New York
June 6, 2001

Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am honoured to be given the opportunity to address this Special Session of the General Assembly in respect of the review of the Habitat Agenda.  Five years have passed since we met in a similar forum in Istanbul to formulate the Habitat Agenda, and many of us would have come away from that Conference with great expectations for its implementation.

We would nevertheless have been realistic enough to know that implementation would be challenging, especially in an environment of limited resources.  Therefore, Mr. President, in conducting this review, we should not be disheartened by any shortfall in achievement since 1996, but rather, we should focus on charting a forward path, towards accelerated implementation.

Mr. President, I welcome the opportunity to highlight some of my country's experiences since 1996.  I am pleased to report that the Government and people of Barbados have taken this Review very seriously, and all the stakeholders have participated actively in the preparation of the National Report.  The National Habitat Committee has been expanded, and participation has been at a very high standard.

At the Second PrepCom, concern was expressed that five years was an insufficient period for a review to be conducted.  Be that as it may, I certainly believe that this Review is timely since it comes at a juncture when the Centre for Human Settlements is being reorganised and when the phenomenon of globalisation is becoming entrenched.  In this regard, I can report that the National Committee has identified a number of new issues that have become a challenge to the realisation of the twin goals of "Adequate Shelter For All" and "Sustainable Human Settlements In An Urbanising World".

Foremost among these, is perhaps the rising cost of land.  As a small island, Barbados' land resource is a premium.  The demand for land is getting progressively stronger, and as a result, the price of land has escalated.  In addition, the availability of land along what is known as the "Urban Corridor" stretching from the north to the south of theisland, has been substantially reduced. This trend has inflated the cost of land, even in the interior.  However, Government has tried to protect the segment of the population who rent land by making it possible for them to purchase their house-spots at 10 cents and in some cases $2.50 per square foot.

We must be ever-conscious of the fact that land and property markets in small island states are not as well-developed, nor do they function as efficiently as those in more developed countries.  Accordingly, some form of government intervention is often needed to protect vulnerable persons, in the interest of social equity, and to achieve the Habitat goal of Adequate Shelter For All.

For this purpose, Barbados has established a land banking programme through which the Government systematically acquires and vests land in the relevant social agencies.  Those agencies have the responsibility to ensure that those persons whose needs are not met by the formal markets can actually establish tenure at an affordable cost.  At this stage, I should point out that there are different elements to this Programme, including the use of private sector initiatives and other participants in the formal market. We shall be making a best practice submission in this area in due course.

Since 1996, much progress has been made in urban development.  In 1997, we established the Urban Development Commission, which has the mandate to fast track the implementation of an Urban Renewal Programme.  The work of that agency has so far met with much success such as the upgrading of houses, the provision of roads and footpaths to facilitate access, street lighting, disbursement of loans and the transfer of land title to tenants at subsidised prices.  The Commission's work targets the poor and is indeed an indispensable element of my country's poverty alleviation programme.

Mr. President, we have sought where possible to tap into the positive aspects of globalisation, as it relates to Habitat issues.  We are currently examining alternative building technologies.  These technologies are cheaper, and just as durable as traditional, local materials.  They are also hurricane-resistant, which is a vital consideration for countries like Barbados, which face a perennial threat to their human settlements, from naturally occurring events such as hurricanes.

Mr. President, with respect to housing legislation, we have in the past, concentrated on land tenure and the enfranchisement of longstanding tenants at nominal prices.  However, as we undertook the review of the Habitat Agenda, it became more and more apparent that there was need for protection of house tenants as well.  Accordingly, we are now examining our laws with a view to ensuring that poor households are not rented sub-standard housing.  In addition, we have instituted a Building Code to effect an improved housing stock generally, including reduced vulnerability to naturally occurring events, such as hurricanes.

In closing, I remain confident that this Special Session will serve to place the entire Habitat Agenda into proper perspective, as far as implementation is concerned.  Now is the time for action, if the impact of the Habitat II Conference is to be fostered and maintained.

Mr. President, Barbados is anxious that the outputs of this Review should provide a significant impetus to our goals of achieving adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements.

Mr. President, I thank you.