Statement

By

By Member Countries of the
Commonwealth Consultative Group on Human Settlements

At The Special Session On Habitat II

New York
June 8, 2001





COMMONWEALTH INPUT TO ISTANBUL+5

SUMMARY

1. The Commonwealth reaffirms its commitment to the Habitat Agenda and continues to work assiduously towards implementation of its broad objectives in member states. To facilitate this process and deepen its involvement, Commonwealth governments agreed to the establishment of a Commonwealth Consultative Group on Human Settlements (CCGHS) as a vehicle for developing a consensus Commonwealth approach and Plan of Action for implementation of the Agenda objectives. The Commonwealth Secretariat is partnered in this effort by the Commonwealth Human Ecology Council (CHEC), the Commonwealth Foundation and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum.

2. At its inaugural meeting in Nairobi in May 1999, the CCGHS adopted a new Commonwealth goal, which is the focus of all its activities and programmes:

"Demonstrated progress towards adequate shelter for all with secure
tenure and access to essential services in every community by 2015"

3. OBJECTIVES OF THE CCGHS

In order to maximise efficiency of effort, the CCGHS has defined the following major objectives:

    (a) Providing basic services to households, neighbourhoods and villages.
    (b) Incorporating shelter provision into national poverty alleviation programmes.
    (c) Espousing a Commonwealth position on "Corruption" in all its manifest forms.
    (d) Removing systematic discrimination against women especially in respect of title to property and inheritance rights, with general support for the Commission on Human Rights resolution on the equal rights of ownership of and access to land.
    (e) Promoting security of tenure and good governance.
    (f) Promoting the attainment of its new goal.

4. PRIORITY AREAS FOR ACTION

In pursuit of these objectives, the CCGHS recognised that realisation of the goal of adequate shelter for all can only be achieved within the context of sustainable development and good governance. It has therefore identified a number of priorities and action steps to ensure a holistic framework for action:

    (a) Good governance and secure land tenure;
    (b) Access to funding through international and national agencies, together with innovative local schemes particularly for women and low-income groups while utilising the labour "capital" of the no-income group;
    (c) Promotion of employment opportunities in conjunction with shelter provision, particularly for the low and no-income groups, and other under-privileged sectors;
    (d) Encouragement for innovative investment in rental accommodation.
    (e) Promotion of national and international action for gender equity particularly in areas relevant to shelter;
    (f) Catering for the special needs of children, the disabled, disadvantaged and otherwise marginalised sections of community;
    (g) Promoting adoption of existing Commonwealth statements:
            . Gender issues
            . Corruption
            . Good governance and
            . The involvement of civil society;
    (h) Training and capacity building to support member countries' human settlement programmes through skills development, continuing education, courses and workshops, targeting individual skills and organisational efficiency;
    (i) Development of mutually supportive partnerships in order to fuse government, civil society and the private sector into a cohesive and efficient support mechanism;
    (j) Maintaining and improving individual and community health by providing safe, clean water supplies, adequate waste  management, good air quality and dedicated campaigns against HIV/AIDS and malaria, both of which have a severe negative impact on the human resource capacity due to lack of access to adequate treatment for people in developing countries;
    (k) Improving disaster preparedness and mitigating the consequences of conflict;
    (l) Support for local Agenda 21 initiatives
    (m) Adequate, habitable and affordable land for shelter development;
    (n) Seeking establishment of monitoring systems to assess progress and regulate against slippage.

It is appropriate to single out for special mention the deadly scourge of HIV/AIDS, which has so decimated the population of the developing world. The severe toll it has taken on the most economically active 18-35 year group of citizens has had a devastating effect on the human resource capability of developing countries, impacting negatively on their ability to provide the trained personnel and support staff so essential to economic development.

Sustainable development creates an environment in which people can improve the quality of their lives. Key priorities in achieving sustained human development are poverty alleviation, providing sustainable livelihoods, proper stewardship of the environment and the full involvement of women. Progress in any of these areas is dependent on good governance requiring working partnerships between government, civil society and the private sector. Capacity building in these three pillars of society -the state, civil society and the private sector- is therefore essential for good governance, sustainable development and achievement of the goals of the Habitat Agenda.

5. DEVELOPMENT OF PARTNERSHIPS

This is an important area of CCGHS activity in recognition of the fact that good governance, so essential to success, requires the closest working relationships between all the identified participants and its omission could condemn well-conceived programmes to failure. A collaborative Commonwealth approach will employ all the information networks of its composite partnerships towards problem-solving solutions for shelter provision. Such partnerships co-ordinated through CHEC will also seek to provide social and technical advice through informal teams.

6. IDENTIFYING NEW INNOVATIVE RESOURCES AND USING EXISTING FUNDING MORE EFFECTIVELY

An important function of the CCGHS will be identification of relevant sources of financial project support. International and bi-lateral agencies will be targeted and a number of innovative local schemes will be accumulated which can be replicated. Where national governments indicate a requirement for guidance, information can be supplied and assistance rendered in developing project proposals for submissions to such agencies as the Urban Management Programme (UNDP, UNCHS), the Public-Private partnerships of the Urban Environment (UNDP), the Cities Alliance (World Bank, UNCHS) and the UN Foundation for International Partnership (UNFIP), and to bilateral aid programmes.

Urgent and close attention will be given to the development and expansion of local funding agencies such as Building Societies, Co-operatives and other self-help initiatives, particularly no-interest opportunities.

7. PROMOTING THE SHARING OF IDEAS, EXPERIENCE AND LESSONS LEARNT

The success or failures of individual projects provide a rich source of experience to enhance the efficiency of succeeding programmes. It is therefore an essential part of CCGHS activity to facilitate the free exchange of ideas, knowledge, experience, best practices and failures supported by a historical record of the decisions that influence the results. In this regard the CHEC-based operational group as the first point of reference, could provide useful direction to relevant data, including through the UNCHS database.

The study of the successes and failures of those who have followed similar paths can considerably shorten the learning curve. Analysis of the reasons for success or failure provides an invaluable tool to formulation of a new programme. Where there are limited resources to satisfy a massive demand, the value of such analyses and the availability of the relevant data cannot be overrated.

In considering this aspect of CCGHS activity, the usefulness of South-South networking should be emphasised and will be given prominent attention. The exchange of experts between developing countries for hands-on assistance and training has great potential and would be a particular focus of the CCGHS as a fruitful method of knowledge networking, saving time and resources.

Particular attention will also be given to extensive use of all forms of the media to reach remote areas as well as to ensure the widest possible distribution of information to potential beneficiaries.

8. CAPACITY BUILDING AND COUNTRY REPORTS

The "enabling approach" central to the Habitat Agenda encourages stakeholders to monitor the living environment, assess the impacts of actions and apply the information, knowledge and experience thus gained to improve performance in sustainable shelter provision. The UNCHS advocates that each country produces a country report on the conditions, key issues, programmes initiated, and results achieved since 1996, in order to assist future action and address future challenges.

The CCGHS initiative will respond to requests for assistance in preparing such reports and incorporating the lessons learnt from CHEC-conceived projects such as Community Sustainable Development Indicators (CSDI) and Community Learning and information Communication Centres (CLIC), and the regional local government information centres and the Commonwealth Local Government Good Practice Scheme, both supported by the Commonwealth Local Government Forum.

9. PROMOTING GOOD GOVERNANCE AND SECURITY OF TENURE

The CCGHS will actively support the UNCHS global campaigns on Good Governance, which is essential to establishing norms of local governance and inclusive cities, and Secure Tenure which is key to finance for shelter development and land administration.

10. CCGHS WORK PLAN - TOWARDS ISTANBUL+10

Following the review of Istanbul+5, the work of the CCGHS continues through Istanbul+10. To focus effort and create an orderly and systematic approach to the challenges of the next five years, a monitoring system will be required. A Work Plan is a suitable regulatory tool that, subject to regular review dictated by conditions, can ensure that priorities are maintained, changed as situations demand and progress measured.

The Plan will focus the areas previously outlined for priority action and seek to measure achievement against the new adopted Commonwealth goal through 2006. Such an assessment, based on Country Reports, will be designed to permit interim assessments that can inform progress reports at all succeeding Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGMs) to 2006.

Assessments will embrace the following topics among others:

    . Shelter units constructed
    . Improved security of tenure
    . Increased access to essential services
    . Improvements in governance
    . Progress in enhancing women's rights to tenure and inheritance
    . Improved credit facilities and availability to the poor
    . Increased knowledge and experience exchange between countries
    . Improved partnership relations in number and quality
    . Enhanced support for capacity building
    . Improvement in quality of proposal applications.

The resilience and cohesion of the Commonwealth, and the previous success of action taken in unison gives credence to the belief that these are achievable goals, directed towards the alleviation of one of the most challenging social problems facing the present generation - adequate shelter for all by 2015.

Given the necessary determination of purpose and concerted political will, the resilience and cohesion of the Commonwealth can ensure a response to address this challenge.