STATEMENT

BY

Ms. Josefina Vázquez-Mota,
Secretary of Social Development of Mexico

AT THE SPECIAL SESSION ON HABITAT II

New York
June 6, 2001


I. INTRODUCTION

I am deeply honored to attend this conference and to share this forum with the ministers and representatives of all the countries that participate in the Habitat Agenda. I am certain that the attendance of all of us to this meeting represents an important step towards our common goal: to validate the Principles of the Habitat Program and to establish future actions and initiatives for the benefit of our countries and the world.

Nowadays, Mexico and all the countries in the world are facing important challenges. Among the most important is the urbanization process that the Third World is undergoing since two thirds of the world's urban population is living in developing countries and it is expected that by the year 2025, 3 out of 4 people will live in cities of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
 

II. PROGRESS REPORT TOWARDS MEETING THE HABITAT PROGRAM PRINCIPLES

Many of the challenges caused by the urbanization process were recognized by the nations attending the Second UN Conference on Human Settlements at Istanbul in 1996, where specific objectives and proposals were also made. During the last 5 years Mexico has achieved important progress towards fulfilling some of these topics as follows.

We modified the legal framework for urban planning by changing article 115 of the Constitution through which local governments were empowered to assume full responsibility for urban planning and development.

As a result of these reforms, nowadays 96 per cent of Mexico's strategic cities have established their own legal and urban planning instruments, mainly programs and plans. Moreover, a National Network of Cities Towards Sustainability has been implemented and Mexico is proposing to create a Latin American and Caribbean Network for Sustainable Cities as well.

In poverty eradication, a national priority, I would single out the Program "Cóntigo Manos a la Obra" ('Working hand with hand"). Its objective is poverty eradication on 'a regional basis, defining 250 priority regions, where the Federal Government will concentrate its efforts to promote sustainable development for individuals and its families.

Gender balance is still a priority in our government. In that field, we established two national programs to further women's capabilities.

On environmental issues, Mexico has adopted the principles of the Agenda 21, has created a "National Climate Change Program" which includes an Intersecretary Commission; and has made important efforts to reduce pollution levels in Mexico City's Metropolitan Area.

With respect to economic development, along with the consolidation of our macro-economic environment, we are implementing financing schemes in order to support micro and medium size enterprises and to promote their appropriate inclusion into productive chains.

In order to provide shelter for all, we have made important efforts to modernize and to make more efficient the different processes related to housing supply. We have tackled administrative, technical and legal barriers and improved, to a great extent, the coordination among financial institutions in order to foster construction, finance and acquisition of shelter. We must recognize the need for property rights among the poor population, which not only requires having an asset but also requires having the ownership title documented in appropriate form. Therefore, to secure asset tenure is also a priority for Mexico.

To overcome the historical deficit of housing and to be prepared for future needs, we established the "Alliance for Shelter Program" with the participation of the three levels of government and other participants including the social and the private sectors. Within this framework, housing policies and actions were aimed towards two main objectives: first, to increase and to diversify efforts to allow more Mexicans the opportunity of having shelter; and second, to further both deregulation and tax reduction in the sector, seeking to eliminate administrative barriers and to reduce costs to enhance for investment flows in the housing market.

Furthermore, in few weeks we will be creating the National Housing Council with the objective to coordinate the necessary productive factors to support and to encourage expanded supply of housing and appropriate financial mechanisms. The role of this Council will be the coordination of housing policies and the promotion of consensus among all the agents working in the housing sector, including governmental agencies and private sector firms.

With regard to urban development at the regional level, we are currently operating a territorial strategy to reduce economic and social disparities both within and among regions. The objective is to promote a more efficient and rational use of natural resources and to adequately administer land use.

Urban development policies during the period 1995-2000 attempted to promote a more balanced economic and social growth between cities through a land use planning strategy and actions to improve infrastructure, utilities and services in strategic cities.
 

III. CURRENT SITUATION

Despite the progress made so far, in order to reach the Habitat Program goals, we still face major challenges. Mexico is still a country with nearly 180,000 widely spread small rural communities which account for 11 % of the total population of 98 million inhabitants. Opposite to this, the country faces considerable concentration of population in four large metropolitan areas (Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Puebla), which account for nearly 28% of the country's population. In the past few years Mexico has faced a process of accelerated urbanization with an associated creation of new metropolitan areas, one megalopolis and urban corridors. Currently, there are 39 metropolitan areas with a population larger than 100,000 inhabitants which account for 46% of the total country's population.

In order to achieve the country's development, President Vicente Fox's government has formulated a National Development Plan that points out the strategic goals of his government. The Plan considers and confers a paramount role in the National Agenda to urban and regional development issues as stated in two of it's tree key chapters: 'Social and Human Development' and 'Growth with Qualify'.

Among the goals established in this National Development Plan 2001-2006, I stand out the following objective: "To promote housing and urban development public policies and programs, and to support their implementation with the participation of regional states, local governments and civil society in order to make the housing sector to play a leading role in the development of the country".
 

IV. URBAN AND HUMAN SETTLEMENTS CHALLENGES

The Mexican government is well aware that the urbanization challenge requires a comprehensive development perspective which involves environmental, social, economic and political issues. The Habitat Program should recognize and encourage new urbanization models for developing cities. Research on the impact of these arising urban growth new models should be closely related to environmental and social issues.

In this framework, Mexico proposes the following four items to be considered in the Habitat Agenda.

First, a linkage between environmental and urban development actions both within the national and international levels. Especially, we must consider the implementation of comprehensive national policies and the promotion of team work between organisms that still consider environmental and urban development issues on an isolated basis.

Second, it is necessary for the Habitat Program to take into account similar circumstances faced by world regions such as Latin-America and the Caribbean and thereby develop Regional Action Plans.

Third, with the reinforcement of local autonomy in urban planning, the Habitat Program must recognize the increasing need of developing management instruments that foster urban governance. This process requires linking the decentralization process with integrated policies at the city, metropolitan area and regional levels.

Fourth. In the design of development policies, we must consider five different territorial scales attending the urbanization process. The regional, characterized by cities from one or from different countries which hold relations in a physical extensive space. The megalopolitan regions, in which a set of metropolitan areas interact on a daily basis. The metropolitan level in which more than one local authority takes decisions about the city's future. The urban corridors, that can be based either on trade, manufacture, or turistic activities. And the urban center level.

To successfully face the impact of the urbanization process, we should promote programs to analyze each such territorial scales. The objective is to integrate the influence areas of the cities with their urban and rural environment, and to reinforce their leading role in the development process.

Managing metropolitan areas is one of the world's current challenges. It requires the coordination of different government levels and efficient mechanisms to take advantage of the existing infrastructure. We suggest international cooperation leading to finance research projects regarding metropolitan coordination. In this context, we must foster the exchange of technology and experiences among countries that share similar circumstances.

Urban population is concentrating in Third World cities and poverty has been urbanized. Squatter settlements, misery belts, and derelict areas are frequent in the developing countries scene.

In order to define the necessary policy mechanisms to eradicate poverty, we need to emphasize a multi-sector-national approach and call upon increasing financial and institutional cooperation from developed countries and international organizations to promote more efficient and concrete actions to alleviate this problem.

Currently, a billion of the world's total population lives in non planned areas subject to natural risks. The World Disasters Report stresses that around 96% of the people that die due to natural disasters are inhabitants from the Third World. Moreover, the economic costs of natural disasters are much larger in Third World countries particularly in those which lack prevention measures. Natural disasters always affect the poorest. Therefore, we must emphasize the importance of land use planning to protect and to control human settlements. We require increasing cooperation among national authorities and among countries to deal with this major problem.

Nearly 835 million of the population in developing countries are living in extreme poverty and there will be 950 million by the year 2025. In Latin America and the Caribbean the number is still growing and does not seem to stop. More than 35% of the total population in this region, that is to say around 177 million are living in extreme poverty.

The development of nations should be understood in its broadest concept, which includes strategies for the protection of the environment, greater economic growth, increasing education levels and better life conditions for all the population, particularly of the poorest.
 

DISTINGUISHED REPRESENTATIVES

We propose to promote a strategy for the Habitat Center that involves support and cooperation for a "World Campaign for Education and Awareness of the Meaning of Habitat". We are convinced that consolidating the Habitat Culture in our societies would lead us to structural and progressive changes and, eventually, this culture would become an important part of our citizen's life.

This century is full of challenges. The most important is to commit ourselves to a more equal, harmonious and sustainable world.

The growth of world population must keep these aims in mind. We are here, at this conference, to know and to propose policies in order to get a more equal and balanced development. Mankind continues to over-exploit his settlements increasing social and environmental pressures on the habitat. Our knowledge and respect for the Habitat must lead governments to develop policies to promote a more balanced territorial and urban development. If we do not act today with strong convictions, we will put at risk the life of our future generations.

Mankind has the capacity to build a planet with a better future. Demographic anarchy, over-exploitation of the habitat, lack of infrastructure and decreasing levels of education just mean more poverty and degradation of our resources.

Poverty is the enemy of peace, poverty is enemy of development, and poverty is the enemy of democracy.

Mexico reiterates it's commitment to the Habitat Agenda and requests the support of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements in searching for responses regarding the management of metropolitan areas and the increasing need of resources to finance housing and urban development projects. The ultimate aim must be for our societies to achieve a better quality of live and to consolidate the social and democratic changes that we have accomplished thus far.
 

Thank you.