NETHERLANDS

STATEMENT

BY

THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS

AMBASSADOR DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG

AT THE 25TH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR AN OVERALL REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HABITAT AGENDA
 

NEW YORK, 7 JUNE 2001


 

Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished delegates from governmental, nongovernmental organisations and local authorities. It is an honour and privilege for me to address you at this Special Session on behalf of the delegation of the Netherlands.

Reports prepared for this Special Session clearly indicate that we are still far away from the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. Therefore, "Istanbul plus 5" offers us no time for complacency; on the contrary, there is an urgent need to focus on what still has to be done. The two flagship reports presented to this Session are the "Global Report on Human Settlements" and the "State of the World's Cities Report 2001 ". These reports clearly set out the formidable tasks ahead; they are indispensable reading material for all those engaged in habitat policy development. We strongly support the proposal to update these reports on a bi-annual basis; they are important tools to integrate the habitat dimension in the work of governments and of international organisations. The Habitat Agenda should be fed into the work of the UN funds and agencies on a continuing basis. We simply cannot afford to discuss these issues at a 5-year interval cycle. The urgency of the matter is reflected in the support at last year's Millennium Summit, for the Cities without Slums Initiative. This clearly signals awareness of the Habitat-challenges at the highest level.

The two flagship reports and the documentation presented to this Special Session by the Executive Director of Habitat, present us with strong arguments that sound habitat policies should be cross-cutting and inclusive; not just shelter, but also sanitation, health, sustainable construction, infrastructure, spatial planning and integrated urban development. This calls for a comprehensive approach at the national and local level. This comprehensive approach must also be reflected in our policies on international co-operation.

Mr. President. Implementation is not a top/down issue. National governments have a major role to play, but they are dependent on local authorities and civil society at large. Firstly: local authorities - whether representing small or large communities - are of key significance to reach our common habitat objectives. They should be sufficiently enabled to achieve good governance. I therefore welcome the commitment of the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) at its meeting in May 2001 in Rio de Janeiro to intensify its collaboration with Habitat. IULA considers the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements (UNCHS) as the key link between local authorities and the United Nations system. IULA's support for the Habitat Centre's Global Campaign on Secure Tenure is essential. In this context, it is interesting to mention that in many countries an encouraging trend toward increased co-operation between local authorities and the private sector has become manifest. Such public-private partnerships are providing many examples of mutual benefit.

Secondly: civil society, including non-governmental and community based organisations (NGO's and CBO's). Local, regional and international NGO's many of whom are present at this Special Session - are also key players in representing the interests of citizens in relation to human settlements issues. Women and women's organisations play a decisive role in securing equal rights relating to security of rental and ownership tenure and to mortgages. However, as the flagship reports show, women seeking the implementation of these rights meet obstacles. My delegation would like to reiterate that these rights have already been acknowledged in the Habitat Agenda, and that we should increase our efforts to overcome this obstacles.

Mr. President. The "Declaration on Cities and other Human Settlements in the New Millennium" will hopefully be a means to further implement the Habitat Agenda. As a political document it deserves due attention on political agenda's and can also serve as an instrument to generate means for the development of shelter and human settlements. Poverty eradication in terms of habitat means, that we should ultimately eliminate - and not just improve or regularise - slums and squatter settlements.

Mr. President, this year, the Netherlands is commemorating the 100th birthday of its national Housing Act. We have come a long way since the beginning of the 20th century; a lot still remains to be done, however. A recently published policy paper of my government has reviewed our accomplishments and has explored possible future policy lines in terms of human settlements development. A central, recurrent notion in that policy paper is the central role of individual people, their needs and their wants. Authorities and other actors must be more receptive to what various categories of consumers in the housing market want. For an urbanising country as the Netherlands - more than 80% of the present population is living in urban areas - it is important to involve and engage citizens and their organisations - in the preparation and execution of -integrated urban regeneration plans. Therefore, an important pre-condition for local governments to obtain relevant subsidies is the existence of such plans and of involvement of society in these plans. So, civil society - NGO's and CBO's - and democratic local authorities play a pivotal role in our urban policy. There is no advantage or time to gain by cutting out their participation, neither here nor elsewhere.

An important Dutch national NGO - the " Habitat Platform" - is actively engaged in promoting local participation in the Netherlands. This Platform devotes a substantial part of their resources to raising awareness of global habitat issues. This, Mr. President, is one example of how we in the Netherlands are implementing the Habitat Agenda. The national report on the implementation of the Habitat Agenda since "Istanbul", will give you further information. It is being distributed at this Special Session.

Mr. President, we hope that we can discuss the Habitat Agenda implementation on a regular basis; let us work towards concrete and tangible results. Let us make sure that the biannual update of the flagship reports will show us encouraging progress. In short, let us re-invigorate the Habitat spirit.
Thank you, Mr President.