on spiritual and cultural values. The preamble also gave rise to early negotiation of the “right to housing” issue, with the US, supported by JAPAN, objecting to a proposal to remove brackets from a reference to “the right to adequate shelter.” The drafting group on the right to adequate housing eventually deleted this reference. On the needs of children and youth, delegates debated a reference to the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents, consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The G-77/CHINA, the HOLY SEE, and the US agreed that it contained previously agreed UN language. NORWAY moved the reference to the end of the paragraph and introduced new language linking young people’s needs to their living environment. The EU and US replaced a reference to “sustained economic growth and sustainable development,” which appeared in a paragraph identifying problems confronting human settlements, with the World Summit for Social Development (WSSD) formula recognizing the three elements of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection as interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of sustainable development.

Another bracketed reference called for “democracy and transparent, representative and accountable governance.” The final version of the text notes that “democracy, respect for human rights (CANADA), transparent, representative and accountable government and administration...as well as effective participation by civil society (US)” are indispensable.

The G-77/CHINA suggested removing a reference to “gender discrimination” and replacing it with “discrimination against women,” but the US and CANADA strongly recommended retention of the original phrase.

The final text notes that a large segment of the world’s population lacks shelter and sanitation. The international community, in convening the Conference, has decided that a concerted global approach could enhance progress. The most serious problems confronting cities and towns, including inadequate financial resources, lack of employment opportunities, spreading homelessness and expansion of squatter settlements, are noted. The challenge and opportunity for renewed developmental initiatives for rural settlements are also identified, as is the importance of urban-rural linkages. The needs of displaced persons, children and youth, indigenous people, women, persons with disabilities, and older persons are identified. Cooperation at all levels and institutions such as the Commission for Human Settlements and the UN Centre for Human Settlements are noted to be central to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

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