Daily report for 20 February 2001

2nd Session of the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the UN General Assembly for an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Habitat Agenda (Istanbul+5)

The second session of the preparatory committee for Istanbul+5 (PrepCom II) resumed for its second of deliberations at the UNCHS in Nairobi. Delegates offered comments, in morning and afternoon Plenary sessions, on the draft declaration on cities and other human settlements in the new millennium, and the Committee of the Whole (COW) met in the afternoon to debate agenda items pertaining to the special session. The Drafting Committee also met informally in the afternoon to discuss procedure for moving forward on negotiating the outcome document.


In the morning Plenary, a General Assembly (GA) representative said the PrepCom's objective is to prepare the outcome document, the primary document to be adopted in the special session. She cautioned against submitting too many declarations outside of this document.

Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, UNCHS Executive Director, introduced the draft declaration on cities and other human settlements in the new millennium (HS/C/PC.2/3) and the supporting draft on further actions and initiatives to implement the commitments of the Habitat Agenda (HS/C/PC.2/3/Add.1). She said the document on further actions and initiatives could be negotiated paragraph by paragraph or used to expand the sections of the declaration on further initiatives, which could then be incorporated into the draft report for consideration by the special session. Chair Garcia-Durán opened the floor for comments.

FURTHER ACTIONS AND INITIATIVES: The US said success in implementing the Habitat Agenda depends on access to investment, and recommended that the special session recognize the importance of family and respect national priorities and legal frameworks. INDIA highlighted private-public cooperation for housing initiatives, use of appropriate technology in housing for the urban poor, and the increasing presence of women in local body governance. THE PHILIPPINES urged consideration of an assessment of the impact of the WTO and the Uruguay Round of the GATT on developing country human settlements. ZIMBABWE noted the negative impacts of globalization, structural adjustment programs (SAPs), and HIV/AIDS. The REPUBLIC OF KOREA called for providing shelter to the homeless and combating urban crime. BRAZIL highlighted the concentration of poverty in metropolitan areas, unequal income distribution, lack of social services and infrastructure, and problems with urban transport. BURUNDI said high population growth and density has caused land shortage in rural areas, necessitating the adoption of an urbanization policy, as well as a reconstruction strategy to address the 1993 civil war. EGYPT said the situations in the Palestinian territories and in Iraq are impeding progress, and called for UN resolutions to prevent further deterioration.

CANADA urged that both the report and declaration should reflect the realities of both unitary and federated states and the lack of a common understanding of "subsidiarity." Regarding recommendations resulting from a meeting organized with the International New Towns Association, MOROCCO urged that future strategies reflect the need for: mechanisms to enable local participation in managing cities; international assistance and solidarity; and supportive government policies for marginalized groups in arid regions.

MALAWI outlined constraints in implementation, including lack of access to land, credit, basic services, building materials, security of tenure and housing standards, as well as macro-economic factors. The COALITION OF AFRICAN ORGANISATIONS FOR FOOD SECURITY AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT called for rapid international support to enable UNCHS to alleviate the growing incidences of poverty and homelessness. The INTERNATIONAL LABOR ORGANIZATION (ILO) supported reviewing linkages between urban and rural employment and sustainable human development settlements.

The UN COMMISSION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (UNCHR) called attention to, inter alia: the need to accord women substantive rights and a specific commitment to gender equality; and the need for increased recognition of human rights by the executive and parliament arms of government. The EU said the Habitat Agenda and Agenda 21 should go hand-in-hand.

The HABITAT INTERNATIONAL COALITION said poverty alleviation and access to housing are intrinsically linked, and called for the development of national definitions of "adequate housing" to be used as a benchmark in assessing progress. THE WORLD BANK underscored collaboration with local partners in launching the City Alliance, a multi-partner coalition dedicated to reducing poverty through public and private sector partnerships.

THE HUAIROU COMMISSION expressed concern over replacing references to "gender equality" with "gender mainstreaming" and attempting to renegotiate the content of the principle on the various forms of the family.

DRAFT DECLARATION ON CITIES AND OTHER HUMAN SETTLEMENTS: INDONESIA drew distinctions between squatting settlements and slums, and noted conflict between national and indigenous laws on land ownership. BANGLADESH called for more specific language on international cooperation and on the decisive role of micro-credit in reducing poverty. CANADA supported one outcome document that: restates the inclusion of all government levels and Habitat partners; emphasizes environmental challenges and opportunities for cities; focuses on poverty, women and children; and recognizes decentralized cooperation for sharing experiences between municipalities.

The SUDAN expressed a reservation on the references to "local autonomy" in self-government in the proposed World Charter. CHINA supported including a paragraph on the central government's role and proposed deleting references to the World Charter on Local Self-Government. The EU said the declaration is still too technical, should be more policy-oriented and should emphasize women's equal rights to property ownership. Noting that the Istanbul Declaration and Habitat Agenda refer to human rights instruments, the UNCHR said human rights and a rights-based agenda should be the declaration's guiding principles. MEXICO supported including the concepts of city and region, as well as aspects relating to the metropolitan approach, environmental improvement, and agreements for technical and international cooperation.

The ILO proposed recognizing the rapid rate of urbanization and urbanization of poverty. The CONGO supported reflecting the need for peace. THAILAND said the declaration ignores the importance of regional commissions' assistance to member countries. The JMJ CHILDREN'S FUND said the family is the basic unit of society and should be reflected in the declaration. In conclusion, the Secretariat said delegates could prepare two outcome documents: the first, a short political declaration derived from the draft declaration; and the second, a reworking of the draft document on further initiatives, which could incorporate related text from the draft declaration.


The COW returned to its discussion on the thematic committee (HS/C/PC.2/4/Add.3). CANADA, with the EU, noted that many participants were absent, said that informal discussions have not yielded a consensus, and called for the suspension of the debate until a later session of the COW. INDIA suggested themes of cost-effective local solutions and transparency of local governance be considered by the thematic committee. Chair Fall proposed, and delegates agreed to, the creation of a contact group to discuss the thematic committee.

The COW turned its attention to the provisional agenda for the special session (HS/C/PC.2/6) and organizational arrangements for the special session, including rules of procedure (HS/C/PC.2/7, Add.1 and Add.2). Regarding participation of speakers other than Member States, the US proposed deleting a paragraph stating that the last two speaking slots at each Plenary meeting, except for the first and last Plenary meetings, might be reserved for participants other than Member States, on the grounds that this was inconsistent with the rules of procedure regarding observers. The EU said the narrow slots reserved for Habitat Agenda partners were recommended by the GA President, with a view to include accredited partners into the Plenary debate, and would in no way create a precedent for other special sessions. With NORWAY and CANADA, he stressed that deleting this language would constitute a step backwards. The US and CHINA said it would be premature to decide on speaking slots given time availability. CANADA responded that while governments should have primary importance, they must also hear views from partners.

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO suggested including language allowing for such speakers if time allowed. JAMAICA noted that with only two slots for more than 300 partners, it would be difficult to determine which NGOs and local authorities should speak, and asked whether one representative could be chosen on behalf of all partners. The Secretariat said that networks could be formed to report partners' views. MOROCCO suggested examining this in conjunction with the item on accreditation.

ALGERIA stated that the hyper-politicization of this issue placed the spirit of Istanbul+5 in danger and proposed creating a contact group to resolve it. The EU proposed that this issue be addressed in the contact group discussing the thematic committee. Chair Fall agreed, and requested that the contact group address both issues and report to the next session of the COW.


During an informal meeting of the Drafting Committee, Chair Manfred Konukiewitz (Germany) noted that the Secretariat was still sorting out procedural issues and waiting for a response from UN headquarters in New York regarding participation in the Drafting Committee of all Habitat partners, but said he did not want to hold up the Committee's substantial work. A number of delegates expressed disappointment with the decision to exclude NGOs from the Drafting Committee. One delegate said he would not be bound by the results of any informal committee meeting, while another reiterated that since the Drafting Committee was one of the main PrepCom committees, it should be open to NGO observers.

Chair Konukiewitz noted the Committee would discuss: the draft declaration; the document on further actions and initiatives; and a resolution on the promotion of family support policies. He recalled the commitment made at PrepCom I to take up the family resolution immediately, but some delegates preferred discussing the draft declaration first. One proponent of the resolution offered to put it aside if a substantive paragraph on the family could be incorporated into the draft declaration. The Committee agreed to begin work on the draft declaration first.

Regarding a way forward in elaborating an outcome document or documents, some delegates opposed negotiating the document on further initiatives, as it was submitted late in the process, but agreed that some of the elements could be incorporated into the draft declaration. One regional group called for a more visionary, political declaration, and suggested a separate document on further initiatives. Delegates did not agree on whether to negotiate one or two documents, but agreed to use the present draft declaration as a basis for negotiation and to incorporate elements of the future initiatives document and other amendments. The Committee agreed to begin negotiations paragraph by paragraph at its next session, and to look at including proposed language on the family.


Mass confusion erupted over procedure as the Drafting Committee attempted to begin its work. Before the meeting could get under way, conflict arose over UN rules of procedure regarding the presence of NGO observers, and whether the Committee was a formal body of the PrepCom. Some participants accused the countries vehemently opposed to NGO participation of trying to sabotage the process, and expressed the fear that attempts to exclude NGOs would be setting a precedent for the special session, which they saw as backtracking from Habitat II. However, others felt that a smaller group would ensure that work is completed more effectively and efficiently. Some delegates commented that in attempting to exclude NGOs, a whole morning of work had already been wasted. Additional exclusionary efforts also incited conflict in the COW, as a few countries objected to allotting speaking slots for Habitat partners during the Plenary of the special session, resulting in similar accusations from those with an interest in full participation.


COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE: The COW will meet at 9:00 am in Conference Room 1, and will hear a report by the contact group regarding negotiations on contentious issues related to the thematic committee and participation of speakers during the special session. If additional time is needed, the contact group will resume its deliberations.

DRAFTING COMMITTEE: The Drafting Committee will meet at 10:00 am to begin negotiations on the draft declaration and will continue throughout the day. The Committee is expected to look at a proposed paragraph on the family for inclusion in the declaration.

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