HABITAT Professionals Forum
Statement on the Special Session at the General Assembly of the United Nations
 on HABITAT II  6.- 8. June 2001 in New York

Your Excellencies. Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on behalf of the HABITAT Professionals Forum. The HABITAT Professionals Forum was established in 1999 at the initiative of the International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP), the International Union of Architects (UIA), the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG), the International Society of City and Regional Planners (IsoCaRP), the Centre for African Settlement Studies and Development (CASSAD) and the Arab Urban Development Institute (AUDI). The Forum was organized under the auspices of UNCHS (HABITAT).
The word Forum means `platform', a place where information is brought together in order to communicate with others. It is not a club with members nor an organization with statutes, but a partnership of sovereign federations and institutes working together to address worldwide problems related to population increase and homelessness, planning, housing and human settlements. The Forum is open to other international nongovernmental organizations that work on topics related to the HABITAT Agenda. The Forum can help to establish networks and to share knowledge and experiences.

The awareness of different governmental levels and their action is critical for the implementation of the HABITAT Agenda. But in addition to these governmental commitments, civil society should take into consideration, that the implementation of the principles of sustainability is a continuous learning process. Learning needs to occur on different levels of overlapping nongovernmental fields of training and co-operation in order to transform our current way of life into a more sustainable one. Nongovernmental organizations, acting as mediators, can use their commitment, their professional talents and experiences to help resolve these difficult processes laden with conflicts.
Looking at the different speed worldwide
- of technical and economical structural changes, of the more indolent, more traditional socia-political structures, and
- of the ecological processes (with their own long lasting laws of nature and continued evolution), one needs experts to solve these problems.

In every country there are highly educated experts with special expertise, but they often do not have enough experience or the support of state or local authorities, and are not part of an international network that helps to exchange ideas and innovative approaches. Therefore, the challenge is to provide training for better interdisciplinary and intergovernmental co-operation. The HABITAT Professionals Forum, related to UNCHS, addresses this challenge by offering a platform for professionals to meet one another.

Knowledge and expertise in the various disciplines of urban and regional planning, traffic and transportation planning, architecture and ecology, sociology and law, health and culture, sciences and economy, statistics and geographic information, surveying and land administration are the precondition for solving the problems of human settlements on the technical side of the tremendous task to provide "shelter for all". In order to address the human side of this task, we need participation of the people, the families, the women, the children, as well as of companies, firms, institutions, enterprises etc. Any change in physical structure leads to a change of social composition. Contemporary architecture must respond with precision to social requirements and architectural beauty needs to be an important defining factor of the cities in which we live. Without sound land administration there is no sustainable solution to housing problems. Professional experts are ready to add their expertise and knowledge to the pool of experience, in order

- to organize forums with the UNCHS to exchange best practices,
- to organize national forums by invitation of local governments,
- to include the principles of the HABITAT Agenda into the educational curricula and research agendas,
- to help mediate between investors and inhabitants, if we are asked to do so,
- to give recommendations to the governments in order to establish partnerships and to achieve quality in architecture and urban planning, land information, construction, cadastre and land management, and
- to work worldwide towards an integrated social and technical approach in addressing the problems of human settlements.

At the URBAN 21-Conference in Berlin in July 2000 the HABITAT Professionals Forum outlined the different views of town planners, architects, surveyors and housing experts about their responsibilities in the field of human settlements. Everybody is looking for beauty. The role of architects is to advocate beauty and harmony in the environment. Faced with social problems, poverty and oftentimes insufficient funding and governmental support for architecture and planning, professionals have to increase awareness of the importance of art and beauty without forgetting the priority of social and economic issues. People need shelter, but this shelter can be organized in different manners. Architects and planners should find a way of linking the challenge of providing shelter for all with professional competence in design and beauty, with creating urban identity and addressing social concerns. In order to provide those who work in the informal sector with access to land and secure tenure-ship, in order to achieve acceptable standards in housing and infrastructure, land resource and management and new ways of financing, we need worldwide consensus, professional expertise and the commitment of the national governments. They need to follow-up with the creation of the relevant laws and need to establish holistic policies, so that, with the support of flexible administrations, innovative-minded people in the countries around the world are able to realize, what they believe are the right steps.

During this Special Session of the General Assembly the Habitat Professionals Forum will be holding three workshops. They address the UNCHS-campaigns for

- secure tenure, and
- good governance and
- the relationship of the two campaigns and Finance for Development.

We will continue our efforts following the draft declaration (§3'7) by offering a platform for the exchange of ideas and experiences at

- the world conference of the FIG in Washington DC /USA, April 2002,
- the world congress of the UIA in Berlin/Germany, July 2002,
- the world congress of the IFHP in Tianjin/China, September 2002.

Together with local authorities we continue to help building capacity and strengthening civil society through our work as nongovernmental professional organizations focusing on the following key issues:

- developing strategies to link security of tenure to sustainable development,
- supporting governmental efforts to increase women's access to land,
- helping to address the need for and to develop a national land administration vision and policy
- supporting initiatives to formalize informal settlements through expertise and capacity building,
- working towards good architecture that relates to the surrounding environment and acts as an element of identification in the development of a (hopefully) sustainable environment,
- helping to establish structures that provide access to infrastructure,
- ensuring quality in low-cost housing and shelter, and addressing these needs by involving local economy, qualification and employment,
- developing affordable planning, GIS and cadastre systems,
- offering technical know-how and research expertise in organizing mobility,
- providing assistance in participatory processes on the local level (§ 39 Draft Declaration) and in intensifying the relationship of Agenda 21 and HABITAT Agenda (§ 48 Draft Declaration).