Mr. President, Mr. Secertary-General, Ladies and Gentelmen,
Allow me to join previous speakers in congratulating all of you on the beginning of the special session of the General Assembly for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat ll) and to express the hope that our work during this session will be fruitful and effective.
Despite the considerable progress accomplished in improving housing conditions in many parts of the world, more than one billion people still live in inadequate housing, with limited access to basic services. Five years after the adoption of the Habitat Agenda, goals of this program remain a distant reality in almost all developing countries of the world.
Today we have the opportunity to look back at the past, evaluate the present and think about the future. People of Kazakhstan will celebrate this year 10th anniversary of its independent development. The last decade of the 20th century will be remembered for its changes and outstanding events, as will the century itself, during which Kazakhstan was transformed from a colonial rural outpost of the Russian empire into one of the most developed republics of the USSR and is now entering the new millennium an independent sovereign state with all the problems of the urbanized world.
The urbanization of poverty is one of the most challenging problems facing the world today. Since 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and appearance of new independent states on the world arena poverty has risen in Kazakhstan, and is now a serious problem. The sharp rise in poverty was caused by the persistent economic difficulties. The economic contraction resulted in the increase in unemployment and the decline in personal incomes. Poverty is pervasive in urban areas, and those most affected are pensioners, women, and children.
President of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Nursultan Nazarbaev addressing a message to the people, said "We should
alleviate and eliminate poverty in the next few years." The Government
of Kazakhstan has elaborated the state program on fighting poverty and
unemployment. The program, which implementation began in 2000, aims at
poverty reduction by creating income-generating job opportunities, maintaining
social services delivery, and strengthening social protection for vulnerable
groups. In particular, the program proposes to reduce by half the rate
of unemployment until 2002. The Government realises that for effective
implementation of the antipoverty program, more continued efforts are needed
in clearly articulated infrastructure investment policy for urban basic
services. Special attention should be paid to stimulating development of
small and medium-size enterprises and strengthening capacities of local
governments, which are primarily responsible for delivering basic public
services and providing social assistance to the urban poor.
Kazakhstan faces major environmental problems as a result of the policies pursued during the Soviet period, which failed to account the cost of land, water, and air degradation, and led to an overuse of natural resources. Centrally planned practices, associated with extensive production schemes in massive industrial and chemical complexes have polluted the air, soil, and water. Urban environment has also been polluted from coal-burning power plants, lack of forest cover or vegetation and hazardous wastes.
The Government of Kazakhstan adopted a National Environmental Strategy aimed at reducing environmental pollution and natural resource degradation. In 1998 the Government also developed a National Environmental Action Plan, which proposes a number of priority policy reforms and investment projects to address the urgent environmental concerns. The major policy issues proposed include environmental legislation and regulation, environmental management, promotion of cleaner technology, human resources development, and capacity building for monitoring and enforcement. In addition, the Government is facilitating inter-municipal cooperation for environmental planning and management and for preparation of urban development strategies. Concrete results have been achieved in such areas as "greening", redevelopment of post industrial areas and buildings, public housing rehabilitation.
In addition to devastating environmental problems Kazakhstan has one of the smallest available water resources among CIS countries and is suffering poor water services and the shortage of safe drinking water in some urban areas. This has undesirable consequences for its people. Consumers incur significant time costs and inconvenience in coping with deficient services, many collect water from rivers, irrigation channels. Poor and unsafe water services are responsible for deteriorating public health and increased expenditures on health, with the poor being affected most. The poor water supply and sanitation systems result from deficient design, use of poor construction materials and methods, insufficient maintenance, and timely rehabilitation. Given the lack of funds and the poor state of repair of sector assets, the quality of household water services will continue to deteriorate.
The Government of Kazakhstan is conscious of the urgent need to improve water services through policy and institutional reforms, repair and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure. It has developed the state water strategy and plans to prepare the state strategy for urban household water supply soon to set out specific targets and action plans. It also intends to rehabilitate the existing water supply and sanitation systems through its budgetary allocation and external borrowing. Public-private partnership can bring efficiency gains in water supply sector and effective regulatory control can ensure that poor neighbourhoods are not neglected.
A very important step in the implementation of our country's development strategy has been a recent transfer of the capital from Alinaty to Astana. The basic premises were the geopolitical location of the city in the centre of the country, the intersection of the large-scale transportation roads and availability of the communication structure. Although a short period passed since relocation, the city has changed beyond recognition. Its infrastructure is being developed rapidly and a new image is being formed.
However, now Astana faces specific problems, such as growing demand for new housing. The provision of housing has become a priority of the government' and local authorities in the framework of the overall programme aimed at achieving "better, more liveable and inclusive human settlements".
Today, at the start of the new millennium, aware of our responsibilities toward future generations, Kazakhstan is strongly committed to provide adequate shelter for all our people and we consider implementation of the Habitat Agenda as an integral part of the pursuit of sustainable development. Obviously, in 21st century human settlements development will be a key factor for sustainable development.
Thank you for your attention.