STATEMENT

BY

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

New York
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 Special Session.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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 and Tangail.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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).
 

Mr. Chairman,

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.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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.
 

Mr. Chairman,

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 development.