Ms. Leonor Coutinho
Seccetary.of State for Housing
25th Special Session of The General Assembly for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on
Human Settlements  (Habitat II)

New York 6 June 2001

Mr. President and Distinguished Colleagues,

At the outset, I would like to state that Portugal fully supports the statement that has been delivered by Sweden, on behalf of the European Union.

Allow me to start by reaffirming the commitment of the Portuguese government to the full implementation of the Habitat Agenda and its follow-up.

Since our meeting in Istambul in 1996 we have met and,surpassed, many challenges, although new questions have arisen which require innovative approaches in order to fulfil the two main commitments of the Habitat Agenda: Adequate Shelter for All and Sustainable Urban Development.

Portugal is among the European Union countries where urbanization is on the rise, with the population concentrating in the outskirts of the major and medium cities, resulting in the physical and environmental degradation of the old city centers:

Mr. President,
In what regards the Portuguese experience in attaining "Adequate Shelter for All", I would like to mention one of our major achivements, the national re-housing programs, which include pluridimensional approaches, the creation of public spaces that promote a sense of community and the respect of all aspects related to quality of life.

Also worth mentioning are the urban rehabilitation programmes which take into account that these goals can only be sucessfully achieved through an integrated intervention in architectural, urban, social, economical and environmental dimensions.

Distressed urban areas have also been one of our main concerns. In this sense, measures have been taken to integrate these areas in the urban setting through the improvement of the physical environment, the renovation of housing stock, building conservation and access to services.

In addition to these integrated programs, a variety of financial and fiscal measures were implemented in order to promote affordable housing for different income groups.

Mr. President,
In what regards the second goal of the Habitat Agenda, i.e., Sustainable Urban Development which has become a national priority, the Portuguese government has enacted the Spatial and Urban Planning Act, approved two years after the Istambul Conference. This global and integrated urban policy is aimed at achieving a balanced and polycentric urban network, through the consideration of the specific needs of rural areas, the rehabilitation and regeneration of suburbs, the revitalization of old city centers, the adequate provision of services and infrastructures, the urban environment and a sustainable urban policy that tapes into account the conservation and management of national resources and ecosystems. These goals have been implemented through various programs and measures, many of them put into practice through public-private partnerships. In all these processes, public participation and involvement is guaranted by law.

Mr. President,
All the programs that I have mentioned take into account a social dimension aimed at fighting poverty as well as promoting social inclusion.

Before concluding, I would like to point out that the decentralization process and the reinforcement of local authorities, who are considered to be the most appropriate entity to implement the Habitat Agenda, are being promoted by our government.

Mr. President,
We are looking forward to a sucessful outcome of this UNGASS and I can assure you that the Portuguese government is fully committed to continue its work in order to achieve sustainable human settlements.