Mr. President Secretary-General of
the United Nations
Executive Director of the UNCHS
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great pleasure for me to address the Twenty-Fifth Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to the overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlement (HABITAT II).
Five years have passed since we met in Istanbul to adopt the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda. The time is now most appropriate that we critically assess how successful we have been in the implementation of our decisions and to take stock of the problems encountered. The outcome of our deliberations at this meeting will certainly serve as an important input in the preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in September 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
My delegation fully supports the provisions of the report of the Executive Director of the United Nations Center on Human Settlements and the recommendations contained therein. We strongly commend Habitat for its efforts to be consistent with the overall goal of the United Nations to alleviate poverty and to promote sustainable development. We also wish to express our appreciation to the United Nations Center on Human Settlements for its relentless efforts in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Habitat Agenda using a variety of tools.
We believe that both the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda remain as valid today as they were five years ago. It is, therefore opportune for us to reaffirm our will and commitment to continue with their implementation.
Our assessment on the implementation of the Istanbul Declaration and Habitat Agenda is that it has been far from satisfactory. In spite of the articulate and defining presentation of the various issues, implementation has lagged behind. This is where we have to give serious thoughts. A number of reasons may be advanced for this, however we believe that the complexity of the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda could have been a major factor. Several national governments have not been able to undertake the diverse tasks necessary for the implementation due to lack of resources.
We all know too well that providing a dwelling to citizens is never an end in itself. In fact, that is the beginning of the urbanization process which cannot be complete without the provision of such essentials as electrification, water supply system, road infrastructure, waste management, construction of schools and many other public facilities. These in turn call for substantial investments which unfortunately, in the developing countries, have to come from extremely scarce resources.
Urbanization, all over the world, is associated with a plethora of problems. Environmental degradation, challenges of generating sufficient employment, providing adequate housing and meeting the basic needs of the citizens are major issues confronted by urban Planners. People living in urban areas expect their national government to overcome these challenges with a view to fulfilling their legitimate needs for a decent living. Once again, governments are faced with the problem of inadequate financial resources in meeting the challenges of urbanization.
In Mauritius, there is a growing demand of land for residential purposes. As a small island State with limited land area, this growing demand can only be met by releasing land which is being used for agriculture; a major economic activity in the country. One, therefore, can understand how difficult it is for the government to strike the proper balance to meet the demand of land for housing without drastically affecting the national revenue from agriculture.
My delegation fully shares the views that local authorities play an important role in the administration of cities. They are also essential in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. The local governments are the closest development partners of the citizens. In Mauritius, the national and local governments have been able to create the proper synergy to carry out developmental activities.
It is the objective of our government to provide a decent dwelling to every Mauritian family. The government continues to lay emphasis on social housing and on giving special assistance to families with low income, who are making efforts towards finding a shelter for themselves. In order to cater for the different economic strata of the society in Mauritius, government has established a low cost housing scheme for the low income group. Additionally, government offers incentives such as grants and loans with low interest rates to help citizens in the construction of their houses.
The contribution of the private sector in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda cannot be underscored. The co-operation between government and the private sector is of particular importance in addressing the problem of urbanization and its attendant difficulties. The private sector in Mauritius is actively helping in vertical construction as well as in facilitating the provision of basic infrastructure and urban services.
This session provides us with the opportunity to reiterate our political will and commitment for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda with the close cooperation of all actors involved. It is our hope that this renewed commitment will contribute to a better world with a decent dwelling for everyone.
Finally, my delegation would like to express its support to the Declaration to be adopted at the end of this Conference.
I thank you.