H.E. Mr. Ali Abdolali-zadeh
Minister for Housing and Urban Development of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the Twenty-Fifth Special Session of the General Assembly for an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II)
New York, 7 June 2001

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The five-year review of the Istanbul Conference on the human settlements should provide us with a unique opportunity to take stock of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, evaluate our accomplishments and obstacles encountered along the way, identify the current and emerging challenges, and seek further initiatives and actions to meet them. The only rationale for this review conference is to be able to build upon the past and move ahead.

The state of negotiations on the final outcome of the Special Session indicates two things. One, that a lot of grounds have been successfully covered in the course of the preparatory process, for which we are very thankful to the Secretariat, the distinguished Chairman of the PrepCom and all the negotiating partners. And two, that there still remain a number of areas and issues on which further work and negotiation is needed before we arrive at the final consensus. The crux of the outstanding issues in the final document centers, in our view, on how best we can muster our collective capabilities at the level of the whole international community to fully implement what we agreed in Istanbul, both at national and international levels. And we have to admit, painful as might be, that the challenges in front of us have become all the more difficult due to the complicating impact of the globalization process, particularly in the developing world.

Our agreement five years ago on the development of sustainable human settlements and on defining the ways and means of cooperation and assistance to provide adequate shelter for all was an historical achievement. We have already created the necessary foundation. While it is imperative to remain faithful to the letter and spirit of the Habitat Agenda, we need to agree, on a holistic approach and based on dialogue and cooperation between the developed and developing countries, and with the active, meaningful and effective participation of all the stakeholders -- the Habitat Agenda Partners -- on a practical implementation strategy. What we need is a balanced and comprehensive outcome, for a lasting action as the Secretary-General underlined, to be supported by requisite political will and forceful follow-up.

Mr. President,

I now would like to turn to the national scene. First of all, I should take the opportunity to express our deep gratitude to the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS/ Habitat) for all their good work, including for the preparation of very useful guidelines for country reporting. As for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, we have over the past five years initiated a number of actions and measures towards making the process sustainable. Let me just draw attention to some of the lessons learnt in the process.

1- As underlined in the Regional Preparatory High-level Meeting, access to land alone does not suffice for shelter provision. Following a twenty-year experience, a shift at the level of national policy from the mere provision of land to the provision of housing has been effected.

2- The shift in the shelter provision policy has been accompanied with a more pronounced emphasis on private sector activity and contribution, whose positive impact at the national level is quite discernible.

3- Formulation and implementation of the "rent to own" plan for young couples and female-headed households has proved to be a useful and popular policy and with a bright future.

4- Increasing access to credit for the youth and the poor through supporting specialized non-profit, non-governmental funds and credit institutions.

5- Enhancing the role of community?based organizations (CBOs) as effective enabling institutions for the provision of housing.

6- Creating an integrated and coordinated system of urban and rural management in order to control and guide the process of urban development and the activities of the agencies responsible for the provision of infrastructural services and facilities.

7- Emphasis on the elimination of monopolies, promotion of popular participation and civil society and NGOs activities, enhancement of private sector investment, and promotion of the role of local Islamic councils.

On the promotion of local governance, I should add that in early 1999 free, democratic elections were held across the country for local town and village councils, thus taking a major step towards effective decentralization of decision?making and partnership and participation in implementation of policies.

Let me now just draw attention, very briefly though, to some of the major current and recurrent problems facing the international community. First of all, I should say that I agree with you, Mr. President, that we are at the beginning of the urban millennium. But, let's do not forget the almost totally neglected rural millennia, particularly in the developing world. Worse than the rural plight is the precarious situation of refugees, an unfortunate persisting phenomenon of global dimensions and the one also requiring urgent global collective response. The plight of refugees and the homeless can hardly find a more telling example than that of the oppressed Palestinian people. We believe this important international gathering on human settlements must, by its very rationale, take a very strong position in denouncing the Israeli policy of systematic destruction of Palestinian homes and simultaneous expansion of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

Coming to the close of my statement, let me underline that the objectives set in the Habitat Agenda, to be reiterated and further operationalized here, can be pursued and implemented effectively through meaningful international cooperation, including through exchange of information, knowledge and experience, transfer of technology and capacitybuilding. For which mobilization of adequate financial resources, both at national and international levels, can hardly be over-emphasized. Cooperation at the global level, we have come to realize, can and should be complemented with cooperation at the regional level, including between agencies specializing in shelter and settlement development. Establishment of National Habitat Committees can certainly help galvanize national action and lead to a better and more coordinated cooperation with regional and international institutions and arrangements.

Mr. President,

Speaking here as the representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I cannot but end on a positive note; that the paradigm of Dialogue among Civilizations, thanks to President Khatami, provides the most appropriate framework and conduit towards the promotion of a higher level of universal understanding and effective international cooperation. It is only through cooperation, based on dialogue, at all levels that the international community stands the chance of achieving the objectives of the Habitat Agenda and the present Review Conference.

I thank you very much, Mr. President, and wish you and the Bureau every success in leading the conference to an outcome rising to the challenge of the moment and the situation.