|Agenda Item 86: Implementation of the Outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (HABITAT II) and of the Twenty-Fifth Special Session of the General Assembly Statement by Ms.Varuni Hewavitharana, Second Secretary|
|Thursday, 14 October 2004 00:00|
We wish to align ourselves with the statement made under this agenda item by the representative of Qatar on behalf of the G-77 and China.
Housing is a basic human entitlement. But millions of people around the world are without any housing or live in sub standard housing. Moreover, the rapid urbanization during the last hundred years has clearly altered the pattern of human settlements. Urban slums are expanding in number and size, and poverty is becoming increasingly urbanized. It is clear that national and global poverty eradication measures would not achieve their objectives without taking into account the intertwined issue of urbanization.
We have to realize that cities are not problems but can be part of the solution towards eradication of poverty. A properly planned and governed city is a place where communities and commerce can flourish. In this context, the adoption of the Habitat Agenda was a turning point in international efforts to promote socially and environmentally sustainable cities. The Habitat Agenda encouraged us to search for experiences and best practices that demonstrate practical ways of meeting the challenges of urbanization. The challenges facing us are considerable. For example, the member States have undertaken a commitment to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. But this number is only ten percent of the present slum dwellers population.
UN Habitat and other UN agencies have been playing an important and a multi faceted role towards the achievement of the Habitat Agenda. UN Habitat’s two global campaigns on ‘secure tenure’ and ‘urban governance’ seek to facilitate implementation of the key provisions of the Agenda. For the ‘Campaign on Secure Tenure’ to succeed there must be firm political commitments at national level with adequate infrastructure provision by local and municipal governments. A sense of security and stability brought by ownership can foster business opportunities and income generation in informal settlements. The Campaign on Secure Tenure recognizes and promotes the rights and role of women. Conditions in poor urban areas and slums have a disproportionate impact on women, including with regard to social exclusion, livelihood, health problems and crime. We are appreciative of the efforts of UN-Habitat in trying to bring human settlement issues in to the Beijing+10 process.
The ‘Campaign on Urban Governance’ promotes accountable and transparent urban governance structures responsive to the needs of the urban poor. An important step in this direction is the inclusion of the poorest and most marginalized communities in the decisions, which directly affect their lives. How inclusiveness can actually work in urban governance will depend on local political conditions and whether local governments really welcome inclusiveness. The Second Session of the World Urban Forum held recently in Spain was a good opportunity for participants from many counties to share experiences in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, including the contribution of local governments. The agreement signed at this meeting between the UN-Habitat and the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) will further strengthen the working relationship between the UN system and local governments around the world. We also welcome collaborative efforts of the UN Habitat with Non Governmental Organizations and other partners in relation to the two global campaigns.
The 12th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development focused attention on the grave situation faced by urban settlements, especially slums. The global population is projected to increase by 2 billion people over the next 30 years, and virtually all of this population growth will occur in urban areas of developing countries. To counter slum expansion, developing nations must recognize the need for policy changes and innovative strategic approaches. For example, slum upgrading and integration is being adopted, instead of eradication of slums and relocation of slum dwellers, which merely displace slum dwellers from one informal settlement to another.
As we note from the report of the Secretary General, the annual multilateral and bilateral assistance for housing and infrastructure amounting to US$ 4 billion, falls far short of the needs of developing countries. The governments of developing nations have to face a dual challenge to keep up with the pace of urbanization: The governments have to see to it that sufficient low-cost housing is built to slow the expansion of new slums. At the same time, they also have to facilitate the upgrading of existing slums. Governments have the primary responsibility for the effective implementation of the Habitat Agenda. However, additional official development assistance will need to flow into human settlements development, if there is to be any possibility of meeting this dual challenge. Apart from financial contributions, the transfer of appropriate technology and know-how must also be pursued. The UN-Habitat itself needs to be supported through increased voluntary contributions, particularly non-earmarked contributions, to be able to plan its activities in an effective manner.
Sri Lanka appreciates assistance extended by UN-Habitat, especially towards development of sustainable housing in Colombo. In Sri Lanka, the urban centres emerging throughout the country are major driving forces of expansion of the economy, in particular of the services sector. The urban population is on the rise and will go up to 40-50 % of the total population by 2025. The government policy on housing is mainly to create a conducive environment to mobilise credit and other forms of financing for housing construction. The government has introduced an affordable housing finance scheme for low and middle income groups through financial institutions with a view to encouraging construction of private housing.
In accordance with the global goal of achieving a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020, Sri Lanka has set a target to provide 100,000 housing units for slum dwellers. Having safe drinking water and sanitation facilities have been identified as mandatory for a complete housing unit. A sector wise approach to address this issue among plantation workers, those displaced by natural disasters, fishing communities, overseas migrant workers and rural and urban low income groups have been included in the National Housing Programme. Expansion of the supply of affordable, quality housing for the poor has also been included as an integral part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper of Sri Lanka.