UN-HABITAT CHIEF, IN SECOND COMMITTEE, CITES ‘RAPID AND CHAOTIC’ URBANIZATION, SHORTAGE OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING AS CAUSES OF GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS
UN-HABITAT CHIEF, IN SECOND COMMITTEE, CITES ‘RAPID AND CHAOTIC’ URBANIZATION, SHORTAGE OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING AS CAUSES OF GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-third General Assembly
19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)
UN-HABITAT CHIEF, IN SECOND COMMITTEE, CITES ‘RAPID AND CHAOTIC’ URBANIZATION,
SHORTAGE OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING AS CAUSES OF GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS
Delegates Conclude Sustainable Development Debate, Take Up Human Settlements
Rapid, chaotic urbanization and the dearth of affordable housing were the underlying causes of the current financial crisis, and they could only be resolved through public financing and political will, Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today.
As the Committee took up its agenda item on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of UN-Habitat, she said housing was the repository of national wealth, as well as a market product and a social good. According to the 2005 Global Report on Human Settlements, housing finance accounted for 72 per cent of gross domestic product in the United States, the world’s most powerful economy. But when realtors in that country had given low-income clients access to housing through risky lending and borrowing practices, the results had been devastating, prompting necessary Government intervention and an eventual resurgence of homelessness. That outcome had dangerous implications for developing nations.
“The current housing-finance crisis and the responses of the leaders in the developed world should be an eye-opener for the developing world”, she said. Housing finance in the developing world was in a state of permanent crisis, and the General Assembly should hold a special session next year to discuss the role of Governments in housing-finance systems. Senior world leaders should work collectively to prevent future failures of the global financial system.
Harnessing market forces to increase housing supply at the expense of affordable housing and equitable urban development had proven unsustainable, she continued. The shortcomings of heavily subsidized public housing programmes that resulted in growth-arresting distortions of the market place were evident. Housing and municipal finance systems required sufficient political attention and resources. However, most, if not all, first-generation United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAF) and poverty reduction strategy papers did not even mention the word “housing”, and neither had housing been a priority in the second generation of such frameworks, even though most urban dwellers in sub-Saharan Africa and the least developed countries lived in slums.
She said that, while cities were the engines of economic growth and two thirds of the global population would live in them by 2030, they also consumed 75 per cent of energy and contributed to the equally significant proportion of all waste, including greenhouse gas emissions. Urbanization was bringing about irreversible changes in the use of land, water, energy and other natural resources –- issues which must be addressed. Indeed, it was no longer feasible to ignore the fact that the combined impact of rapid urbanization and globalization had exacerbated poverty, inequality and social exclusion.
The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, agreed, saying urban sprawl and the growth of mega-cities had increased the need to implement the Habitat Agenda -- particularly Millennium Development Goal 7 and the target of halving the percentage people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015 -– and significantly to improve the lives of 20 million slum-dwellers by 2020. Achieving sustainable development entailed managing cities and urban sprawl in a sustainable way. There was a need for holistic and integrated approaches to the eradication of slums through nationally owned and led strategies -- focusing on full and productive employment and decent work for all, poverty eradication, affordable energy, and waste collection and disposal.
Kenya’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, warned that if the growth of unplanned slums and large settlements on the outskirts of major developing world cities continued, some of those cities would soon be transformed into slums. The current multiple global crises had a strong bearing on the goals of the Habitat Agenda, and the financial crisis in particular, which had been closely linked to the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market, was a new phenomenon that urban development experts and policymakers should review. The African Group called on UN-Habitat, supported by other stakeholders, to complete a study of the causes and implications of the crisis and share the experience with other countries implementing such mortgage schemes.
In other business, the Committee concluded its general discussion on sustainable development, with speakers highlighted their national efforts to promote sustainable forestry management, agricultural development and environmental conservation, as well as to prevent the loss of biodiversity, reverse the spread of desertification, and better manage and prevent natural disasters.
Several speakers stressed the need to increase financing to implement Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and to build on the momentum begun at the Bali Climate Change Conference. Others called for special support for small island developing States grappling with the adverse impact of climate change, including more frequent floods, typhoons, hurricanes and other natural calamities.
At the outset of the meeting, the representatives of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Turkmenistan introduced, respectively, draft resolutions on the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources; the International Year of Chemistry; reliable and stable transit of energy and its role in ensuring sustainable development and international cooperation. The representative of Antigua and Barbuda introduced, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China two texts on industrial development cooperation, and on operational activities for development.
Also speaking today were the representatives of India, Cuba, Jamaica, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Ecuador, Peru, Marshall Islands, Malta, Monaco, Cameroon, Syria, Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan, Nigeria, Venezuela, Botswana, Chile, Bangladesh (on behalf of the least developed countries), Indonesia, China, Ethiopia and the Russian Federation.
The Permanent Observer for the Holy See also made a statement.
Other speakers were the representatives of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, International Organization for Migration and the World Meteorological Organization.
The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 29 October, to consider globalization and interdependence.
Meeting to discuss human settlements, Committee members were also expected to hear the introduction of draft resolutions on the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/C.2/63/L.5); the International Year of Chemistry (document A/C.2/63/L.2/Rev.1); reliable and stable transit of energy and its role in ensuring sustainable development and international cooperation (document A/C.2/63/L.3/Rev.1); industrial development cooperation (document A/C.2/63/L.6); and operational activities for development (document A/C.2/63/L.4).
As it took up human settlements, the Committee had before it a report of the Secretary-General on 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) (document A/63/291), which provides an overview of the outcomes of issues addressed by General Assembly resolution 62/198. They include the impact of rapid urbanization; implementation of the Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013, including its enhanced normative and operational framework for country-level activities and excellence in management; strengthening the catalytic and pre-investment role of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme; strengthening the role and contribution of local authorities in attaining internationally agreed development goals; contributing to more effective post-disaster and post-crisis relief, recovery and reconstruction; and financial and budgetary matters.
According to the report, such global trends and issues as climate change and rising food and fuel prices have highlighted the importance of the Habitat Agenda in addressing some of the underlying causes and mitigating their social, economic and environmental consequences. At the heart of the matter are rapid urbanization and poorly planned urban development, which pose important challenges but also provide unique opportunities. The UN-Habitat Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan is well poised to help Member States seize those opportunities. Its focus on socially inclusive housing and environmentally sound and participatory urban development provides a solid blueprint for attaining internationally-agreed development goals for half of the world’s population, now living in cities. The Plan also represents an approach designed to leverage public and private investments for affordable housing and basic infrastructure and services through innovative financing mechanisms that leverage the efforts of people with public expenditures and the resources of the marketplace.
Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General on Coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document A/63/353), which transmits a report on the coordinated implementation of that Agenda to the General Assembly for consideration at its sixty-third session.
Another report of the Secretary-General on the Coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2008/64) highlights major new developments and milestones in the coordinated implementation of that Habitat Agenda, including decisions of the twenty-first session of UN-Habitat’s Governing Council) and responses emerging from the growing realization on behalf of the international community of the need to focus on the social, economic and environmental consequences of rapid urbanization in order to attain the Millennium Development Goals.
The report concludes that the robust response on behalf of all United Nations agencies, other intergovernmental organizations, and of the Habitat Agenda partners to the coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda and related Millennium Development Goals is a strong indication of the coming of age of the urban agenda. While the realization that the world in 2007 had become a predominantly urban planet contributed significantly to growing awareness, the key contributing factors are rooted in the realization that the urbanization of poverty and social exclusion is becoming a major challenge to the attainment of internationally agreed development targets and to sustainable development itself. The Economic and Social Council should include sustainable urbanization, with a major focus on urban poverty, as a cross-cutting issue to complement and reinforce follow-up within the existing social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
HATEM TAG-ELDIN ( Egypt) introduced the draft resolution on the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/C.2/63/L.5).
YOSEPH KASSAYE ( Ethiopia) introduced the draft resolution on the International Year of Chemistry (document A/C.2/63/L.2/Rev.1).
AKSOLTAN T. ATAEVA ( Turkmenistan) introduced the draft resolution on the reliable and stable transit of energy and its role in ensuring sustainable development in international cooperation (document A/C.2/63/L.3/Rev.1).
JANIL GREENAWAY ( Antigua and Barbuda), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolutions on industrial development cooperation (document A/C.2/63/L.6) and operational activities for development (document A/C.2/63/L.4).
Prior to taking up its general discussion of human settlements, the Committee concluded its debate on sustainable development.
RAJEEV SHUKLA ( India) underscored the importance of an integrated approach to sustainable development, with emphasis on its three pillars -- economic development, social development and environmental protection. That approach was a key element in ensuring achievement of development goals, particularly the eradication of poverty and hunger. It was important to ensure full implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
He said the Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy of Implementation provided a comprehensive basis to address the special challenges facing small island developing States in their efforts to achieve sustainable development, which had been further exacerbated by climate change. In the spirit of South-South solidarity, India had contributed to small island development efforts through capacity-building, natural disaster preparedness, adaptation to climate change and enhancing resilience. However, enhanced financial and technical support by developed countries was urgently required. India supported calls by small island States for further strengthening of the SIDS Unit in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Noting that his country had recently unveiled a comprehensive and ambitious National Action Plan on Climate Change, he said India was actively promoting the use of compressed natural gas for public transport, improved energy efficiency in major energy intensive sectors, the use of compact fluorescent lamps at low cost, the procurement of electricity from renewable sources of energy, and afforestation programmes. India had adopted an Energy Conservation Act and an Energy Efficiency Code for new commercial buildings. India’s energy efficiency was among the best in the world. The outcome of the negotiations taking place under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change must be fair and equitable, recognizing the principle that everyone was equally entitled to the global atmospheric space. Developed countries must make deeper emission reduction commitments and help developing countries with financing and technology transfer.
ILEIDIS VALIENTE ( Cuba) said humankind was facing a severe environmental crisis with the acceleration of global climate change, growing scarcity of drinking water and forest resources, and increasing dangers to biodiversity, while agreed environmental sustainability objectives remained far from being met. Though developing countries continued to meet their commitments, they still faced a lack of financial resources and limited access to new technologies, which prevented them from building capacity in the face of such challenges. Despite that need, rich countries –- the owners of resources, technology and knowledge -- had failed to support their efforts or to create the necessary definitive, urgent change due to a lack of political will.
She said Member States must transform unsustainable production and consumption patterns by stopping the waste of resources by Northern countries, which were economically unfeasible and, at the same time, environmentally unsustainable. On climate change, Cuba called attention to the destruction caused by hurricanes in some Caribbean countries, including Cuba, which had resulted in losses worth millions, as well as setbacks in development. The international community must support small island developing States in need of technological, technical and financial assistance to adapt to climate change, without conditions. Cuba also called for the prevention, reduction and control of pollution caused by greenhouse gas emissions, and for the use of renewable energy sources. It also called for concrete agreements in the framework of negotiations for a new post-2012 climate agreement, with new binding targets for the reduction of emissions.
RAYMOND O. WOLFE ( Jamaica), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Secretary-General’s report on disaster reduction pointed to a disturbing trend: exorbitant costs incurred by Asian countries as a result of increasingly frequent natural disasters. That mirrored Jamaica’s experience, and future reports should assess such impacts in the Caribbean, which had been hit by more than five hurricanes in the last three years alone. That situation underlined the extreme vulnerability of small island developing States.
Such severe weather patterns were a result of climate change, he explained, stressing that small islands could not be expected to undertake disaster-reduction efforts on their own. Jamaica supported an urgent scaling up of implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, and placing disaster-risk reduction at the core of climate-change adaptation efforts. It supported calls for major greenhouse gas emitters to cut their emissions, and urged the pursuit a second commitment period whereby Annex I parties would undertake significant reductions. Talks to that end must be concluded by the 2009 Conference of Parties in Copenhagen. It was equally critical to provide new financial resources and technology to help developing countries with adaptation and mitigation strategies.
KWON HAE-RYONG, Deputy Director-General, International Economic Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, said that strengthening the work and mandate of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) would generate better policy guidance and priorities with a strong scientific base. The current trend of vigorous discussion on sustainable development was a positive sign for the realization of commitments, and the Republic of Korea called for an acceleration of those efforts. The Committee’s work should be concerted and coordinated to ensure that environmental sustainability impacted all efforts to attain internationally agreed goals.
Noting that there were gaps in the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, he said there was also a prime opportunity for change. Global economic concerns should not derail efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals, among others, taken on since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. The Commission on Sustainable Development would conclude its cycle series in 2017, and the 2012 World Summit on the Environment and Sustainable Development would provide “new momentum” towards the implementation of Agenda 21 and other outcomes.
TARIQ AL-FAYEZ (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had been working tirelessly to meet global energy needs, while striving to expand its productivity and productive capacities by promoting public and public sector investment. Saudi Arabia was also striving to achieve integration among all of national industrial activities. The United Nations, and the Economic and Social Council in particular, had a vital role to play in promoting cooperation and national ownership of development programmes. Economic development should be a priority of the Organization.
Stressing his country’s concern about conserving the environment by respecting the principles of common international action, he said the development of technology through optimal use of energy resources would be its main approach in order to face up to the plethora of environmental problems, particularly global climate change. Negotiations in the Committee should not only highlight obstacles, but also strive to find the best ways to implement the decisions it adopted. Saudi Arabia hoped that United Nations agencies would play a vital role in attaining that goal, and looked forward to the adoption of practical policies to overcome obstacles hindering sustainable development and the adoption of balanced and practical decisions.
MELANIE SANTIZO-SANDOVAL ( Guatemala) said poverty eradication and sustainable development could not occur without taking the management of natural resources into account. It was still not certain that developing countries would achieve all the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and that the loss of biodiversity would be significantly reversed by 2010. The world was at a turning point in terms of returning to the right path and renewing its commitment to the Millennium Goals.
Noting that the new cycle of the Commission on Sustainable Development was off to a good start, she said its work must send a positive message to next year’s negotiating session. Guatemala and other Caribbean nations were charged with safeguarding one of the most valuable assets of the planet. The Association of Caribbean States was working hard to achieve cooperation in order to protect the Caribbean Sea. It had developed a plan of action that recognized the Sea as an area in need of special protection in order to achieve sustainable development.
The Bali Road Map was a step in the right direction, she said, noting that a new period of commitment to reflect common but differentiated responsibilities was emerging. The Commission on Sustainable Development had recently stated that the Latin America and Caribbean region was increasingly facing problems of desertification and drought. Quick and effective action was needed to end soil degradation. What did it mean when the international community discussed agricultural and rural development as a priority area? The answer to that question should guide future discussions.
MOHAMED AL-MURBATI (Bahrain), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country was making every effort to achieve sustainable development in accordance with General Assembly resolution A/47/191, on institutional arrangements to follow up the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio Earth Summit), General Assembly resolution A/57/253, on the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, as well as implementation of the recommendations and decisions of the World Summit on Sustainable development.
Bahrain was making every effort to contribute to global efforts to achieve sustainable development and overcome the obstacles hindering it, he said. Five days ago, the country had launched a new economic vision for the country, a framework to achieve ambitious economic and social aspirations. Bahrain ranked among the best Arab Gulf countries because it made every effort to liberate its economy and promote investment in its economic and industrial efforts. Its success was due to its special attributes, which included having one of the most liberal economies in the region.
He said Bahraini society had always been characterized by its openness, and the country’s strategic geographic location and network of highly developed roads provided access to global markets. All those attributes made the country the best hub for international communication and trade. Bahrain had also maintained its stature among high-performing developing countries, ranking fourth among the Arab States and forty-first among other global States. In addition, Bahrain had donated $1 million for a report on disaster reduction, and hoped the Secretary-General would visit the country to launch it.
REGIS BAKYONO ( Burkina Faso), stressing that the spread of desertification was a threat to his own and other countries, said the growing number of refugees and migrants, the increase in natural disasters, as well as other factors, had exacerbated poverty and environmental degradation. Burkina Faso welcomed the 2008-2018 strategic framework for the creation of a global partnership to reduce poverty and achieve a real commitment to sustainable development. Sustainable land management, increasing agricultural production in arid lands, soil preservation, as well as efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, must be priorities. The widespread food crisis made those goals essential. Burkina Faso also called for the replenishment of the resources of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).
Urging Member States that had not yet done so to ratify conventions related to sustainable development, he said that would enable them to facilitate projects and programmes aimed at protecting the environment. There was a need for cooperation among international, regional and subregional organizations in that regard. Burkina Faso also called for the creation of a reference base on desertification to ensure monitoring. The necessary attention must also be given to land ecosystems, especially in arid zones, so as to mitigate the effects of climate change and protect the environment. Greater advocacy was needed to promote financing for climate-change mitigation. All actors must remain engaged in helping countries seriously affected by climate change, and in helping them to finance the implementation of international agreements. Such efforts must focus on the best opportunities possible to develop agricultural production.
JIDDOU OULD ABDERRAHMANE (Mauritania), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the sixty-third session was taking place in a difficult international context marked by the food and financial crises, as well as climate change, which most seriously affected the developing countries -– including the least developed countries. At the midpoint of efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, most developing countries were still far from attaining the targets. Now, on the eve of the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to review implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, Mauritania invited the wealthy nations to honour their financing development commitments. The industrialized countries should be more flexible and show greater will.
He said his country was working within its means to combat poverty and ensure schooling and social services for all its citizens within its own national framework and development goals. However, Mauritania’s resources were limited and it needed its development partners during the present time of international crises. Mauritania also suffered from drought, and urged the international community to act decisively to mitigate climate change. Countries suffering due to the environmental crisis needed greater international assistance, without which efforts by individual countries would be limited.
MARIA FERNANDA ESPINOSA ( Ecuador) stressed the importance of reaching consensus on helping the planet’s most vulnerable and poorest people. Developed countries were the greatest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions and they must provide greater resources to help those least responsible. Ecuador supported the Bali Road Map and Action Plan, and underlined the importance of creating a balanced and effective international regime on the basis of differentiated but shared responsibilities. The international community must introduce mitigation programmes, and those industrialized States that had not yet done so must sign and ratify international conventions on climate change. Ecuador called for the urgent construction of international environmental governance architecture that would be more effective.
She said her country had implemented the Yasuni initiative, by which it would no longer exploit 920 million barrels of oil reserves in the Yasuni reserve, one of the planet’s most biodiverse areas. As a result, the country would stop emitting more than 100 million tons of carbon annually, at an estimated annual cost of $720 million in lost revenue over the next 25 years. However, Ecuador was ready to make that sacrifice due to its environmental benefits. That was an extraordinary example of international commitment and compromise for the benefit of global sustainable development. Regarding disaster reduction, the Hyogo Framework for Action should have been strengthened in recent years. A few months ago, Ecuador had suffered the worst floods in its history, and called on the international community to support the International Centre to Investigate the El Niño Phenomenon.
GONZALO GUILLÉN BEKER (Peru), endorsing the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and the Rio Group, expressed serious concern about the consequences of climate change for his country’s stability, development and well-being. The increasing intensity of the “El Niño” phenomenon had caused severe coastal flooding and major damage. The Peruvian Amazon forest was equally affected by climate change, which could be tackled only through multilateral action. While affecting each region differently, climate change was a global problem and the entire international community must work to combat it, in accordance with the principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities.
Calling for the adoption of specific measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he said there was a need to implement what had already been agreed in a coordinated and coherent fashion. The United Nations system had a fundamental role to play in promoting active compliance with the objectives of the Climate Change Convention. Peru called on the developed countries to take the lead on climate change, given their historical responsibility for the problem. They must reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set more ambitious goals for that purpose. They should also provide financial resources and technology transfer.
Noting that desertification was another problem for his country, he said 90 per cent of the population lived in arid and near-arid zones, and that was where agriculture was located. In addition, the frequency and intensity of extreme events, especially droughts and major rainfall, would undoubtedly increase. The risks today were greater, especially in areas already prone to extreme ecological change. Developing countries were subject to disproportionate risks and, with that in mind, disaster-reduction policies provided a first line of defence.
PHILLIP MULLER ( Marshall Islands) called on all Member States to continue and enhance their active participation in ensuring that shared sustainable development targets were urgently translated into reality. During the past 20 years, nations had participated in discussions and preparations for various meetings. They were well aware of their goals, which must now be robustly funded and put into action. Time was truly of the essence.
While great strides had occurred within the Commission on Sustainable Development, he said, attention should also be paid to transforming that body into a meaningful review mechanism, especially with regard to small island developing States. Although the future development and survival of that group of States was at stake, the Commission had too often appeared as a political “traffic jam” of prepared statements. The Marshall Islands strongly urged a greater role for small island States in the planning and coordination of the Commission as the primary follow-up mechanism for established development goals.
He expressed concern that traditional economic indicators within the United Nations, including discussions within the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), might not reveal the full vulnerability of the economies of small island developing States. Island nations faced not only the very real and increasing challenges relating to climate change, but also limited economies of scale and geographical remoteness. In that regard, their heightened sensitivity to global price shocks and other socio-economic challenges had not been appropriately discussed. The Marshall Islands encouraged the analysis of environmental vulnerability and economic indicators for small island States.
SAVIOUR BORG ( Malta) said sustainable development was intrinsically linked to social and economic development and, therefore, must be addressed by all stakeholders in a coordinated, cohesive manner. The real and complex challenges posed by climate change, its consequences and its impact on daily life threatened progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Climate change must continue to be recognized as a major global challenge and priority. The vulnerability of small islands like Malta, and of low-lying coastal States, was being tested drastically with negative effects on their socio-economic development.
All efforts should be made to mitigate and adapt to the predicted negative impact of climate change on the national, regional and international levels, he said. Malta was working assiduously with other States to meet the targets of the European Union’s climate and energy package. Malta also supported the Paris Joint Declaration adopted last July by the Heads of State and Government of the Euro-Mediterranean region, which shared the conviction that the new initiative could play an important role in addressing challenges in the region, including environmental degradation, climate change and desertification.
He also called for regional action on scientific research with respect to renewable, clean and efficient technologies such as the wider use of solar energy and offshore wind farms in order to limit dependence on energy generated by fossil fuels. Earlier in 2008, DiploFoundation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malta had held the two-day International Conference on Climate Change Diplomacy to address innovative diplomatic processes and the challenges posed by climate change. It had also launched a training programme on climate change diplomacy.
VALÉRIE S. BRUELL-MELCHIOR ( Monaco) said her country’s Government was fully committed to sustainable development and had expressed its will to implement the decisions adopted in Bonn at the Ninth Conference of Parties in May. It had pledged to support the negotiation process established by the Bali Road Map and obtained accreditation from the United Nations for three projects in renewable energy and energy efficiency, which included a project for electrification in drinking-water supplies. Monaco also supported the mainstreaming of criteria for social development in order to improve the living conditions of rural populations. There was a need to promote activities that were respectful of the social development of the people most in need.
She said her country emphasized the importance of assisting those requiring help, not only in the context of climate change, but also in the context of the world food crisis. Monaco supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to use the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification as a true instrument by which the international community might benefit with a view to developing long-term solutions to ensure there was appropriate food production for the benefit of poor populations. It also supported a forthcoming action-oriented session highlighting the crucial role of technology transfer and capacity-building for developing countries. There must be greater efforts to use and bolster mechanisms for natural disaster-prevention remedies.
ALAIN WILFRIED BIYA ( Cameroon) stressed the importance of closely linking environmental degradation with the spread of poverty and disease. It was also important to strengthen environmental governance, control the impact of the industrial sector on the environmental health of the population, stem biodiversity loss and prevent environmental risk. Cameroon called for the strengthening of cooperation for partnerships, and for contributions to the struggle against HIV/AIDS. The country contributed to the environmental aspects of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Central African Forestry Commission.
He said his country was committed to the sustainable management of forestry and animal resources. Cameroon was part of the Congo basin, a vast, ecologically rich area in need of protection. The country’s forestry policy took into account the principles of Agenda 21, particularly on the social and economic dimension of sustainable development and on the conservation and management of resources for development. Forestry represented 11 per cent of Cameroon’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 20 per cent of its foreign exchange contributions.
The forestry sector employed 22,000 people, he said, adding that his country was committed to developing its forests, building up its forestry reserves and expanding forestry campaigns. Cameroon had set up a national network of protected areas covering 18 per cent of the national territory, which was 3 per cent higher than that required by the Convention on Biodiversity. Cameroon called upon the international community to increase its support for reforestation efforts.
OSAMA ALI ( Syria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had managed to integrate its sustainable development policies into its national development strategies and plans, placing a balanced emphasis on the three pillars of sustainable development. Despite having made great strides in different aspects of sustainable development and the implementation of Agenda 21, Syria, like other developing countries, had been witnessing the impact of soaring food and energy prices, the volatility of international financial markets and climate change. Those crises had heavily impacted the efforts of developing countries to achieve sustainable development objectives and the Millennium Development Goals.
He said his country had also been making great efforts to combat desertification and drought. Syria had witnessed recurrent waves of drought, which threatened large parts of its national territory. The last wave had impacted more than 1 million citizens, and the Government had provided emergency assistance to affected households. In addition, the United Nations had launched a $20 million emergency appeal to provide assistance for six months. The international community, particularly developed countries, realized the danger and ramifications of desertification, as it was interlinked with climate change and poverty. The international community should strive to implement the anti-desertification Convention by providing the developing countries with the financial resources, technology transfer and support required to combat desertification and drought. In addition, the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan for more than four decades, in addition to its continuing blockade against Gaza, deprived the Palestinian people of their right to sustainable development.
PIRAGIBE DOS SANTOS TARRAGO ( Brazil) said the General Assembly should provide ongoing overall political guidance on the implementation of Agenda 21 in fulfilling its role to promote sustainable development. By 2012, a summit meeting on the Assembly’s review of Agenda 21’s implementation would be necessary to provide the political momentum for deepening commitments to sustainable development.
Yet, despite the progress attained in many areas, environmental degradation and other challenges to sustainable development threatened the achievement of internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Goals. The Commission on Sustainable Development had fulfilled its role with increasing success, but the current crises had shown that “business as usual” would not suffice. The crises would hit developing countries hardest and must, therefore, be given the highest political attention.
The 2012 Summit would afford both a midterm appraisal of the Commission on Sustainable Development work cycle and an important stepping stone for the Millennium Development Goals review conference in 2015, he said. Brazil reiterated its offer to host a summit on sustainable development in 2012 to review progress achieved since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The Rio-plus-20 Summit would renew commitments to respond with concrete action to the ever-increasing challenges of sustainable development.
EDUARDO PORRETTI ( Argentina), stressing the importance of disaster risk reduction and reiterating the urgent need to expedite implementation of the Hyogo Framework of Action, said his country expected that the second meeting of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, to be held in June 2009, would make use of the results of the first meeting, held in 2007. Argentina also stressed the importance of the efforts of the International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction and of the synergy between risk reduction and the climate change agenda.
The 29 September ministerial-level meeting on disaster risk reduction and climate change clearly showed the collective commitment to speed up implementation of the disaster risk-reduction agenda through innovative solutions, he said. Investing in disaster risk reduction could provide benefits, reduce the impact of climate change, support adaptation efforts, and help guarantee better efforts for development. In terms of funding for the secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, Argentina supported a review of its provisions, including the proposed prorated contribution quotas, in order to guarantee the flow of stable and predictable resources. The world was aware of the need to increase funds for disaster risk reduction, and it must follow through in that regard.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE (Holy See) said the responsibility to protect the climate required everyone to further deepen the interaction between food security and climate change, focusing on the centrality of the human person, in particular the most vulnerable populations, often located in the rural areas of developing countries. Strategies to confront food-security and climate-change challenges through synergistic actions of adaptation and mitigation must take those populations into account, while respecting their cultures and traditional customs.
The responsibility to protect the climate must be based on the alliance between the principles of “subsidiarity” and global solidarity, he said. In an interconnected world, there was an increasing need for collective international action. The current climate-change negotiations were a good example of how the responsibility to protect, subsidiarity and global solidarity were strongly intertwined. Environmental questions could not be considered separately from other issues, like energy and the economy, peace and justice, national interests and international solidarity.
Modern society could not respond adequately to its responsibility to protect the environment unless it reviewed seriously its lifestyle and patterns of production and consumption, he said. In that regard, there was an urgent need to educate people about ecological responsibility, based on the fact that many ethical values, fundamental for developing a peaceful society, were directly linked to environmental questions. Conversely, the interdependence of the many challenges confronting the world today confirmed the need for coordinated solutions based on a coherent moral vision of the world. Such education could not simply rest on political or ideological reasons nor aim at rejecting the modern world. It entailed a genuine conversion in patterns of thinking and behaviour based on the value and dignity of the human person.
ASAD M. KHAN (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the sustainable development of developing countries in the three integrated and reinforcing pillars -– economic development, social development and environmental protection -– had never been as seriously threatened as it was at present. The global environment for their economic development had become less favourable, thereby reducing the already limited policy space for action. The most notable negative trends included increasing volatility in international trade and finance since the beginning of 2008; declining official development assistance and shrinking private financial flows; and mounting stress on natural resources, as well as the increasing frequency of disasters due to climate change.
Environmental protection remained mired in lacklustre developments in the implementation of the Bali Plan of Action, resource constraints in addressing desertification, and land degradation, he said. In Pakistan, climate change was causing irrevocable damage, with tremendous social, environmental and economic impacts, including its effects on forest resources and natural ecosystems. An agreed outcome that enhanced the implementation of the climate change Convention was not only urgently needed, but an imperative.
It was evident that an inclusive global order must combine economic growth with social development through integrated strategies and policies, he said. Clearly, the challenge of sustainable development had become far too acute for any one country to tackle on its own. The United Nations undoubtedly had a central role to play in that regard, particularly by advancing the global sustainable development agenda to meet new and emerging challenges in an increasingly globalized world.
EMMANUEL OGUNNAIKE ( Nigeria) said his country was committed to sustainable development and had intensified efforts to implement the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. To do that, it had included the objectives of that document in its seven-point home-grown development strategy aimed at providing an adequate power supply to facilitate industrialization; developing agriculture and water resources to ensure an adequate food supply for local consumption and export; diversifying its revenue base and increasing production to provide jobs and create wealth; developing rail, road, air and water transportation to facilitate the movement of people, goods and services; reviewing existing land laws to ensure the equitable use of the nation’s land assets for socio-economic development; providing security for people’s lives and property; and reforming the education sector to improve skills and enhance standards.
To expedite progress in implementing its sustainable development agenda, he said, Nigeria relied on sound national policies and strategies, the adoption of best practices and sound innovation, institutional strengthening, capacity-building, and the quest for and application of appropriate technology. In agriculture and rural development, the country had placed an emphasis on adopting integrated, economical, environmental and socially-sound measures to boost production. The Government had set up the National Emergency Management Agency in 1999, in line with the national commitment to tackle disaster-related issues such as wildfires, earthquakes, insect infestation, epidemics, landslides, drought, floods, volcano eruptions, chemical and mining accidents, and oil spills, as well as to raise awareness and reduce the impact of disasters. The Government had also established the Green Wall Sahara Nigeria Programme to curb and prevent encroachment by the Sahara desert encroachment in the north, an integrated ecosystem management programme, and an oasis and range-management programme, among other initiatives.
GRAHAM CLOUGH, Officer in Charge, New York Office, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said the sustainable promotion of economic growth in developing countries and economies in transition lay at the core of all UNIDO’s activities. The organization, therefore, viewed the Committee’s discussions on that subject as particularly important for the further development of its programmes. With respect to the implementation of Agenda 21, activities in line with the organization’s mandate and expertise included technical cooperation and policy advisory services to boost agricultural production and productivity, and the adoption of various post-harvest technologies aimed at adding value to agricultural output, and increasing its storability, durability and marketability.
He said that, with regard to cleaner and more efficient use of resources, UNIDO’s approach was to focus on four areas: promoting recycling and the circular flow of materials; reducing the amount of materials and energy used through greater efficiency and the elimination of hazardous and toxic materials; changing the emphasis from selling products to selling services; and shifting from non-renewable to renewable sources of energy.
Industry had a crucial role to play in the protection of the global climate, and fully recognized the close links between energy production and use and climate change, he said. However, as developing countries and others had frequently stated, tackling climate change must not take place at the expense of economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries, which must be assisted in their efforts to increase energy access, while, at the same time, receiving assistance in moving towards cleaner energy use.
LUCA DALL’OGLIO, Permanent Observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said a consensus was emerging in the international community on the need to improve the understanding of environmental issues and their migration implications, and to plan for, adapt to and mitigate the processes and effects of environmental change for human mobility. While migration was not a new phenomenon for small island developing States, the impacts of climate change increased the migratory pressure.
Stressing the need for further research, he said that the IOM was developing, in collaboration with the United Nations University (UNU) and with sponsorship by the Rockefeller Foundation, a state-of-the-art review of research in migration and the environment. The IOM would commission seven studies focusing on such challenges as measuring the migration and environment nexus; migration and natural disasters; migration and chronic environmental degradation; and managing environmentally induced migration. Together with UNEP, UNU and the Munich RE Foundation, the IOM was also working to establish the Climate Change, Environment and Migration Alliance, to be launched at the December Conference of Parties in Poznan. The Alliance aimed to bring migration considerations to the environment, development and climate change agendas through a combination of awareness-raising, research, policy development and practical actions.
The IOM was also collaborating with other international entities within the framework of its inter-agency work on humanitarian assistance, he said. It would continue working towards the development of a comprehensive and proactive approach to migration-related consequences of climate change from a human-security perspective. That approach would also involve recognizing migration as a possible element of broader adaptation strategies, while seeking to increase the resilience of vulnerable populations to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. Efforts to increase the adaptive capacities of vulnerable populations must include better management of “environmental migration”. It was critically important to understand that environmental migration was a multidimensional issue, requiring an interdisciplinary approach. The IOM was pleased that the Government of Greece, which would host the third Global Forum on Migration and Development next year, was considering the climate change, migration and development nexus as one of the event’s potential points of focus.
ALEXIS COLMENARES ( Venezuela) said his country was committed to meeting internationally agreed targets, including the Millennium Development Goals. It had undertaken profound changes to transform the way in which communities lived. Venezuela had initiated petroleum projects that encompassed social programmes to build clean energy.
He urged Governments and international organizations, the Economic and Social Council, regional commissions and United Nations agencies to adopt measures to ensure implementation of and follow-up to the commitments and objectives adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Venezuela encouraged them to report on tangible progress made in that regard and to adhere to the deadlines adopted in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. In addition, the climate change Convention must be adapted to the realities of every country and the Bali Declaration must fulfil the commitments undertaken in the Convention. There was no need for a new agreement. Developed countries must comply with the first set of compromises, as well as the second set.
EMOLEMO MORAKE ( Botswana) stressed the importance of giving equal priority to the three pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection. It was critically important to ensure proper coordination of actions and strategies to maintain a holistic and balanced approach to development, underpinned by stable, sustained economic growth. The international community must scale up efforts to provide the necessary funding, technologies and capacity-building to address the interrelated challenges of sustainable agricultural development and, by extension, poverty in rural Africa. Botswana had created a comprehensive strategy to guide all economic sectors in implementing multilateral environmental agreements, and was mainstreaming those strategies into its tenth National Development Plan, which would run from 2009 to 2016.
The countries least responsible for ozone-depleting emissions were disproportionately affected by disasters, she noted, stressing that combating climate change was an issue of survival. It required the necessary political will to intensify implementation of commitments under the climate change Convention and its Kyoto Protocol. Botswana had established a designated national authority to participate actively in the Clean Development Mechanism addressing pollution. The country had also intensified its pollution monitoring networks to include wider coverage in urban and other major settlement areas. Botswana played an active part in the Air Pollution Information Network for Africa, a regional mechanism for the exchange of scientific information and knowledge by scientists, policymakers and industry. There was a critical need for coherence and synergy among the secretariats of the Rio Conventions.
FERNANDO BERGUÑO (Chile), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Rio Group, said he wished to lend his support to Brazil’s offer to host the Rio-plus-20 conference, and offered his country’s support to small island developing States. Chile was a country with glaciers, and had also been affected significantly by climate change, which had a definite impact on glacial movements, as well as the whole system of water courses in the country. Chile had also suffered drought and erratic rainfall, and understood how those same climatic phenomena affected other countries.
ZAMBA BATJARGAL, World Meteorological Organization, said that the organization, as a United Nations agency dealing with weather, climate and water, attached great importance to issues discussed under the topic of sustainable development, particularly climate change, disaster reduction and desertification. The Third World Climate Conference, scheduled to convene from 31 August to 4 September 2009 in Geneva, would consider scientific advances in seasonal, inter-annual and multi-decade climate predictions and spur their applications to real world problems. Better climate prediction information offered a host of opportunities to policymakers: services to improve water and agricultural management, disaster mitigation and response, and urban planning and energy production, among others.
He said the forthcoming Conference aimed to ensure that effective climate services were available to everyone as an operational toolbox for adaptation and forward planning for a changing climate. Those tools should help reduce the impact of natural disasters, enhance food security and manage other climate risks. By enabling such outcomes, the Conference would strengthen regional and national capabilities to prepare for, and adapt to, climate change and variability on all levels. That task was even more urgent in light of the anticipated increase in the frequency and intensity of floods, droughts, heat waves, disease outbreaks and other climate-related hazards. Only by reducing such disaster risks could States stay on target to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, especially the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.
The Committee then took up 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).
Introduction of Reports
ANNA TIBAIJUKA, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of UN-Habitat (document A/63/291) and on the coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document A/63/353).
Rapid and chaotic urbanization was the common thread underlying the causes of the current food, fuel and financial crises, she said, adding that two thirds of the global population would live in cities by 2030. While cities were the engines of economic growth, they also consumed 75 per cent of energy and contributed to the equally significant proportion of all waste, including greenhouse gas emissions. Urbanization was bringing about irreversible changes in the use of land, water, energy and other natural resources. Slum developments lacking such basic services as clean water and decent sanitation accounted for most of the urban demographic growth in the rapidly urbanizing South. Most slum dwellers lacked access to modern energy and relied on biomass to meet their energy needs. The combined impact was deforestation and pollution.
She said the financial crisis had its origins in over-extended housing-finance systems -– the sub-prime mortgage instruments. On the false belief that the market could cater to housing for all income groups, realtors had facilitated access to low-income people, relying on risky lending and borrowing practices. That had resulted in multiple adverse effects on people, the housing sector, global financial markets and the global economy. The crisis served as a potent reminder that housing was both a market product and a social good. Housing-finance systems must be seen as a means of harnessing market forces to increase housing supply and foster affordable housing and equitable urban development. The pursuit of either of those goals at the expense of the other had proven to be unsustainable.
The shortcomings of heavily subsidized public housing programmes that resulted in growth-arresting distortions of the marketplace were evident, she said. World leaders at the highest levels must consider the role of Governments in housing-finance systems in order to prevent future failures in the global financial system. Housing was the repository of national wealth and, according to the 2005 Global Report on Human Settlements, national wealth was normally found in housing finance. Some 72 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States was in housing finance, of which more than 50 per cent was insured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It was no wonder that the United States Government had been forced to step in to avert a financial and economic crisis from getting out of hand.
It was paradoxical that, in order to restore trust in global financial markets and systems, the developed world had resorted to massive public sector intervention in the market place, she said. Housing and municipal finance systems required attention at the highest levels and the political will to allocate sufficient resources. Most, if not all, of the first generation of United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks and poverty reduction strategy papers did not even mention the word “housing”. Housing had not been a priority in second-generation documents, despite the fact that most urban dwellers lived in the slums of sub-Saharan Africa and the least developed countries.
In the developing world, housing finance was in a state of permanent crisis, she said, adding that it could not be resolved without political will and public intervention, including finance to help the market. “The current housing-finance crisis and the responses of the leaders in the developed world should be an eye opener for the developing world.”
Issuing a strong call for the convening in 2009 of a special session of the General Assembly to discuss the role of Government in housing finance systems, she said that never before had the Habitat Agenda been more relevant to the challenges the world was facing. In implementing its Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013, UN-Habitat had put in place a series of strategic and institutional measures that would enhance programme focus and alignment, results-based management and effective partnerships.
On the institutional front, she said, it was laying the foundations for results-oriented monitoring, evaluation and reporting, streamlined business practices, delegation of authority, enhanced accountability, and alignment of human resource requirements with the anticipated outcomes of its six-year plan. On the strategic front, it had sharpened its programme focus along a set of five focus areas relating to achievement of the human settlement targets of the Millennium Development Goals and a long-term vision for sustainable urbanization.
UN-Habitat was also making progress in forging strategic alliances with key United Nations agencies, she said. At the regional level, it had devoted most of 2008 to consolidating its working relations with international and regional financial institutions in Africa, Asia and Latin America in the area of water and sanitation. At the country level, it was participating in the “Delivering as One United Nations” pilot countries, with a country presence in six of the eight pilot countries.
The current financial crisis and the world’s predicament were closely tied to the issues of affordable housing and equitable and sustainable urban development, she said. The world could no longer ignore the fact that the combined impact of rapid urbanization and globalization had exacerbated poverty, inequality and social exclusion. The international community was about to witness a resurgence of homelessness in the world’s most powerful country and greatest economy.
JANIL GREENAWAY ( Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said UN-Habitat played a unique role in the overall pursuit of sustainable development. Recent trends in human settlements, including increasing urbanization and growing mega-cities, increased the need to focus on implementing the Habitat Agenda -- particularly Millennium Development Goal 7 and the target to halve by 2015 the proportion of people living without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation -- and to achieve a significant improvement in the lives of 20 million slum dwellers by 2020.
The growing trend of rapid urbanization meant that a significant portion of the challenge to achieve sustainable development entailed managing cities and urban sprawl in a sustainable manner, she said. The Group of 77 and China was, therefore, encouraged by the efforts of UN-Habitat to deepen the international community’s understanding of the impact of rapid globalization. Like income inequality anywhere, growing urban economic inequality would significantly compound the socio-economic challenges already faced by the millions of poor people living in urban areas. The Group of 77 and China urged the Programme to continue to pay attention to that issue with the aim of helping reverse the trend. Given the proportion of people living in urban areas, and the fact that their number would increase steadily, the role of cities in addressing the climate-change crisis was another important factor.
She said that the fulfilment of both the internationally agreed goals on the provision of adequate shelter for all and the sustainable development of human settlements, including the target on slum eradication, required a holistic and integrated approach through nationally owned and led strategies focusing on, inter alia: full and productive employment and decent work for all; access to safe water and sanitation; poverty eradication; the provision of modern, affordable energy services; and waste collection and disposal. The international community should give due attention and support to achieving the goals of the Habitat Agenda, including through predictable financial support, given its focus on critical aspects of human livelihoods, basic needs and poverty eradication. Furthermore, UN-Habitat and all other development partners should continue to play a major role in supporting the efforts of developing countries to provide shelter for all and achieve sustainable human settlements.
ZACHARY D. MUBURI-MUITA (Kenya), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said one of the major challenges of rapid, unplanned and unsustainable urbanization was the growth of slums and other informal settlements within and adjacent to major towns and cities. If that trend continued, there was a strong possibility that some of the major cities in developing countries would soon be transformed into slums. Such a development would undermine efforts to achieve sustainable development, particularly through the implementation of internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Development Goals.
The current multiple global crises had a strong bearing on the goals of the Habitat Agenda, he said. The challenges emanating from climate change required new and innovative approaches to urbanization. The financial crisis, which had been closely linked to the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market, was a new phenomenon that urban development experts and policymakers should review. The UN-Habitat, supported by other stakeholders, should complete a study on the causes and implications of the crisis and share the experience with other countries implementing such mortgage schemes.
He noted the creation of the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development, comprising African housing ministers, to deal with the challenges of urbanization. A recent meeting held in Abuja, Nigeria, in late July had resulted in the Abuja Resolution and the Abuja Plan of Action. The Plan included pragmatic decisions and commitments in the areas of funding, capacity-building, monitoring and evaluation and regulatory measures. The African Group looked forward to the support of all stakeholders in implementing those decisions.
Commending UN-Habitat for kick-starting implementation of the Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013, which had been approved by the Governing Council in 2007, he said the African Group was also satisfied with the progress made in implementing the Experiment Reimbursable Seeding Operation (ERSO). It was particularly pleased with the finalization of the ERSO Operational Procedures and Operational Manual, and the creation of the ERSO Steering and Monitoring Committee. The African Group called on Member States to increase their contributions to UN-Habitat funds, activities and projects, and urged donors to scale up their support of the Programme’s activities.
FAZLE KABIR (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, said the twin objectives of the Habitat Agenda -- “shelter for all” and “sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world” -- were critically important and corresponded to basic human needs. New and emerging challenges, particularly the increasing intensity of disasters, underscored the greater importance of the human settlement dimension of sustainable development. Globally, urbanization was growing rapidly, and due to changing demographic and socio-economic circumstances, half of the world’s population was now living in urban areas. The other half was also increasingly dependent on cities for their economic, social and political development. Developing countries, particularly the least developed ones, faced significant challenges in achieving economic, social and environmental sustainability in both urban and rural areas.
Sustainable urbanization must be integrated into national development strategies, and as mainstreamed into the operational activities of the United Nations, he said. Sustainable urbanization must not be at the cost of negating rural development, as every citizen deserved a secure supply of basic services and employment opportunities. Sustainable urban development should be based on environmentally sound technologies. While cities occupied just over 2 per cent of land, they currently produced 70 per cent of waste, accounting for an equal proportion of greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentally-sound basic urban infrastructure and services were, therefore, critically important to ensuring environmentally friendly urbanization. Furthermore, special attention should be accorded to the least developed countries as their proportionate investments in housing and basic urban infrastructure remained far behind the level of demographic growth and physical expansion of towns and cities. Nevertheless, they were not receiving adequate international support.
ARMANATHA NASIR (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that, with nearly half the world’s population living in urban areas, the imperative to address sustainable development in the urban context had never been greater. The Habitat Agenda of “Shelter for all” and “Sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world” served as two important goals in addressing global urbanization. Those twin goals had become even more significant in light of the multiple crises and climate change. The recent trend of increasing and rapid urbanization, combined with the current global crises, indicated that States should pay more attention to implementing the Habitat Agenda in striving to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
For the short term, measures to alleviate the pressures of high food and energy prices on the poor were vital, he said. Short-term measures also required capacity-building to integrate future needs for reconstruction and recovery. For the medium term, Indonesia welcomed the implementation of the Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013. The objectives to help Member States put in place the conditions necessary to stabilize slum growth and reduce the number of slum dwellers by 2013 was an important contribution to the Millennium Goals. To address urbanization in the long term, it was important to deal with rural underdevelopment in developing countries, as that had been a major factor in the unprecedented urban growth.
LIU YUYIN ( China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the challenges of housing and human settlements were far from resolved, and to ensure the success of the Habitat Agenda of “Shelter for all” and “Sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world”, there were three points upon which to focus. First was the necessity of sustainable development as a foundation for establishing stable housing. That process must develop in synchronicity with population growth and in balance with environmental protection and resource availability.
The second point was the need to strengthen international cooperation. Support from developed to developing countries was an essential in fostering an environment that produced economic and social development, and thus housing and shelter. Lastly, there was a need to engage strong partnerships between every part of society, from Government authorities to non-governmental organizations, to the private sector, to citizens, and to youth, in order for the Habitat Agenda to be implemented fully.
China’s own commitment to the issue of sustainable shelter was evident in the improvement of its urban areas, where the imperatives of preserving the ecological environment and accelerating the building of new residences were integrated into the infrastructure of its cities. From 3 November to 6 November, the Fourth World City Forum would be held in Nanjing, China, under the theme “Harmonious Urbanization”.
SANGEETA SINGH DEO ( India) said her country had been active in the promotion of institutional housing finance to poor and economically weaker sectors, particularly through public housing-finance institutions. India supported the guidelines on decentralization and the strengthening of local authorities adopted by the Governing Council of UN-Habitat, having advocated greater involvement by local authorities in decision-making and policy implementation, along with greater representation of all sections of society in local authorities and the expansion of their functional domain. While the Programme’s resource mobilization efforts had borne fruit, its “low-stocked” budget was still a matter of concern.
Though the urban poor were among the most exposed victims of the present food and energy crises, there was an inescapable need for sustainable urbanization in both developed and developing countries. A key element in reducing energy consumption and emissions were rational land-use planning, green building codes and energy-efficient transport options. In those areas, India had taken active steps through the adoption of an Energy Conservation Act and an Energy Efficiency Code for new commercial buildings.
In terms of urban development, she said the country had taken an integrated approach, with the start last year of a national housing policy to ensure affordable housing for all, and basic services to the poor, including land tenure, water, sanitation, education and health. Affordable rural housing had also been promoted in the form of grant-in-aid for the construction of dwelling units and the upgrading of temporary housing. Poverty eradication was also incorporated into that integrated strategy, as were targeted policies to promote employment and livelihood opportunities.
The international community’s efforts to provide financial and technical assistance remained crucial if developing countries were to attain the Millennium Development Goals, she said. There should be a holistic focus on generating productive employment, creating durable economic and physical infrastructures, and ensuring food security. Within the South-South cooperation framework, India shared appropriate housing technology with fellow developing countries, particularly in cost-effective, environment-friendly and disaster-resistant construction.
HIRUT ZEMENE ( Ethiopia) said poverty was still concentrated in rural areas, where 75 per cent of the world’s poor lived. Urbanization played a role in reducing rural poverty by improving rural livelihoods through remittances and inducing tighter rural labour markets. But rural development was also of paramount importance. Enhancing the production and productivity of the agricultural sector was crucial to increasing the incomes of the rural poor, thereby reducing rural hardships and speeding up sustainable urban development.
She expressed support for the proposal by the Economic and Social Council to include sustainable urbanization as a cross-cutting issue, with a major focus on urban poverty. Implementation of the Habitat Agenda and the related Millennium Development Goals was an imperative in terms of addressing urban challenges effectively. Development partners must continue efforts to help support UN-Habitat implement the Habitat Agenda.
In Ethiopia, low-cost housing schemes were under way with a view to addressing the serious problem of decent shelter for the urban poor, she said. The schemes had become an important means of generating employment for students graduating from technical and vocational schools. The projects also aimed to address the problem of slum pockets in Addis Ababa, which would help curb poverty. The promotion of small and micro-enterprises was an important means to create jobs and improve household income. School curricula for technical and vocational courses were moving in tandem with the construction of low-cost housing.
ADAMU A. EMOZOZO (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the daunting challenges of rapid urbanization underscored the need for renewed efforts to achieve the important Habitat Agenda of providing shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development. More financial support to UN-Habitat was, therefore, necessary to enable the Programme to adequately help Member States, especially the developing countries, address the negative impact of chaotic urbanization that had hindered their capacity to provide basic needs for poor urban dwellers. The Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan provided a strong framework for improved service delivery and transformation of UN-Habitat into a more results-oriented agency.
He said his country supported the experimental reimbursable seeding operations recently established by UN-Habitat as an innovative mechanism for financing pro-poor housing. Its successful operation would facilitate access to the funds required for the provision of affordable housing and urban development. The tasks of achieving sustainable urbanization and reducing poverty called for full cooperation and commitment by all stakeholders in the Habitat Agenda. For its own part, Nigeria had committed to address the challenges of housing, slum reduction and access to safe drinking water. Through appropriate policy frameworks and plans, the country intended to achieve significant improvements in the lives of the majority of urban slum dwellers by 2020.
ANNA OVCHARENKO ( Russian Federation) stressed the importance of implementing the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and supporting the goals of the Habitat Agenda, saying her country supported programmes to mitigate the social, economic and environmental consequences of climate change, the food crisis and natural disasters. However, those factors must be considered in the context of UN-Habitat’s programmes to provide decent housing. The Russian Federation supported the Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013, which would help to better focus programmes and activities and expand the funding base.
Underscoring the importance of United Nations partnerships, stepping up interaction with the Bretton Woods institutions and strengthening inter-agency coordination, she called enhancement of the quality of the Habitat Agenda, by the introduction of mechanisms to assess the efficiency of programmes, and improving the collection and analysis of statistical data on human settlements. From 1997 to 2007, the Russian Federation had implemented, with UN-Habitat, national housing-reform projects that could serve as models for similar initiatives in other countries.
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