PRESS BRIEFING BY HOUSING MINISTER OF TUNISIA
The objective of shelter for all had been realized in Tunisia as of the year 2000, Slaheddine Belaid, Tunisian Minister of Equipment and Housing and Chairperson of the Thematic Committee of the twenty-fifth special session of the General Assembly on implementation of the outcome of the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), said this morning at a Headquarters press briefing.
Joining Mr. Belaid as he presented his country's national experience was Saida Agrebi, President of the Tunisian Mothers Association.
Tunisia, with a population of 9.5 million, had based its social policy on the promotion of women and the principles of health care, education and housing for all, Mr. Belaid said. Thanks to that policy, life expectancy was now
70.1 years for men and 71.1 years for women. As a result of its family planning policy, Tunisia's population growth rate in 1999 was 1.7 per cent.
In the area of housing, he continued, the latest statistics showed that the amount of available housing exceeded the number of families by 13 per cent. Also, the percentage of families owning their own homes had reached 78.2 per cent. In addition, there was a decrease in slums of 1.2 per cent. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had initiated a programme for the total eradication of slums and "lousy housing" by 2004. Further, the country had not encountered the same difficulties that other countries had with regard to big cities. The capital, Tunis, for example, had a population not exceeding 2 million.
In 1993, he continued, President Ben Ali had initiated a poverty eradication programme with the creation of a national solidarity fund. The initiative had come about following the President's visits to rural areas of the country, which lacked basic infrastructure such as roads and electricity. In the past seven years, the national solidarity fund had raised about 550 million Tunisian Dinars, benefiting 1,450 zones and more than 2,000 families.
Thanks to the fund, he continued, people remained in their zones and did not migrate to the urban areas. They were integrated into the economic life of their areas, participating in agriculture, handicrafts and micro-projects. During the "Urban 21" Conference last July in Germany, Tunisia had been able to share its development model, which had prevented an increase of rural to urban migration. That model had been adopted as a best practice by other countries.
As many countries had been interested in Tunisia's experience with the national solidarity fund, President Ben Ali had launched an appeal to the international community for a world solidarity fund, he said. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had been asked to study the appeal, the objective of which was to achieve the Millennium Summit goal of halving poverty by 2015 and would contribute to human sustainable development.
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