4 November 2002


Press Release

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Second Committee

24th Meeting (AM)



While the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) was increasingly dependent on partnerships and franchises, it still needed budgetary commitments from Member States for its long-term work, the Programme’s New York Director told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this morning as it began its consideration of Human Settlements.

Introducing reports on UN-Habitat, Habitat II and the Habitat Agenda, she said that more predictable funding would emphasize technical cooperation and capacity-building for slum upgrading, as well as urban water supply and sanitation activities.  Longer-term commitments would also lead to more intense dialogues with governments and Habitat partners, increasing support for the World Urban Forum.  She urged Member States to create and take part in national Habitat committees to guide nations in approaching urban challenges.

Indonesia’s representative agreed that curtailed funding was a major obstacle to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda and called for renewed political will to mobilize additional resources.  Encouraging Habitat to find innovative ways to mobilize new funding, he added that partnership initiatives between cities, such as City-to-City Cooperation, could serve as a cost-effective way to pursue lessons learned with the participation of all stakeholders and Habitat partners.

He noted that rapid urbanization worldwide had continued to propel the growth of city slums, which contained about 800 million people in 2001.  Without safe drinking water, basic sanitation, waste collection, drainage and affordable access to energy services, slum dwellers also lived in substandard dwellings and lacked legal ownership or other legal security of tenure instruments.

Nigeria’s representative said it was doubtful whether UN-Habitat’s efforts to develop and strengthen housing finance systems or enhance productivity in the urban informal sector could succeed in light of its dwindling resources.  The bulk of general contributions to Habitat came from a few voluntary contributions, while general purpose contributions were unpredictable and small.  Although general contributions had doubled in 2001 from an average of $3.6 million to $7.3 million, more than 80 per cent of those contributions came from just eight countries and one country alone had provided 40 per cent of that amount.

In other business this morning, Venezuela’s representative, on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, introduced three draft resolutions relating to pledging mechanisms and resource mobilization for United Nations operational activities for development; economic and technical cooperation among developing countries; and the Human Development Report.

Other speakers this morning included the representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Norway, Russian Federation, Egypt, China, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Croatia, South Africa, Bahamas (on behalf of the Caribbean Community) and Syria.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Israel and Syria.

Representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also addressed the meeting.

The Second Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today, when it will take up discussion of the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to consider the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and of the twenty-fifth special session of the General Assembly.

United Nations Human Settlements Programme

Before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on Strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) (document A/57/272), which states that UN-Habitat is undertaking an extensive review that will help it to design a more effective financial base and work programme, and to operate as a fully fledged United Nations programme.   UN-Habitat aims to assist in implementing the goals of the Habitat Agenda and the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, including a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

The report says that UN-Habitat will require adequate institutional and financial support to make funding and activities more predictable, and encourages Member States to support the programme's efforts to intensify dialogue among governments and Habitat Agenda partners on all issues related to decentralization and the strengthening of local supervision for UN-Habitat programmes and goals.

In March, the report notes, UN-Habitat presented a draft proposal to revitalize the UN-Habitat Foundation through partnerships with international development banks and other financial institutions.  Various options are under consideration, including the capitalization of the Foundation with long-term pledges and endowments, its conversion into an independent not-for-profit company with limited liability, and integrating it with technical cooperation overhead income and/or establishing a separate trust fund to upgrade slums.

Implementation of Habitat II

Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the Special session of the General Assembly for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II). 

The report (document A/57/271) says that UN-Habitat is now active in more than 60 developing countries, publishing and distributing reports, best practices, technical guides and policy documents through an information knowledge and management system to governments and Habitat Agenda partners.  However, it states that feedback allowing UN-Habitat to monitor the progress of the Habitat Agenda and Millennium goals is insufficient.  Governments, local authorities and their partners are encouraged to regularly update UN-Habitat on the adequacy and usefulness of human settlements and shelter information.  That would enable the programme to assess the quality of information and the effectiveness of sharing mechanisms.  Member are also encouraged to strengthen and institutionalize national Habitat committees.

Implementation of Habitat Agenda

Also before the Committee was a report on Coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2002/48) reviewing options for strengthening the mandate and status of the Commission on Human Settlements and the United Nations Human Settlements programme (UN-Habitat).  UN-Habitat’s advisory services and human settlement projects -- in urban management, disaster management and Cities Alliance -- continue to be the most visible and direct evidence of the programme’s contribution to sustainable development.  However, shrinking resources for technical cooperation and the increasing proportion of tied contributions is thwarting its ability to operate.

The report stresses the need to improve UN-Habitat’s operational role, diversify sources of financing for technical cooperation projects and programmes; and identify new avenues for inter-agency collaboration.  UN-Habitat is designing a slum-upgrading facility to function as a global source of seed capital for housing and infrastructure development projects.  The facility would leverage public- and private-sector resources, complementing the work of Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation.

Introduction of Resolutions

LUIS JOSE CARPIO GOVEA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, introduced three draft resolutions in the area of operational activities for development.  The first, on pledging mechanisms and resource mobilization for operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/C.2/57/L.25), reaffirmed that operational activities were the pillar of the United Nations system, and core resources to fund them the bedrock of those activities.  It recalled that an annual target of $1.1 billion had been agreed upon as regular resources for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and appealed to various United Nations bodies to hold pledging meetings within multi-year funding frameworks in a single session.

The draft on economic and technical cooperation among developing countries (document A/C.2/57/L.26) noted that developing countries had succeeded in putting plans in place for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and recommended that the high-level committee on review of cooperation in developing countries examine in future all aspects of South-South cooperation.  It recognized the need to mobilize more resources to enhance South-South activities and invited donor nations to generously contribute.

Introducing the third draft text (document A/C.2/57/L.27), he said it recognized that the Human Development Report did not reflect the view of the United Nations or its Members States and reaffirmed that governing operational activities for development of the United Nations system would continue to be set by Member States.  It called upon UNDP and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to include in their annual work plan an agenda item on the Human Development Report Office with a view to strengthening consultations with Member States regarding the report.

Introduction of Reports

AXUMITE GEBRE-EGZIABHHER, Director of the New York Office of UN-Habitat, introduced the relevant reports (documents A/57/271 and A/57/272), noting that the scope of UN-Habitat projects and its staff had been upgraded and expanded in the past two years.  While UN-Habitat was increasingly relying on partnerships and franchises to carry out its work, it still needed the continued endorsement and regular budgetary commitments of Member States to sustain long-term work plans.

More predictable funding would facilitate greater focus of technical cooperation and capacity-building for slum upgrading and urban water supply and sanitation activities on the Millennium goals, she said.  Longer-term funding commitments would facilitate intensified dialogues with governments and Habitat partners, thus increasing support for the World Urban Forum and capacity-building.  She urged Member States to create and participate in national Habitat committees, as called for in the Habitat Agenda in order to guide nations’ approaches to urban challenges.  Such committees would comprise representatives of civil society and policy makers, she added.


ILEANA VILLALOBOS (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, called on donor countries to contribute to the Habitat objective of securing human settlement for all, noting that many developing countries had been unable to implement national plans due to a lack of resources and assistance.  It would appear that commitments by developed countries to meet the Habitat Agenda had not been adequately met, she added.  The international community must promote synergies and more effective collaboration between, the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions to support the Habitat Agenda. 

It was also important to strengthen UN-Habitat with respect to training and technical assistance, she said.  Active participation in technical cooperation had been achieved in developing countries in an effort to improve technical cooperation for better urban conditions in slum areas.  He appealed for a strengthening of the training programme in the area of disasters, for which resources had decreased.  The Group of 77 would continue working to promote and fully implement the aims of Habitat in guaranteeing adequate housing for all as well as settlements for a world undergoing rapid urbanization.

JAKOB ROGILD JAKOBSEN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, welcomed UN-Habitat’s recently upgraded status, expressing the hope that it would play a more strategic role in human settlement issues within the United Nations system.  It was hoped that the implementation of the Habitat task manager system, as well as greater coordination and partnerships among United Nations bodies to implement the Habitat Agenda, would produce concrete results.

The European Union supported the strengthening of UN-Habitat’s contribution to sustainable development programmes and the implementation of Agenda 21, he said, adding that it also awaited eagerly the results of the programme’s extensive internal review.  A multi-year funding framework for donor pledging was an important tool for linking resources, activities and results, he said.

THERESE AALBERG (Norway) said it was imperative that UN-Habitat acquire additional resources and noted that this year, her country had doubled its contributions so that they now reached about $1.3 million.  If Habitat’s financial base was to be sustainable, its donor base must be broadened, she stressed, calling on all Member States to respond to Habit’s new momentum by contributing to the Foundation.  She noted that various options for revitalizing Habitat were being reviewed and would be put before Member States for closer examination.

She said Habitat would be in the forefront of collective efforts to deal with the acceleration of the urban process in improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers.  The strength of the Habitat Agenda was based on the active participation of the programme's partners in drafting the agenda.  Fruitful cooperation with local authorities was a promising basis for that, since the real work had to be done at the local level. In addition, the World Urban Forum was an innovation that successfully involved civil society partners, all of whom had participated in the Forum, as had many local authorities and members of civil society.  Noting the utmost importance of cooperation between Habitat and the World Bank, she said Habitat was well positioned to mobilize the support of other multilateral institutions. 

OLEG SHAMANOV (Russian Federation) said that for UN-Habitat to achieve its ambitious agenda of improving the lives of nearly 100 million slum dwellers by 2020, greater participation was required of all development partners.  The programme must also take steps to enhance its supervisory role in technical cooperation, promote inter-agency cooperation and encourage participation by all sectors of society.

For the Russian Federation, where most people lived in cities, the work of the United Nations in human settlements had great significance, he said.  UN‑Habitat’s recently bolstered status would enable it to carry out its work within the framework of the United Nations system, and the programme’s current activities were in keeping with expectations.  He said the proposed World Urban Forum should gear its work towards the exchange of views on all aspects of human settlements, including protection from terrorism and natural disasters through an international advisory group on search and rescue missions.

IHAB GAMALELDIN (Egypt) said he was pleased that the World Summit on Sustainable Development had included adequate shelter in the forefront of the international development agenda alongside water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity.  He also welcomed the addition of a new target on sanitation to that of halving the number of people without access to adequate drinking water by 2015.

He commended Habitat’s efforts to address the serious and dangerous situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, a situation that had grave repercussions on the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people to shelter and basic services and called for the speedy implementation by the international community of its commitments to the rights of peoples living under foreign occupation.  Noting that the applicability of the Geneva Convention to the peoples of all Arab and Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 had been repeatedly reaffirmed by the Security Council and General Assembly, he called for the speedy implementation of international commitments to assist civilians under foreign occupation and to help refugees to return voluntarily to their homes in safety and dignity.  He commended the visit by a Habitat team to assess the situation in the Jenin refugee camp in May.

Stressing the importance to Habitat’s efforts regarding the global campaigns on secure tenure and urban governance, as well as efforts to help developing countries build institutional capacities to formulate and implement strategies in collaboration within the different Habitat Agenda partners, he also welcomed efforts by the programme to develop and strengthen housing finance systems and institutions, and to address the means for improving the functioning and productivity of urban informal sectors.  He called for a strengthened relationship between Habitat and the international and regional development banks.

WANG LING (China) said that despite unrelenting efforts in the past six years to improve housing and living conditions, problems still remained in much of the world.  Developing countries in particular were struggling with inadequate infrastructure, traffic congestion, environmental degradation and the lack of proper housing.  Half of the world’s city dwellers lived in urban slums and 1 billion people were homeless or lived in miserable conditions.

The key to resolving those problems lay in economic development and poverty eradication, as well as country-specific policies and programmes for human settlement, she said.  China was doing its part to promote sustainable urban and rural development through comprehensive management, infrastructure development and improved living conditions.  From 1995 to 2000, per capita housing space had increased from 16.2 square metres to 20.5 square metres in urban areas and from 21.8 square metres to 25 square metres in rural areas.  Running water was now available to 96.7 per cent of city dwellers, she said, attributing China’s progress to the central Government’s implementation and financing of a country-specific Habitat Agenda involving all sectors of society.

DJAUHARI ORATMANGUN (Indonesia) said that rapid urbanization worldwide continued to propel the sprawl of city slums, which had reached an estimated level of over 800 million slum dwellers in 2001.  Their plight was characterized by the lack of city services, including safe drinking water, basic sanitation services, waste collection, drainage and affordable access to energy services.  Also, slum dwellers lived in substandard dwellings and lacked legal ownership or other legal security of tenure instruments.  As a result, slums tended to perpetuate poverty, spread illnesses and create intense pressures on local resources, ecosystems and the environment, often-deepening poverty as well as other social problems, including instability.

One major obstacle to implementing various programmes of action in the Habitat Agenda was a lack of financial resources, he said.  There was a need for renewed political will to mobilize new and additional resources to accelerate its implementation.  Indonesia encouraged Habitat to identify innovative ways of mobilizing additional financial resources.  In that respect, he supported partnership initiatives between cities, such as city-to-city cooperation, which could serve as a potentially cost-effective way of actively pursuing the exchange of lessons learned and best practices with the participation of all stakeholders and Habitat Agenda partners.

ABDULLAH KHAMIS AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said the latest international reports on the lack of adequate shelter for millions of people worldwide increased the urgent need to expedite implementation of United Nations resolutions on human settlements.  The Government of the United Arab Emirates was doing its part, giving the issue of human settlement top priority and supporting various housing schemes, including the creation of new cities and villages equipped with modern amenities, a sophisticated network of roads, highways, power plants and running water.  The Government was also donating land for home-building and providing grants, house plans and long-term loans, and free housing for low-income citizens.

He noted that while the United Nations worked to improve the living conditions of millions of people in developing countries, the global community was witnessing the killing of Palestinian people and destruction of their cities and villages by Israeli forces.  He called for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and implementation of United Nations resolutions concerning the Palestine question.  The United Arab Emirates was providing financial and humanitarian aid to many poor countries in crisis for the reconstruction of home, hospital, school, and mosque infrastructure, including the Jenin Refugee Camp and a residential city in the Gaza Strip.

GRACE WANYONYI (Kenya) said that the implementation of the Habitat Agenda had not met her country’s expectations.  Noting the gap between commitments made at Istanbul and the political will to fulfil them, as well as widespread poverty, inadequate financial resources and the high rate of urbanization, especially in developing countries, and the inadequate capacities in the Habitat Secretariat to coordinate activities, she said the programme needed adequate and predictable funding to allow it to fulfil its mandate.  That would mean developing mechanisms to reduce its reliance on unpredictable voluntary contributions.  There was a need to strengthen Habitat and the Human Settlements Foundation to serve as a source of seed capital for programme implementation, and to support housing and infrastructure development programmes, as well as housing finance institutions, particularly in developing countries.

With regard to urban governance, she said Kenya’s Ministry of Local Government was implementing decentralization and strengthening local authorities. The Local Authority Transfer Fund Programme aimed to decentralize management of local authority resources.  The management of those resources was being streamlined to improve efficiency and the Government was also preparing a decentralization policy, which would define the powers, functions, roles and duties of local authorities and their reporting relationships with the central Government.

IRENA ZUBCEVIC (Croatia) welcomed the creation of the three-tiered intergovernmental mechanism comprising the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Governing Council of UN-Habitat to strengthen coordination and coherence for implementing the Habitat Agenda.  Croatia was doing its part by creating the Croatian National Habitat Committee, a broad-based platform for national and local-level preparation and implementation of work plans based on the Habitat Agenda.

In addition, the Committee had proposed the inclusion of UN-Habitat methodology into the Programme of Statistical Research by the National Institute of Statistics as of 2003, she said.  Four pilot projects were under way, including a regional project and three city projects.  The results of those projects would contribute to the development of the country-specific indicators necessary for urban governance.  The Committee would then recommend that the Croatian Government use the indicators in national and local human settlement agendas, the gathering of statistics and projects, she said.

MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) said the Johannesburg World Summit had reaffirmed the importance of the Habitat Agenda, the campaigns for secure tenure and urban governance as well as identified the provision of shelter as one of the critical interventions and an important dimension of poverty eradication.  The international community’s new target of halving the proportion of people without access to adequate sanitation by 2015 would complement existing development goals and the Summit had also recognized the special difficulties faced by African countries in implementing the Habitat Agenda and the Istanbul Declaration.  He called on the international community to provide African countries with support to strengthen national and local capacities in sustainable urbanization and human settlements.

South Africa remained committed to the Habitat Agenda, he continued.  The Government had continued to make strides towards the goal of providing adequate shelter and improving human settlements, a formidable task, given the challenges facing the country.  During the past seven years, more than 1 million houses with individual tenure had been provided to the poor in both the rural and urban areas.  Basic services like sanitation, water, shelter, electricity and land had also been provided to a large portion of the population, who had never had access to those services in the past.

ANTHONY ROLLE (Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the group's member States continued to face multiple challenges in implementing the Habitat Agenda, which included macroeconomic transformation of the region in response to globalization, increasing social inequality, the rapid spread of squatter settlements and the informal housing sector, and the lack of funds for housing.  The threat of natural disasters like hurricanes posed further difficulties for the region, particularly regarding reconstruction of property and access to insurance. 

He highlighted the need for efficiently managed building codes, in compliance with the needs of lower-income households, and for an integrated approach to resolve human settlements and shelter problems.  CARICOM supported an integrated development-planning model to foster comprehensive sustainable development planning.  The group also welcomed the capacity-building and technical cooperation of the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, and called for further assistance to develop effective land polices and land management systems.

ENCHO GOSPODINOV, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the Federation was particularly concerned with the relentless migration of rural populations to urban areas, particularly in developing countries.  By 2006, the majority of the world’s people was expected to be living in urban areas.  That movement would almost inevitably spur a proliferation of substandard housing and poor planning, which would lead to inadequate health care, education and employment.

At present, less than 25 per cent of urban areas worldwide were planned, she noted, urging governments to establish clearer building codes that would incorporate minimum housing standards.  They should also establish infrastructure design that would include risk reduction and land-use planning; adequate transitional housing for people left homeless by natural disasters or urban relocation; and improved inter-agency collaboration on related issues.

CAROLINE LEWIS, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that joint efforts by the ILO and UN-Habitat in implementing the Habitat Agenda through practical partnerships had made significant progress in improving the lot of the urban poor.  For example, the first in a series of subregional workshops on human settlements had been held early in November in Nairobi.  Entitled “Better Services and More Jobs”, the workshop was intended to bring municipal directors and national support agencies together to share good practices in improved urban service delivery and job creation.

She said that at the country level, the ILO was collaborating with UN‑Habitat on existing programmes and new initiatives in the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Cambodia and Afghanistan.  The ILO would begin an important work programme based on the conclusions and recommendations of the 2002 International Labour Conference on the informal economy, including such themes as access to property and labour rights, promotion of gender equality, improved social protections, and better local regulations and procedures for creating and fostering small enterprises.

MOHAMMED IBRAHIM (Nigeria) said his country supported the reforms undertaken to strengthen UN-Habitat, especially those aimed at adopting developmental goals and norms relevant to implementing the Habitat Agenda and the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium and the Millennium Declaration.  He noted that while the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure was designed to spearhead global shelter, its success would depend on the respect it showed for cultural diversity and belief systems.  As Habitat prepared and continued to launch its policy papers around the world, it was hoped that the programme would consider cultural diversities, belief systems and national legislation.

Agreeing with the view that there was a need to understand the economics of slums, he said that without access to land, credit and employment, the provision of adequate housing would remain a mirage.  As the most recent indicators on human development had shown, poverty was rising in many developing countries.  Thus, the efforts of Habitat to develop and strengthen housing finance systems as well as to enhance productivity in the urban informal sector were commendable.

But while such efforts must be sustained, it was doubtful that Habitat could make a dent in light of its dwindling resource base, he said.  The bulk of general contributions to the Habitat Foundation came from the voluntary contributions of a few countries, while general purpose contributions were unpredictable and small.  Although such contributions had doubled in 2001 from an average of $3.6 million to $7.3 million, more than 80 per cent of them came from eight countries and one country alone had contributed 40 per cent of the amount.  It was equally worrisome that even special purpose contributions, which were often made with conditions and earmarked for specific purposes, were not predictable.

ABDOU AL-MOULA NAKKARI (Syria) said that coordination between UN-Habitat and UNDP was encouraging, as was UN-Habitat’s upgrade to a United Nations programme.  Still, insufficient financing thwarted progress in implementing  the Habitat Agenda.  He said it would be very advantageous to listen to and review UN‑Habitat’s findings and proposals to improve living conditions for 100 million people by 2020.  Human settlements planning and implementation should be carried out in a thoughtful and deliberate way.

He said the occupying Power in the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Arab Golan, which had destroyed homes, schools, hospitals and religious buildings, were in violation of United Nations human settlements policies and all the Organization’s human rights conventions.  He called for an end of the premeditated destruction of Palestinian villages and for compliance with United Nations resolutions regarding the question of Palestine. 

Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of Israel said terrorism was indiscriminate and had been felt by all States in the Middle East region.  The current predicament facing the Palestinian people was a conscious decision on their own part to forego negotiations aimed at resolving the land dispute in favour of terrorism.

In response, the representative of Syria dismissed the Israeli representative’s claims as invalid and largely discredited by the international community.  The real cause of the Middle East conflict was the occupation, he said, pointing out that the recent destruction by Israeli forces of the Jenin refugee camp was one of the most flagrant examples of human rights violations committed by the occupying Power.

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For information media. Not an official record.