7 June 2001


Press Release

General Assembly Thematic Committee

Twenty-fifth Special Session

4th Meeting (PM)



Good governance, local participation, decentralization of authority, urban reform and measures to eliminate slums were among the issues addressed during this afternoon’s meeting of the Thematic Committee of the General Assembly’s special session.

The session is reviewing implementation of the Habitat Agenda, adopted at the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) (Istanbul, 1996).  The Thematic Committee was established by the Assembly to facilitate an exchange of experiences and best practices.  This afternoon, under the theme of urban governance, it considered case studies from Brazil, France, Nigeria and Spain to illustrate urban development efforts undertaken by countries with varying levels of social and economic development.

The Mayor of Santo Andre, Brazil, presented an integrated programme for social inclusion, which had been developed to improve the partnership between the municipality and the residents, particularly the poor.  Among the people benefiting from the $15 million programme -- which had Federal, State and international participation -- were 16,000 inhabitants of four slum dwellings, who were now enjoying improved housing and better services, as well as access to credit and vocational training.  The Mayor stressed that the concept of social exclusion was much broader than poverty itself and it had become clear that the construction of housing alone was not sufficient.  An increased awareness of the problem among urban stakeholders was also needed and people had to be empowered to decide their own fate.

Brazil’s other representative, the Governor of Brasilia, described efforts directed towards relocating dwellers of that city’s shanty-towns to eight new settlements, which had been built for that purpose.

Presenting Lyon’s strategy in response to globalization, the Mayor of France’s second largest city said that a recent study had shown that the greatest energy for creativity and change came from those most removed from power -- young people, women, workers and people living in working class districts.  That was how almost 2,000 people from those economic, social and cultural backgrounds had come together in five working groups to consider the best means of ensuring the city's

long-term development.  The "Millenaire 3" plan was an initiative to involve Lyons' 1.2 million inhabitants and 55 municipalities in planning for the city's future, he said.  As a result, the city had adopted a strategy that identified

21 priorities for the twenty-first century and provided a new vision for Lyon.

Barcelona, Spain was another case study in which a city had transformed through consultation with all the stakeholders and the Government’s efforts involved the recovery of the city’s large historical centre, which had more than 250,000 inhabitants.  A project of such scale could only be accomplished in the presence of a democratic government and a city board, in consultation with the local councils.  It also required a joint venture of private and public corporations.

The fourth case study presented this afternoon involved sustainable urban development and good governance in Nigeria, where, following years of centralized autocratic rule under military regimes, the Government was seeking to strengthen the country’s 36 State Governments and 774 bodies of local authority by giving them greater political and fiscal autonomy.

Presentations this afternoon were made by Celso Daniel, Mayor of Santo Andre, Brazil; Joaquim Roriz, Governor of the city of Brasilia; Gerard Collomb, Mayor of Lyon and President of Greater Lyon, France; J.O.Okunfulure, Director of Lands, Urban and Regional Development, of Nigeria; Garba M. Ali, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Works and Housing; and Joan Carlos, Mayor of Barcelona, Spain.

Facilitating the event were Aydan Erim (Turkey) and Patrick Wakely (United Kingdom).

The Committee will hold its last meeting at 9 a.m. tomorrow, 8 June, when it is scheduled to take up case studies prepared by Thailand, Peru and Morocco on the theme of the eradication of poverty.

Integrated Programme for Social Inclusion in Santo Andre, Brazil

According to the discussion paper, since Habitat II the Santo Andre Municipality in the Sao Paolo metropolitan area has been working to include those members of society who had been traditionally excluded.  A citizenship programme was developed to improve communication and partnership between the municipality and the residents, particularly the poor.  Among the many people benefiting from the programme were 16,000 inhabitants of four favelas, who were now enjoying improved housing and better services, as well as access to credit and vocational training.

(The paper is available on the Special Session Web site.  For more information contact: Celso Daniel, Municipality of Santo Andre;

tel: 55-11-4433-0150; fax: 55-11-4433-0323;

e-mail: mabelchoir@santoandre.sp.gov.br.)

Presenting the case study, CELSO DANIEL, Mayor of Santo Andre, said that the city of more than 650,000 people was passing through an important socio-economic transformation, which had led to high unemployment, as well as deep socio-economic inequalities.  The concept of social exclusion could be considered to be much broader than poverty itself.  Through the years, the city authorities had learned that the construction of housing alone was not sufficient.  An increased awareness of the problem among urban stakeholders was also needed.

To address the problem, local authorities had undertaken a programme in four slum areas, which could not be perceived as a simple slum upgrading project.  It focused on creating a sense of dignity in the inhabitants, who were encouraged to take charge of their own destiny.  The programme was characterized by intense inhabitant participation, and it involved several financing and technical partnerships.  The policies were focused on the minimal income programme, vocational training and integrated slum upgrading, which involved provision of basic services, including water and electricity; construction of roads; and creation of community centres.  People were able to rebuild their own houses, and they were willing to save and labour in order to become part of the formal city.  

The programme also involved literacy and health programmes, he said.  Federal and State Governments, as well as international structures, were involved in the project, along with several local non-governmental organizations.  The total cost of the programme amounted to some $15 million.  Some results-based indicators were used to measure the level of success, including statistics regarding health assistance during pregnancy, children being breast fed and vaccinated children.  The living conditions of those involved in the minimal income programme had significantly improved and environmental risks were reduced. A participatory budgetary practice was an integral part of good urban governance.  The most important challenge for the future would be to upscale the programme and improve the living conditions of all slum dwellers in the city. 

The second representative of Brazil, JOAQUIM RORIZ, Governor of Brasilia, said that due to the Government’s efforts in education and health, the living conditions in Brasilia had significantly improved.  Tremendous efforts had been directed towards relocating dwellers of shanty-towns to eight new settlements, which had been built for that purpose. 

Zoning regulations were changed in order to allow the development of vacant land, he said.  The policy was to register the lots in the name of the women, who played a more responsible role in their families than men.  Thousands of families built new homes for themselves, transforming the face of the city of former slum dwellers, Samobaio.  Health clinics, police stations and paved streets were part of that city.  Jobs generation, monetary incentives to the families to keep children in school and provision of supplementary food aid were among the Government’s actions.  Uniforms and schools supplies were being provided for the poor families. 

The segment’s facilitator, AYDAN ERIM (Turkey) said that the example of Brazil was very impressive.  The social inclusion programme provided several lessons in overcoming the hurdles to inter-agency collaboration.  The Santo Andre project was actually very lucky, however, for when it was conceived, the reform of the municipality was already in the plans.  With the participation of various agencies, a potent recipe had been achieved, which could not be replicated without all the ingredients.  As for Brasilia, she inquired if the reason for such a mass relocation was to keep the city image free of slum dwellers.  She also wanted to know about the financial basis for such a project.

A speaker in the discussion that followed the presentation also wondered if the projects in Brazil were replicable.  Providing new housing hardly amounted to social inclusion.  When the disadvantaged were contributing to the economy, they should be included in the city plans.  Did relocating them to a separate area really mean social inclusion?

Questions were also asked about the sustainability of the exercise.  Suppose other poor people came to the city, a speaker said, trying to make a living -- did they automatically go to the designated site?

Mr. DANIEL replied that he believed the programme in Santo Andre was replicable, provided adequate funds were provided at both national and international levels.  Some kinds of problems could not be solved without international assistance.  Political will was also needed.  In terms of housing, the people solved the problem with their own savings.  Provided with the land, people were glad to participate in the construction.  As for other costs, 50 per cent of the funds were provided by the local authorities, and the other 50 by the national Government and international institutions.  A considerable part of the infrastructure and services were the responsibility of the public sector.  The Government could not guarantee social inclusion in the future, but it could stimulate people to achieve it. 

Mr. RORIZ added that, although the city of Brasilia was new, it had encountered the problem of slums.  As the country had undergone serious economic difficulties, many low-income families had come to the city in search of work.  To accept those people, adequate transportation and infrastructure were needed.  With the help of State Government funds, local authorities decided to address the problem.  Having found the city practically invaded, they saw the need to relocate the slum dwellers.  The Government only provided the land and the infrastructure.  The inhabitants themselves were responsible for the construction of the housing.  As they grow, the new settlements were creating their own jobs.

As to the efforts to prevent the return of the problem, he said that it was difficult to change the migration patterns.  He did not know if it was necessary to prevent the recurrence of the problem or to reapply the solution.

In her concluding remarks, the facilitator Ms. ERIM said that a standard jargon, which had been worked out at the international level, included the phrase about good governance.  It was important to take a fresh look at the problem and clearly define that term.  It was also interesting to find out why some projects received significant support, while other did not.

City Development Strategy in Response to Globalization in Lyon, France

According to a discussion paper prepared for the session, the

"Millenaire 3" plan is an initiative to involve Lyons' 1.2 million inhabitants and 55 municipalities in planning for the city's future.  After three years of intense debate involving thematic working groups and various partnerships, the city has adopted a strategy that identifies 21 priorities for the twenty-first century and provides a new vision for Lyon.

One of the more interesting aspects has been the complete overhaul of the new transportation system.  In addition to providing more public transportation, the number of vehicles parked on the street has been reduced by the creation of eight new parking lots.  Each lot is unique and artistic.  One boasts a laser display and another resembles Breugel's painting of the Tower of Babel.

(The paper is available on the special session Web site.  For additional information contact:  Philippe Dhenein, ENTPE – rue Maurice Audin 69518, Vaulx-en-Velin, Cedex, France; tel:  04-72-04-77-69; fax:  04 72 046254;

e-mail:  dhenein@entp.fr)

Making his presentation, GERARD COLLOMB, Mayor of Lyon and president of Greater Lyon, said Millenaire 3, launched in 1997, was a forward-looking plan guided by two concerns.  The first was to make Lyon, France's second city, count as one of Europe's great cities in economic and cultural terms, as well as in terms of its university potential.  The second concern was to ensure that its growth did not founder on a rift between the city centre and the suburbs, on the one hand, and the working class districts and the poor suburbs on the other.

He said that, just as conditions for economic development must constantly be improved, so the social cohesion must constantly improve.  The city could not be seen to grow on two tracks, with everything going well for those with jobs and a good education and everything going badly for those who were culturally, socially and economically less well off.  Such a social cleavage would compromise everybody's quality of life.

In order to build the ambitious plan, he said, Lyon had reached out to civil society, on the one hand, and to Europe, on the other.  A study launched at the start of Millenaire 3 had shown that the greatest energy for creativity and change came from those most removed from power -- young people, women, workers and people living in working class districts.  That was how almost 2,000 people from the economic, social and cultural worlds had come together in five working groups to consider the best means of ensuring the city's long-term development.

He said the result was a Council for Development grouping 350 people representing institutions, as well as volunteers.  They had created room for open and serious-minded debate that permitted real dialogue on all fundamental questions of today's society.  That debate instilled confidence and gave food for thought in the building of common projects.

Reaching out to Europe as part of the "European City" had resulted in a final report discussed in a colloquium that had brought together more than

350 people from more than 50 European cities last September.  The work would continue on a theme of implementing development and difficulties encountered as part of a thematic network.  Thus, Lyon had broken with its tradition of a certain parochialism to open itself to other cities and to enrich itself with their knowledge and experience.  In doing so, it had been influential as never before.

PATRICK WAKELY (United Kingdom), the facilitator, noted that integrated social development was a lifetime process.

A speaker sought more information on the renewal of high-rise neighbourhoods in the suburbs.  How had it been achieved?  Asking about participatory democracy, another speaker asked how the mayor would conceive complementarity between participatory and representative democracy.

Another speaker asked for more information about possible conflicts among the 55 different communities of Lyon.  How did they all get their say and what mechanism had been introduced to enable them to enter the process as equal players?  Referring to environmental protection, another speaker asked how the environment was linked to the city's development strategy.

Responding, Mr. COLLOMB said the renewal plan still had to be confirmed.  The high-rise neighbourhoods had been built on the margins of Lyon in the 1960s.  The people inhabiting them had progressively left and been replaced by poor people, mostly immigrant.  That, in turn, had brought in a form of discrimination that was destroying the city's balance.

He said Lyon had then undertaken to rebuild the city and abandon the

1960s model.  Lyon had always rebuilt itself and there was no reason why it could not turn to a new kind of urban development, taking into account the mistakes of a past historical moment.

Lyon was in the middle of trying to give a voice to all who might have a vision of the city, he said.  One concern would be to try and articulate a global construction of the city, with participation at the local level.  Legislation was being prepared to ensure the establishment of community and neighborhood councils and other local forums and to experiment with more direct participation through referendums.

He added that there was a continuing debate to ensure that the particular concerns of each community would not keep the city from acting.  The city itself was going beyond institutional limits and those of the standing laws of France.  Regarding the environment, he said it recalled the question of zones for economic and urban development, and those which must be retained as nature preserves.

Mr. WAKELY, the facilitator, said the lesson emerging from the discussion, which applied to all cities, was one of constant regeneration.  The partnerships between the private and public sectors were increasingly being faced in the globalization process.

Sustainable Urban Development and Good Governance in Nigeria

According to the discussion paper, greater participation of ordinary citizens in the affairs of their city and town depended on the degree power was decentralized to local authorities.  After years of centralized autocratic rule under military regimes, the Nigerian Federal Government was seeking to strengthen Nigeria’s 36 State Governments and 774 bodies of local authority by giving them greater political and fiscal autonomy. 

Benefiting from the experience gained from Habitat’s Sustainable Cities Programme in Ibadan, Kano and Enugu, a national urban development policy has been designed, the paper further states.  A safer cities project is being implemented in Abuja.  Several projects support efforts to upgrade slums and squatter settlements and to institute mechanisms for citizen participation and local democracy.

(The paper is available on the Special Session Web site.  For further information contact: J.O. Okunfulure, Director of Land, Urban and Regional Development; tel: 09-5211632; fax: 09-5235746.)

Presenting his country’s experience, J.O.OKUNFULURE, Director of Lands, Urban and Regional Development, of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing of Nigeria, said that by the end of the twentieth century, the proportion of urban population in his country had risen to more than 43 per cent.  The management of the resulting problems presented a daunting challenge to government at all levels. Significant progress had been achieved in promoting geographically balanced settlements in Nigeria through a new urban policy, which was launched in 1997 to promote well-planned and managed cities.

Continuing, he described an urban infrastructure development project, which was being assisted by a loan from the World Bank.  The project involved development of basic services and road networks.  Sustainable city programmes were also being implemented in the country.  To strengthen local authorities, the Government encouraged local participation at all levels of authority. 

He went on to say that the ongoing constitutional review was expected to increase political autonomy of state and local authorities.  Since the inception of the democratically elected Government, bold steps were being undertaken to decentralize the management of the public sector.  Appropriate institutional reforms were being implemented, with emphasis on private sector involvement in the development of urban infrastructures. 

Also implemented were poverty alleviation programmes, he said, including a youth empowerment scheme, which provided employment and credits for the young.  Promotion of participatory urban governance was among the Government’s priorities. Micro-credit schemes were being put in place, providing loans to small enterprises.  It was also important to fight corruption and promote transparency and social equity in order to establish good governance in the country.

The segment’s facilitator, Mr. WAKELY (United Kingdom), said that Nigeria had presented an impressive example of a large country undergoing rapid change and introducing radical reforms in the process of urban development.  Among the lessons to be drawn from this experience was the need to take advantage of political change in order to introduce socio-economic reforms and ensure some degree of an even distribution of resources.  Transferring responsibilities to the local authorities was connected to adequate training.

Several speakers in the discussion said that political self-governance sometimes led to an impulse to acquire too much autonomy.  They cautioned that revising the Constitution to that effect involved a risk of “Balkanizing” the situation.  To overcome such a risk, it was important to dare to face the difficulties, a speaker said.  Questions were also asked about the practice of establishing geopolitical zones for the purpose of balanced development and the measures against corruption.

Mr. OKUNFULURE said that his Government was very conscious of the issues of land ownership and inheritance.  It was trying to provide people with secure tenure on the land, showing a certain strictness with illegal squatters. 

GARBA MADAKI ALI, the Minister of State for Works and Housing of Nigeria, said that there was no doubt that the issue of resource control was very important to his country, which was rich in oil.  The concept of “resource participation” with local governments was being implemented.  Following many years of military rule, the country had gone on an anti-corruption crusade, which included the establishment of a commission to question and investigate the actions by authorities.  Even at the ministerial level, special sub-committees had been established to tackle corruption.  Change could not be achieved in a single day, but the country was doing its best to address the problem.

Sustainable Economic Transformation and Decentralization in Barcelona, Spain

According to a discussion paper, the transformation of Barcelona into one of Europe's most vibrant cities has made headlines in the international press.  The challenge of transforming the city while maintaining social cohesion was met by the city authorities, which drew up the Industrial Agreement for the Metropolitan Area.  The agreement was negotiated through consultation and consensus building among the private sector, non-governmental organizations, women's groups and ordinary citizens.  As part of the process, and to bring public administration closer to the citizens, enhance participatory democracy and improve service delivery, the city was divided into 10 decentralized districts.

(The paper is available on the Special Session Web site.  For further information contact:  Margarita Obiols, Director of International Relations, Barcelona City Council; tel: 34-93-4027882; fax: 34-93-4027877;

e-mail: mobiols@mail.bcn.es.)

In his presentation, JOAN CLOS, Mayor of Barcelona, said the city had

16 million inhabitants, 430 million of them in the metropolitan area.  Its transformation had to be seen in the context of Spain's political transformation.  The establishment of Barcelona's constitutional court and its first local elections had occurred in 1979, soon after the end of the dictatorship.

Coinciding with democratization had been the oil crisis of the mid-1970s, he said.  Therefore, while adjusting to the new democracy, the city had been confronted with a serious economic crisis.  That was when Barcelona had decided to host the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.  That had resulted in a far-reaching mobilization of investors and a determination to confront the economic crisis.  At the same time, Barcelona had undertaken administrative reforms aimed at good governance.  All those factors had combined to overcome the economic crisis and begin the city's transformation.

He said that one of Barcelona's most important challenges involved the recovery of its historical city centre, one of the most difficult issues for the management of the city.  Unlike other European cities, Barcelona's historic centre was very big, with more than 250,000 residents.  A transformation project of that scale was only possible in the presence of a democratic government and a city board in consultation with local councils.  However, joint action by private and public corporations had transformed a major problem into one of the city's greatest assets, making that part of Barcelona unique.

AYDAN ERIM (Turkey), facilitator for the segment, said Barcelona had the capacity to undertake large-scale projects and there was little doubt that its new initiatives would be successful.  However, there had been no elaboration on the institutionalization of public participation.  Without it, goodwill could easily turn into frustration and eventually into enmity and conflict.

In the ensuing discussion, a speaker asked what role private capital and foreign investors had played in the rehabilitation of Barcelona.  Other speakers asked if the entire rehabilitation had been done according to a strategic plan and if there was a problem of people leaving the historical city centre.

Regarding investment in the rehabilitation, Mr. CLOS said it had been difficult at first to convince real estate investors to put their money into something that was run-down.  Those who had invested from the beginning had great vision, but others had only come in when they saw that the rehabilitation was going well.

He said it had been decided before the Olympics to apply strategic planning.  Historically, the city had been left bankrupt after hosting two world expositions and people had been afraid to host the Games.  To break down their reluctance, it had been decided to plan for the period following the Olympics.  Thus, the Games village had been built on a city property that had reverted to the city after the

Olympics.  The entire Games village had then been sold off.  He said that to keep people in the historical city centre it was necessary to support housing rehabilitation and renovation, rather than new housing.

Ms. ERIM, the facilitator, noted Barcelona's cultural sensitivity, reflected in the choice to undertake slum improvement and rehabilitation of the historical city centre, which was part of humanity's common heritage.

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For information media. Not an official record.