Your Excellency, Mr. Olivio Dutra, Minister of the Cities;
Your Excellency Mr. Cesar Maia, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro;
Your Excellency, Mr. Marcelo Deda, Mayor of Aracajú, and Coordinator General of the National Front of Mayors;
Mr. Carlos Lopes, Resident Coordinator of the UN in Brazil;
Honourable members of the table;
Distinguished Mayors present here today;
Representatives of Government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other civil society associations;
Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Yesterday, on the World Habitat Day of the United Nations, we drew the attention of the world to the plight of hundreds of millions of women, men and children who live in slums, without decent housing, without clean water and sanitation, without hope. We were reminded once again that the real struggle of this generation is the fight against poverty and achieve development.
And today we are here to do something about it.
This is why it is so gratifying to be back in Brazil and to witness the progress and changes that are being experienced by the country. Brazil is now providing leadership to the region in the introduction of social programmes like Hunger Zero (Fome Zero) and the creation of mechanisms to better attend the growing needs of the population.
We see with great satisfaction the creation of the Ministry of the Cities, to lead the process of improving the living conditions of millions of Brazilians, so they can have better housing, infrastructure and community services, as Brazil becomes more and more of urbanized.
We can also see now reinvigorated local authorities, determined to improve their capacity to respond to the challenges of urban development, poverty reduction and economic growth. Their commitment to work together, to achieve common goals, can be seen in the action of associations like the National Front of Mayors and its fellow partners. Only cities and mayors that are empowered to deal with the problems they face will be able to solve them.
Civil society, particularly in the urban sector, is a driving force in promoting an agenda for change, for improvement. The National Forum for Urban Reform, grouping a wide spectrum of organizations active on urban issues, has been instrumental in giving voice to the communities themselves and achieving the progress that Brazil is now witnessing in its urban and housing policies.
These changes have been instrumental in making possible our presence here today, to launch the Campaigns for the Regularization of Tenure and Good Urban Governance in Brazil, and to express a joint commitment to move forward by adopting the Brazilian Charter of the Cities for the Regularization of Tenure and Urban Governance and the priority actions therein defined by all partners.
From their inception, the Global Campaigns of UN-HABITAT and of the United Nations for Secure Tenure and Urban Governance were conceived as mechanisms that are not isolated from local realities and processes, but rather, that are mainstreamed in contributing to local efforts for improvement and change. The Brazilian Campaign is thus also seen as a contribution to the process leading to the National Conference of the Cities in Brazil. We all have great expectations that the Charter and the priority actions we are adopting today will be a worthy input to the Conference, making its successful outcome a reality.
All this, and nothing less, will be required if we want to tackle the great and growing challenges faced by Brazil in particular and the Latin American and Caribbean region in general in achieving the common goals of poverty reduction, sustainable development, and equitable economic growth in a competitive global economy.
These challenges for Brazil and the region are indeed daunting: 75% of the population in the region live presently in cities and we find in them 63% of the total of the poor families.
Despite a decrease in the incidence of urban poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1990s, the number of the poor increased by 12 million in that period. There are, however, marked variations within the region and within countries, as we see that 74% of the urban poor are concentrated just in four countries. Cities are struggling to cope with these demands. Economic growth, equity and inclusive policies have become the order of the day.
Economic growth was negative in the region as a whole in 2000 and 2001. If the goal of reducing extreme poverty by half in 2015 is to be met, the region will need to grow at 3.2% for the next 13 years. No small task when we are facing a sluggish world economic recovery. This calls for integrated approaches, where strategies for poverty reduction and economic development go hand in hand. It also means introducing sweeping changes in social policies, reversing a pervasive trend to income concentration, a marked feature in the region for much of the last decades and a continuing obstacle to development.
These principles are at the heart of the two Global Campaigns for Secure Tenure and Urban Governance, which UN-HABITAT has began to put in motion through national launches such as the one of today. They are designed as entry points to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda adopted by countries at the Habitat II Conference in Istanbul in 1996, as well as the Goals of the UN Millennium Summit.
There, the glaring and awesome reality of lack of adequate shelter and basic infrastructure was ddressed by all of the world´s Heads of State and Government who specifically resolved in November 2000, in the Millennium Declaration, to achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, this target means close to 15 million slum dwellers in the region would need to have their living conditions significantly improved. However huge this figure may seem it is just a modest 10% of the estimated current population of slum dwellers living in the cities of this region. Our target should be more ambitious and I know that you have the capacity in this region generally and in Brazil particularly to go far beyond this objective provided that sound and sustainable policies are adopted.
Access to secure tenure was chosen as the single most important indicator to measure the achievement of this goal. This confirms the international relevance of the Campaign for Secure Tenure we are launching today in Brazil.
Principles of protection of housing rights, gender equity, partnership, access to land and finance, and negotiated resettlements are at the core of the strategies promoted by the Campaign to achieve this objective. However, experience shows that the provision of housing and services on their own will not solve the slum problem. Solutions need to tackle the underlying cause of slums, that is, poverty. Sectoral programmes ought to support the livelihood strategies of the urban poor by linking housing to income generation and ensuring access to jobs through a proper inclusion of the slums in the urban fabric.
The Global Campaign on Urban Governance is directed at improving the means by which the objectives of providing adequate shelter for all and promoting sustainable human settlements can be achieved, particularly through enhancing inclusiveness in the urban milieu. The Campaign advocates for fostering a closer partnership between the public, private and civic sectors in our cities by changing social relations, improving institutional frameworks, and revitalizing organizational systems.
Inclusion is the main objective of the Global Campaign for Urban Governance. The Campaign supports local governments that are committed to pro-poor governance by providing tools to work towards the vision of an “inclusive city”, a place where everyone can participate in and benefit from the opportunities that cities offer.
The underpinning principle in the Governance campaign is that the problems of urban poverty and the difficulties encountered by municipal authorities can be effectively tackled through improvements in the systems of local governance. It is in this regard that the campaign embodies a set of shared norms to adaptively guide national action in the achievement of the goal of creating inclusive cities. These goals include: sustainability of urban development; decentralization of authority and resources; equity in access to decision-making, efficiency; transparency and accountability of decision makers; civic engagement and citizenship; and urban security.
It is reassuring to observe that most of these principles and norms are an integral part of current policies in the country: the right to the city and the rights of citizens to dignified housing; the social function of the city and property; democratic governance; social inclusion and equity; the financial sustainability of urban policies; and the eradication of discriminatory treatment of social groups, are among the essential principles being promoted by the national process leading to the National Conference of the Cities, and to which we adhere. In this respect the “Statute of the City” of Brazil is considered world-wide as a unique example leading to enforcing progressive urban legislation.
The initiative of the National Front of Mayors to focus the attention and commitments of the National Campaign on four key issues: regularization of tenure, municipal finances, urban safety, and urban governance is a step in the right direction. These are issues that should be dealt with taking fully into account the above norms and principles, as we think it is being done.
I believe that having being able to deal with these issues from a municipal perspective, as a vehicle for a constructive dialogue with the national government and civil society, has been a great contribution of the Campaigns in Brazil. The Charter of the Cities shows that this is possible when a mature and positive policy dialogue is in place.
At the end, what matters is how low income people are improving their living conditions, how included they are in the way cities work and develop, how optimistic they look at the future.
Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit the community Quinta do Cajú. The daily lives, struggles, achievements and dreams of the girls and boys, women and men of this community, transforming itself into a formal part of Rio de Janeiro, with secure tenure, drinking water and basic sanitation services, affordable transport and social infrastructure, is a striking example of what can be achieved when citizens participate fully in the planning, execution and maintenance of their own habitat.
It is clear that this community is not working alone but rather in partnership with the municipal authorities and its dedicated staff, counting with the support of private organizations, and the overall facilitating support of State and Federal authorities.
The hard work of transforming the Charter of the Cities into action is still to come. It will require renewed commitment from all to make reality what is being signed today, to negotiate and reach agreements, to overcome institutional and financial barriers. Those who most matter are the families that are excluded, they are part of our cities, we cannot fail in our aim of building a common future.
There is still a long road ahead, but the progress achieved in Brazil, make me confident that all is possible if the political will is there to join hands with the urban poor to build cities of hope, not only for Brazil but as example for the world. Here more then anywhere else the challenge to achieve the Millennium Goal of improving the lives of slum dwellers has the best chances to be achieved. UN-HABITAT, through our Regional Office in Rio de Janeiro, and indeed the entire United Nations, stand ready to work shoulder to shoulder with our partners in Brazil in this worthy cause.