+ 5: Review and Appraisal of the Habitat Agenda: The
Report of the Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat)
1996 in Istanbul, 171 Governments attending the Second
United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat
II) agreed to implement certain policies to ensure a
better future for human settlments. The agreement they
adopted, the Habitat Agenda, is a large document that
contains a number of commitments and strategies. It
recognized that, rather than an evil that must be avoided,
urbanization is inevitable, and that it can and must
be managed for a better outcome. The Habitat Agenda
seeks to encourage better urban management in order
to maximize social, cultural and economic benefits.
To combat the continuing marginalization of the poor
- a significant part of the urban population -- it specifically
encourages approaches that are holistic and more inclusive
Now, five years after Istanbul, the same Governments
and their Habitat Agenda partners will review their
progress and achievements, evaluate the obstacles they
have encountered, and agree on what their priorities
should be in the "urban millennium", when more and more
cities will confront greater problems. Urbanization
in the developed world and in Latin America and the
Caribbean is already at 75 per cent. But in the developing
countries in Asia and Africa, the process is gathering
speed and intensifying. Concerns that were addressed
in 1996 are taking on a new urgency.
In terms of evaluating progress made, certain questions
are useful: Since 1996, has your city changed? For the
better or for the worse? Has your town become a city?
Are there more homeless people, or less? Are there any
"unplanned settlements"? Have there been any projects
for inner city renewal? If so, have they benefited the
poor? Have people been evicted for urban renewal projects?
What kind of legal recourse do poor people in your city
have when they are evicted? How easy is it for women
in your town to inherit and own property?
Preparations for the five-year review in New York have
been going on for well over a year. Governments were
asked to submit reports on progress they have made at
the local and national levels in implementing the Agenda.
The reports were organized according to six main themes:
shelter; social development and eradication of poverty;
environmental management; economic development; governance;
and international cooperation. In compiling these reports,
they were asked to use a consultative process with broad-based
gender-balanced national committees.
The review process has highlighted some important lessons,
particularly vis-à-vis globalization: · Countries are
becoming more and more inter-dependent, and cities are
becoming more competitive; · Urbanization and globalization
have both accelerated since Habitat II and have contributed
to an increase in urban poverty; · Because actions that
actually improve the quality of life of people, particularly
the poor, are usually designed and implemented at the
local level, local authorities are assuming new importance.
While emerging overall themes can be identified, it
remains important to analyze the evidence by region.
Below are some of the highlights.
is still predominantly rural, with only about 36 per
cent of its population living in urban areas. However,
it is urbanizing at a faster rate than any other continent.
Though some of the expansion is the result of a natural
increase of populations in cities, most of this shift
is the result of migrations due to failed rural development
policies and regional conflicts. Countries report:
While the legislative and institutional framework
has improved, all around capacity-building and strengthening
of local authorities are both still needed.
settlements continue to expand. Some cities report
that more than 50 per cent of the population lives
in unplanned squatter settlements without services.
In many such settlements, the poor have no security
of tenure and can be evicted without recourse to any
To minimize rural-to-urban migration, there is a need
to equally address rural and urban human settlements
HIV/AIDS crisis is having an impact on human settlements.
With over 25 million living with AIDS and another
3.8 million infected with HIV living in sub-Saharan
Africa, less resources are available for development.
In addition, more and more households are headed by
grandparents or by children.
In many countries in Africa, property laws governing
ownership and inheritance rights discriminate against
women. In those cases where women are allowed to legally
own and inherit property, customary practices often
impede their enjoyment of equal rights.
Asia is a region of extremes. On one hand, it contains
the world's largest hi-tech city, Tokyo, with a population
of over 26 million. On the other hand, it also contains
cities with some of the worst slums in the world. It
has a range of problems to match, from those of a modern
metropolis to meeting the basic needs of the poorest
of the poor. Countries report:
· Since Habitat II, there has been a real shift towards
more partnerships with private and community sectors.
economic growth has resulted in urban renewal, but
this, in turn, has led to an increase in forced evictions.
widespread recognition of the negative environmental
impact of an increasing number of private vehicles,
many cities are working to increase access to public
transportation and to encourage green alternatives
such as cycling.
Latin America and the Caribbean
With 70 per cent of its population already living in
cities and towns, Latin America and the Caribbean is
the most urbanized region in the developing world. But
in spite of its high economic growth rate, the region
is home to large disparities between the rich and the
poor. Between 40 and 60 per cent of all urban residents
live in informal illegal or semi-legal settlements.
In addition, it is proving difficult to attract overseas
development assistance targeting the poor. Lastly, the
region has suffered considerable natural disasters and
civil conflicts with negative impacts on human settlements.
There is a growing awareness of the role of civil
society organizations in neighbourhood planning and
management. In many cities, mechanisms of participatory
governance have been put in place.
There is a high incidence of organized movements of
the urban poor, who, in the past, have 'invaded' empty
plots of land and apartments.
In many places, laws are being passed to grant legal
security of tenure to residents of informal settlements.
There has been greater recognition of the right to
housing in the constitutions of some countries. There
has also been an increase in laws that protect tenants.
There is increased financial and technical support
to self-help housing initiatives and cooperatives.
access to housing is high on the agenda. There have
been many serious attempts to address related issues,
such as violence against women and the role of women
in local governance.
there have been initiatives to improve disaster preparedness
and thus minimize the impact of natural disasters.
OECD and Countries in Transition
Many OECD cities report successful urban renewal initiatives.
Others seek to renew their inner cities while preserving
their historical and cultural heritage. An important
factor to consider in urban planning is the needs of
an aging population.
As of 2000, 20 per cent of the population of Europe
was age 60 or over.
countries have initiated progammes to reduce the social
exclusion of marginalized communities such as refugees,
asylum seekers, disabled persons and ethnic minorities.
role of women in governance is increasing. · Regional
conflicts have caused a rapid increase in the population
of refugees and internally displaced people in neighbouring
cities and towns, leading to shortages of housing
destruction of housing stock and urban infrastructure
has made post-disaster reconstruction a major priority.
This task is made more difficult by the lack of institutions
such as local authorities and the destruction of offices
and cadastral records.
countries are working on environmentally friendly
measures to reduce pollution, such as increasing the
use of public transportation and developing alternatives
such as light rail systems.
Western Asia is a region with great variations in economic
development, from oil-rich gulf countries to those that
are very poor with few resources. The entire region
suffers from problems associated with harsh climatic
conditions and insufficient sources of fresh water.
In some countries, environmental pollution from a large
number of vehicles and from the oil industry is a problem
that affects many human settlements.
need to develop housing for migrant workers is a priority
Millions of refugees trapped by the Middle-Eastern crisis
pose a long-standing human settlements problem.
In many countries, a high rate of natural population
growth has intensified a housing crisis.
further information, please contact:
Sharad Shankardass, Spokesperson, or
Zahra A. Hassan,
Media & Press Relations Unit,
Tel: (254 2) 623153, 623151,
Fax: (254 2) 624060,