H.E. DR. MOHAMMED
MINISTER OF MUNICIPAL AND RURAL AFFAIRS
AT THE SPECIAL SESSION
OF THE UNITED NATIONS
GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR AN OVER VIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE OUTCOME OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS (HABITAT II)
New York 6 - 8 JUNE, 2001
I have the honour to convey to you the greetings of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz AI-Saud, of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to extend to you his best wishes for the success of this conference in reaching positive results that will contribute to continuous progress in the development efforts of all nations.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been and continues to be among the most active countries in all activities of the United Nations and its organizations. This is due to its strong belief in the importance of the United Nations and its organization's role in unifying world efforts in improving the living standards of all mankind and in the stability, of human societies. Due to its commitment, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will continue with no hesitation, its efforts in participating and supporting the United Nations and its organizations in achieving their objectives.
There is no doubt that the Istanbul Declaration and Habitat II Agenda contain many positive principles and objectives directed to helping nations in designing suitable policies for implementation. Due to disparities in levels of development between nations and the differences in their circumstances, it is expected that levels of achievements of the principles and recommendations of the Istanbul Declaration and Habitat II Agenda for Plan of Action will also vary between nations. It is also expected that some nations may have implemented specific of actions or established national laws or formulated policies that far exceed the objectives called for in the Habitat II Agenda.
In 1996, the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) was held in Istanbul, Turkey. The Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat II Agenda for Global Plan of Action summarized the great achievements of that conference. The Declaration along with Habitat II Agenda provided the main guidelines and future directions for global plan of action and efforts to be undertaken by all countries to ensure adequate shelter for all and improving living environments in human settlements. The Habitat II Agenda for Global Plan of Action incorporates a wide range of policies to be adopted by member countries for the alleviation of poverty, protection of the environment, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of future Human Settlements planning and supporting all international efforts in related activities.
Today, five years after the Istanbul Declaration and Habitat Conference on Human Settlements, we need again to assess progress on the international, regional and national levels.
Reaffirmation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's commitment to the Istanbul Declaration was reflected in its endorsement by the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by its Decree No. 125 dated 21/8/2000.
Now, please allow me to present to you, the most important achievements that the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had realized during the last five years in accordance with the principles of the Istanbul Declaration within four main broad areas.
First : Formulation of strategies and plans for promoting sustainable development in human settlements and accelerating the integration between urban and rural areas.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is among the countries that introduced at an early stage the practice of formulating strategies and plans for sustainable human settlements development. This policy, has achieved its objectives of promoting an orderly urban settlements and the upgrading of their services both in urban and rural areas. More recently, it became clear that there is a need for the formulation of along term National Spatial Development Strategy. This strategy was envisioned as a general frame for guiding human settlement development on the national level in the long run. The objectives of this strategy are to promote a more spatially balanced distribution of population and supporting economic activities and services on the national space without hampering the economic efficiency in the use of resources, reducing rural to urban migration and the concentration of population in large cities, eliminating, as much as possible inter-regional disparities in levels of development between the Kingdom's provinces. In formulating this strategy, main considerations that were taken into account include the necessity to promote sustainable development, protection of the environment, and the promotion of more equitable distribution of development opportunities and accessibility to services by all citizens in rural and urban areas. This is in addition to enhancing the efficient utilization of natural and human resources in all regions. As we are all aware, these issues are consistent with those addressed by the Istanbul Declaration and Habitat II Global Plan of Action. The concerned authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were successful in formulating this strategy. After being debated in the Shoura Council, which is the highest government consultative body, this strategy was endorsed and approved by the Council of Ministers with its Decree on 28/5/1421 H., corresponding to 28/8/2000 G.
At present, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is in the process of executing the policies incorporated in this strategy through government and non-government organizations. In addition, efforts are currently underway to formulate regional development strategies, which are considered to be one of the most essential tools in executing the National Spatial Development Strategy.
In its continuous efforts to improve the living environment in human settlements, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is in the process of formulating and endorsing a comprehensive strategy for sewage treatment and disposal, and solid wastes recycling. This strategy includes policies and action oriented programs to develop this vital sector. It also defines responsibilities and financial resources needed to improve the performance and operational efficiency of this sector. Implementation of this strategy will further improve the living conditions in the human settlements and contribute to the sustainability of development.
During the last five years, efforts of the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to improve the living conditions of all citizens in human settlements has been substantial and continues to accelerate at a fast rate. Toward this objective, the government development programs continue to put great emphasis on the provision of adequate and modern services and utilities to all human settlements, urban and rural. In addition, the government continues its policies of providing the necessary support to stimulate the participatory role of the private sector in promoting sustainable development of human settlement. This support includes but is not limited to the provision of easy term loans and grants for investment purposes. Moreover, the government continues to accord its utmost care and attention to those who are in need and vulnerable groups. During the last five years, the government allocated 39 Billion Saudi Riyals to citizens in the form of loans and grants for specific activities.
Second : Enhancing the role of the private sector to become a more active partner in realizing national developmental goals in general and human settlements development in particular.
The Istanbul Declaration and Habitat II Global Plan of Action clearly indicates that partnership between public and private sector should not be a secondary issue. On the contrary, the Istanbul Declaration emphasized the vital importance of enhancing the role of the private sector to become a more active and effective partner in realizing the goals of development objectives. The Declaration also calls for national governments plans of action to reflect that.
In this regard, the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a pioneering role in supporting the private sector. Since the early seventies, the a government has been pursuing policies that aim at broadening and enhancing the role of the private sector. During the last five years, the government continued its policies of providing a conducive environment for the private sector to flourish through direct and indirect financial support as to play a more effective role in all aspects of establishing productive activities and providing services. In addition, during the last five years, the government has given the private sector a new initiative to enhance public-private participation through the establishment of Supreme Councils, new commissions, authorities and organizations. These include but is not limited to the creation of the Supreme Economic Council with a mandate to draw essential investment policies and to expedite decisions with respect to essential investment projects. Also, a General Organization for the promotion of investment was established. The main role of this organization is to support national and international private sector initiatives to invest in new productive projects and services oriented activities and to ensure that their investment are economically sound.
In addition, to diversify the economic base of provinces and to promote the utilization of resources within the context of private sector initiatives, the government has established a High Commission for Tourism. The mandate of this Commission is to establish a long-term plan and policies for the development of tourism and to act as a coordinator between different agencies involved in tourism activities. It is thus expected that tourism will become one of the vital productive sectors of the national economy. Moreover, new laws were issued to promote and encourage foreign capital investment and a law to allow and organize the ownership of real estate property by foreigners. These are among the example actions taken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the last five years.
Third: Cooperation and Commitments of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia toward International Agreements and United Nations Activities.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was among the countries that signed the Charter, which created the United Nations. Since then, the Kingdom spared no effort to support all international agreements that aim at the well being of all mankind. The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had endorsed most of the United Nations agreements. In doing so, the Kingdom is guided by the principles of Islamic Sharia. During the last five years, the government had endorsed agreements relevant to our meeting. These agreements include, Women's Rights and the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements: Goals and Principles, Commitments and Global Plan of Action.
It is worth noting that one of the main actions that the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken to implement the principles of the Istanbul Declaration is represented by the establishment of the National Observatory Center for Urban Indicators. This center which has been established within the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs is responsible for collecting and analyzing all data pertaining to human settlements development. The analysis of the date help in designing indicators that can be used by policy makers to better understand human settlements problems and to formulate necessary policies for alleviating these problems and the sound management of human settlements.
Fourth: The Role of the Government in Assisting Special Groups of the Society
The provision of social services to all segments of the Saudi society has been central to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's overall development strategy. Toward this end, the government considers that provision of social services is an integral part of the comprehensive development and it contributes positively to national progress. This is mainly because investment in social services helps in the alleviation of poverty; realization of peace and justice; social cohesion among different segments of the society; increase in productivity; creation of productive job opportunities and it heightens public participation in all activities of the society.
The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in full partnership with the private sector is committed to the creation of gainful and productive job opportunities to all citizens as to ensure that all citizens have adequate income to support a reasonable living standard. Through Social Development Centers, the government fosters local participation, and national allegiance, social awareness and responsibilities. In addition, to ensure that no one is left behind, the government provides financial support and assistance, occupational training and shelter to those who are in special need and vulnerable groups such as citizens with physical or mental handicaps and those who are deprived due to social circumstances beyond their control. In addition, the government provides income assistance and social help to the poor and needy. Moreover, the General Organization far Social Security and the Government Retirement Fund are responsible for providing pension and social security payments to retirees from the public and private sector.
The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also places special opportunities for youth to develop their personal capabilities in a secure environment that encourage them to become good citizens and active participants in their societies. At present, in addition to formal and vocational educational institutions at all levels, there are many other institutions that provide guidance, help and support to youth which includes the Ministry of t Labor and Social Affairs, Ministry of Information, The High Presidency for Youth and the General Organization for Social Security.
With respect to women, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports and protects women's rights that ensures her dignity and promotes women's interests according to the principles of Islamic Sharia. The government continues to allocate needed funds for the expansion of the educational institutions for women and to create safe, equitable and comprehensive educational environment that help women excel in their educational achievements. At present, Saudi women are actively participating in the labor force and hold jobs in the private and public sectors. Saudi women and men are jointly participating in the development of human settlements. This is attested to by their increasing numbers on job opportunities. The government and the private sector are employing women in increasing numbers in many activities.
Fifth: International Cooperation and Assistance to Developing Countries and Disaster Areas
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been and continues to be among the pioneering countries in extending helping hands and assistance to many countries, either directly or through international and regional organizations and institutions. At present, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's assistance to countries in need amounts to S percent of its national domestic product. This percentage is considered among the highest percentages provided by all countries in the world community.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expresses unlimited support to basic issues relevant to international cooperation and continues to participate and contribute to most of the international activities. Its program of financial assistance and grants to more than (70) seventy countries represent a model for international cooperation and partnership.
There is no doubt that what the Palestinian people is suffering in the way of persecution, destruction, murder and terrorizing of the innocent on the part of the occupying Israelis is directly in opposition to the principles of the United Nations and the rules of international law, not to mention the objectives and spirit of the Habitat II Summit. Therefore, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calls upon all member states, specially members of the Security Council, to live up to their obligation to put an end to the hostilities against the Palestinian people and to enable it to achieve its legitimate rights and set-up its independent state in its land, with Jerusalem as its capital.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the development drive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will continue with vigor to realize the interests and aspirations of current and future generations. This development drive will continue to give its utmost priorities to the investment in the development of its human resources. This ultimate objective cannot be realized without the provision of adequate shelter for all and the provision of needed services and the preparation and orientation of human resources according to the future needs and aspirations. Within this context, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will spare no effort to ensure sustainable development and benefiting from other countries' experience in shaping its development programmes. In doing so, the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will continue to put great emphasis on international cooperation and the effective participation in all international conferences.
With regards to the Declaration issued by this extraordinary session
and the related documents, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports the principles,
objectives and values contained therein, except those which may be against
the principles of Islamic Law and the Statutes of the Kingdom. It wishes
every success for the work of this extraordinary session.