June 8, 2001

Mr. President

Your Excellencies

Distinguished Delegates

I consider it a very great honor indeed and a rare privilege to lead Malawi's Delegation to this very, important Special Session; and to be given the opportunity to address such a distinguished group of Delegates.

Please allow me, Mr. President to convey to you the very best wishes for the success of this Special Session from the President of the Republic of Malawi, His Excellency Dr. Bakili Muluzi. It is with a deep sense of pleasure that on behalf of my delegation and the government of the Republic of Malawi, I congratulate you, Mr. President on your election to steer our deliberations. Let me also pay tribute to the United Nations Secretariat for the excellent arrangements put into organizing this Session. My delegation and I have no doubt that under these excellent arrangements, with your able leadership Mr. President, we shall achieve fruitful and meaningful results.

Mr. President, it is five years since the adoption of the Istanbul Declaration and Habitat Agenda.

Here we are in New York; in a Special Session which offers opportunities to review our accomplishments and our challenges. Also we have an opportunity to reach a consensus on forward-looking strategies for the realization of our objectives in shelter and human settlements development.

For Malawi, the Session has accorded us the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other countries; and to take stock of our own achievements, failures and constraints in the implementation of our National Plan of Action and the Habitat Agenda since we last met.

Mr. President, since Istanbul, Malawi has undertaken many activities and initiatives to improve human settlements. Among these are:

1. The merger in 1997 of former Ministries of Lands and Valuation; Housing; Physical Planning and Surveys; and the Department of Buildings. This merger has enhanced our opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness in human settlement development.

2. The formulation of the National Housing Policy that benefited immensely from the Habitat Agenda.

3. The formulation of a National Land Policy that aims at fostering a more economically efficient, environmentally sustainable and socially equitable land tenure system.

4. The formulation of a National Environment Policy and enactment of an Environmental Management Act; that guide the review of sector policies in order to make them consistent with sustainable environmental management principles.

5. The formulation of a Decentralization Policy and enactment of a new Local Government Act in 1998; which devolves wide-ranging powers of local governance and development, to elected Local Government Councils which we call Assemblies. The policy also advocates well coordinated participatory methodologies in which the state, the private sector and the civil society, organize themselves to explore grassroot solutions to poverty alleviation and sustainable human settlement development.

6. The revision of an Inheritance Act in 1998; which protects widows from relatives of deceased husbands bent on grabbing property.

7. The implementation of the Local Agenda 21 in our two major Cities of Blantyre, the Commercial Center, and Lilongwe, the Capital City, along the lines of the "Sustainable livelihoods approach". I am delighted that the Mayors of both cities are amongst my delegation.

8. The launching of the Enterprise Development and Employment Creation Programme (EDEP) which aims at ensuring that the very insecure poor, especially women in rural and urban areas; are identified and assisted to establish adequate capacities, structures, means and incomes, to meet their basic requirements.

9. The enactment of a Privatization Act; geared towards increasing efficiency, enhancing competition, reducing monopoly, and promoting and expanding Malawi business ownership.

10. The launching of our Poverty Alleviation Programme, the linch-pin of Malawi's development policy; whose objectives are to raise the productivity of the poor, and increase income and employment opportunities for all vulnerable groups.

Mr. President, despite these achievements and initiatives, Malawi continues to face serious major challenges. Over 60 percent of our population live below the poverty line.

This lingering high incidence of poverty has been compounded by unfavourable economic conditions in and outside our country; as well as a lack of capacity in human, technical and financial resources.

Our efforts to implement our National Plan of Action and the Habitat Agenda; are constrained by the budgetary pressures that have continued to erode government's ability to provide infrastructure for human settlements development. In addition, failure by other local players to provide infrastructure at affordable costs, has resulted in "a mushroom field" of illegal or unplanned settlements, where the majority of the population in our major cities live. Furthermore, very low levels of international support, particularly for the implementation of Habitat Agenda and the National Plan of Action, have resulted in very limited progress. Unless and until international declarations translate into actual international support, most of our plans will remain dreams.

However, Mr. President, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Malawi's commitment to the Habitat Agenda and its implementation; is total and unwavering. Malawi will support the Declaration and other outcomes of this Special Session; because we believe that the Habitat Agenda and the outcome of this Session, provide the correct vision for improving the human settlements and quality of life of our respective citizens. We are ready to work with all willing partners in our common struggle to turn this vision into reality.

I thank you for your kind attention.