MP MINISTER OF REGIONAL
AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND HOUSING
THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPECIAL SESSION
FOR AN OVERALL REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE OUTCOME
OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS (HABITAT II)
New York, Thursday 7 June, 2001
It is a pleasure for me and my delegation to see you presiding over this important Conference. We are confident that your experience and leadership will guide us as we review and appraise the implementation of the UN Conference on Human Resettlements (Habitat II). This Conference marks an important milestone in the history of Habitat and therefore we hope that it will contribute substantially to the improvement of human settlement and thus a dream realized.
As part of its commitment to the Habitat II Agenda, the Government of Namibia established the National Habitat Committee to coordinate and monitor the implementation process of the Habitat Agenda. The preparation of our national country report coincided with the formulation of the Second National Development Plan (NDP II). Indeed, this was a very rewarding exercise which enabled us to evaluate and assess the human settlement situation in the country and also identify constraints, challenges and strategies in the implementation process. In addition, relevant policies, legislation, programmes and other interventions have since been formulated within the framework of the Habitat II Agenda.
Housing has been identified by the Government of Namibia as one of the priority areas in the development of the country. Our Constitution emphasizes the promotion of equal access to adequate and affordable shelter, water, safe environment and other basic services as an integral part of the fundamental rights and freedoms to be enjoyed by the people of Namibia. The housing programme in Namibia has added value to the social and economic well being of the low income families. In this context, the low income groups are enabled to access land and enjoy security of tenure. In this exercise, emphasis is placed on community participation in the construction of the houses. This process provides employment opportunities to small builders and their families, resulting in the reduction of poverty and unemployment.
Despite these concerted efforts of the Government and its partners, the population growth in the cities poses a tremendous demand on housing and basic services. The rural-urban migration is on the increase. However, to reverse the rural-urban migration trend, we have identified new growth points and 13 towns were proclaimed during the implementation of the First National Development Plan (NDP I).
Therefore, Mr. President, the promotion of a just society for all has been duly attended to and is reflected in legislations and policies instituted by the Government, such as the Affirmative Action Act, Married Persons Equality Act, and the national policy on disability. At the same time, various Government institutions have been tasked to promote equal opportunities and social integration of the disadvantaged groups. A social housing programme has been developed targeting old age pensioners, persons with disabilities and destitutes thereby enhancing a sense of esteem and dignity among these groups.
Inspite of these efforts the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the scarcity of water in Namibia have a negative impact on development projects that are intended to reduce poverty. In this connection, Cabinet has approved White Papers on HIV/AIDS and water resources management.
Pertaining to economic development, the Government provides incentives for the informal business sector through a credit guaranteed scheme. The small business entrepreneurs have access to financial institutions, where they can obtain loans to start their own businesses. Eighty percent (80%) of these loans are guaranteed by the Government. This initiative does not only enhance economic empowerment of poor groups but, it also reduces unemployment and alleviate poverty. These incentives are in line with the principles of the Habitat II Agenda, the Global Plan of Action, as well as the aims and objectives of Agenda 21 to ensure sustainable development.
It pleases me to inform this august Assembly that decentralization of power to the regional and local authorities as enshrined in the Namibian Constitution has progressively commenced in 1998. Through the decentralization process the people at the grass roots level are able to partake in the decision-making processes affecting their lives. To ensure effective planning and implementation of the decentralization process, development committees have been established at local, constituency and regional levels.
On international cooperation, the Government of Namibia as a signatory to the Istanbul Declaration, will continue to coordinate with Governments and other Habitat Agenda partners to exchange ideas and learn from their experiences in the struggle for "adequate shelter for all" and "sustainable human settlement."
Furthermore, the Government through the Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing in partnership with the National Housing Enterprise and Community Based Organisations (CBOs), has committed itself to establish a research center which, among other tasks, will provide information on the availability of local building materials and best building methods. It is the intention of the Government to utilize national and international expertise to help in enriching the research portfolio of the center.
In conclusion, Mr. President, the Government of Namibia reaffirms its commitment to the objectives of the Habitat Agenda of "adequate shelter for all" and "sustainable human settlement development". Namibia will explore all possibilities at our disposal to achieve the said objectives. In this endeavour, we are part of the global family and we believe that our success will be determined by our commitment to achieve what we have set as our goal.
Thank you Mr. President.