REPUBLIC OF KENYA
 

STATEMENT

BY

HON. PROP. GEORGE SAITOTI
THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA

ON THE OCCASION OF THE 25TH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON THE REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HABITAT AGENDA

NEW YORK, JUNE 7, 2001






Mr. President
(The Secretary General)
Your Excellencies
Distinguished Delegates

The theme of this 2501 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly is to review the implementation progress of the Habitat Agenda. The Session provides us with the opportunity to share experiences and to chart the way forward in line with the Millennium Declaration.

RENEWED COMMlTMENT TO THE HABITAT AGENDA

Mr President, Kenya would. like to re-affirm her full commitment to the goals and principles of the Habitat Agenda. We fully endorse, the review and appraisal work that has been undertaken to assess progress, identify problems and the emerging priorities.

REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF PROGRESS

Mr. President, several preparatory meetings and conferences have taken place at regional and international levels focusing on monitoring progress and identifying common priority areas. The outcome of these consultations has provided useful guide in making decisions on areas for further initiatives. We thus commend the Executive Director and the Secretariat of HABITAT for a comprehensive report covering the activities over the past five years.

PROGRESS AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL

Kenya has made significant progress in creating the enabling environment to deal with social development and poverty eradication. The government has developed the longterm vision for poverty eradication, that is, National Poverty Eradication Plan to the year 2075. The plan is being implemented through a three year rolling Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP) that has been prepared through an all-inclusive consultative process at all levels.

In the area of shelter, the government, NGOs, and other partners are addressing the issue of quality and safe living conditions in rural and urban areas. Specific initiatives include the dissemination of low-cost building technologies and materials, as well as implementing the revised building by-laws and planning regulations. Deliberate efforts are being made to deal with the problem of slums and informal settlements. While a number of slum upgrading projects are being implemented, a major program for slum up-grading is currently being developed.

 

  PRIORITY AREAS FOR ACTION

Poverty and social development

Mr. President, let me outline some of the challenges that may impede quick realization of the Habitat Agenda objectives. First, most of our countries are characterized with high levels of poverty. Africa carries a heavy burden of illiteracy, poverty and diseases. Estimates of most human development indicators reveal that development has either stagnated or declined. As we renew our commitments to the Habitat Agenda, we must consolidate our efforts to reversing these undesirable trends.

In this regard, Kenya fully supports the initiative for establishing a global fund to fight poverty that is consistent with the Havana Declaration and fully endorses the Okinawa Declaration in which Japan made a commitment of US$ 3 billion to fight poverty.

Resource Mobilization

The implementation of the Habitat Agenda requires additional resources. Yet over the past decade Official Development Assistance (ODA) to developing countries has been declining. The private Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) has on the other hand increased substantially. For example, FDI flows to developing countries increased from about US$ 31 billion in 1990 to US$ 171 billion in 1998, more than four times ODA assistance to developing countries. Unfortunately, much of this went to only a few developing countries outside Africa.

We urge the international community to honor its obligations as enshrined in the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda by scaling up contributions to the target level of 0.7% of their GNP. Member countries should also work towards creating the necessary conditions that allow increased private financial flows.

External debt and its effect on development

The external debt problem afflicts many developing countries as it affects overall development in several ways. Current estimates indicate that the value of debt to export ratio stands at 396%. This shows that Africa is one of the most heavily indebted regions in the world. The effects of debt on the provision of infrastructure and other social services, education and healthcare, are clear in Africa. Whereas, we appreciate and support the commitment of the international community in debt relief initiatives under Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), its current application excludes several countries

Peace and security

We cannot resolve the problem of human settlements when conflicts and wars continue to contribute to displacement of people and force thousands to suffer as refugees. We cannot achieve the objectives of sustainable human settlements and the right to decent housing, without peace and security or when member states are engaged in war with each other. Peace and security are therefore crucial in ensuring the realization of various elements of the Habitat Agenda.

HIV/AIDS

Africa accounts for about 75% of HIV/AIDS cases in the world. We cannot, therefore, afford tó ignore the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS on our development efforts and the demand-it creates on-scarce national, resources. In line with the Millennium Declaration, there is urgent need to reduce, halt and reverse the spread of HID/AIDS. We must take appropriate actions in responding to the effects of AIDS on individual families and communities including the provision of 'decent housing to AIDS victims.

STRENGTHENING LOCAL AUTHORITIES

Mr. President, to effectively respond to the challenges posed by rapid urbanization in developing countries, participatory planning involving communities, NGOs, and other Habitat Agenda partners is crucial. Well functioning Local Authorities must of necessity be at the center of all these. This calls for decentralization and strengthening of Local Authorities through devolution of power, putting, in place appropriate fiscal relations with the Central Government based on agreed formula of tax collection and revenue sharing.

In Kenya for example, the Local Authority Act is being revised, provision of certain services is being contracted out to the private sector, and management capacity for improved performance and good governance are being developed. The process of decentralization and devolution of power, adoption of new structures that guarantee greater community participation require both human and institutional capacity development. The process should, however, be allowed to evolve within the legal framework of each country.

STRENGTHENING MANAGEMENT OF HABITAT

Mr. President, HABITAT requires adequate and predictable funding to fulfill its mandate.
There is the urgent need to reduce its reliance on voluntary contributions by allocating funds from the Regular Budget. It is through such an arrangement that the Secretariat can focus on management and program delivery.
 

 REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Mr. President, it has become apparent that with globalization, the UN system will increasingly play an important role in the development agenda of member countries. We must, therefore, recognize that most of the development issues affecting our countries are likely to be considered within UN system. There is need for a shared vision and common strategies to ensure full implementation of the priorities identified. l thank you all for listening.