Daily report for 5 February 1996

3rd Session of the Habitat II Preparatory Committee

Delegates to the third session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom III) for the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) met for the first day of their two week conference. The Plenary heard statements and discussed organizational issues. Working Group I began addressing issues under Agenda Item 3 (preparations for the Conference) and Working Group II established two subgroups.


Habitat II PrepCom Chair, MARTTI LUJANEN (Finland), noted that PrepCom III would benefit from the experience of delegates from New York UN Missions who have contributed to the negotiations of other major UN conferences. He expressed confidence that the spirit of collaboration from previous PrepComs would continue.

UN Secretary-General BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI highlighted the PrepCom's ground-breaking rule change that could set a pattern for how the international community does business. This is rule 61, regarding participation of local partners in Habitat II, which broadens the participation of Member States to include representatives from cities.

WALLY N'DOW, Secretary-General of Habitat II, said that the first substantive session in 1994 called for a broad-based participatory process that would mobilize the energies of a large cross-section of society. Nearly 150 countries have been involved in the preparatory process. These plans show that the issues of Habitat II are no less than the major issues of our day worldwide: jobs, housing, security, services, the quality of the living environment and the right of ordinary people to participate in the decisions affecting their lives. He highlighted the identification of "best practices" as a valuable tool for cooperation.

Mr. RAFEEUDDIN AHMED, Associate Administrator of the UNDP, said that the UNDP advocates sustainable human development, which is pro jobs, pro poor, pro women and pro people. A primary objective should be a thematic programme, incorporating the relevant dimensions of Agenda 21, the Social Summit and the Fourth World Conference on Women.

The Executive Director of the UN Population Fund, Dr. NAFIS SADIK, underlined the linkages between population growth, development and urbanization. She called on delegations to strive for recognition of women's legal, property and inheritance rights.

The Chair then introduced the Provisional Agenda (A/CONF.165/PC.3/1 and Add.1). Italy, on behalf of the EU, proposed a discussion of the overall situation of financial resources. The Chair suggested that it take place under Agenda Item 3(a) (trust fund). Egypt requested that afternoon meetings end at 5:00 pm and evening meetings begin at 7:00 pm, due to Ramadan. Delegates adopted the agenda.

The Chair introduced consideration of the organization of work and alerted delegates to the schedule of work contained in A/CONF/165/PC.3/L.1. The Chair noted suggestions from PrepCom II and GA resolution 50/100 to establish two working groups at PrepCom III. Working Group I (WGI) will consider Agenda Item 3 (preparations for Conference). Working Group II (WGII) will consider Agenda Item 4 (draft Statement of Principles and Commitments and the Global Plan of Action). Plenary will review and approve the work of the working groups and consider additional agenda items. Delegates adopted document A/CONF.165/PC.3/2 and Add.1 and 2, containing a list of NGOs and local authorities proposed for accreditation to the preparatory process. Delegates then gave general statements.

COLOMBIA said the Non-aligned Movement, at its recent summit in Cartagena, supported Habitat II. He stressed the importance of financial support for the preparatory process from the international community, particularly at the national level. The key components of international cooperation include technology transfer, technical assistance, an adequate economic environment and the widespread dissemination of information

COSTA RICA, on behalf of the G-77/China, stated that unjust relationships in terms of trade, debt and structural adjustment should not be ignored in the context of the Conference. During the preparatory process, the G-77 had agreed on: the need to address housing issues from a global perspective, the need to balance urban and rural development to offset urban migration, the need for greater resources for human settlements, and the need to explore new forms of investment and coordination.

The EU reaffirmed support for Habitat II. The guiding principles for the follow-up to the Conference must concentrate on sustainable urban development, stress effective and coordinated collaboration of the UN system, and place the process in the context of major UN conferences. On the right to housing, the EU said the Conference should recognize and consolidate work already done.

TURKEY said Habitat II will amalgamate the results of other UN global conferences and will be a conference of partnership. A major "Regional Cooperation Programme" is being undertaken by the Turkish International Cooperation Agency (TICA) and the UNDP. They have established a task force involving Albania, Turkey and a number of former Soviet republics.

CHILE reported on a regional Latin American meeting to prepare for Habitat II. He said that cities can be better managed through a coordination of investments. The countries of the Latin American region want their regional plan of action to be reflected in the GPA, and suggested five regional chapters. The five subject areas of the plan address poverty, the productivity of human settlements, governability and participation, and efficiency in the management of human settlements.

SWEDEN said that political commitments regarding shelter and human settlements are expected from Habitat II by the homeless and vulnerable groups. He noted Sweden's proposal for a set of minimum standard rules on tenancy and tenure protection. A revised version will be presented during this meeting as a basis for a possible separate commitment at Habitat II. He also expressed concern regarding the lack of public interest in the conference and the critical financial situation of the Secretariat.

CHINA said that the preparatory process has received the attention of governments, which will give impetus to the continuous development of human settlements. China has accelerated the development of their plan for housing and civil services for 1996-2000.

UNICEF said that poverty has become an implacable and destabilizing urban phenomenon, and children are its first and foremost victims. He said that children must be granted due consideration in the draft Statement of Principles and Commitments and the GPA. He recalled that every global conference and summit of the decade has recognized the centrality of children and Habitat II can do no less.

INDIA has established a broad-based National Steering Committee that has laid down guidelines, developed a work programme for preparations, established a core group for monitoring implementation, and is preparing a National Report.

The WMO noted a general need to formulate more clearly how the various aspects of the physical environment in the evolving conurbations impact on the rapidly increasing urban populations. Related to this are the effects of construction of buildings and paved surfaces on the patterns of flooding following heavy rain. Through proper planning and urban design, many of these effects can be minimized if not totally eliminated.

JORDAN has formed a national committee to supervise preparations with participation from government, local authorities, and academics. Governments in the region have produced an Arab declaration on Habitat II. He expressed concern regarding the ineffectiveness of mass media programs at all levels and called for an adoption of media programs that could improve awareness.

The ILO said that employment is the key to improving basic human services and municipal finance. He noted improvements to the agenda, such as the reference to poverty alleviation.

NEPAL noted that its National Committee for Habitat II is going ahead with preparations for the Summit. A Youth Forum has been created in connection with the Summit.

The UN VOLUNTEERS said that enablement is at the center of this Conference. The most innovative solutions to human settlements problems have resulted from volunteer activities at the local level.

The UN CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS said Habitat II presents the international community with a unique opportunity for improving human rights associated with housing. She expressed concern that the agenda has failed to identify adequate housing as a human right, which represents a significant retreat from Vancouver.

SUDAN said it has established a preparatory committee that is representative of all institutions and groups, set up a bureau for establishing the essential indicators for human settlements and organized a workshop to discuss the basic indicators.


The Chair, Pamela Mboya (Kenya), opened the first session of Working Group I to consider Agenda Item 3 (preparations for Conference). Secretary-General N'Dow introduced his Progress Report and an Executive Summary (A/CONF.165/PC.3/3 and Add.1). The US asked for clarification regarding sources of trust funding and monies received and pledged. Mr. N'Dow said a breakdown would be provided. He explained that the Habitat Foundation had resources which were borrowed to launch the preparatory process for Habitat II. These funds are to be replenished. There has been full transparency and conformity with expectations regarding use of the Foundations funds. The EU called for full transparency. An informal group is to be established to look at the financial question. Both documents will be considered after a report by the informal committee.

A report of the regional ministerial meetings on Conference preparations (A/CONF.165/PC.3/INF.3) was postponed. Nicholas You, Coordinator of the Global Best Practices Institute, introduced a report from the Dubai International Conference on Best Practices in Improving the Living Environment (A/CONF.165/PC.3/INF.4). He said the best examples will form a multi-media data base including an Internet web site and CD-Rom. Australia distributed a proposal that participants, including States and intergovernmental agencies, announce at Habitat II commitments to action by 2000.


Working Group II Chair Amb. H.L. de Silva (Sri Lanka) presented the Bureau's proposal to split WGII into two subgroups to consider the draft Statement of Principles and Commitments and Global Plan of Action (A/CONF.165/PC.3/4). Delegates accepted an amended G-77/China proposal that Subgroup A consider paragraphs 1-35 and 143-162 (preamble, goals and principles, commitments, international cooperation and coordination and implementation and follow-up). Subgroup B will consider the remaining sections in paragraphs 36-141. Delegates nominated Dr. Glynn Khonje (Zambia) as Chair of Subgroup A and Edmundo Hermosilla (Chile) as Chair of Subgroup B. Morocco suggested defining terms such as "urban," "rural," and "the private sector" because they mean different things to developed and developing countries.


Both NGO and government delegates expressed support for the Australian proposal to make Habitat II a "Conference of Commitments." The proposal resembles an Australian initiative at the Fourth World Conference on Women. NGOs want the commitments appended to the report of the Conference and welcome the additional call for commitments by intergovernmental organizations. Some are also calling for commitments by local authorities.


WORKING GROUP I: A morning meeting is expected in Conference Room 4.

WORKING GROUP II: Morning sessions are expected for both subgroups. Subgroup A is expected to meet in Conference Room 3. Consult the Journal for location of the Subgroup B meeting.

THE HABITAT AGENDA—CRITICAL DIMENSIONS: This panel presentation will take place at 1:30 pm in room 2, co-sponsored by the Habitat II Secretariat, World Resources Institute, UNDP and the Society for International Development.