Presented by Quamrul Islam Siddique, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Public Works and Head of the Delegation.
AT THE SPECIAL SESSION ON HABITAT II
June 6, 2001
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Five years after the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) held in Istanbul in 1996, we have assembled here for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda (Istanbul+5) mainly to follow up its twin goals "Adequate Shelter for All" and "Sustainable Human Settlements in an urbanizing world" as well as the actions of the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure and Urban Governance.
It's a great honor for me and my fellow delegates to represent my government in this august session. The Government of Bangladesh considers this Special Session of the UN General Assembly as a unique occasion to present its National Report which reviews the urbanization process; the quality of life achieved in urban areas and provision of basic urban services and the impact of international cooperation on urban development programs since 1996.
I wish this session a great success and fruitful culmination. I heartily
thank Ms. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka's efforts in the preparation for this
The New Millennium marks the dawn of the urban age. Nearly half the
world's population live in cities. Though population of developed countries
are already largely urban, urbanization processes are still acute in the
developing countries including Bangladesh where urbanization rate is nearly
25%, the Capital City being one of the 30 largest cities in the world.
This transition coupled with globalization has brought a rapid structural
transformation in urban areas and increased social unrest and urban violence
through creation of poverty, homelessness, environmental deterioration,
social exclusion, intolerable living standards and spatial segregation.
it is now the greatest challenge for the international community to make
urbanization and globalization function for people at all level. To face
this challenge the international community endorsed the Habitat Agenda's
key objectives of ennoblement, participation, partnerships, capacity building,
monitoring and evaluation and international cooperation as well as specific
commitments and strategies. The 20 key commitments endorsed Shelter, social
development and eradication of poverty, environmental management, economic
development, governance and international cooperation as per the guidelines
for country reporting issued by UNCHS (habitat) in October 1999.
Bangladesh as one of the 171 Member states is committed to implementing
the Habitat Agenda through local, national, sub-regional and regional plans
of action and developing policies and programmes for adequate shelter and
sustainable human settlements. According to its commitments, the country
has implemented its local and national plans of action and monitored progress
made since 1996 by means of appropriate indicators. The indicators signify
the achievement for human settlements situation in the country, which the
international community may assess its efforts. The country report has
been prepared to evaluate the major facts of human settlements in a comparative
framework between 1993 and 1998.
Bangladesh has participated in various international meetings during
2000 and 2001at different regional and global levels. The meetings reviewed
the progress so far made in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, renewed
the Istanbul Commitments, identified gaps and obstacles, undertook future
actions which has been reflected in the draft declaration on 'Cities and
other Human Settlements in the New Millennium'. This national report reflects
the developments in those meetings.
As an effective step to demonstrate the commitments of Bangladesh Government
to Habitat Agenda, in June 1994, the Government formally appointed a 60
member National Preparatory Committee headed by the Honorable Minister
of Housing and Public Works. Four Subject Committees to help approach Habitat
II in the most systematic and multi sector dimensions were also constituted.
subsequently the government of Bangladesh on 3rd April 2000 established
a National Urban Observatory Committee consisting of 21 members, with the
Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Public Works as the convener.
The Government of Bangladesh considers the concept of Urban Observatories
at global, regional and local level. The Government of Bangladesh actively
evaluated the established practices, policies and the duties and responsibilities
of different Government and semi-government organizations/entities and
NGOs and feels that those organizations and entities are characterized
by their in-built capabilities and equipped with professionals and technical
support with institutional setup to be designated as Local Urban Observatory
(LUO). Therefore the Government of Bangladesh have been pleased to constitute
Local Urban Observatory (LUO) for 4 major cities Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet
The Local Urban Observatories, various government and non-government
organizations, urban professionals and members of the civil society have
made elaborate consultation and careful estimation in documentation of
key indicators in this country report. The Report offers an assessment
of the human settlements situation in the country as a whole based on secondary
sources and through an examination of the four cities Dhaka, Chittagong,
Sylhet and Tangail which were covered by the Local Urban Observatories.
We hope that it would help connect Bangladesh to the Global Urban Observatory
Network in its effort to collect and disseminate data, information, best
practices on human settlements related activities.
The provision of housing remains one of the top priorities in Bangladesh. Since the present democratic government came into power in 1996, it has been performing an uphill task in the country to reduce the plight of the urban and rural poor, by providing major investment in education, health, agriculture, rural development and employment generation. After the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation inaugurated a program to rehabilitate the poor and the homeless(refugee) in a number of "Cluster Villages". Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, has launched Asrayon (shelter), Gharey Phera (return home) and Ekti Bari Ekti Khamar (One homestead one farm) programs for the rural landless and homeless people. In Asrayon the government has been providing group housing and small agricultural plots on government owned land for the landless people. About 50,000 destitute families will be provided with Shelter by June 2002 under this program. In Gahrey Phera program the rural migrants to urban centers are given credits to enable them to go back to their villages and earn their livelihood there. These programs are to solve the problem of the squatters and slum dwellers. The programs will continue further. The Government has also established the Grihayan Tahabil (Housing Fund) through the Bangladesh Bank to provide housing loans to NGOs to build shelter for the urban poor.
The Government has formed National Housing Authority (NHA) Act-2000
which will come into function very soon with more flexible and non-bureaucratic
welfare policy on housing than other government housing delivery organizations
and will be able to provide affordable housing for low income and middle
income groups under the revised National Housing Policy. The revised Housing
Policy will cover rural-urban linkage in housing sector. Apart from this,
the government has a program to lease land to private agencies for building
houses for lower and middle income groups with cross-subsidy from the higher
income groups. In this case, the government will be playing the role of
an 'enabler'or a 'facilitator'. Along with the government efforts,
a large number of NGOs have become the partners with the government specially
in providing micro credits to the poor. The efforts of the Grameen Bank
to provide small loans to the poor for small enterprises and their shelter
are worth mentioning. So far, nearly 600,000 rural families under this
program, most of these during last 5 years.
The Government and NGOs have taken many ventures in the area of social development and eradication of poverty. Shelter provision is an important component of its efforts in eradicating poverty which manifests itself in particular in the sprawling slums and squatter settlements around the cities and urban areas. The government has opened up the economy for the foreign investors with special emphasis on the development of infrastructure and economy as a whole. Though the inevitable consequences of rapid urbanization is the constant pressure on existing infrastructure and services, the shelter situation and basic services in the country have improved due to various projects/programs by government organizations and NGOs. For social and economic inequalities, women-headed households are being granted loans by different government agencies and NGOs on easy repayment terms. A law has been enacted banning early marriage of girls it a punishable offence. During the last five years due to government concerted efforts and continuing NGOs support, significant improvement took place in literacy and coverage of immunization and under-five mortality on the one hand and increase in longevity on the other. A new health hazard has surfaced in a massive scale in Bangladesh due to recent contamination of ground water by arsenic. The government is making all out efforts to face this challenge, with support of donors and NGOs. The Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply Project funded by the World Bank has already started its work to provide arsenic free water in the contaminated areas. The Government also has taken awareness program through mass media to aware people about this problem.
Both the government and the NGOs in the country are very active in their
efforts to eradicate poverty and improve the human settlement situation.
Privatization of some public sector institutions and public-private partnership
in certain areas have been encouraged.
Government efforts are underway to improve the environmental management
of the country. The National Environmental Management Action Plan (NEMAP)
prepared by the Government through its Ministry of Environment and Forest
and NGOs in 1995, and the Fifth Five Year Plan (1997-2002) provide policy
framework to link all development activities with environment for improving
quality of life. The preparation of NEMAP followed an integrated participatory
consultation process, which has been appreciated at home, and abroad. GO-NGO
cooperation to supply water in slum areas, provision of loans to encourage
urban migrants to return to their villages, promulgation of environmental
laws, phasing out of two-stroke engines from the roads, encouragement to
use CNG instead of gasoline, establishment of chromium recovery and reuse
plant, privatization of solid waste management in municipalities by the
government, NGOs and CBO efforts in solid waste collection and recycling-are
various attempts through which the urban environmental improvements have
been started in the country. Very recently measures have been undertaken
to protect the natural water bodies. Clearance from the Department of Environment
and other utility agencies has been made mandatory before any major construction
may be undertaken in the capital city or elsewhere. The Government has
enacted a law to protect open field, open space, garden and natural waterbodies
in areas of the capital city, various district towns and Pourashavas (municipalities).
In the area of economic development too, public-private partnership
is gradually being encouraged to complement government efforts. The formal
sector apartment development has made a great contribution in mitigating
housing shortage for middle income households along with the Government.
Presently many developers are planning for developing large scale housing
for lower middle and low income households. This formal sector apartment
development generates huge employment and revenue earnings.
The Government of Bangladesh considers that the key ingredient to address
social problems is good governance. As a strategic approach to achieve
this goal, decentralization has received impetus from the government since
1996. A four-tier system of local government structure instead of the former
three tiers is gradually being introduced in the country. These four levels
range from villages to districts in the rural and regional administration
and governance. On the urban side there are two levels, City Corporations
and Pourashavas (Municipalities). This local government hierarchy has helped
bring the administration and public services to the doorstep of the people.
Both the rural and regional and the urban local government systems in the
country are basically democratic. NGO, CBO and civil society participation
in rural and urban governance affairs is gradually increasing. The Government
has decreased gender inequality in Local Governments by inducting one-third
directly elected reserved seats for women in the union parishad, the lowest
tier of Local Government system in the country.
The country welcomes international cooperation and partnerships, in
social, economic and other sectors. In all parts of entry special attention
is given to the arriving investors with separate counter/channel to handle
their problems. The Fifth Five-Year Plan (1997-2002) has set future programs
and initiatives of the country towards shelter development, sustainable
development, capacity building and institutional development which shared
significantly to improve the human settlements situation of the country
in both urban and rural areas. The Government has restructured the Board
of Investment (BOI) to provide services regarding utilities of incentives
to the investors from a single office. So far eight Export Processing Zone
(EPZs) have been established to provide well developed infrastructural
facilities under a single package to facilitate Foreign Direct Investment
(FDI) in the country.
The combined process of urbanization and globalization thrust additional
responsibilities on city governments. Without global efforts and building
new partnerships with the private sector, citizens' groups, the ultimate
objectives of sustainable human settlements in terms of justice, equity
and social cohesion could not be achieved. Bangladesh has been actively
involved in the program taken up by the UNCHS (Habitat) or in other words,
those of its member states, have gained special momentum. However, it has
not been "roses all the way" for the fellow combatants under the banner
of UNCHS (Habitat). Yet Bangladesh has remained ardently committed to the
cause of UNCHS (Habitat). In Bangladesh, poor people deserve the
attention of UNCHS (Habitat) and through it, wider international co-operation.
Without such co-operation, the poor cannot be ensured adequate justice
and equity. Therefore, the cause of UNCHS (Habitat) will not triumph unless
Bangladesh, along with other developing countries, gets proper assistance.
I hope UNCHS (Habitat) will continue its process of revitalization of Habitat
and make habitat a center of excellence in the field of human settlements