His Excellency Mr. Hussain Shihab
at the
Twenty-fifth special session of the General Assembly for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation and outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements
(Habitat II)

7 June 2001 New York

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure, Mr. President, to see you preside over this important special session of the General Assembly. I am confident that with your able leadership and diplomatic skill, you will steer the work of this session to a successful conclusion.

Mr. President,

Maldives being a nation of very small islands had to face the issues of shelter in its own special way. Due to the fragmented nature of the country, with the population distributed over a large number of small islands, provision of infrastructure to small pockets of population, on an effective and sustainable manner, required new thinking in planning.

At present a very important policy related to human settlements in the Maldives is a new approach to regional planning in which effective provision of various social and physical infrastructure services programme on population concentration has been initiated. Islands with very small population are encouraged to move to selected islands with bigger land area and development potential. In the long term there will be less number of inhabited islands, which will have better facilities, and attract economically feasible and sustainable investments in infrastructure. Although this system of movement of population is a difficult process, the government of Maldives is able to carry out the population concentration programme by involving the public in the decision making process. Since the population involved is convinced of the various benefits that lie in this new approach, the success rate of implementation is very encouraging.

We believe that this new approach to planning is an important step that we have taken in implementing the Habitat Agenda in our country. We are confident that this long term strategy will prove to be one effective way of addressing the problem of adequate housing and other shelter related issues.

Another important planning decision taken by the government is to address the scarcity of land in the capital island Male', the biggest urban center in the country. The shortage of land had resulted in an acute shortage of housing and land needed for other development needs. Therefore, an important urban development project near Male' that started in 1997 will provide reclaimed land for developing a new urban center which will address the pressing housing needs of the capital.
Since the shortage of land is one of the main problems facing the country an effective land law that will address the urban development needs is required. It is for this reason that the government has drafted a new land law which is presently in the process of approval by the parliament. This new land law will strengthen the issues of mortgage, strata titling, buying and selling of land etc. which will pave way for creating a healthy housing market.

Housing finance is another important aspect of housing policy that the government of Maldives have given priority to. The government firmly believes that for a sustainable solution to housing, it is necessary to develop a proper financing mechanism. Presently loans are taken on commercial loan conditions with short pay back periods and high interest rates. Therefore the pilot project on housing finance now being carried out will be the first step towards a comprehensive housing finance system.

Maldives is also working on the Urban Observatory programme with the support of UNCHS. Through this programme, the continuous updating of the urban indicators will help the country in formulating policies that will be more effective in addressing issues of urban development and shelter.

Mr. President,

These are some important areas that the government of Maldives is working in addressing the Habitat Agenda. While the task ahead is challenging the government firmly believes that the present work on creating the proper framework will pay in the long term and is committed to a sustainable human settlements policy.

Mr. President,

The Maldives is confident that the review of the Habitat Agenda that we are undertaking in this special session will once again invigorate the momentum that is extremely essential if we were to successfully implement the commitments and goals that we set in Istanbul five years ago.

Thank you Mr. President.