Mr. President, Your Excellencies
Ghana is delighted to participate in this debate and to share her views on the further implementation of the Habitat Agenda agreed to in Istanbul in June 1996.
The right to adequate housing is so fundamental to the rights of individuals to an adequate standard of living that, Istanbul, must stand along with Cairo, Copenhagen, Rio and Beijing, as a milestone in our struggle to reaffirm and assure to each and every human being a life of dignity, security and social justice.
The dreams and ambitions that drove the outcome of Habitat I represented the best of our values as a civilized community:
There can be no doubt that there has been an increase in urban poverty; a worsening of the problems of human settlements in rural areas as well as an upsurge of natural and human-made disasters since Istanbul.
The estimated rate of increase of urban populations over the next 20 years alone constitutes an urgent call for action to address the huge needs of planning to address issues of poverty; disease and sustainable development. Water and waste management and the maintenance of the ecology, particularly the preservation of forests, are today approaching a state of crisis in many of our countries.
Clearly, the Habitat Agenda is as relevant today as it was five years ago, if not more pressing, and we are pleased that the negotiations of the draft outcome successfully avoided the trap of debating the Agenda I
With the necessary political will, the objectives we are about to set ourselves are not overly ambitious - they are doable. Mobilizing political will, particularly at the international level, will be absolutely critical.
As the national reports clearly demonstrated, the capacity of developing countries, like mine, to provide adequate shelter for her citizens depends on a successful strategy of partnerships and policy frameworks.
In the case of Ghana, our commitment to meeting our objectives of sustainable human settlements remains at the centre of our national planning objectives. Since its assumption of office barley six months ago, the new Government of Ghana has put in place a number of policies to assure an open and transparent government, take the country out of its current economic difficulties and to contribute to sub-regional peace, stability and socioeconomic development with a view to expanding opportunity and fostering greater wealth creation.
We remain committed to the efforts that have been made of the past five years to improve access to housing and better living conditions in human settlements through direct investment and by facilitating and promoting partnerships with the private sector.
Since the houses built by the formal private estate developers are largely out of the reach of many Ghanaians, the Government is addressing the main contributory, factors to the: high cost of housing; namely, the high cost of land building materials, lack of Long-Term construction finance and the Multilayered Title to Land. To this end, the Government has come out with a National Land Policy to improve land supply and security of title. It has also embarked on large scale acquisition of land to constitute land banks to support rental housing and affordable ownership by low income families.
Over, the next 3 years Government intends to increase investment in the shelter sector through enhanced facilitation and support of the private sector, civil organizations, community groups and NGOs and other actors in the sector.
The country is also exploring various sources of long term concessionary funding to support low-income housing and service delivery and, so far, over US$250 million has been obtained to deliver over 20,000 housing units within the next 3 years.
We are working towards extending access to infrastructure and basic services, especially water, sanitation and electricity, by all of our citizens.
With regard to access to water, the country has achieved 76% coverage for urban area's and about 46% coverage for rural population. While extending access to water, we intend, through the Water Resources Commission, to protect the country's water bodies, regulate its use, and develop joint strategies for water sharing and management with neighbouring countries.
Ghana's new Local Government system makes the people the centre of development and, local government institutions have become vital focal points for the attainment of national development objectives and the realization of the aspirations of the people.
Our decentralization programme has raised political awareness; the spirit of popular participation and a feeling of empowerment among communities at the local level and we are convinced that it constitutes the critical link to the achievement of the goals of our Habitat Agenda.
The Constitution of Ghana provides for the Central Government releasing at least 5% of the total revenue of the country to the various Districts to assist them with their developmental projects.
In pursuit of the Habitat Agenda, the Government has directed the District Assemblies to use 20% of this District:.Assemblies Common Fund. to provide low cost housing to the poor.
Again, in Ghana, we have et up a Habitat Committee. made up of officials of both the Ministries of Works and Housing and Local Government and Rural Development to achieve the Habitat Agenda, and even though the Habitat Office is located in the Ministry of Works and Housing, the Committee is chaired by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to ensure greater coordination and collaboration.
As we re-commit ourselves to the further implementation of the Habitat Agenda, the issue of poverty eradication must take centre stage in our strategies to promote equitable, socially viable and stable human settlements.
In Ghana, poverty continues to be a major problem. The latest surveys indicate that about 22.8% of the urban population and 51.6% of the rural population live below the poverty line. The most vulnerable groups are women, children and disabled youth.
The Government in collaboration with UNDP has been implementing a National Poverty Reduction Programme (NPRP) to address the challenges of poverty in our society.
To underscore the importance it attaches to issues affecting women and its impact on standards of living, the Government has created a Ministry for Women's Affairs with Cabinet rank; headed by a highly respected woman Minister.
In the area of disaster, preparedness and mitigation, for instance, the recent Accra stadium disaster, in my country in which 126 people died, woke us up to the realization that there is a lot to be done and quickly too.
Despite the structures we had established since 1996 to work towards prevention or minimizing the risks of disasters; the experience has shown that the structures require a great deal of support and resourcing.
Our ability to monitor the implementation of the Habitat Agenda has also suffered from inadequate resources. My Ministry is, however, systemically building data on the key indicators identified under the indication Programme.
It is obvious that the decisions that are made in other fora or processes to address issues of external trade, debt, international development cooperation, private capital flows as well as the restructuring of the financial architecture will determine, to a considerable extent, the success of our efforts, collectively, to meet the major crisis facing human settlements globally.
It must either be a win-win situation or we would all be the losers in the end. The state of the world gives us all frightening evidence of how easily our urban areas can quickly become the construct of the Hobbesian state of nature.
We hope, and we will work in concert with others, to ensure that the end of this review process will mark the beginning of a new effort to create conditions for human settlements worthy of our values.
That, Mr. President is the way to realize the Habitat II Agenda - that of providing adequate shelter for all, and ensuring the development of Sustainable Human Settlement in a rapidly urbanizing world.
I thank you, Mr. President.