Prof. Laurent NKUSI
Minister of Lands, Human Resettlement and Environmental Protection
TO THE 25the SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON THE REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HABITAT AGENDA (Istanbul + 5 )
NEW YORK, 6 - 8 JUNE 2001.
Distinguished delegates and observers;
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Rwandan delegation, I wish to congratulate you Mr. President, on your election to chair this important conference. Indeed it is a privilege for me and members of my delegation to address this august session.
Five years ago nations gathered in Istanbul. Turkey, to address two themes of equal global importance. That is, adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world.
As you are aware, the Istanbul conference took place when our country was emerging from genocide, the worst of its kind in the last millenium. While the whole world watched, periodic massacres that culminated in the 1994 genocide, not only saw one million Rwandan people killed but also resulted in the total destruction of the socio-economic infrastructure.
This tragedy seriously disrupted the whole shelter and human settlements sector in its totality. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the international community in general for the continuing support to my government in the rehabilitation and reconstruction programs.
All of us gathered here understand that, commitments and strategies that were adopted by nations in the second united nations human settlements conference (Habitat II) in Istanbul 1996, were geared towards improving human settlements in general.
A plan of action that was drawn in this respect required nations to review policies and implement programs to ensure adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world.
Our country has made some progress in this respect. Allow me, Mr. President, to highlight some of the major achievements of the government of national unity in implementing the habitat agenda, central areas of focus being shelter, social development and eradication of poverty, environmental management, economic development, governance and international cooperation.
In 1996, my government adopted the national human settlements policy . The underlying rationale of this policy is to transform the rural scattered settlement pattern into grouped settlements (Imidugudu ), with the primary purpose of ensuring optimum land use, cost effective provision of social infrastructure, security and national unity and reconciliation.
In the urban areas the objective is to ensure that construction is done only in the surveyed plots and to upgrade slums and squatter areas. A ministerial decree was released in January 1997 to spell out this policy.
In the last five years, the government has constructed about 177.000 low cost housing units for the rural poor with financial and technical support from the international community including the United Nations, the Non Governmental organizations and with the participation of beneficiaries. While my government gratefully acknowledges this support, I would like to inform this assembly that, today, in Rwanda there are still about 2 million people close to 370.000 families living in makeshift structures such as plastic sheeting.
This is the part of Rwandan population that was not supported by the UNHCR and other organizations shelter program operations. My government reiterates that, it was premature for UNHCR to phase out while there are people still living in such a difficult situation. More returnees are still coming from neighboring countries especially Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. If this problem is not adequately addressed it may turn into another humanitarian crisis.
In addition to this, housing programs that were implemented responded to emergency life saving activities (providing shelter, food etc), therefore many settlement sites lack basic infrastructures. Provision of basic infrastructure in these areas is therefore very important in order to ensure its sustainability .
Since 1994 my government has faced the challenges of returning and resettling
over 3 million nationals. The task ahead is to ensure their sustainable
Regarding security of tenure, our country is in the process of reviewing its land policy and law to ensure equitable land ownership and management. This will create an enabling environment to implement the global campaign for secure tenure. In urban areas I regret to say that very little has been achieved due to lack of funding. However, urban development programs have been initiated with the significant support from the UNCHS (Habitat ). I reaffirm my government's commitment to the continued cooperation with the UNCHS (Habitat) and the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.
In the areas of social development and eradication of poverty, the main developments includes cross subsidization of social services (education; health...) and enacting laws that are tailored towards assisting the poorest to improve their livelihood.
For instance, in 1998 the government created a fund to assist the victims
of genocide to which it contributes 5% of its annual revenues.
The fund has assisted the beneficiaries to acquire shelter, income generating activities, education, health services etc.. Also in view of promoting gender equality, in 1999, the government enacted a law on succession, matrimonial regimes and liberalities that will ensure equal rights of inheritance for both men and women..
Regarding economic development, the fact that 60% of Rwandan population lives under the poverty line and that 91 % of the total population are employed in the agricultural sector which mainly produces for subsistence, our government has undertaken major economic policy reforms. These include, strengthening resource mobilization and macro-economic management, financial, monetary and exchange, private sector development, external trade and export development, poverty reduction; revitalizing rural economy, national reintegration, reconciliation, good governance, transparency and accountability.
Turning to environmental management, at the 1992 United Nations conference on the environment and development, member states formally recognized global environmental degradation as a clear and long term threat to human health and socio-economic development. One of the important protocols of the conference was the agenda 21. Four years later, the Habitat II conference took place and environmental protection was declared to be critical to the sustainability of adequate human settlements.
Recognizing this reality and based on the fact that environment is a
critical cross cutting issue in all human settlements programs, and the
fact that in our country the baseline of environmental degradation has
been severely exacerbated by genocide,
displacement of population and the resultant need to resettle millions of returnees, our government has, among other things, undertaken reforestation programs, protection of national parks and natural reserves, soil conservation, solid & waste water management. New environmental policy and laws are in preparation and the government has ratified the requisite international conventions. However, it is important to understand that a lot remains to be done in this sector.
Significant advances have been made in the area of governance, including constitutional reviews designed to institute decentralized systems of governance and policies to increase citizen participation and public-private partnerships in delivery of services.
The 1999 cell and sector local level elections created committees which increased peoples' participation in the decision making process. In December 2000, a major policy on democratic decentralization was adopted and was followed by the elections at district level and the establishment of local governments. National elections will then follow after the transition period in 2003
As far as international cooperation is concerned, my country is encouraged by the warm cooperation we enjoy with the different nations represented here and all our development partners.
This framework of international cooperation remains our best option
of tackling human settlements and development challenges facing our people.
Mr. President, five years down the road after endorsing the habitat agenda, Rwanda's achievements in the field of human settlements can be attributed to the government's political will and vision, but we cannot forget the strong support extended by the international community, especially during the emergency phase. Despite the above achievements, a lot of critical challenges remains.
The expectations of the people we are representing in this important meeting are that, we decision makers, development partners, implementing agencies and others are making efforts to imorove the quality of their lives. However, it is imperative to note that, this will happen if the commitments; strategies, action plans and declaration we make at this conference are put into action.
Finally Mr. President,
The government of national unity and the people of Rwanda recognize that any development can only take place in an atmosphere of peace and stability in our country, region and the world at large. Rwanda fully supports peaceful resolution of conflicts and all mechanisms that supports conflict prevention. It is in this respect that the government of Rwanda is convinced that the successful implementation of the Lusaka peace agreement forms the only basis for sustainable peace and security in the Great Lakes region.
The threat to peace and security caused by the circulation of Interahamwe militia and ex- far in the region cannot continue to be ignored. If peace and sustainable development are to be achieved in the region, all peace loving people must disassociate themselves from and condemn these forces of destruction. There cannot be any sustainable settlement without peace and security.
I thank you for your attention.