8 June 2001


Press Briefing


The 1996 Habitat Agenda -- adopted at the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul -- had provided a platform for grass-roots women to push for the issues they cared about, Jan Peterson, Chair of the Secretariat of the Huairou Commission, told correspondents this afternoon at a Headquarters press conference.

Ms. Peterson was joined by Litha Musyimi-Ogana, Regional Director, the African Centre for Empowerment, Gender and Advocacy; and Norelle Townsend and Nicky Nzioki, Co-Chairs of the International Facilitating Group for Non-Governmental Organizations for Istanbul +5.

Habitat, Ms. Peterson continued, was probably the only conference which allowed for such a large participation of grass-roots women.  They were hardly represented at the Commission on Sustainable Development and even within the Beijing process, grass-roots women had a very small voice.  While the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) in Nairobi was a small one, it had opened its doors to foster a dialogue with grass-roots organizations and enable them to have a place in which to participate.

Habitat was a "bottom-up" agency and the only one located in a developing country, she said.  While it often did not get the visibility it deserved, it was leading the one agenda that really affected the poor.  She was excited that Habitat, which used to only look at housing, had taken serious steps to engender its entire process.

Ms. Musyimi-Ogana felt that the negotiations which were taking place currently were "less depressing" than expected.  Having participated in the numerous "plus fives" preceding the special session, she knew well the difficulties in concluding an outcome document on time.  The informal consultations surrounding the session were nothing compared to those held in conjunction with "Beijing +5". 

The Facilitating Group, stated Mr. Nzioki, had been able to accommodate all the non-governmental organizations that had an interest in the Habitat Agenda.  The Group had been a feature of the entire Habitat process.  He called for maintaining a space where people of diverse views could participate in their own way.

In that context, he commended the Centre, which had been striving to maintain such a space.  He was particularly gratified that a resolution had been adopted by the General Assembly last year enabling non-governmental organizations to participate in the plenary, the Thematic Committee and the Committee of the Whole during the special session.  That was a unique feature of the Habitat process.

Ms. Townsend pointed out that there were 2,500 non-governmental organizations accredited to Habitat, with only about 10 per cent of those having consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.     

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For information media. Not an official record.