H. E . Mr. Dragoslav SUMARAC
Minister of Urban Planning and Construction of the Republic of Serbia,
Head of the Yugoslav Delegation

at the Twenty-Fifth Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference, on Human Settlements (HABITAT II)

New York, 8 June 2001


 Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia pays particular attention to the issues related to human settlements and HABITAT activities. We uphold all decisions of the Istanbul Conference and are striving to implement them.

We underscore the importance of a structured and comprehensive approach to the human settlements problems in all parts of the world. These problems are inextricably linked to the respect for human rights and directly affect economic and social safety, peace and security. Unfortunately, no sufficient efforts have been made up to now to translate the results of the Istanbul Conference into practice, especially regarding the situation in the least developed countries. We are convinced that this special session will contribute to better understanding for these problems.

Mr. President,

Yugoslavia, as a European country in transition is facing problems similar to those faced by other Central and East European countries. There can be no doubt that a transition from a centrally-planned to a marketoriented economy has brought about severe economic and social hardships affecting the population and human settlements. The situation in Yugoslavia in this regard, is very serious, because additional adverse factors have had an impact on it. As you know, due to Milosevic's mislead politics, Yugoslavia has been isolated for a long time and UN sanctions and other restrictions have been imposed on it with devastating effects on the economic and social situation. The bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 has further aggravated this situation and directly contributed to the destruction of human settlements and to environmental deterioration. As a result of the wars waged in the territories of the former Yugoslavia and the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, we now have the burden of more than 700,000 refugees and displaced persons from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo and Metohija, all living in inadequate accommodations. An immediate action is needed to offset these effects. My Government expects an even greater involvement on the part of the international community, first and foremost HABITAT and UNEP as well as the other programmes.

 The situation in the southern Serbian Province of Kosovo and Metohija, which has been administered by the United Nations since June 1999 under UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), is an added cause of concern.
Serbs and other non-Albanians had to leave their homes and properties in Kosovo and Metohija under pressure, finding shelter elsewhere in Yugoslavia. Their dwellings and other property in Kosovo and Metohij a have been seized and occupied unlawfully by ethnic Albanian tenants.

In order to resolve this difficult situation, it would be necessary for UNMIK, HABITAT and other agencies present in Kosovo and Metohij a to undertake effective measures in co-operation with the authorities of Yugoslavia and of the Republic of Serbia in compliance with Resolution 1244. In particular, conditions should be created for all expelled and displaced persons to return in safety and without hindrance and to protect, at the same time, all their property rights.

Despite all the hardships, my Government is resolved to continue to build a democratic society based on the rule of law and respect for human rights, as well as on a greater role of NGOs. The work is underway on a series of laws dealing with local self-government, decentralization with an emphasis on the greater competencies of municipalities especially in the field of housing and other issues related to human settlements. A long term plan for proportional regional development is also a priority.
We hope that HABITAT will increase its activities in Yugoslavia. My Government stands ready, for its part, to support HABITAT and to ensure its unimpeded activities. This will also contribute to protecting the property rights of the internally displaced persons from Kosovo and Metohija and connecting HABITAT activities to the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate my Government's determination to co-operate constructively with the Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT) and with all other relevant organizations in the implementation of the Istanbul decisions. To this end, we support the proposed draft Declaration on cities and other human settlements, to be adopted at the end of the current session.

Thank you, Mr. President.