HABITAT CHIEF TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE OF LOOMING NEED FOR PRO-POOR MORTGAGE FINANCING AS POVERTY THREATENS LIVING STANDARDS IN WORLD’S CITIES

26 October 2006
GA/EF/3160

HABITAT CHIEF TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE OF LOOMING NEED FOR PRO-POOR MORTGAGE FINANCING AS POVERTY THREATENS LIVING STANDARDS IN WORLD’S CITIES

26 October 2006
General Assembly
GA/EF/3160
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Second Committee

21st & 22nd Meetings (AM & PM)


HABITAT CHIEF TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE OF LOOMING NEED FOR PRO-POOR MORTGAGE


FINANCING AS POVERTY THREATENS LIVING STANDARDS IN WORLD’S CITIES


Traditional Urban Housing Solutions Unrealistic

Due to Scarce Funding, Delegates Hear in Discussion on Human Settlements


Pro-poor mortgage financing would soon be needed in urban areas, since poverty -- no longer a rural problem –- now threatened the living standards of many in the world’s cities, Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today.


Reporting on the Programme’s progress, as part of the Committee’s wider discussion on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and the strengthening of UN-HABITAT, Ms. Tibaijuka said that, in several rapidly urbanizing countries, slums were growing at a rate almost equal to that of urban population growth.  That implied that the vast majority of those born in cities, as well as those who migrated into them, would be living in life-threatening conditions, marked by malnutrition rates higher than those found in rural areas.


She said that new rules, effective since August, meant that UN-HABITAT could finally act as a catalyst, enabling countries to meet the slum upgrading and water and sanitation targets of 2015.  Those changes to the financial rules governing the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation -- established by the General Assembly in 1974 to provide Member States with policy guidance, technical assistance, global monitoring and advocacy on human settlements -- had left her feeling optimistic, though only guardedly so.  “A key determinant to the effectiveness of our action was missing, namely the ability to go to scale.  The revised rules and regulations governing the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation enable the United Nations system to finally address this structural shortcoming.”


The revisions enabled the Foundation to provide support in the key area of affordable housing finance, she said.  That support included pro-poor mortgage financing systems, now being tested in the field, as an alternative to conventional social housing solutions.  In a short discussion with delegates, following her introduction of two reports by the Secretary-General, relating to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, she said that traditional solutions, such as building homes from scratch, had proven unrealistic, due to a lack of funds.


Nigeria’s representative was among many speakers who voiced agreement with the Executive Director, saying that rapid urbanization was a challenge to Africa in particular, as the continent with the fastest urban growth rate.  As indicated in the State of the World’s Cities report for 2006-2007, more people would live in cities than in rural areas, by next year.  That unprecedented growth was taking place at a time of worsening living conditions, pervasive poverty, unemployment and debilitating diseases.


Against that backdrop, Nigeria called for pro-poor urban policies, effective legislation, adequate budgetary allocations and multisectoral approaches to slum upgrading, he said.  Contrary to the view that central Governments should play only a minimal role, there was a compelling need for active governmental involvement, in tandem with the private sector.  The Nigerian Government, for example, had launched a water and sanitation forum aimed at providing access to safe and adequate clean water supply and sanitation, which brought together many stakeholders.


Sri Lanka’s delegate blamed the world’s “collective failure” to come to terms with rapid growth and globalization for the swelling number of disempowered urban poor, noting that most of them lacked access to health and education and were exposed to HIV/AIDS and other diseases.  A plural democracy and respect for the rule of law, human rights and civil liberties -- supported by sound economic performance and efficient local self-government -- were needed, if societies were to build sustainable human settlements, while protecting the environment.  Sri Lanka’s constitution guaranteed the right to adequate shelter, and the national home-ownership ratio stood at 80 per cent.


The representative of Bangladesh added that the expanding urban population caused overcrowding, uncertain employment and a deterioration in the provision of basic services, like water and sanitation.  Sustainable urbanization, therefore, was currently the world’s most pressing challenge, especially since slum populations were expected to grow, at an annual rate of 27 million people, during the period 2000-2020.  UN-HABITAT’s strategic framework for 2006-2007 had sought to use a more effective participatory and transparent management system, and Bangladesh had undertaken a programme called “Local Partnerships for Urban Poverty Alleviation” to help the poor find secure places to live near their workplaces.


Also speaking on the human settlement issue today, were the representatives of South Africa (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), the Russian Federation, India, China, Kenya, Pakistan, Colombia and Ethiopia.


A representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.


Earlier in the day, the Committee concluded its discussion on sustainable development, with delegates making it abundantly clear that, unless Governments began viewing environmental protection as an integral part of national development, there would be little left to fuel future economic growth.


Uganda’s representative said maps drawn from space, by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), showed extensive land degradation around Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest body of fresh water.  Since that lake supported some of the densest and poorest populations in East Africa -- amounting to some 30 million people -– besides providing a lifeline to Sudan and Egypt via the River Nile, global commitment to sustainable development may arrive too late to correct the deteriorating situation.


He said other space maps, by UNEP, had corroborated the seriousness of the Eastern African drought from which Kenya, Tanzania and his own country were just emerging.  The drop in Lake Victoria’s water level would affect hydroelectric power production, upon which Uganda relied heavily on, for energy.  Meanwhile, the sharp rise in oil prices had made the oil alternative increasingly untenable, provoking energy insecurity issues and prompting more people to resort to firewood.  The environment agenda, therefore, was not a “stand alone” issue, but one that was integral to national development.  With global supplies of oil and water declining, tensions were bound to grow, making energy and climate policies crucial to global security, cooperation and partnership.


A representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union said that a resolution passed by that body’s Assembly, in Nairobi, last spring and circulated in the General Assembly, marked the first time that parliamentarians agreed that budgets should be looked at through the prism of the environment.  In that text, the Union resolved to promote sustainable procurement and encourage Governments to include, in their budgets, clear indications of the financial and non-financial costs of environmental degradation and the benefits of ecosystem services.


She said such “green budgets” were different from traditional ones because they occasioned a rethinking of the way in which public funds were counted and managed.  Hopefully, the Nairobi resolution would be taken on board in IPU member countries, while a training programme for parliamentarians on environmental issues, further exposed them to concrete applications of green-budget principles.


Delegates also touched on several other sustainable development topics today, including disaster management, combating desertification through reforestation and protecting marine ecosystems.


Also speaking on sustainable development were the representatives of Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Belize, Mauritius, the Philippines, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Switzerland, the Marshall Islands, Monaco, Iraq, Mexico, Bolivia, Norway, Kuwait, Oman, Libya and Sudan.


The representatives of Indonesia and Singapore spoke in exercise of the right of reply, regarding the problem of transboundary haze in South-east Asia.


Other speakers included representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).


In other business, the Committee heard the introduction of draft resolutions on the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian and other people in occupied Arab Territories over their natural resources, and on international migration and development.


The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 30 October, to discuss the desertification aspect of sustainable development.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to begin its consideration of the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), and to conclude its general discussion on sustainable development.


Before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on Implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).


The report (document A/61/262) states that since the 2005 World Summit,

UN-HABITAT has been realigning its work to provide Member States with a more integrated approach to monitoring, policy development, capacity-building and mobilization of financial resources to support the Habitat Agenda, the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, and the human settlements-related targets of the Millennium Development Goals.  Special attention is focused on targets 10 and 11 of Goal 7, which calls for slashing, by half, the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015, and improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.  Attention is also focused on paragraph 56 (m) of the 2005 World Summit Outcome (General Assembly resolution 60/1), which recognizes the urgent need of more resources for affordable housing and infrastructure, prioritizing slum prevention and upgrading.


According to the report, the State of the World’s Citiesreport for

2006-2007 provided, for the first time, concrete evidence that the rapidly growing ranks of urban poor are frequently worse off than their rural counterparts, in terms of health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS and other diseases.  Further data shows that, in most rapidly urbanizing countries and regions, the rate of slum formation is almost the same as that of urban growth.  And by 2007, when more than half the world’s population will live in cities, one of every three will live in life-threatening slum conditions.


Among its recommendations, the report encourages Governments to give the highest priority to integrating slum upgrading and slum prevention into their national development strategies and poverty reduction strategy papers for reaching the Millennium Development Goals.  Governments are also encouraged to support the normative and capacity-building activities of UN-HABITAT, at the country level, by working with the agency’s Programme Managers to promote slum upgrading, affordable shelter and housing finance, as an integral part of their strategies.  Another recommendation encourages Governments to work closely with UN-HABITAT to watch slum formation and urban poverty trends, as a way to adopt urban strategies and policies that are sensitive to the poor and to women, with the goal of improving the slum living conditions, in accordance with targets 10 and 11 of Millennium Development Goal 7.


A further recommendation calls on Governments that are able to do so to increase non-earmarked, predictable funding and regular budget resources to help implement the Habitat Agenda, the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, targets 10 and 11 of Millennium Development Goals 7, and paragraph 56 (m) of the 2005 World Summit Outcome.  Governments, financial institutions and other public and private entities are encouraged to provide capital to the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation, as a way to provide financial and seed-capital support for slum upgrading and slum prevention, as well as water and sanitation for the urban poor.  Energy should be considered a driving force for more sustainable and socially just development, and that the provision of clean water and improved sanitation must be seen as key ways to give the poor equal access to affordable, clean and safe energy, in the policy discussions at the fifteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.


Also before the Committee was a note, by the Secretary-General (document A/61/363), transmitting his report to the Economic and Social Council on Coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2006/71), which highlights the urgent need for Governments and the international community to mainstream the urban agenda, at the global, national and local levels and in their respective development assistance frameworks.  Among its recommendations, the report encourages Governments to mainstream the urban agenda, as they develop and implement comprehensive national development strategies to achieve the commitments of the Habitat Agenda and the Millennium Development Goals.  Governments are also invited to work with UN-HABITAT’s integrated and multi-stakeholder approach, in implementing pro-poor housing, water and sanitation and urban development, to scale-up slum prevention and slum improvement, and ensure the effective participation of local authorities, the private sector and civil society.


The report also encourages Governments that are able to support UN-HABITAT’s integrated and concerted approach to monitoring, capacity-building and financing, with increased non-earmarked contributions to the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation and its slum upgrading facility.  Governments are encouraged to designate a single focal point for urban affairs in their work with United Nations country teams, as a way to boost cohesive international support for attaining the Habitat Agenda and the Millennium Development Goals in urban areas.


Introduction of Reports


ANNA TIBAIJUKA, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on Implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) (document A/61/262) and the note (document A/61/363)transmitting his report, to the Economic and Social Council, on the Coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2006/71).


Describing her sense of urgency, she said it stemmed from the findings of recent research, and from evidence that more than 1 billion people living in slums suffered from levels of malnutrition that were similar or worse than those found in rural areas.  The sense of urgency was heightened by the combined trend of rapid urbanization and the urbanization of poverty.  A guarded optimism stemmed from two events that had occurred during the reporting period:  the third session of the World Urban Forum, held in Vancouver, to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of UN-HABITAT; and the Secretary-General’s promulgation of the revised financial regulations and rules governing the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation, effective as of 1 August 2006.


The revised rules would enable the United Nations system, finally, to address a structural shortcoming and enable the Foundation to provide support in the key area of affordable housing finance, she said.  They would also enable the United Nations system to begin to respond to paragraph 56(m) of the 2005 World Summit Outcome and its call for urgent action, to prevent the future growth of slums.  Meeting the slum upgrading target and preventing future slum growth would require an annual investment of $20 billion, from the present until 2020.  The only way to meet the slum challenge was to mobilize domestic capital for investment in pro-poor housing and urban development.  UN-HABITAT was designing and field-testing pro-poor housing finance systems, under the slum upgrading facility.


Questions and Answers


Following the introduction of reports, the representative of Brazil asked whether the Executive Director had any concrete measures in mind to improve the synergy within UN-HABITAT.


Ms. TIBAIJUKA replied that the future of the world was urban.  For instance, Latin America was now 75 per cent urbanized -– a process that had slowly taken place over the last 30 years.  By 2030, Africa would cease to be a rural continent, as would Asia, by 2040.  Hopefully, the United Nations reform process would prepare it to meet the challenge of urban poverty.  As an agency focusing on sustainable urban development, UN-HABITAT must strengthen its work in urban living, especially in the establishment of affordable, pro-poor mortgage financing systems.  UN-HABITAT was now field-testing mechanisms to deliver such financial systems because conventional social housing solutions were not realistic, due to a lack of funds.


The representative of Venezuela said UN-HABITAT should initiate a Programme to take care of the needs of Latin American urbanites.  Venezuela itself had a Programme whereby people living in marginalized urban areas were directly consulted, regarding their water and electricity problems.  Suggestions were obtained from them about ways to improve their living situation.  Perhaps UN-HABITAT could develop a Programme along those lines.


The Committee then resumed its general discussion on sustainable development.


Statements


BENEDICT L. LUKWIYA (Uganda), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), about 150,000 square kilometres of land around Lake Victoria -- Africa’s largest body of fresh water -– was being affected by soil degradation.  With some 30 million people living around it, the lake supported some of the densest and poorest populations, not to mention the lifeline it provided to Sudan and Egypt, through the River Nile.  The deepening global commitment to sustainable development might materialize too late to correct that situation.


He said UNEP’s view of environmental changes, as seen from space, had also corroborated the serious drought situation in Eastern Africa, from which Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were just emerging.  The drop in Lake Victoria’s water level would affect hydroelectric power production, upon which Uganda relied heavily.  Meanwhile, the sharp rise in oil prices had made the oil alternative increasingly untenable, provoking energy insecurity issues and prompting more people to resort to the use of firewood.

Noting that the natural ecosystem contributed directly to the region’s economy and livelihood, he said the production of bricks, charcoal, clay pots and reed baskets, in addition to free-ranging livestock, fisheries and tourism were all natural-resource-based economic activities, worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and mostly generated by the poor.  The environment agenda, therefore, was not a “stand alone” issue, but one that was integral to national development.  Addressing environmental degradation, together with poverty alleviation, was therefore a contemporary imperative requiring global cooperation and partnership.  With global supplies of oil and water on the decrease, tensions were bound to grow, making energy and climate policies crucial for global security.


JUAN CARLOS GONZALEZ ( Venezuela), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Rio Group, said his country was deeply committed to internationally agreed environmental goals.  The developed countries had a responsibility for the deterioration of the environment and they should share their technology resources, in helping the developing world.  Energy was an important part of Venezuela’s development and, in the interest of environmental conservation it had created the Arbol Mission to plant 20 million trees, allocating $10 million for that project.


Noting that his country was rich in biodiversity, he said the Convention on Biological Diversity was an instrument to ensure the just use of genetic resources and to preserve those, as well as other resources, such as marine resources.  Rapid capitalization had destroyed the planet’s resources and hurt the quality of human life, and any international accords should protect sovereign national rights, as countries protected their natural resources.


VERONICA GOMEZ (Ecuador), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the Rio Group, said natural disaster reduction should be viewed as a pillar of sustainable development, which the United Nations should tackle urgently.  Ecuador hoped that the international community would work hard, for the full implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action on disaster management, using a global platform, where all Member States could participate actively with international financial organizations, civil society and the United Nations.  Meanwhile, a comprehensive approach to increasing regional capacity was needed to maximize the impact of international activities.


She said her country fully supported the international centre for research, devoted to the El Nino phenomenon.  Ecuador thanked the international community for its support in helping to advance the centre’s training and information programmes, and in improving its response capacity.  Affected countries urgently needed the centre’s continued help, and Member States were invited to provide added financial support.  Indeed, the international community should commit itself fully to confronting obstacles to sustainable growth, as climate change was proving to be.


JANINE FELSON (Belize), speaking on behalf of the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and aligning herself with the Alliance of Small Island States and the Group of 77 developing countries, said that the ocean and coastal environment was a valuable development resource for small island developing States.  As such, countries in the Caribbean region had agreed on a legal framework for the protection and development of the marine environment of the wider Caribbean, under the Cartagena Convention and its Protocols.  Further, the interdependence of those countries, stemming from their shared use of the sea for development, called for a framework of cooperation in the effective management of that resource, consistent with international law, and CARICOM was grateful to the United Nations for supporting those aims.  Meanwhile, the sea initiative had proposed a definition of the sea as a “Special Area”, and the international community should act, preferably during this session, to finally declare that the case.


On climate change and sea level rise, she said more aggressive action was needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including through efforts, on the part of developed countries, to ensure sustainable patterns of energy consumption.  For its part, CARICOM had undertaken a regional initiative, through the establishment of the Caribbean Renewable Energy Programme, to remove barriers to the use of renewable energy.  Also, the World Bank had given a grant to three island countries ( Dominica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), to mainstream climate change adaptation strategies into their development agendas, helped by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize.  Finally, CARICOM welcomed the launch of the Central Emergency Response Fund, given that the Caribbean nations were especially prone to hurricanes and tropical storms.


SOMDUTH SOBORUN (Mauritius), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that member countries of the community, had adopted a Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan, which set a common economic vision for Southern Africa, and had optimized the use of available energy resources, through the Southern Africa Power Pool.  However, many people in the region still lacked access to energy, including new and renewable sources, because of weak infrastructure, combined with volatility in international markets for oil, gas and coal.  It went without saying that the community still needed technical and financial support from the international community.  Similarly, it was deplorable that, 15 years after the Rio World Summit, small island developing States continued to make the same appeals for financial resources and for access to affordable and appropriate technology and capacity building, to implement the Mauritius Strategy.


On disaster reduction, he said there was a need to ensure that the United Nations Trust Fund for Disaster Reduction had the necessary financial resources to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action.  Obstacles to international cooperation, including in technology transfer, must be removed, using the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol as the legal means to do so.  Countries should also consider investments in energy efficiency, such as the integrated gasification combined cycles, whose efficiencies were at least 25 per cent greater than traditional coal-fired power plants.  There was also a need to strive for the effective use of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the related Protocol on Biosafety, so that the risks posed by bio-technology, on the environment and human health, were kept at the lowest possible level.


LESLIE B. GATAN (Philippines), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Philippine Government had been promoting a policy to achieve energy independence, by increasing the use of indigenous and renewable energy resources, increasing the use of alternative fuels and enhancing energy-efficiency and conservation programmes.  The Philippines called international attention to the recurring energy security issue.


Turning to natural disasters, he said the country was moving towards an integrated and holistic disaster-risk management framework, to guide the national and local disaster risk management action plan.  It needed increased assistance, from the international community, to make its Programme a success.


PARK CHUN-KYOO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said international efforts should be coordinated, in order to make environmental sustainability a key factor in all efforts towards attaining other Millennium Development Goals, such as the eradication of poverty.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea looked forward to the report of the High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and the Environment.


He said the UNEP should take the initiative in coordinating United Nation environmental activities and his country expected the agency to provide policy guidance and set priorities, based on hard science, while considering the implications for technological support and capacity building.


ULADZIMIR GERUS ( Belarus) said his country supported the international sustainable development movement and had developed a national sustainable economic development strategy, covering the period 2002-2005.  But much more should be done to increase international cooperation on the sustainable use of energy in industrial development and in reducing atmospheric pollution.  Belarus also supported efforts to implement the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, in relation to Central Europe and the drought-stricken countries of Africa.


The outcome of the sixth Forum on Forests was also much appreciated, especially its Declaration to protect the quality of forests and enhance forest use for development, he said.  In August 2005, Belarus had acceded to the Kyoto Protocol and the Climate Change Convention.  Earlier, the country had announced its willingness to meet its greenhouse gas reduction requirements, by at least 95 per cent, since reducing emissions by 100 per cent was difficult for a transition economy like Belarus.


HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA ( Azerbaijan), associating herself with the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova, or GUAM), said it was imperative that the international community implement the commitments made under various conventions and provide adequate resources.  It was regrettable that, in 2006, when the international community was observing the International Year of Deserts and Desertification, Azerbaijan had faced massive fires in its occupied territories.  The country asked all relevant stakeholders, including the secretariats of the various conventions, to complement domestic efforts to implement measures to address the impact of the fires, which had spread over more than 600 square kilometres of Azerbaijan’s territory, destroying productive soil.


HEIDI GRAU ( Switzerland) said the Commission on Sustainable Development should not content itself with issuing appeals for greater promotion of efficient energy use, renewable sources and cleaner fossil fuels, but aim, also, at creating conditions to encourage investment in sustainable production and consumption of energy.


Concerning the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, she invited all stakeholders in the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 to seek innovative solutions for financing disaster-risk reduction activities.  The Strategy’s inter-agency secretariat needed predictable financing via an annual allocation from the regular United Nations budget, an investment that would give concrete form to the political commitments undertaken with the Framework’s adoption.  Member States should give that option favourable consideration, in preparing the Organization’s bi-annual budget.


Switzerland was pleased that the Secretary-General had linked disaster-risk-reduction activities and climactic change adaptation programmes, she said, adding that international environmental governance must be reinforced, through the process of strengthening of the UNEP and, in the longer term, upgrading its status.  In the initial stages, universal participation in UNEP activities could be envisaged, according to modalities to be defined, to allow all States the possibility to submit proposals and participate actively in the Agency’s work.


ALFRED CAPELLE ( Marshall Islands) reiterated critical concern about climate change, noting that a growing scientific consensus and the visible impact of recent disasters had underscored the fact that small island developing States were the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, despite contributing least to the problem.  Sea-level rise threatened the very existence of the Marshall Islands, with its tiny land area and low-lying atolls.  That challenge was shared by many other low-lying Pacific island nations, and the loss of their collective environment and cultural resources was of global concern.


Strong leadership was required by the major industrialized countries, he said, calling upon all States, in particular the major emitters, to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, without delay.  The Marshall Islands supported the Climate Change Convention and looked forward to the twelfth Conference of the Parties to the Convention, where it was to be hoped, a stronger international commitment to address the causes of climate change and mitigate its effects would emerge.


He expressed concern about the exploitation of the world’s oceans and fish stocks, noting that his country’s single most important productive sector and key export was fisheries.  The country was very concerned about the prevalence of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and the adverse effects of destructive fishing, in areas that had a high concentration of underwater seamounts and vulnerable ecosystems.  Greater regional and international cooperation was needed to address those practices.


VALÉRIE BRUELL-MELCHIOR ( Monaco) recalled that Prince Albert II had set up a foundation for environmental protection and sustainable development, in June, signifying the principality’s determination to shoulder its responsibilities in combating climate change, preserving biodiversity and conserving water.  He had also travelled to the North Pole by dog sleigh, to draw attention to global warming.  It was under his urging that Monaco had ratified the Kyoto Protocol and approved the guidelines on flexibility mechanisms.  Accordingly, Monaco hoped to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 8 per cent of the 1990s levels. 


Monaco also believed that the Convention to Combat Desertification should be strengthened, especially with the drought-stricken countries of Africa in mind, she said.  In partnership with local authorities in North and sub-Saharan Africa, the Government had set up and helped to finance reforestation programmes in those regions.  Monaco also supported Brazil’s call to proclaim 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity.


RAGHAD ALI HASSAN (Iraq), associating herself with the Group of 77, said achieving sustainable development, through the Millennium Development Goals, was a major challenge for developing countries.  They must strike a balance between social and economic development on the one hand, and creating appropriate institutions to support the environment on the other.


He said the international community must allow a transfer of technology to enable the integration of developing countries into the world economy.  Iraq was suffering from backwardness in basic services like electricity, due to terrorist attacks on electric supplies.  The country called on the international community and allied countries to help its country rise again, through a general partnership to overcome the difficulties standing in the way of its economic growth.


BENITO JIMÉNEZ SAUMA ( Mexico), aligning himself with the Rio Group, said his country had submitted its third inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the dictates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Mexico was also due to submit its third national report, at the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention in Kenya, next month, and would be the first non-Annex 1 country to do so.  Combating climate change should involve all stakeholders, and Mexico was pleased that a dialogue had taken place, at a recent gathering of environment ministers, at Gleneagles, to discuss the economic challenges of confronting climate change and raising the needed financial investments.


He said his country was mostly arid or semi-arid, making desertification an issue of direct relevance.  During a regional meeting in Panama, in July, Mexico had submitted its third national report on implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification, in which it had discussed the creation of new laws and institutions, as well as other activities to combat land degradation.  For instance, it had succeeded in the reforestation of 195,000 hectares.  On disaster management, there was a need to increase action on the Hyogo Framework.  Having suffered numerous disasters, Mexico had learned to develop early warning systems for tropical hurricanes, seismic activity and volcanic eruptions.


GUSTAVO MURILLO CARRASCO ( Bolivia), associating himself with the Rio Group, said his country was committed to the protection of the environment.  The new government was dedicated to fighting poverty and inequality, and to creating jobs.  It had a development plan that would improve the quality of life for all citizens, as it protected the environment.


There had been a deterioration of biodiversity, caused by the export of genetic resources and destruction of forests, he said.  Those losses had affected the livelihoods of many indigenous communities.  Bolivia had placed a priority on the protection of its biodiversity and it was making strategic alliances with similarly minded States to protect biodiversity.


Bolivia had great biological wealth, including 20,000 species of plants, and wished to improve the quality of life for its indigenous peoples.  It also wished to protect any products, such as foods, pigments, fibres and medicines, made from the country’s natural resources.


LARS ALSAKER ( Norway) said it was the 1987 Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, that had placed sustainable development on the international agenda, and Norway was pleased to see its principles widely accepted, almost 20 years later.  The Commission on Sustainable Development should lead follow-up efforts to the Rio and Johannesburg Summits, by making use of its strongest assets:  agenda-setting, initiating processes taken up at other forums and highlighting linkages between the environment and development, and other cross-cutting issues.  In fact, the Commission’s last two-year cycle was a good example of energy being addressed, in a comprehensive manner, by the linking of climate change, environmental degradation, air pollution and health effects to the fostering of economic growth and poverty reduction.


He said greenhouse gasses had accumulated to such a degree, that the question was no longer one of avoiding climate change, but rather of curtailing its negative impacts.  It was imperative to create a truly global regime to reduce emissions, in which all major emitters would participate.  It must be put in place as soon as possible to avoid any gap after the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.  Being responsible for less than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, countries that had made emission commitments, under the Kyoto Protocol, would be unable to achieve that objective on their own.


Norway welcomed the inclusion of the 2010 Biodiversity Target as part of the Millennium Development Goal on environmental sustainability, because it lent an air of environmental credibility to the Goals, he said.  The international community must work together to develop sharing systems for the benefits of genetic resources, as outlined in the Convention on Biological Diversity.  As such, progress on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was a welcome attempt to increase food security, through the use of genetic material.


MOHAMMAD AL-HAJREY ( Kuwait) said his country was working actively to achieve sustainable development and had improved the quality of life.  Average income was at the level of some nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Kuwait, consistently, ranked high in recent human development indices.  The country had already achieved progress, with regards to the Millennium Development Goals, including its efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty, improve education and literacy, reduce infant mortality, and control AIDS.


Concerning the eighth Millennium Development Goal on partnership for development, Kuwait had created foundations to support development and provided financial resources, he said.  The country was forging ahead, in its efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goals, which was a challenge to developing States.  It would also do its utmost, within international partnerships and at all levels, to achieve permanent peace and security for future generations.


IBRAHIM AL GAZALI ( Oman), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said his country had taken pains, since the 1970s, to include environmental issues in its national strategies, based on a Government-citizen partnership.  Its strategy sought to preserve the ecosystem, in accordance with international treaties like the Convention to Combat Desertification, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the Climate Change Convention, and others.


Oman was also aware of the need for sustainable use of resources, and its five-year economic development plan linked development to the environment, he said.  Attention to human development was also important to sustainable development strategy and Oman’s citizens should benefit from opportunities to raise their standard of living, without sabotaging the inheritance of future generations.  But the country required assistance, including financial support from the United Nations, to achieve its objectives.


MOHAMED Al MABROK (Libya), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said some progress had been made in meeting the commitments of recent plans, such as Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, but sustainable development was still a distant dream for developing countries, especially the least developed countries.  They faced many challenges, such as a weakness in their economic infrastructure, and needed more financial resources, as well as technology transfer, which were important to their sustainable development.  There was also a need for greater, more fair and non-discriminatory cooperation between developed and developing countries, in trade and finance.


Stressing the importance of supporting the UNEP and helping the Agency accomplish its tasks in the environmental arena, he underscored, also, the need to develop early warning systems and combat desertification.  Regarding climate change, the international community should show its determination to reduce the dangers it posed through the Kyoto Protocol.  Libya remained committed to the objectives of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.


MAGDI A. MOFADAL (Sudan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the least developed countries and small island developing States were the most vulnerable to disasters, because of their weak institutions and inadequate financial and human resources.  Sudan suffered from 17 types of disasters, including desertification, locust plagues and drought.  The drought that had struck the Sahel region, including Sudan, over the last three decades, was one of the most important causes of conflict in Darfur.  It intensified the competition between nomads and farmers over scarce resources, in a region that was one of the country’s poorest.  Those skirmishes had developed into full-fledged conflicts, showing that disasters and conflicts were closely interlinked and mutually reinforcing.


To help a country like Sudan effectively deal with disasters, he said, the international community should provide assistance in such fields as early warning systems and capacity building.  In order to make it constructive, such support must be comprehensive and provide for assistance in peace support, rehabilitation and reconstruction, debt relief, investment and trade.  Such support would go beyond Sudan’s borders and positively affect the entire region, in terms of food security, poverty eradication and the fight against hunger.


ANDA FILIP, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), noted that it was normally the responsibility of parliaments to debate and, eventually, adopt national budgets.  The Nairobi resolution of the IPU, passed by its Assembly, in the spring, and circulated in the General Assembly, marked the first time that parliamentarians had agreed that budgets should be looked at through the prism of the environment.  In it, the IPU resolved to promote sustainable procurement and encourage Governments to include, in their budgets, clear indications of the financial and non-financial costs of environmental degradation and the benefits of ecosystem services.  Such “green budgets” were different from traditional ones because they brought about a rethinking of the way in which public funds were counted and managed.  The Nairobi text must now be taken on board by IPU member countries, while a training programme for parliamentarians, on environmental issues, would further expose them to concrete applications of green budget principles.

ENCHO GOSPODINOV, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said disasters could wipe out years of development in a single stroke, but good preparedness, including programmes based on sustainable development, at the community level, could help diminish their impact.  The IRFC’s Vulnerability and Capacity Assessments Programme created a clear understanding of what was needed, what tools were available and what must be done to create conditions for sustainable development.  Meanwhile, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, located in The Hague and supported by the Netherlands Red Cross, played a key role in sharing knowledge and expertise.


He said no single element threatened a community’s sustainability more than disease.  Whole nations in Africa, impacted by HIV/AIDS, were already mired in social and economic disaster that would endure for generations.  Many countries in Asia and Europe were threatened with the same fate, even though some were still unwilling to face that reality through concrete programmes.  Avian and human flu posed the same threat.  The IFRC worked, tirelessly, with the United Nations, the World Health Organization and other partners to address those threats, making use of its unique nature as an organization based inside communities.  Indeed, no disaster or health programme could be effective without widespread stakeholder involvement.


K. BHAGWAT-SINGH, International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), said the Union looked to the United Nations and its Member States to provide structural and policy support for the conservation of natural resources and environmental issues, and welcomed the growing recognition of the importance of disaster reduction, within the international system.  The IUCN advocated an approach to the problem of desertification that was organized around water and its relationship to land degradation.  The Convention to Combat Desertification should develop a work programme that stressed the linkages between water development and drylands ecology.


Concerning the Convention on Biological Diversity, he welcomed the outcome of the Conference of the Parties held in Curitiba, Brazil, in March, saying the IUCN supported its proposal, to the General Assembly, to declare 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity.  The progress made by the Conference of the Parties in advancing negotiations relating to the international regime on access and benefit sharing was critical to achieving greater sustainability and equity in the use of biodiversity.  The IUCN also welcomed the results of the ninth special session of UNEP’s Governing Council, held in February, in Dubai, as well as the progress made on the issue of chemicals management, through the adoption of the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management.


HASSAN H. BAHLOULI, Senior Adviser, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), New York, said the issue of energy had been central to the Agency’s activities for more than 30 years.  In its work, UNIDO collaborated with Governments, the Global Environmental Facility and UNEP, and had recommended the use of renewable energy by industry, as well as in rural areas.  With regard to water conservation, UNIDO had highlighted the importance of reducing the consumption of water and recycling what had already been used.  UNIDO assisted coastal nations in renewing their fish stocks, by eliminating industrial and household pollution in the water, he said.  It was also active in pointing out the dangers posed, by pollution, to the ozone layer, and was the second agency to accede to the Montreal Protocol, after the World Bank.  Much work had also been done on the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Rights of Reply


The representative of Indonesia, speaking in the exercise of the right of reply, expressed serious concern about the Singapore delegate’s statement during yesterday’s discussion on sustainable development, saying it made unnecessary and misleading references to Indonesia.  The Government of Indonesia was strongly committed to addressing the haze caused by land and forest fires.  It had channelled resources, from local governments and other relevant institutions, to put out as many of them as possible and prevent their recurrence.


She said her country was vigorously enforcing environmental protection and sustainable development laws.  It had set aside $10 million for cloud-seeding and fire-fighting operations and leased two Russian fire-fighting aircraft for that purpose.  Unfortunately, the unusually long dry season and the late arrival of the rainy season had frustrated its best efforts, but Indonesia would persevere in those operations.


It was counterproductive for Singapore to disparage the earnest efforts of the President of Indonesia, its Cabinet and Parliament to solve the problem, she said.  Singapore’s “badgering” was tantamount to interference in Indonesia’s domestic affairs, which was regrettable.  Indeed, the Government was open to any initiative that would maximize cooperation within the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), but no substantive cooperation had been realized, so far.


There were many bilateral issues, between the two countries, of which the environment was just one, she said.  Singapore would do well, for instance, to pay due attention to issues of great concern to Indonesia, such as the use of Singapore’s territory as a safe haven for corruptors of Indonesian origin.  It was important that Singapore stop providing protection, safety and sanctuary to corruptors and their ill-gotten wealth.  On that issue, Singapore had not been forthcoming at all.  As for the air in Singapore, the Indonesian Embassy there had reported that it was clear yesterday.


The representative of Singapore said he was heartened by Indonesia’s efforts to deal with the haze issue and grateful that the Indonesian Government was working through regional agreements.  But, the haze problem had not been adequately addressed and needed a comprehensive plan of action.  Singapore welcomed assistance for a problem that affected millions of lives and looked forward to dealing with friends and partners on that transboundary issue.  Countries must put their differences aside and work together.  The haze had lifted recently, owing to rain and a change in wind patterns.


The Committee then resumed its general discussion on implementation of the outcome of HABITAT II and strengthening of UN-HABITAT.


Statements


SUHAYFA EBRAHIM ZIA (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, expressed satisfaction with UN-HABITAT’s role in helping Member States achieve the Millennium Development Goals, especially targets 10 and 11 on water and sanitation, and slum upgrading, respectively.  The Group of 77 urged development partners to give the Programme the financial and technical support required, due to growing national and regional demands for assistance.


Noting that the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation, created in 1974 to mobilize finance and investment for human settlements activities, had never been adequately capitalized, she stressed the need for the international community to consider increasing voluntary, non-earmarked contributions to the Foundation, preferably on a multi-year basis.  The Group of 77 also requested the Secretary-General to consider increasing the UN-HABITAT’s regular budget, in order to revitalize the Foundation.


Turning to UN-HABITAT’s work programme for the biennium, she said there was a need to address water and sanitation, as well as slum upgrading targets, in an integrated manner, particularly at the implementation level.  The Group of 77 underscored the importance of the Programme’s regional consultative forums, particularly those involving Ministers of Housing and Urban Development, which provided opportunities for sharing knowledge, experience and best practices.


On natural and human disasters, she said the Group of 77 and China favoured greater involvement by UN-HABITAT, in the activities of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee for Disaster and Humanitarian Affairs.  The international donor community should assist Governments, by providing the requisite financial resources and technical expertise to create early warning systems.


Regarding United Nations reform, she emphasized that programmes like UN-HABITAT, which had a clear and unique mandate, should not be sacrificed or diluted.  Instead, such pro-poor programmes should be bolstered and strengthened, by giving them access to more predictable core funding for their important work.


SALIHU AHMED-SAMBO (Nigeria), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said rapid urbanization was a challenge to all developing countries and Africa in particular, being the continent with the fastest urban growth rate.  The State of the World’s Cities report for 2006-2007 indicated that, for the first time in human history, more people would live in cities than in rural areas, by next year.  That growth was taking place at a time of worsening living conditions, pervasive poverty, unemployment and debilitating diseases.  It was against that background, that Nigeria called for pro-poor urban policies, effective legislation, adequate budgetary allocations and multi-sectoral approaches to slum upgrading.  Contrary to the view that central Governments should play a minimal role, there was a compelling need for their active involvement, in collaboration with the private sector.


He said his country had launched a water and sanitation forum, aimed at providing access to safe and adequate clean water supply and sanitation, especially for the poor.  The forum brought together many stakeholders, producing a reservoir of good will that must now be translated into action.  Nigeria was pleased with the support given by UN-HABITAT to the African Union, in establishing the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development, and noted with satisfaction the collaboration between UN-HABITAT and the African Development Bank.  Donors were called upon to increase their non-earmarked contributions to UN-HABITAT.


ANNA OVCHARENKO ( Russian Federation) said her country supported the strengthening UN-HABITAT and the implementation of decisions reached at recent global conferences.  The Russian Federation also supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the international community improve the Programmes and effectiveness of UN-HABITAT.  A case in point related to the guarantee of housing ownership for families, in deprived areas of countries with economies in transition.


She said her country advocated greater coordination by all United Nations agencies with UN-HABITAT, as well as with the Bretton Woods institutions.  There was also a need to collect more statistical data on human settlements.  The Russian federation was increasing its cooperation with the Programme and had doubled its contribution to it.


RAGHUNATH JHA ( India) said the world, in the twentieth century, would increasingly be an urban one, where people’s well-being would depend on the manner in which the problems of urban poverty, pollution, planning and infrastructure were tackled.  India’s National Housing and Habitat Policy of 1998 recognized housing not merely as a physical asset, but in the overall context of a sustainable living habitat.  The country sought to achieve housing for all, by the end of its tenth Five Year Plan.


India supported efforts to strengthen UN-HABITAT, by providing non-earmarked, predictable funding and regular budget resources for its programme activities, so it could effectively fulfil its mandate, he said.  The Programme should focus on operational work, through field projects in developing countries and continue to coordinate with multilateral and regional financial and development institutions, in order to implement joint projects and programmes in the area of human settlements.


TOUFIQ ISLAM SHAFIL ( Bangladesh) said the expanding urban population caused overcrowding, uncertain employment and deteriorating basic services, such as water provision and sanitation.  Sustainable urbanization, therefore, was the world’s most pressing challenge today; especially since slum populations were expected to grow at a rate of 27 million people per year, during the period 2000-2020.


Noting that UN-HABITAT’s strategic framework for 2006-2007 had, rightly, set out to improve the living and working environments for slum dwellers, using a more effective participatory and transparent management system, he said that his country, for its part, had undertaken a programme called “Local Partnerships for Urban Poverty Alleviation”.  It helped the poor to find secure places to live with workplaces nearby.  The Government also had an Urban Observatory Committee.


WANG QI (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said many developing countries had made proactive efforts to improve their human settlements situation, but more than 900 million people, or about 30 per cent of the world’s urban population, still lived in slums.  The global community must implement the Habitat Agenda, comprehensively and effectively, to achieve the two objectives of “adequate shelter for all” and “sustainable development of human settlements in an urbanizing world”.


Due to its extensive scope, he said, the question of human settlements must be addressed through joint efforts.  National Governments bore the primary responsibility for resolving problems related to human settlements, but the international community, particularly the developed countries, must provide the necessary financial trade and debt relief resources to the developing countries.  That would create the favourable external conditions needed for their social and economic development, and help enhance their capability to improve human settlements.

SOLOMON KARANJA ( Kenya), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that financing affordable housing and slum upgrading remained a major challenge to developing countries.  Kenya collaborated with neighbouring countries on that issue, through the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development.  It had hosted a special session of the Ministerial Conference, in April, where a common framework for slum upgrading and prevention had been developed.  Meanwhile, the country looked forward to the signing of a memorandum of understanding, between UN-HABITAT and the African Development Bank, to implement the Water for African Cities Programme.


He said the Government had allocated $7 million for the Kenya Slum Upgrading, Low Cost Housing and Infrastructure Fund, and had recently reviewed its national housing policy, with the intention of enacting a comprehensive bill to encourage construction of more affordable housing.


Kenya commended other Member States for responding to UN-HABITAT’s fundraising efforts, though there was still a need for donors to consider increasing their voluntary, non-earmarked contributions to the Foundation, preferably on a multi-year basis.  Kenya welcomed the promulgation, by the Secretary-General, of the special annex to the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation in the financial rules of the United Nations, as it would enable the Foundation to begin lending to human settlements projects, through the use of its voluntary contributions.


ASAD M. KHAN (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77, said much work remained to be completed, in efforts to improve the lives of the world’s 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.  As concluded at the 2005 World Summit, accelerated and concerted international efforts, as well as increased resources, were imperative.  In order to produce optimal results, Pakistan advocated the expansion of technical assistance to developing countries, including training and capacity building.


Another strategy involved identifying disaster-prone areas and formulating mitigation and rapid-response strategies for post-disaster and post-conflict situations, he said.  There was also a need to provide sustained technical assistance for reconstruction efforts, and Pakistan thanked United Nations agencies for their efforts, since the October 2005 earthquake, in northern Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.  UN-HABITAT should expand its role in recovery efforts, through greater involvement in the long-term rehabilitation process, by mainstreaming shelter and disaster-risk reduction.


CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said her country had managed to control the formation of slums, through good urban planning, investing in job creation for the urban poor, and in accessible low-cost housing for the most vulnerable groups, and by widening public service coverage.  Colombia believed that, with the right policies, it was possible to prevent the formation of slums, regardless of a country’s economic standing.  Further, the Inter-American Development Bank had lent its support, enabling the country to carry out a study on alternative financing mechanisms and improvements in the normative credit framework.


She said the right to water and housing must be met, before a country could achieve other development goals, such as poverty eradication and the reduction of inequity.  Those rights were a matter of public interest, and States had the responsibility to promote and facilitate access to public services, in areas with limited resources.  That access must be accompanied by comprehensive policies aimed at improving the economic and social conditions of marginalized communities.  Donor countries, meanwhile, must increase the percentage of official development assistance to reach the levels defined in the Millennium Declaration and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.  The transfer of technology from developed countries, or within the framework of South-South cooperation, was also essential.


MUDITHA HALLIYADDE ( Sri Lanka) said that the urban poor, being the most disempowered population group, had little access to health and education and were the most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and other diseases.  They represented the world’s collective failure to come to terms with rapid urbanization and the consequences of globalization.  A plural democracy and respect for the rule of law, human rights and civil liberties -- supported by sound economic performance and efficient local self-government -- were needed, if societies were to build sustainable human settlements, while protecting the environment.  Sri Lanka’s Constitution guaranteed the right to adequate shelter, and the national ratio of home ownership in the country stood at 80 per cent.


In urban areas, however, the figure stood at 60 per cent, due to the high value of land and a large stock of rental housing, she said.  The Government had pledged to provide 65,000 housing units for those presently living in Colombo’s unauthorized and temporary dwellings, in keeping with international development goals.  Partnerships were being sought with the private sector and individual house builders to relocate slum and shanty dwellers into new, sustainable and self-sufficient compact townships.  The Government was also implementing special housing programmes for targeted groups, through such programmes as “ Sustainable Village”, under the Ministry of Housing and Construction.  Indeed, the demand for houses and the expansion of the urban sector increased with continuing population growth and economic development.  The demand for housing in Sri Lanka stood at around 100,000 units per year.


There was also a need to upgrade sub-standard housing, especially since the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, had damaged more than 30,000 homes.


AZANAW T. ABREHA ( Ethiopia), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said urbanization was taking place at a rate faster than population growth, and while 16 per cent of the population lived in urban areas today, that number was projected to double, by 2020.  The challenges came from the very high level of slum dwellers, and Ethiopia would continue to work very closely with UN-HABITAT to address them.  Ethiopian urban centres had poorly developed infrastructure, a high rate of unemployment and poverty, and had many slum dwellers.  The Government’s urban agenda was a key component of the country’s development strategy for the next five years, which used targeted subsidies and housing development programmes to promote home ownership among low-income groups.


A needs assessment Programme had determined that Ethiopia would need an additional 2 million housing units in the next 10 years, he said.  A revolving housing fund would be set up to assist purchasers and the Government would allocate an estimated $400 million per year for that purpose, as well as providing serviced land and public infrastructure.


NICOLE MLADE, International Federation of Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), emphasized the link between human settlements and natural disasters, noting that the former may result from the mass movement of people, displaced by the latter.  On the other hand, human settlements were highly vulnerable to nature’s fury, as they were frequently overcrowded, poorly constructed and located in high-risk areas.  The response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2005 Pakistan earthquake highlighted the gaps in the international humanitarian community’s capacity to provide emergency shelter.  The humanitarian community had also become aware of the need to help countries to mitigate the impact of natural disasters, through their housing policies.


She said the IFRC wished to build an even closer relationship with

UN-HABITAT, as it assumed a global convening role in the provision of emergency shelter.  The Federation wanted to ensure that, in meeting people’s emergency shelter needs, the humanitarian community laid the groundwork for the future recovery of their communities.  The IFRC also sought to deepen its collaboration with national and local authorities, so as to help ensure that settlements could physically withstand the impact of a natural disaster.  Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as key actors in national disaster preparedness programmes, could also advise Governments on key policy questions, such as land titling, which would ease the building of both transitional and permanent homes.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.