MR. SVERRE BUGGE
STATE SECRETARY MINISTRY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT
NEW YORK, 6 JUNE 2001
In the Istanbul declaration we agreed that the deterioration in conditions of human settlements had reached crisis proportions. We committed ourselves to the full and progressive realization of the right to housing. And yet in many cases the situation since Istanbul has worsened. An increasing number of human beings lack access to decent housing and security of tenure. We must improve the living conditions of those living in poverty and those who for economic, legal or social reasons do not have access to decent housing or basic services. The situation with respect to the needs and rights of women is especially serious.
Our task at this session is to reaffirm the commitments we made at the Habitat II Conference and to propose measures for further implementation of the Habitat Agenda. The need now is first and foremost for political will and concrete action to improve the living conditions of the poor and homeless. We need to eliminate obstacles - and this means eliminating poverty. At the recent LDC conference in Brussels our minister of international development, Anne Kristin Sydnes, stated that our obligation to fight poverty is paramount - and yet the international community is not complying with it. Thus our first priority must be to intensify the fight to combat poverty. We need action, and we need it now!
The accelerating process of urbanization, especially in the developing countries, is a major challenge as we enter the new millennium. This was clearly spelled out in the Millennium Declaration. The Cities Without Slums Action Plan was a call for action that was strongly supported by Secretary General Kofi Annan in his report to the Millennium Assembly, and endorsed by governments at the highest level.
The work on urbanization issues under the Cities Alliance initiative is a promising example of the new partnerships emerging in the UN system, such as UNAIDS and GAVI. The Cities Alliance has our full support. It provides an overall framework for our joint efforts in this regard.
The international community must support the efforts of developing countries to implement the Habitat Agenda. As stated in Brussels, Norway will continue to live up to its ODA commitments and is aiming to reach one per cent of GNP. Norway will also maintain the share of support to LDCs above the target set by the Paris Conference.
But we would like to emphasize that there are also other factors that are essential for achieving sustainable development. As stated in the Millennium Declaration, human rights, democracy and good governance - both domestic and global - are crucial.
In Istanbul we also committed ourselves to developing societies that make efficient use of resources without taxing the carrying capacity of ecosystems. In most industrialized countries, there is an increasing awareness of the importance of environmental protection. There are many examples of "good practice" and environmentally sound conduct. On the other hand, economic growth and increasing prosperity are leading to increased production and consumption. The result is increased use of resources and impacts on nature that more than outweigh the benefits of environmentally friendly practices. If we are to reverse these trends, we must change our consumption and production patterns.
Human settlements - the built environment - do have a serious impact on the natural environment. Sustainable human settlements development is a key to the sustainable development of any society. For this reason we need to ensure that the human settlements dimension is given its rightful place in the preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, next year, and we must also ensure that the outcome of the summit reflects this.
The UN Centre for Human Settlements in Nairobi is focal point and prime vehicle for the follow up of the Habitat Agenda. In order to be able to fulfil this role, the Centre's role and place in the UN system should be strengthened. The Executive Director, Ms. Anna Tibaijuka, has our full support in her efforts in this regard.
The declaration to be adopted at this special session must contain three
elements: it must describe the present situation in the human settlement
field, it must define the challenges that lie ahead and it must provide
direction for our future collaborative efforts. It should also present
a sharp political message by highligting our key messages to the world.
This special session is an opportunity to inspire governments at all levels, civil society and all other Habitat partners to reconfirm the commitments made in Istanbul and to work even harder for the successful implementation of the Habitat Agenda. We must seize this opportunity. The poor, the homeless, the natural environment - they deserve our full commitment. Let us do what we can to promote the culture of solidarity.
Thank You, Mr. President