CHAIRMAN OF THE DELEGATION OF PAKISTAN
ON REVIEW AND IMPLEMENTATION
OF HABITAT AGENDA AT THE SPECIAL SESSION OF
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
New York 6 June 2001
Let me, at the outset, congratulate you on your election as the President of the Special Session of General Assembly convened for an over-all review and appraisal of the implementation of Habitat Agenda. We look forward to a positive outcome from this session under your able and dynamic stewardship.
We would also like to thank the Executive Director of the United Nations Commission for Human Settlements for her report on the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.
Five years ago, when the world came together at Istanbul for the Habitat Conference, our leaders offer a positive vision for creating healthy, safe, and sustainable human settlements. With an engaging spirit of renewed optimism, we kindled a sense of hope for our common future and an exhortation to a truly worthwhile and engaging global challenge.
Today, as we embark upon a review of our own performance, we have, unfortunately, little to celebrate. The malady afflicting the human settlements continues unabated. Urban poverty has expanded. Millions remain deprived of their basic civic rights. The promises made in the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat agenda to deal with the common challenges were never fulfilled. The realization of the vision of our leaders is still a far cry.
It is indeed time for introspection, for identifying obstacles that block our way, and to find solutions that will last and make a difference.
Poverty induces migration to the lands of perceived opportunities. For the majority, cities offer these opportunities and a glimmer of hope. Unsustainable migration to urban areas leads to progressive deterioration of civic amenities. The realities of urban life, high cost of living, and rising unemployment generate desolation. At political level, this desolation is reflected in ethnic, communal and sectarian tensions and violence, and at social level in anti-social attitude, rampant alcoholism, drug abuse and prostitution. The consequent threat of social disintegration in turn increases poverty. And the vicious cycle goes on. The real challenge for us - the international community - is how to break this cycle.
In today's globalized world, "Development", in every sphere, is characterized by asymmetrical patterns. Human settlements are no exception. Cities and urban areas today occupy only 2 percent of the earth's land, but contain 50 percent of its population and consume 45 percent of its resources. The global urban population will double in next two decades from 2.5 billion to 5 billion. But the growth in resources to deal with the booming urban crises has failed to keep pace with the unbridled expansion of human settlements.
The developing countries would be the hardest hit by this phenomenon of shrinking resources and exploding urban population. By 2015, out of 23 megacities with more than 10 million people, 19 will be in developing countries. Logically, developing countries will require more resources to empower their cities to deal with the problems of civic life.
Ironically, the abject poverty in the cities of developing world contrasts sharply with concentrated affluence of cities in the developed world. Istanbul Declaration unambiguously points to the prevailing modes of production and consumption in the industrialized countries as carriers of contagion threatening the very survival of this planet. This contagion needs to be addressed, as the cost it makes this poor planet and its human settlements pay is simply unaffordable.
Globalization that had fancied many for its bounties is turning out to be a bane in our societies. Its dividends have been blatantly unequal. If the global society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are welt oil If globalization is to be made beneficial for all, as was envisioned by our leaders during the Millennium Summit last September, the humanity at large will have to be capacitated to equally share its benefits.
Pakistan had played a crucial role in the drafting of both Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda. Our commitment to both documents remains unflinching. Our presence here is, therefore, not merely symbolic but a manifestation of our continued resolve to uphold and implement Habitat Agenda.
The Istanbul Declaration and Habitat Agenda call for sustainable urban development and adequate shelter for all. The government of Pakistan has taken a number of measures to achieve these two objectives. Allocation of significant resources for eradication of poverty, accelerating the grant of legal tenure status to slum dwellers, adopting a time bound action plan for environmental conservation, assigning high priority to wastewater treatment and safe disposal of solid wastes are some of the initiatives of the government that cover significant areas of Habitat Agenda.
One of the most significant steps to empower the city governments to deal with their problems effectively is the formulation of people-centered Local Government Plan. This Plan would facilitate devolution of power at the local level. The financial autonomy being granted to new local councils under this plan will ensure good urban governance.
In my country, under review period has been marked by an increased awareness of the health-sanitation linkages, greater involvement of the non-governmental organizations in environmental sanitation, hygiene education, and preventive medicine, and a deliberate thrust of the government and external support agencies on eradication of poverty. The government is also encouraging the enhanced role of women and minority groups in any dynamic development paradigm.
It is our proud distinction that two of our world renowned Best Practices, i.e., Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), and Faisalabad Area Upgrading Project (FAUP), are now being studied, with a view to replication, by government functionaries and NGOs from a number of countries. Some of them have already adopted the "internal/external" model of OPP.
In short, Mr. President, being fully cognizant of the importance of the Habitat Agendas Pakistan is taking concrete steps for its implementation at all levels.
The Preparatory Committee meetings for this Special Session discussed an important problem specific to urban poverty in many developing countries. This problem pertains to the challenges posed by wars and conflicts and consequent influx of refugees and their impact on human settlements.
The influx of refugees from unstable countries has further distorted economic, social and demographic patterns of the human settlements of the neighbouring states. This challenge could only be tackled by direct and proactive measures of the United Nations at two levels. Firstly, the United Nations, as a whole, should take bold, unbiased, impartial and practical decisions for conflict prevention in volatile regions. Secondly, United Nations Commission for Human Settlements in conjunction with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees should evolve a strategy for provision of shelter and other basic services to internally displaced people in areas unaffected by the conflicts within their country's borders. This would help check the expansion of settlement crises to the cities of neighbouring countries. Any contrary approach is likely to heighten political tensions and further strain the tenuous economic and social resource base of human settlements.
Let me now comment on the institutional progress made so far to develop viable implementation mechanism for the Habitat Agenda.
We are fully aware of the importance of the mandate of United Nations Commission for Human Settlements. Undoubtedly, the implementation of Habitat Agenda requires a strategic vision and a coordinated approach integrating isolated initiatives and seeking synergies with the organizations involved directly or indirectly in similar processes. In this regard, we are supportive of the reform process within UNCHS to make it effective to address the challenges faced by it. We also welcome appointment of the Executive Director of UNCHS and assure her of our full support and cooperation in faithful practical interpretation of the Habitat Agenda.
May I take this opportunity to extend my deep appreciation for the initiative of "Cities without Slums" action plan launched in 1999. The programme aims to improve the lives of 100 million city dwellers by 2020. We urge further international cooperation to expand such initiatives to alleviate the misery of slum dwellers in many other countries.
The problems faced by our settlements are gigantic, resources at our disposal scarce, and international assistance to deal with them inadequate.
This review conference presents a valuable opportunity to take concrete
steps towards fulfillment of the commitments made by all partners in Istanbul.
Let us rise to the occasion and build together, for our coming generations,
a world where everyone can live in a safe home with the promise of a decent
life of dignity, good health, safety and happiness.
I thank you, Mr. President.