Ms. Myrna Pitt
Chief Executive Officer
Central Housing & Planning Authority
Republic of Guyana
For An Overall Review and Appraisal of the
Implementation of the Outcome of the UN Conference
on Human Settlements (Habitat II)
June 8, 2001
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me, Sir, at the outset, to express on behalf of the Government of Guyana, our warm congratulations on your excellent chairing of this meeting. You are certainly ensuring that our debates are constructive, and lead to action oriented programmes.
It has been five years since the Istanbul Declaration was endorsed by participants at the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements. This Conference, we recall, was notable not only for the high quality of the debates which characterized it, but also for the very high level of participation by non-governmental organizations, city mayors, and municipal authorities in the work of the Conference. The City Summit, as it was then known, was more than an intergovernmental summit, it was a meeting of all stakeholders, peoples and their representatives, who endorsed the Habitat Agenda: "adequate shelter for all" and "the development of sustainable human settlements".
Over the past five years, the Government of Guyana has fashioned programmes and interventions in the settlements sector which targeted low income households and households in unplanned settlements as primary beneficiaries. To this end, approximately 91 settlements were established making 50,000 houselots available to persons with pressing shelter needs. Indeed, a central pillar of the Government of Guyana's programme has been the provision of house lots to the dispossessed, the extension of municipal services to these new settlement areas, and the rehabilitation of existing municipal infrastructure.
Our achievements, however, could have been much greater in a more enabling international environment, one that allowed Guyana to obtain fair prices for its main exports of sugar, rice and gold. As you know, the prices for these commodities have fallen in recent years, but our efforts to ensure that the right of shelter is affordable to all Guyanese, in a progressive manner and within the limits of our budgetary strictures, have had an impact on the reduction of poverty in our country.
Today, Guyana is working with its development partners to ensure that our country is no longer burdened by heavy external debt. This has entailed close negotiations with creditor nations and the international financial institutions and has enabled Guyana to complete work on its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. The strategy is an expression of the Government's strong commitment to reduce poverty within the context of accelerated economic growth and improved social conditions. As an HIPC country, we are working hard to ensure that Guyana's poverty strategy is nationally owned, and that it is representative of the wishes of our people, meeting in particular the aspirations of the poorest for improved living standards and a better quality of life. Consultations with our partners, and with a variety of civil society groups are currently ongoing. An earlier period of consultations on Guyana's development path led to the publication last year of the country's National Development Strategy. In these consultations, one element appears clear: the right of shelter is of paramount importance and cannot be over emphasized. It is important for the achievement of our development aspirations, and indeed it has emerged as an important platform for urban stability in the past few months. The National Development Strategy is the framework within which programmes and projects will be implemented with the primary focus being to improve the quality of life of the nation's citizens. It embraces all groups and seeks to bring about equity.
Another important element in these consultations, in the National Development Strategy and the finalization of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, has been the very clear links between shelter policy and other aspects of a balanced development strategy. From Guyana's perspective, the right to shelter involves the development of security of tenure for the population: urban, rural and hinterland. It also involves the desire of all Guyanese for improved governance in urban areas, in the management of municipal budgets, and the collection of taxes and other dues that make urban government possible.
An important issue that has also arisen in our national consultations is the right of urban dwellers to a decent standard of living. For, Mr. President, urbanization means more than the provision of shelter: it also means the creation, through partnerships between government, municipal authorities, civil society and the private sector of an environment where all can find decent employment that meets rising expectations for a better life. In addition to the Government's shelter strategy, consideration is being given to the strengthening of public /private sector partnerships in settlements development. Emphasis is also being placed on empowering communities and promoting an enabling environment to intensify and accelerate housing development for low-income groups.
Guyana, Sir, supports the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium. We have based our shelter policy on a participatory approach, integrating housing and shelter with the provision of development opportunities for the poor, especially women who make up the large majority of the urban poor in the informal economy. Local authorities are being strengthened through the support of our development partners, and have their say in the determination, not only of development policy within their areas, but also in the national Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Guyana is pleased to support the Habitat Agenda as part of its comprehensive development policy. But we are constrained in our action. Unplanned settlements formation is increasing faster than we are able to upgrade these settlements and provide adequate housing. Our constraint is not the lack of will, nor the lack of imagination to envision a future of prosperity for all Guyanese. Our constraint, Sir, is in the international market place where the continuing decline in our export terms of trade means that less will be available to meet the urgent needs of our peoples. The international community have been solid partners of Guyana but development resources are in short supply. We are therefore convinced that success on the Habitat Agenda is intimately linked to success in the agenda of the forthcoming conference on Financing for Development. Greater efficiency in our development resources is important. We also need capacity building to enable us to utilize in a better fashion the modest but effective resources of our domestic private sector. Most of all, Sir, we need open markets and greater investment in Guyana to enable us to stand proudly at the next Habitat conference and demonstrate our achievements in meeting the goals of this Agenda.
The examples we have reviewed in the course of this Special Session, the ambitious programmes of international development organizations such as UNCHS and UNDP allow us to envision a future of adequate shelter for all, of prosperity for urban and rural dwellers. Guyana is committed to this future, and invites all development partners, bilateral and multilateral, to accompany our country on its road to development.
I thank you.