Dr. Carlyle Corbin
Minister of State for External Affairs
Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands
Twenty-Fifth Special Session of the United Nations 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, N.Y.
8th June 2001
Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honour to represent the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands at this 25th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly. My delegation appreciates the continual support of member states since 1992 in facilitating the participation of associate member governments of regional economic commissions as observers to the U.N. world conferences and General Assembly special sessions, providing an opportunity for interaction with the international community on issues of relevance to our development process.
The convening of this special session coincides with the beginning of
the annual hurricane season in the Atlantic/Caribbean region. This has
become increasingly significant to the sustainability of the human settlements
in small island countries as our own, given the often devastating impact
that many of these storms have had - and continue to have - on our countries.
In this vein, a report of the HABITAT Latin American and Caribbean Regional Preparatory Conference held in Chile last October found that among the determinants of such natural disasters are the immediate impact on the quality and quantity of housing stock. The 1996 HABITAT agenda itself had called for the development of Aappropriate norms and by-laws for land use, building and planning standards based on professionally established hazard and vulnerability assessments, A as well as the development of disaster-resistant construction methods.
Consistent with the spirit of the HABITAT Agenda, my government
has adopted legislation greatly strengthening our construction codes for
public and private dwellings as part of a comprehensive mitigation programme
following the destruction to our human settlements caused by Hurricane
Hugo in 1989, and Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn in 1995. Other Caribbean
and Pacific countries have made similar adjustments.
In 2000, we have successfully completed a series of hazard mitigation flood control projects, as well as major road reconstruction, and have commenced construction on a new waste water treatment plant.
While we are still facing the economic and fiscal implications of undertaking
such massive post-disaster reconstruction efforts, we are greatly encouraged
by ongoing negotiations aimed at providing the economic relief necessary
for us to regain our economic footing in the wake of successive major hurricanes.
In this connection, my government is in support of the provisions of the ADraft Declaration on Cities and other Human Settlements in the New Millennium "committing the international community to Aimproving prevention, preparedness, mitigation, and response capabilities with the cooperation of national and international networks in order to reduce the vulnerability of human settlements to natural and human-made disasters, and to implement effective post-disaster programmes for the effective human settlements aimed, inter alia, at meeting immediate needs, reducing future disaster risks and making rebuilt human settlements accessible for all."
My government also endorses the Santiago Declaration adopted
last October with specific emphasis on the provision "recommend(ing) that
international cooperation agencies should consider increasing their contributions
to activities in the field of human settlements", and that the United Nations
and other international bodies should coordinate technical assistance initiatives
at the regional and subregional levels with a view to supporting these
countries in the implementation of the Latin American and Caribbean Plan
of Action on Human Settlements.
We would urge that the associate member governments of the regional commissions be made eligible for such assistance.
Part 8 of the HABITAT Agenda stresses the importance of conservation and rehabilitation of the historical and cultural heritage of societies in a globalised world. In the implementation of this mandate, we are pleased to report that we have entered into an agreement with the Kingdom of Denmark in 1999 on the preservation and repatriation of the extensive archives covering the period when our country was under Danish jurisdiction, and a second agreement earlier this year on cooperation between our respective museums. We express our gratitude to the Kingdom of Denmark for their support in this endeavor to restore a major part of our cultural patrimony.
Amid our substantial efforts at post-disaster recovery, my government has always been clear that the welfare of our people is paramount, and an adequate supply of housing is of the utmost importance. In this connection, we have embarked on a five-year community development programme to meet the medium and long term housing needs of our people, with the revitalisation of existing housing stock and the construction of new single family units - all consistent with prevailing hurricane resistant standards.
But all of these efforts at the national level could be effectively neutralised due to the increasing vulnerability of our islands to natural disasters, in particular hurricanes which have become more frequent and intense as a result of climate change precipitated by excessive greenhouse gas emissions. We therefore fully support a holistic approach to the implementation of the HABITAT Agenda by also integrating the many important recommendations of Agenda 21 and the Programme of Action of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) into our thinking.
We therefore call on the international community, in the words of the Millennium Declaration, "to adopt in all our environmental actions a new ethic of conservation and stewardship", and make every effort to embark on the required reduction in greenhouse emissions as we approach the tenth anniversary of the Earth Summit.
The sustainability, indeed, the very viability, of human settlements, especially in the most vulnerable small island countries, will be determined in large measure by the level of implementation of these international commitments.
Thank you, Mr. President.