Special Session of the General Assembly NEW YORK 6-8 June 2001


Statement to the General Assembly by

John Hodges
Head of Infrastructure and Urban Development Department
Department for International Development

New York, 6 June 2001

Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

The United Kingdom wishes to lend our full support to the statement by Sweden, in its role as chair of the EU Group, regarding the substantive issues of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

The United Kingdom is one of the most urbanised countries in the World, with a long history of dealing with issues related to urbanisation. It has an extensive experience of developing housing and urban policy, but one that is in constant need of updating. This Special Session offers an important opportunity to review, reflect and report on our experience of the past five years in the light of our commitment to achieving the goals of the Habitat Agenda, and to look to the future.

We are aware that globalisation increases the interdependence of cities and countries, and that efforts have to be made to ensure that the benefits offered by globalisation also reach those most in need. What we do in the United Kingdom must be placed within a broader international context. In our report on progress in implementing the Habitat Agenda, the Unified Kingdom focuses on our commitment to creating inclusive cities, through poverty reduction, a respect for human rights and the empowerment of excluded and underprivileged groups. This commitment applies to what we do both at home and abroad and, in our report, we have presented a summary of our domestic and international action side by side within the Habitat reporting framework.

The United Kingdom believes that achieving the 2015 International Development Targets as they relate to health, education, gender, the environment, and reducing poverty in all areas - particularly the growing problem of urban poverty, provides the preconditions for realising the Habitat Agenda.

In this regard the United Kingdom has produced a Strategy for Meeting the Challenge of Poverty in Urban Areas, to guide its international development co-operation efforts and to aid our partners in their efforts at implementing the Habitat Agenda. (Copies of our Strategy Paper are available from the United Kingdom Delegation or on the DFID Web-site)

The United Kingdom strategy highlights the important role that is played by the UN in general, and the Centre for Human Settlements - Habitat - in particular in helping to combat world poverty. At the 18th Session of the Commission on Human Settlements in Nairobi in February, we announced an increase in the level of the United Kingdom voluntary contributions to the Habitat Foundation, believing that the revitalisation of the Centre has now provided developing countries with an Agency that can assist with the fight against poverty in all human settlements.

The United Kingdom is also pleased to support the work of the Commonwealth Consultative Group on Human Settlements, which brings us into a working arrangement to focus on implementing the Habitat Agenda in the 50 developing countries of the Commonwealth.

They have a stated emphasis on the need for demonstrated progress towards adequate shelter for all, with security of tenure, and access to essential services in every community by 2015. This target complements that set out in the Millennium Declaration which aims at improving the lives 100 million slum dwellers within the next twenty years.

This brings the responsibility for implementing the Habitat Agenda to the local level. In this regard, we believe that the Cities Alliance (which brings together the combined resources of Habitat with the World Bank, the Regional Banks, the World Association of Cities and Local Authorities, and ten of the bi-lateral donors,) is already delivering real results on the ground.

Within the United Kingdom, the government has recently reviewed its urban policy in an Urban White Paper which aims to achieve an urban renaissance, and reverse decades of decline which has affected many of Britain's towns and cities. Empowering communities, building on and extending good urban governance, achieving access to affordable housing and livelihood opportunities and a secure and high quality of life for all, especially the most excluded, depends on sustainable development at the local level.

In 2002 Ministers from across the United Kingdom government departments will host an Urban Summit to explore the implementation of the Urban White Paper. The Habitat Agenda helps to put these domestic efforts in the context of the United Kingdom's international commitments.

Next year, we will gather in Johannesburg to report on our progress in achieving the aims set out in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. We must not forget the key contribution of the Habitat Agenda in guiding local development to help achieve sustainable development at the global level.

We have every confidence that our deliberations here over the next few days will play a significant part in strengthening the mandate of Habitat and thereby make a real contribution to the elimination of world poverty.
Thank you.