4 June 1996


4 June 1996

Press Release


19960604 (Received from a UN Information Officer.)

ISTANBUL, 3 June -- The international community should be committed to adequate shelter for all as a basic human right, several delegations said this afternoon on the first day of a general exchange of views on the status of human settlements at the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlement (Habitat II).

Speakers stressed the need to ensure greater participation for local authorities and communities in the decision-making process on sustainable human settlement development. Others called for greater cooperation between cities, nations and regions.

The Conference heard statements by the Special Representative of the President of Brazil, the Secretary of State for Social Development of Argentina, the Minister of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, the Minister for the Environment of France and the Minister for Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development of Germany.

Statements were also made by the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government of Malaysia, the Under Secretary-General in the Ministry of Public Works and Housing of the United Arab Emirates, and the Deputy Director General, Ministry of Local Government and Labour of Norway.

The representatives of Japan and Ecuador also spoke.

A Member of the European Commission and the President of the Commission for Urban Policy of the European Union made a statement, as did the Director- General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Managing Director of the World Bank and the Chief of the Secretariat of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

General Exchange of Views

EDUARDO AMADEO, Secretary of State for Social Development of Argentina: We have not been able to satisfy the wish of our people for better standards

of living. An interventionist approach by government has been replaced by the free market economic system. The state now has a new role to promote and assist in organizing communities. It must be transparent in allocating resources and in implementing its policies. That should be a new scenario of a more just relationship between people and the state.

There has been growth and stability in Argentina ensuring more resources for social investment. Much improvement has occurred in the housing sector. The State has invested in over two million units and is seeking more private as well as public resources. Argentina's suggestions for appropriate housing policy include the need to use funds from savings in the capital market, reduce subsidies and make housing accessible to the poorest.

SINIKKA MONKARE, Minister of Social Affairs and Health of Finland: The Conference should endorse the enabling approach together with its parallel concept of partnership as one of the key strategies in ensuring sustainable development of human settlements and adequate living conditions for all. Through enabling policies, all actors in the society can be mobilized to contribute to solving human settlement problems. Market-based, enabling housing policies of Finland have brought about essential multiplier effects on the economy. The Finnish experience confirms that government intervention is required to ensure that markets function well. Markets alone cannot address the needs of society -- effective social safety nets are required to support the disadvantaged. The enabling policy and the legally-recognized right to housing are also compatible goals. That right was recognized in the constitutional amendment on fundamental rights adopted last year in Finland. Finland therefore supports the inclusion of a strong commitment to this basic human right in the "Habitat Agenda".

CORRINE LEPAGE, Minister for the Environment of France: There should be efforts to ensure that all human beings will be able to find adequate housing. The right to housing should mean the access to resources for housing. Decisions should be based on decentralization, democratization and the participation of various parts of the society. The right to adequate housing should be guaranteed. Citizen participation should be ensured in relation to the decisions taken on policies. The State must promote partnership, particularly between the public and private sectors and bring together various players in the field of housing. Decentralization should be encouraged and the Istanbul Conference should produce a message of solidarity on the issues before it. The "City Summit" has made a significant contribution by allowing mayors, locally elected officials and representatives of civil society to be involved in implementing the Habitat Agenda and for other follow-up.

TAKEHIRO TOGO (Japan): Japan's policy regarding human settlements include two basic approaches: comprehensive basic policies for balanced national growth and policies on the regional level to encourage growth that

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take optimum advantage of the unique features of each region. Japan has implemented basic policies which represent public investment and provide guidelines for investment by the private sector. Recent attempts have been made to promote well-balanced development of cities. There has been an attempt to decentralize and relocate functions that have become concentrated in metropolitan areas while a set of regional promotion policies are also being actively advanced. International cooperation should not consist solely of the support traditionally extended by the developed countries but also include south-south cooperation, as well as triangular cooperation among developed countries, more advanced developing countries and other developing countries.

ALI HAMID AL SHANSI, Under Secretary-General in the Ministry of Public Works and Housing of the United Arab Emirates: The United Arab Emirates have set aside the necessary funds to ensure adequate housing for each citizen as well as modern facilities and infrastructure. Every effort is being made to adopt the necessary policies for the optimum use of resources for the development of human settlements. The Conference is of great importance to the United Arab Emirates. It hosted the preparatory conference in October in 1994 and another related conference in Dubai in 1995 in which it was decided to award prizes to the best human settlement practices. We reiterate our support for Habitat II's lofty objectives. In deciding on the Habitat Agenda, account must be taken of the religious and cultural legacies of all individuals and societies. The Conference must ensure effective follow-up to all the plans and strategies that it will adopt. The Centre for Human Settlements must be given support to implement the mandates.

UMAR BIN HAJI ABU, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government of Malaysia: Malaysia, which has housing policies to ensure that its citizens have access to adequate shelter, has met its targets for housing construction in its five-year development plans. For instance, during its Sixth Development Plan from 1991 to 1995, it built some 656,000 units, above the target of 573,000. About 70 per cent of the housing will be low- to low-medium cost units. The private sector is encouraged to take part in building low-cost houses through a system of cross-subsidies.

In support of Agenda 21, Malaysia has taken steps to ensure that environmental and conservation considerations are being integrated into national development planing. The Seventh Five- Year Development Plan contains measures to ensure that Malaysia's commitments to Agenda 21 are considered in order to prepare the country for the challenges of sustainable development in the new millennium.

MAJORIE ULLOA (Ecuador): Rapid urbanization has created massive problems for Ecuador and the quality of life was diminishing quickly, with the rural areas experiencing the worst decline. Since that situation existed in a

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great majority of developing countries, action at the global level is therefore necessary to tackle its attendant problems. Vulnerable groups should be protected in the search for solutions to the problem of housing. Those with scarce resources should be granted access to credit, land and education to enable them to take part adequately in decision-making processes that would affect their lives. In response to the growing trends towards stabilization and interdependence, the Conference should ensure international cooperation. Commitments should be towards carrying out many policies at the local level. The United Nations system could help with the monitoring of the implementation of policies and measures.

PER NYGAARD, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Local Government and Labour of Norway: Although Norway still faces some important challenges within the shelter sector, the country's housing situation for the majority of people is very good. Sustainable settlements development poses some more serious challenges. The goals of sustainable consumption production patterns have not been achieved. Since Norway has attempted to develop viable regions in all parts of the country, there has been a small-scale development of some distressed areas in the larger towns. Norway's wealth has encouraged a high standard of living for most people, which has been achieved by an unsustainable use of resources. A number of measures are being taken to change these trends. Implementation is based on a division of roles and responsibilities among the central government, the municipalities, and the private sector, including the cooperative housing movement.

MAURICIO DE MARIA Y CAMPOS, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO): Metropolitan areas must make concerted efforts to upgrade the skills of their labour force by shifting towards knowledged-based industries and high-level services and by creating conditions that foster sustainable industrial development. Central and local governments can assist economic growth and industrial development by providing modern infrastructure, setting institutional and legal frameworks to encourage the formation of joint public-private initiatives, replacing outmoded technologies and by encouraging investments in human capital and coordination with the business sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society.

To meet the challenge of human settlements, UNIDO has just concluded a major reform and refocussed its mission. It is focusing on meeting the increasing demands for the decentralized technical cooperation and partnerships at the regional and local levels.

GERALDO HOLANDA CAVALCANTI, Special Representative of the President of Brazil: The difficulties faced by the proposed Habitat Agenda reflect the diversity of urban problems which varies from region to region. The principles of the proposed global plan of action coincide with those governing the urban policies of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. To reduce social

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inequities, the policies seek to give local authorities more autonomy, reserving to the central government the responsibilities of regulation, technical assistance and the promotion of investments. Partnership has been an important component of the Brazilian preparatory process to Habitat II. Its delegations include representatives of the federal, state and municipal governments. Partnership should be fostered also between nations. The international community has an important role to play in searching for and implementing solutions to urban problems. The Conference should help find creative ways for international cooperation to help all sides.

KLAUS TOPFER, Minister for Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development of Germany: There are three areas where action will be important. First, there is a need for a modern infrastructure, especially for basic needs, economic development, job creation and for environmental and health protection. Second, production and consumption patterns in human settlements should be adjusted to the needs of resources protection, with more attention given to strategies for a life-cycle economy. Thirdly, the internal structure of cities should be corrected. Industrialized countries have to recognize that their urban lifestyles, patterns of production and consumption are a major part of the global environmental problem. Cities from the developed world could form partnerships with towns in the developing countries, or those in transition, for the transfer of technology and exchanges of experience. Germany, for its part, supports more than 100 projects in developing countries in the field of sustainable human settlements.

CAIO KOCH-WESER, Managing Director of the World Bank: "The Bank's main goal is to reduce poverty and since most of the world's poor will soon live in cities, we have a large stake in the outcome of the discussions here." By 2015, 27 cities will have passed the 10 million mark, 516 cities will have passed the one billion mark and the urban population will have passed the four million mark. Three interrelated priorities for public policy, -- urban finance, poverty reduction and environmental clean-up -- hold the key to the livability and viability of cities. Programmes for poverty reduction require political will and commitment, which is lacking in too many countries. "Governments need to stop using the bulldozer and forced evictions as policy instruments - and accept the legitimate rights of the poor to live and work in the city." The Bank can help developing countries with a wide range of financial instruments such as loans, credits and guarantees as well as insurance facilities. Its pipeline of urban operations presently amounts to $15 billion for the next five years which is a tripling of the Bank's efforts in this sector.

RAYMOND HALL, Chief of Secretariat of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: The number of people of concern to the UNHCR is about 24 million worldwide. Of that, 14.2 million, or 60 per cent, are

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refugees, with internally displaced persons, returnees and others making up the balance. They have at one stage or the other lost or faced the danger of losing their homes. The protection of the rights of refugees lies at the heart of UNHCR's mandate. While refugees are the main point of reference of UNHCR work, it has budgeted some $165 million for humanitarian assistance for shelter in 1996 alone. Refugee camps are human settlements and should be planned with the active participation of their residents. The preferred solution is for their dwellers to return home as soon as conditions permit. While up to nine million have done so in the last four years, peace alone is not enough to ensure safe and sustainable reintegration. Rehabilitation assistance is often needed.

FRANCESO RUTELLI, President of the Commission for Urban Policy of the European Union: Local authorities and non-governmental organizations are now a dynamic factor at conferences such as the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements. Cities should be seen as factors for change. The prospects and conclusions of the Vancouver Conference have been shown to be true. Therefore, the world should not wait for a Habitat III before addressing urban problems in need of urgent solutions. Cities should ben as centres of hope. Rather than being forgotten at the end of conferences, decisions reached there should be implemented to avoid the need to search for solutions all over again. Local and national Agenda 21 programmes should bet set up to help with implementation.

MONIKA WULF-MATHIES, Member of the European Commission: The European Commission would provide more than $5.5 billion of official assistance each year on a grant basis a number of developing countries. The projects supported reflect some of the priorities in the Habitat Agenda, particularly the involvement of the local community in the preparation and implementation of actions. Seventy per cent of citizens in the European Union live in cities and towns. A worrying trend is the structural impoverishment of certain urban neighbourhoods which leads to the segregation of different groups and the growth of ghettoes. As a result a programme, "urban", has been launched as a catalyst towards creating productive activities in "lost urban neighbourhoods", by improving the business environment and stimulating indigenous local development. Solidarity and sustainability cannot be guaranteed by market forces and a growing economy alone.

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For information media. Not an official record.