Hon. Mr. Jacob D.
Minister of Lands, Housing and Environment
at the Twenty-Fifth
Special Session of the General Assembly
for an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Outcome of
the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (HABITAT II)
New York, June 6 - 8, 2001
Heads of Delegations,
I would like on behalf of the delegation of Botswana and on my own behalf, to express my pleasure at participating in the august session of Istanbul +5. My delegation is happy to associate itself with congratulations already extended to you and members of your team. I am confident that with your immense experience and good stewardship our deliberations will come to a fruitful end.
The implementation of the Habitat Agenda is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century especially in view of the fact that the world is faced with the ever-increasing rates of urbanization, poverty, lack of adequate shelter - and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The major challenge is to devise ways and means of bettering the living conditions in our human settlements in order to improve the quality of life of our people.
The Government of the Republic of Botswana is fully committed to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. This commitment is demonstrated by the incorporation of projects related to the Habitat Agenda in our National Development Plan 8 which runs up to the year 2003. In this regard, we have executed a number of projects contained in our National Plan of Action and National Habitat Report. The projects relate to the main issues of shelter, social development, environmental management, economic development, governance and international cooperation.
Two of the most noteworthy accomplishments by Botswana intended to improve the shelter and human settlement situation in the country were the adoption of the National Settlement Policy in August 1998 and the National Policy on Housing in December 1999. The National Policy on Housing contains a number of projects which are now at various stages of implementation. In this policy, Government realizes that it cannot continue to be the sole provider of housing and therefore recognizes the importance of actively forging partnerships with other stakeholders. Government now emphasizes on facilitation as its major role, while other stakeholders including the private sector become involved in the servicing and development of land.
Another new aspect of the policy is the promotion of housing as an instrument for economic empowerment for the poor citizens. The very poor families who do not qualify for existing government assistance programmes will now benefit from the Poverty Alleviation and Housing Programme which is currently undergoing, a pilot phase. The objective of this programme is not only to provide them with basic skills to build their own houses, it is also intended to equip them with basic business management skills, create employment and generate income to improve their living standards. The pilot programme is already showing positive signs at its early stage of implementation.
Further, the new National Policy on Housing will extend the Self-Help Housing Programme into the rural areas. This programme has in the past been benefiting the low income households in the township areas.
The National Settlement Policy (NSP) to which I referred earlier on, aims at promoting sustainable settlements through the provision of services and infrastructure to the various levels of settlements.
The policy recognizes the symbiotic relationship between urban and rural settlements and advocates for the promotion of their functional linkages. Issues of employment and job creation are also addressed by the policy. Currently, there are ongoing projects aimed at the implementation of the NSP which include the preparation of district settlement strategies and settlement development plans to guide investment and orderly development of settlements. Future priorities for sustainable human settlement development entail the continuous monitoring and assessment of progress made on the implementation of the NSP, with a view to identifying the needs for new policy directions. Furthermore, efforts are being made to develop housing and urban indicators as well as settlement profiles for different levels of settlements. This will assist in assessing the impact of different urban development initiatives and informed decision-making.
The Government is also committed to the provision of equal access to
land and security of tenure. Botswana has three(3) categories of land namely,
tribal, state and freehold land in order to meet the different needs of
Batswana. Each and every person is free to hold land under any of the three(3)
categories. It is important to note that tribal land constitutes seventy-one
percent (71 %) of land in Botswana and it caters for the majority of the
people. The land under this category is easily accessible to all income
groups as it is allocated at no cost to applicants. State land plots are
sold at cost recovery prices, and Government has introduced direct subsidies
to make them accessible to low income households.
The question of gender equality is topical internationally and is one of the issues being addressed in Botswana. To this end, all gender biased laws are at various stages of revision. A study commissioned by Government to look at various policy documents on gender and development is a clear example of Government intention to design national development programmes that are gender sensitive. A strategy commonly referred to as National Gender Programmes (NGP), was launched in 1998. The NGP is a comprehensive statement of the vision, objectives, strategies and actions which Botswana aspires to achieve in the twenty(20) years following its launch.
Environment management is one of Botswana's top priorities. Measures are being taken to, amongst others, reduce pollution of all kinds, and ensure the implementation of local environmental plans.
The above endeavours are done within the environment of good governance characterised by gradual decentralization of some central government functions to local authorities and their strengthening to enable them to carry-out their mandate. Some of the functions include implementation of the district housing programme and physical development planning by District Councils. Inspite of efforts made by Government in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, there is still need to build more partnerships with private sector and the international community especially in the area of technical assistance. This will go a long way in reducing implementation problems associated with the critical shortage of skilled manpower Botswana is now facing.
In conclusion, Mr. President, we reaffirm our commitment to the full implementation of the Habitat Agenda and urge all concerned to play an active role.
Finally, Mr. President, on behalf of the Government of the Republic
of Botswana, I am pleased to pledge the sum of P75,000 annually (which
currently translates to approximately U.S.14,000.00) for the next five(5)
years to the Habitat Foundation.
I thank you.