Ladies and Gentlemen
The Delegation of Malta aligns itself with the statement made earlier by Sweden on behalf of the European Union.
May I at the outset commend the work carried out by the UN Centre for Human Settlements in channelling the efforts of the international community towards the effective implementation of the Habitat Agenda.
The Government of Malta believes that the provision of adequate shelter for all is of significant importance since it is conducive to socio-economic progress and sustainable development. In this respect this delegation views the Habitat Agenda as the necessary template for efforts by both national authorities and the international community in their efforts to attain sustainable human settlements development.
Fully aware that the very high population density in Malta necessitates very careful land-use planning, a Structure Plan for land-use management was adopted in the early 1990s and a Planning Authority was established to monitor its implementation. Through the active participation of relevant major groups including local authorities a number of Local Plans were subsequently drawn up for the various regions.
Initiatives encouraging home ownership were introduced and eventually implemented along the years with considerable success. In fact, today over 70% of households in Malta are owned by their occupants. Moreover the protection against dispossession from property and against the deprivation of rights over property is provided for in the Constitution of Malta..
Unfortunately this is not the case for large parts of the globe. Too many people still live in poverty and in miserable housing conditions. Conditions which slow down economic growth and lead to environmental degradation, in turn leading to more poverty. This self-perpetuating problem needs to be addressed in an integrated manner. The achievement of this goal however necessitates the adequate support of the international community. In formulating policies for sustainable development in this field the human dimension should remain at the centre of the development process. Comprehensive planning policies and strategies should not overlook the economic, social and environmental concerns as these three pillars of sustainable development are not only interdependent but mutually supportive.
Policies designed on these guidelines would effectively contribute towards the reduction of poverty and unemployment and towards the provision of social services, decent housing, crime prevention, better infrastructure including electricity and safe drinking water as well as in the integration of women and marginalized groups for an improved social fabric.
Governments have the primary responsibility for ensuring sustainable development in their respective countries and for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. However, it must be acknowledged that socio-economic progress in the developing countries cannot be achieved without assistance from developed countries through, inter alia, institutional capacity-building, the promotion of best practices, the achievement of adequate ODA levels as well as debt relief.
Broad public participation, including by women, in decision-making and policy ownership is critical to the successful implementation of the Habitat Agenda. In this respect the input of local authorities especially for improved urban governance cannot be sufficiently underscored. Aware of this, and guided by the principle of subsidiarity, the Government of Malta has extensively amended the Local Councils Act of 1993 with the aim of further strengthening the devolution process.
The further decentralization of community services through the intensification of the one-stopshop concept has been high on the government's agenda. More importantly Local Councils have become an integral indispensable part of our political system where residents have a direct bearing on the decision?making process affecting their immediate urban or rural environment.
This delegation believes that society should provide families with an environment which promotes the potential of the family as the rearing ground of present and future generations. Such a responsible role needs to be complemented by other social institutions and community-based organizations as well as by the promotion of a high-quality education system that instills life skills rather than merely imparting facts.
This Conference presents yet another opportunity to the International Community to express its solidarity with those living in poverty and in need of adequate shelter.
The problem does not need identifying.
The measures required to attain our objectives have been laid down.
However, although progress has been achieved, much more needs to be done.
Efforts need to be intensified in order to ensure that expressions of solidarity are translated into concrete action aimed at alleviating the plight of so many millions of human beings.