Mr. David Aptsiauri
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia
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)

8 June, 2001 New York

Mr. Chairman
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The antecedents of my country and its spiritual and material culture go back many a millennium, but the new history of Georgia, like that of the other post-Soviet countries, covers only a decade. It is worthy to note that the half of this decade passed precisely after the Habitat II.

It was truly a period of historical importance for Georgia, singling out and bringing to the fore the problems which are the subject of immediate interest to the Habitat, one of the fundamental and global movements of the contemporary world.

The consistent development of settlements and worthwhile accommodation for everyone - these are the goals which motivate us all. These are also the goals, which call for stability in the country, well-neighborly relations throughout the region and the merger of vectors of the national and global development. Sad to say, much from this standpoint fails to come within the ambits of small countries' possibilities. The fate of 300 000 displaced persons from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region and the problem of providing them with accommodations, workplaces and the minimum subsistence level, bearing now hard on our settlements and accommodation, has to be solved with the assistance of the international community.

The representatives of the countries going through the analogous situation will agree that such background does not, in any way, contribute to the consistent development of settlements and the provision of people with worthwhile accommodations. However, the systemic reforms within the last 5 years in Georgia have acquired an irreversible character. In 1997 a new Civil Code was enacted, which created a firm legislative environment to the recently-established multitudinous stratum of real estate owners. In the same period a series of laws was adopted by the Parliament of Georgia, recognizing private ownership on urban lands and regulating principal relations in the sphere of land utilization. By the end of this year the legislative field will largely include the problems mentioned above.

Under development is such new sphere as the legalized market of real estate. Competitions and auctions are held to acquire land plots, mortgage is coming in, etc.

One of the priorities of the public development is said to be the decentralisation of authorities and competence, which extends to the urban development, housing and communal economy, the delegation on a local level of the management of engineering and communicational infrastructure.

The protection of cultural heritage was traditionally a highly successful field in Georgia. Today too, new forms of activity have been worked up: Georgia adhered to the field-specific international conventions, agreements; The UNESCO world heritage list includes the unique mountainous region of the Upper Svaneti, the ancient capital of Georgia - Mtskheta, the Gelati architectural complex, the inclusion of Tbilisi in this list is also prospective; The pilot project of Georgia and the World Bank in the cultural heritage protection field is being carried out successfully.

The system of urban indicators established in Georgia in 1996 opens up new opportunities for the management of the development of Georgia's settlements. This very system forms the basis of the yearly national report practice of the urban development, to which Georgia returned in 2000. The general census of the Georgian population scheduled in 2002 will facilitate obtaining the reliable statistic data, laying special emphasis on such fields as the population migration, displaced persons, domestic economies, sanitary-hygienic conditions, etc.

High on the list of positive events is the activation of our public at large, commune- and non-governmental organisations. It is of paramount importance given the negative impact of the 70-year soviet regime on the social-psychological portrait of the city's population - indifference, alienation from the urban environment, weakening of city awareness, mentality of sponges. This is what lies at the very root of the rather hard-going condominium ideology in the face of privatization of nearly 90 percent of flats, and the slowdown in setting up partnerships of accommodations owners.

Broadly speaking, the reforms ongoing in the country are not duly reflected in terms of territorial organization and urban development. On the other hand, we are faced with such challenges as the increasing poverty in the city, emergence of the homeless, unauthorized construction, reduction of public spaces, destruction of the green and recreational zones, absence of social accommodation system, etc.

Adding to the concern of our society is the high level of corruption, manifesting itself in the urban development sphere. The international organizations rendering assistance to Georgia often note of this. There exists disproportion of a kind between the priority trends of these organizations - their projects give a scarce and often only a formal coverage of the urban development and accommodation-related problems. The assistance of concrete countries, namely Germany and the US, yields more results here. Note should also be made of the fact that our local specialists are well-conversant with the current situation in the urban development and accommodation sphere that entitles us to pose the question of altering the foreign assistance format and carrying out the reorganization - today it would be more effective to go over from the stage of foreign experts' consultations to the concrete targeted projects.

It is impossible to block the societal and urban development at least for one day. I therefore believe the audience will understand the comparison of my country with a car, which badly needs replacing the details in such a way that its race could not be stopped. It is in this political, social and economic dynamics that we study the management of urban development and accommodations not with administrational-only but objective levers natural for our society and city.

We, in Georgia, entertain hope that we shall soon join the counties with high standards of living; dignity, happiness and hope both in the city environment and families. What dictates me to speak so is the respect to our history, the will of citizens and the sense of responsibility towards the future generations.

Thank you for your attention.