Ms. Jan Peterson Chairperson
GROOTS International /Huairou Commission
HUAIROU COMMISSION
Women, Homes and Community
TWENTY FIFTH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON THE REVIEW AND APPPRAISAL OF PROGRESS OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HABITAT AGENDA
June 8th 2001


Mr./Madam Chairperson, Distinguished delegates and friends,

I am proud to represent the Huairou Commission - a global partnership coalition of networks including the GROOTS International, consisting of more than 11,000 grassroots women's groups and NGOs working together with local authorities, parliamentarians ,development institutions and UN agencies. At the heart of the Commission's approach is the mainstreaming of grassroots women's groups and poor communities in addressing habitat issues such as shelter and basic services The main focus is : local governance, security of land tenure, post disaster and conflict reconstruction.

Across 55 countries in Asia, Africa, L. America, Eastern Europe ,the E.U and N.America, the Huairou Commission and it's networks are at the center of efforts to scale up the implementation of the Habitat Agenda through forging new community -state partnerships. Local to local dialogues, exchanges, transfer of knowledge from good practices are key tools that we use to build local capacities, reshape policies and transform communities and cities.

Lessons from community driven initiatives to secure land, shelter and basic services, build permanent housing and community owned infrastructure, counter myths held by policy makers:

Myth # 1: Grassroots efforts are small scale

Myth #2 Grassroots women's initiatives are necessarily low-tech.

Myth #3: Grassroots women groups are beneficiaries rather than partners.

Given that the majority of the settlements interventions that work for the poor are community driven, we submit that grassroots initiatives, in the context of poverty reduction and gender equitable human settlement efforts for all, are the mainstream. Resources and opportunities are needed to ensure that grassroots women's groups and communities have an opportunity to publicly demonstrate the richness of their strategies and solutions so that can become the basis for creating innovative, effective and sustainable ways of implementing the Habitat Agenda.

Today, we are entering a new institutional context where there is increased potential for grassroots women to scale-up and upgrade their settlements development initiatives by partnering with local authorities and other public institutions.

However, with the loss of the Women and Habitat program in UNCHS the platform from which large numbers of women's groups could strengthen their capacities and contribute to the institutional process of mainstreaming gender equitable settlement practices has disappeared.

Moreover, by rescinding the Women and Habitat Program we have delinked institutional knowledge from interaction with the constituency who has produced these innovations in the field of settlements. Because these program changes carry the risk of marginalizing the efforts at the grassroots - i.e. the work of grassroots women and communities. By these actions, the governments are seriously losing the capability to realize the opportunities to attain the full implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

Thus, We call for concrete measures that seek to transform public institutions and processes so that women and poor communities worldwide are seen at the center of transformation fuelled by economic growth and resource investments in habitat and cities. This requires a strategic rethinking of the ways .We need to view grassroots women and communities as the problem-solvers in their communities rather than as clients or beneficiaries. In the redesigning of policies governments need to recognize that grassroots women's groups are the engines of development in their communities.

The only choice that governments have is to exercise their commitment and show their political will...

We call for urgent action by which governments, the UN and multilateral agencies can facilitate the mainstreaming of grassroots interventions and enhance the sustainability, efficiency by doing the following:

Create institutional mechanisms for participation and negotiation Establish decentralized financial mechanisms to mainstream and scale up grassroots initiatives to address habitat problems in cities Increase accountability through recognition and empowerment of grassroots women's groups in the planning and monitoring of public resources with local governments Extend policy support to grassroots initiatives through information, credit, capacity building Facilitate new community - public/private partnerships to ensure optimum utilization through piloting of efforts and scaling up.

We conclude by stating that the above recommendations are key to successful implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

Thank you for your attention.