Statement by

H.E. Mr. YU Zhengsheng
Minister of Construction of the People's Republic of China

At the 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, 2001

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the beginning of the new century, we are gathered here at the United Nations headquarters in New York to hold the Special Session of General Assembly for an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of Habitat Agenda and to propose future initiatives and actions. This Session will serve as the driving force for the improvement and development of the global human settlements in the 21' century. I may take this opportunity to extend, on behalf of the Chinese government, sincere congratulations on the convocation of this Session and wish it a complete success.

Looking back to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda since 1996, we are pleased to see that all countries, under the leadership of their governments, have made great efforts and achieved noticeable progress in improving the housing conditions and human settlements. The international community, in particular the Commission on Human Settlements and the UNCHS (Habitat), has made remarkable contributions in this regard. However, we should also be aware of the fact that the global human settlements issues, especially in the developing countries, remains serious and far from being solved. Therefore, it is essential to effectively strengthen the international cooperation in the field of human settlements.

Since Habitat II, the Chinese government, in order to fulfill its commitment to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda has placed housing construction and human settlements improvement at the top of its development agenda, taking necessary policy measures, expanding reform dimensions and increasing financial inputs. As a result, great changes have taken place in the housing conditions and the living environment as well as the appearance of both urban and rural regions. Main achievements are summarized as follows.

 1. Rapid Housing Development. In the past five years, about 6.47 billion square meters of housing have been constructed in China with about 3.1 billion square meters in the urban region. The per capita floor area in the urban region has reached 20 square meters, surpassing the target set in the 1996 National Report. The overall quality and function of housing have been improved significantly. Through the reform of the housing distribution systems, a new and market-oriented housing system in conformity with the national conditions has been established. The purchasing power of the Chinese people has been increased by a large margin.

2. Promotion of the Urbanization Strategy with Chinese Characteristics. An integrated and rational urban system has been set up with the emphasis on the development of small cities and towns, which features the urbanization process with the characteristics of China. The urbanization rate has reached 36.09%. The urban development has been improved by strengthening the guiding role of urban and rural planning, establishing a classified urban and rural planning management system and adjusting the structure of land use.

3. Preservation and Development of Urban Culture. While renewing old towns and districts and improving urban environment, preservation and protection of historic and cultural cities, historic streets, and cultural heritages of different nationalities have been emphasized so as to maintain and develop the urban culture.

4. Rapid Development of Urban Infrastructure. The development of urban infrastructure has become another new area for stimulating the economic growth with the adoption of market mechanism and expansion of investment. The urban infrastructure including transportation, water and heating supply sewerage and solid waste disposal, electric and telecommunication networks, has witnessed a rapid development, thus greatly promoting the service functions of cities.

5. Remarkable Improvement of Urban Environment. The quality of the living conditions and urban environment has been remarkably improved by integrating pollution control and environmental protection, intensifying ecological construction, enhancing environmental management, and socializing and specializing property management.

6. Improvement of Laws and Regulations. The reform of the legal framework related to urban development and environmental management has been deepened. The laws and regulations for human settlements, urban planning, construction and management have been perfected.

7. Disaster Prevention and Post-Disaster Rehabilitation. The system of preventing and mitigating disasters in urban areas has been set up. The strategy of integrating disaster prevention with ecological and environmental construction has been formulated. Great achievements have been made in fighting against serious floods in 1998, rehabilitating the flood-stricken areas, returning the cultivated land to forests, and protecting the ecosystems.

8. Eradication of Poverty and Promotion of Employment. Social security systems have been established for vulnerable groups such as the poor, senior and disabled. Preferential policies have been made for the less developed regions including those located in minority nationality areas, poor areas and western areas. The development of small and medium-sized enterprises and township enterprises has been promoted. The development of private, joint venture and equity enterprises has been encouraged to provide more opportunities for employment and poverty eradication.

The Chinese government has attached importance to the role of Habitat Agenda partners, especially the initiatives and role of the local authorities in the field of human settlements. While enhancing the leading and macro-control role of the central government, we have continuously delegated the local authorities with more powers in decision-making and management within the legal framework of the Constitution, laws and regulations, encouraging them to identify their own priorities according to the local conditions, and providing policy and financial support. Special assistance of transfer payments and tax returns has been provided to the less developed regions including the minority areas to promote the local economic growth and the human settlements development, and bridge the gap between the poor and rich regions in order to realize the coordinated economic development and achieve the goal of common prosperity.

To face the challenge of addressing the human settlements issues in the new century and promote the civilization and advance of the humanity is the immediate and urgent task for the entire international community. With the aim of achieving at an early date the two objectives of "adequate shelter for all" and "sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world", further implementing the Habitat Agenda, promoting actively the international cooperation in the field of human settlements, and solving fundamentally the global human settlements issues, the Chinese government would like to reiterate the following positions:

1. Economic Development and Eradication of Poverty. Economic development and poverty eradication are essential for the fundamental solution of human settlements issues of the developing countries. Only by achieving sustained economic growth and supporting and assisting the poor and disadvantaged, can the goals of eradicating poverty be achieved step by step, which will lay a foundation for the solution of global human settlements issues. Against the backdrop of economic globalization, the international community, especially the developed countries should create an external environment for the economic development and poverty eradication of the developing countries.

2. Mutual Respect and Self Decision-Making. Respect of the conditions of each country and self decision-making are the basic principles for solving human settlements problems. Varying in political systems, laws and regulations, administrative systems, development levels, history, culture, traditions, customs, geography, different countries face different human settlements problems. They should learn and draw lessons from each other. However, it is impossible for all countries to take only one unified model or method to deal with the human settlements problems. The international community should respect each country's sovereignty and its legal frameworks as well as policies, strategies, planning and priorities of human settlements determined in accordance with its national conditions and capabilities.

3. Sustainable Development. The sustainable development is the only way to solve the human settlements problems. Population growth, environmental protection and human settlements development are interrelated and should be dealt with properly. While being compatible with the economic development, human settlements development should be sustained by coordinating with population growth, development of productive force, exploitation of natural resources and environmental protection. It's essential to control the population growth in a planned way and enhance environmental and ecological protection to promote the development of human settlements.

4. International Cooperation. To strengthen the international cooperation is the important way of solving the human settlements problems. To resolve the problems of human settlements requires not only domestic efforts, but also good external environment and efficient international cooperation. The improvement of human settlements conditions in developing countries is the first and foremost step to improve the global human settlements. Starting from the common interests, the international community, especially the developed countries, should make efforts to narrow the gap between North and South. The international community, especially the developed countries, should also demonstrate the political will to bring about a favorable international environment for the economic and social development of the developing countries. They should fulfil their commitments in financial resources, technology transfer, market access and debt relief in particular to strengthen the capacity of the developing countries in addressing human settlements issues.

5. Equal Emphasis on Urban and Rural Development. Development of human settlements both in urban and rural areas is interrelated and complementary. With rapid urbanization, urban human settlements are drawing more and more attention. However, it should be noticed that most people in the developing countries are still living in rural areas. The rural human settlements are a weak link and serious problem in the global efforts to address human settlement issues. Therefore, only by giving both urban and rural areas equal emphasis, can there be an overall and balanced improvement of human settlements across the world.

6. Material and Spiritual Civilization. The material and spiritual civilization should be advanced when the human settlements issues are addressed. The human settlements issues deal not only with the construction and improvement of physical facilities but also with the advancement of culture, spiritual moral, especially the civilized behavior and sound services in the communities. Only by integrating the material construction with spiritual advancement can the communities be built and developed into a highly civilized living environment.

7. Application of Science and Technology. The advanced science and technology should be used in solving the human settlements problems. The 21 st century is an age of knowledge-based economy, science and technology, and information. In addition to economic development, application of achievements and methods of advanced sciences and technologies is absolutely necessary for improving and upgrading human settlements. The information dissemination, planning and construction, management and maintenance, and policy making relating to all aspects of human settlements should be conducted scientifically.

8. Public Participation. Public participation should be promoted to solve the human settlements problems. The development of human settlements is a major symbol of social progress. It relates closely to the interests of everyone and every family and requires broad public participation. Governments have the primary responsibility in addressing the human settlements issues. Meanwhile, it is essential to promote the extensive participation of the general public as the human settlement development involves many aspects of the social life. It is necessary to give a full play of the role of local authorities, nongovernmental organizations, private sectors, women, youth and other Habitat Agenda partners for the development and improvement of human settlements.

9. The Relations between the Central and Local governments. Undoubtedly, the central government plays an important role in human settlements development. It is also very important to bring into full play the role and initiatives of local governments in addressing the human settlements issues. However, any tendency of ignoring the national conditions and weakening the role of the central government while over-emphasizing "local self-government" in the administrative system and politicizing the human settlements issue will produce no positive result but adverse impact on the social stability and economic development of the developing countries and harm the development of human settlements.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to the wide cooperation and exchange with UNCHS, relevant international organizations and countries on the basis of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. The Chinese government increased its contributions to UNCHS from this year to support the operation of UNCHS. It cosponsored with UNCHS the successful "International Conference on Urban Construction and Environment" in Chengdu, China last year, at which experience of best practices in global human settlements was shared. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has decided to establish a "China Habitat Award", the winners of which will be recommended to apply for "Habitat Scroll of Honor". We are confident that there will be new development of international cooperation in the field of human settlements after this special session.

As a most populous and biggest developing country, China shall make its contributions to the improvement of global human settlements. Although having made some achievements, we shall make further efforts to achieve greater progress.

The 21 st century is an era of knowledge-based economy and information. Looking forward to the future, we need to narrow the gap between the poor and rich in the world. We need to improve extensively the global human settlements. We need to enable the developing countries to keep pace with the times, free themselves from poverty and make greater progress. Facing challenges and opportunities in the new century, let's work together to promote the continuous development of the human settlements, enhance the social progress of mankind, and create a better tomorrow of the world.
Thank you, Mr. President.