TWENTY-FIFTH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR AN OVERALL REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE OUTCOME OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS (HABITAT II)
THE HONOURABLE MOMODOU
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND LANDS
OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA
NEW YORK 6-8JUNE2001
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Government of The Gambia has always strongly believed that housing is a special consumer good, a major engine for economic growth and a key component of Social Welfare. The Gambia was among the signatories to the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda during the 1996 second UN Conference on Human Settlements held in Istanbul. It will be recalled that the main themes of that important summit were:-
. Adequate Shelter for all;
. Sustainable human settlement in an urbanising world.
The Government of the Gambia remains fully committed to the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda and we will endeavour to ensure the successful implementation of our National Plan of Action.
As a result of the prevailing demographic trends and urbanisation, the demand for decent housing is proving increasingly elusive. The long-term objective of the housing sector will aim at increasing production of decent housing stock on a more regular and sustainable basis.
Particular attention will be focussed on the difficult and inadequate access to land for housing, dependence on imported building materials, the manpower and technical limitations of the construction industry, and the need for specialised housing finance institutions such as housing banks and Housing Co-operatives.
It is estimated that by the Year 2020, two thirds of the world population will live in towns and cities. This situation is of great concern to African Governments especially- in the context of severe shortages in housing, infrastructure, increasing environmental and employment problems, and growing ineffectiveness of administrative systems. It is in this context, therefore, that the Government of The Gambia believes that due attention must be given to the following in order to effectively redress the shelter problem:
i. Decentralization of resources and services including housing facilities to keep people in their localities; `In this regard the Government of The Gambia has undertaken an unprecedented programme of decentralization of Local Government to ensure participatory decision-making at the grassroots level and is also embarking on a rural electrification programme covering all our major towns and villages. Presently, over 80% of the rural population have access to clean drinking water
ii. With over 75% of the building materials imported, The Gambia can only solve its housing problem by popularising the use of alternative building materials.
iii. No development effort is feasible without adequate financing. This is why we have decided to establish a Housing Finance Bank in The Gambia app work in this area is progressing satisfactorily. Meanwhile; private sector initiatives have led to the establishment of housing finance windows in two of our commercial banks.
It must be pointed out however, that without the necessary climate of peace and stability, all these efforts will bear little fruit. This is why we belief that good governance, which guarantees peace and stability, must be the guiding principle. We have all witnessed the many wars and civil strives across Africa over the years. Such state of affairs hampered the continent's ability to achieve the goals of the Habitat Agenda and the Istanbul Declaration. We are simply destroying more shelter than are being provided in replacement. Such cases abound all over Africa virtually. In order to ensure greater peace, we must promote regional co-operation. In this way we can facilitate and build trust and greater understanding among ourselves.
The Gambia Government believes in the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing and will continue to provide housing for all its citizens in the form of mass housing projects. There is equal access to land for both male and female. This policy is upheld by both the government and the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) in the allocation of plots of land.
The current Government policy on human settlements is to increase open spaces in settlements. Policies and programmes being pursued at present include the creation of green areas and other areas of environmental and cultural significance. Since the HABITAT Conference, an unprecedented number of services and infrastructure such as hospitals, telecommunications, roads and schools have been made more accessible throughout the country.
The Government accords priority to the development of the private sector as a vehicle for achieving sustainable economic growth. The investment policy provides a broad-base attractive incentive structure for potential investors. This includes the removal of obstacles and red tape that hamper the growth of the private sector.
In conclusion, Mr. President, taking cue from and in consonance with
its constitutional provision, "The Gambia incorporated vision 2020", aims
among other things, "to encourage participatory governance and balanced
development". The government of The Gambia will continue to pursue and
intensify a comprehensive political and institutional decentralization
process. This will contribute to poverty alleviation and diffuse the different
socio-economic tensions that result from rapid population growth, rural-urban
drift, unemployment and regional disparities in economic development.