On behalf of the Nigerian delegation, I wish to congratulate you and the bureau on your election to guide the proceedings of this Special Session.
We also wish to commend the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, and the Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS-Habitat), Dr. (Mrs) Anna Tibaijuka, for the able manner in which the Special Session has been successfully convened. I assure you unreservedly of the cooperation and support of my delegation in the conduct of this session.
My delegation recognizes and appreciates the fact that this special session is the result of joint collaboration with a range of International institutions, which worked tirelessly in ensuring that this session is held in order to discuss very important human settlement issues that affect humanity. As you may probably recall, our collective search and desire for better living conditions for all peoples of the world was a journey started in Vancouver, Canada, twenty five years ago with a follow-up of Habitat II Conference held in 1996 at Istanbul, Turkey. The Habitat Agenda adopted by over 171 governments including Nigeria provided a roadmap to resolving the problems of a fast urbanizing world, setting out approaches and strategies towards the achievement of sustainable development of the world's urban areas.
Five years after the Habitat II Conference was held in Istanbul, Turkey, it is indeed very appropriate for member states to meet once again to evaluate the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations and strategies adopted at that Conference to guide the development of our human settlements. This Special Session is, therefore, an apt occasion for us to see whether the vision of the Habitat Agenda has been realized, how much work has been, and still needs to be done in making the cities of the third Millennium livable and sustainable. We must therefore remind ourselves now and again our responsibility to ensure that our children and wards inherit cities safe with all basic facilities and free of fear.
The dawn of the 21st Century found Nigeria with an estimated urban population of more than 40% coupled with very high urban growth rate, which is expected to raise urban population to about 65% by the year 2025. The implications of such rapid urban growth are often manifested in increased poverty, environmental degradation, traffic congestion, housing overcrowding, crime and homelessness. In addition, Africa as a continent is still categorized as the least urbanized since only 35% of its people live in urban areas. However, with an urbanization rate of 5% per annum, the continent has recorded the fastest urban growth rate in human history. It is estimated that by the year 2020, 52% of the continent's population will be living in cities.
Since Istanbul, Nigeria has made serious efforts to achieve the objectives of the Habitat Agenda. In its latest initiative at promoting effective and responsive human settlements management, the Government of Nigeria in collaboration with UNCHS (Habitat) launched in Abuja the Global Campaign for Good Urban Governance in April this year. The Campaign in the main, underscored our will and commitment to democracy and entrenchment of the principles and ideals of accountable governance to the people of Nigeria, and indeed Africa.
The greatest challenge to sustainable human settlements development between now and 2015 is how to provide adequate shelter for all in the face of increasing world population that would reside in the cities. This challenge was the subject of the workshop held in tandem with the launching of the Global Campaign for Good Urban Governance in Abuja. The Workshop highlighted emerging issues in human settlements, which cannot be ignored if meaningful progress must be made. These include:
· Urban security and safety;
· Partnership, advocacy, participation, transparency and accountability;
· Empowerment of youth, women and the urban poor in urban governance;
· Decentralization, poverty eradication; and
· Capacity building for Local Governments and Civil Society Organizations.
It is therefore crucial that favourable external environment, supportive of developing countries' programmes to implement the Habitat Agenda on Human Settlement, be put in place. In this regard, urgent action should be taken by the developed countries, which have not yet done so, to achieve the internationally agreed target of the official development assistance (ODA). It is also important that the international community should address the critical issue of debt burden facing developing countries in order to make more resources available for the implementation of Human Settlement programmes in their respective countries. Equally important is the need to improve the finances and strengthen the UNCHS-Habitat so as to enable it to perform its functions effectively.
In conclusion, Mr. President, the emergence of "inclusive cities" as being contemplated will depend to a great extent on the outcome of consultations and negotiations such as the one we have embarked on during this Special Session particularly as we consider the Declaration on "Cities and other Human Settlements in the new Millennium". My delegation is looking forward to constructive and fruitful deliberations in the course of this session. We are hopeful that the deliberations of the meeting will provide additional impetus to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda for the benefit of humanity.