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Fourth Global Forum of Paliamentarians on Habitat
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Mr. President of the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat,
H.E. Madame Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development,
Hon. Peter Goetz, Vice-President of the Regional Council for Europe of the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat,
Hon. Members of Parliament,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mr. President,

  1. I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat (GPH), and to the host committee under the able leadership of Hon. Peter Goetz, President of the Regional Council for Europe of the GPH, for inviting me to participate at this Fourth Forum of the Parliamentarians being held in this beautiful and historic federal capital city of Berlin. This is an excellent opportunity to introduce myself to the GPH as this is my very first participation at a Global Parliamentarians Forum. You will recall that I was not present in Manila during the 3rd Global Forum in 2000. I would like to recognise the presence of the Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of the Federal Republic of Germany. May I express through you, Madame Minister, the gratitude of my organisation for all the invaluable assistance we have received over the years from your country and the German people.

  2. Let me also now pay tribute to the Global Parliamentarians for keeping alight the spirit of Istanbul by your consistent holding of these major Forums in Istanbul, in Caucun, Mexico, in Manila, the Philippines and now in Berlin. As Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, I greatly value the opportunities created by these Forums for the interaction of parliamentarians and the exchange of experiences from all corners of the globe in the challenging tasks of implementing the Habitat Agenda and in the establishment of local action plans to meet our global targets.

    Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

  3. We in UN-HABITAT continue to value the Global Parliamentarians as an important asset and vibrant partner in promoting the cause of adequate Shelter for All at the national and global levels. I particularly appreciate your role as parliamentarians in promoting international cooperation and understanding which are areas that still require increased commitment from the international community.

  4. As you all know, we have just concluded the 19th Session of the UN-HABITAT Governing Council in Nairobi, Kenya. This session represents a milestone in our progress, as it is the first meeting since the up-grading of the Centre to the elevated status of United Nations Programme on Human Settlements (UN-HABITAT). The upgrading is as a result of the Istanbul +5 decision by the General Assembly and charges UN-HABITAT to deliver Target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals, including water and sanitation. This upgrading to a UN Programme is also due in no small measure to the hard work of parliamentarians for which I thank you all.

  5. Our new status as a fully fledged programme of the United Nations is indeed a clear signal from the international community that sustainable urban development, adequate shelter and the plight of the urban poor are irrevocable priorities on the world's development agenda. A notable indicator of this is the insertion of shelter in the Johannesburg Declaration of the WSD and slums upgrading alongside the original five priorities of water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture and bio-diversity at the World Summit of Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, last year. Never before have the United Nations, the World Bank, governments, the private sector and the civil society rallied so strongly around the common goal of poverty alleviation and the achievement of a significant improvement in the lives of 100 million slum dwellers, by the year 2020. You will agree with me that parliamentarians who are close to the aspirations and wishes of your people, have a direct and critical role to play in the improvement of the lives of slum dwellers. In particular, the new UN-HABITAT recognises, in an even greater manner, that parliamentarians are key for developing synergies among Habitat Agenda partners. We request and challenge the Global Parliamentarians to play a critical role in mainstreaming issues of shelter into national policies.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  6. Since the formal inauguration of the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat in 1987, twenty-five years have elapsed and during this period, we have enjoyed very positive partnership with the GPH. A lot has been done but a lot more remains to be done. We challenge the Parliamentarians to be proactive advocates for the Habitat Agenda especially in developing countries. We call upon the Parliamentarians to assist in mainstreaming international assistance in the of developed countries for the benefit of the living environment and to help correct the current marginalisation of the living agenda in favour of the physical environment. Urbanisation is here to stay; it cannot be stopped. Cities are growing very rapidly; 60% of urban populations in developing countries live in unplanned cities and that is why we are focussing on target 11. Members of the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat have to help the upgrading and improving process of these slum dwellers before we loose the momentum created by the General Assembly resolution. People move to cities because they expect to be improved and Parliamentarians, being representatives of the people, have to help to realise this expectation as they are closest to the aspirations of their constituents.

  7. In 1978, when Habitat was established, urbanization and its impact were barely on the radar screen of a United Nations that had been created over three decades earlier, when two-thirds of humanity was still rural. From 1978 to 1997, with meagre support and a dispersed mandate, Habitat struggled almost alone among multi-lateral organizations to prevent and ameliorate problems stemming from massive urban growth, especially among cities of the developing world. From 1997 to 2002, by which time half the world had become urban, UN-HABITAT - guided by the Habitat Agenda and the Millennium Declaration - underwent a comprehensive revitalization, using its experience to identify emerging priorities for sustainable urban development and to make necessary adjustments in policy direction.

  8. Achieving sustainable development and alleviating poverty require the integration of economic, social and political objectives into a coherent overall framework. As the world becomes increasingly urban, it is essential that policy-makers understand the power of the city as an organizing agent for national development. That is why the sub-title of your Forum "Governance of Sustainable Cities" is most relevant for this gathering which needs to be brought to the attention of governments, local authorities, private sector, NGOs and professional groups.

  9. With the key objective of sustainable cities in mind, the UN-HABITAT work programme and strategic vision are both forward looking and pragmatic, with a sharp focus on urban poverty and slums. The UN-HABITAT strategy to meet the Cities without Slums goal of the Millennium Declaration is comprised of five inter-related components that integrate both ends and means.

  1. The first is information generation and knowledge management, without which there can be no assessment of either the extent and condition of the world's slums or the trends in slum formation and changes in the lives of slum dwellers.
  2. The second component is advocacy of agreed norms for improving the lives of slum dwellers, using two campaigns and various global programmes as vehicles. These norms are derived from, among other sources, key commitments and recommendations of the Habitat Agenda that relate to sustainable urban development and amelioration of slum conditions.
  3. The third component, field operations, ties the advocacy function to the learning process whereby technical assistance and capacity building projects are designed to test methods and concepts that may be scaled up and transferred and to provide feedback to policy-makers at all levels. This includes UN-HABITAT's strong commitment on post-conflict assistance for example in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
  4. The fourth component is the institutionalization of mechanisms for the financing of housing, infrastructure and other development requirements that will improve the lives of slum dwellers. It is about functional approaches to make pro-poor investments on a large scale. The challenge of reviving the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation so it may deliver its original objective of assisting poor communities with such investment is a paramount imperative. Here again Parliamentarians are critical.
  1. Allow me to emphasize that the key to carrying out its slum related mission is for UN-HABITAT to enter into partnerships with organizations that hold resources, skills and mandates that complement and extend those of UN-HABITAT. The assigned task of coordinating work on the Habitat Agenda necessitates this component. I would like to take my few remaining minutes to mention very briefly some of these key partnerships that have been forged so far. These partnerships include:
  1. The Cities Alliance with the World Bank;
  2. An agreement with UNDP to place national Habitat Programme staff in the respective UNDP country offices;
  3. Partnerships with two regional development banks, namely: the Asian Development Bank (US$ 500m loan facility) in water and sanitation and the Inter-American Development Bank;
  4. A private sector partnerships with International Environment Sciences Research Institute (ESRI) on a US$ 15m Geographical Information System Software grant; and
  5. A pioneering, multi-year partnership programme with the Netherlands Government, on funding of priority areas of UN-HABITAT. Germany has joined this partnership programme through the funding of the women entrepreneurship promotion project and the Global Report on Human Settlements. This is in line with the recent initiative of the Ministry of Economic Development to strengthen and promote German multi-lateral engagement. The stronger engagement of the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development in the partnership programme would be an excellent opportunity to document the renewed interest in multi-lateral institutions and I am hopeful that Germany will increase its support to our work.

  1. All of these partnerships clearly demonstrate the commitment of the international community to respond positively to the challenges of urban poverty and slums upgrading. You will agree with me that parliamentarians can play a pivotal role in this process by adopting pro-active legislation favouring the eradication of poverty and the up-lifting of slum dwellers to the status of productive citizens in our societies.

  2. Mr. President, Madame Minister, Hon. Members of Parliament, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I mentioned earlier our growing collaboration with the German Government. Naturally, we would like to expand the partnership programme to the extent that it reflects the actual role and importance of the Government of Germany and its people in global political and economic affairs. German contribution to UN-HABITAT needs to be increased and made predictable. In other words, I invite Germany to join those member states that have made their support to UN-HABITAT a regular item in the budgets of their Governments, thus saving us from the uncertainty of residual earmarked funding.

    Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

  3. Let me give you an example. The Security Council of the United Nations and the Secretary-General requested me on several occasions to provide quick and un-unbureautic support in a number of post-conflict countries. This includes Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan. To give you an idea of the kind of responses to these emergencies, allow me to mention:

    1. UN-HABITAT deployed a team of 70 professionals in Northern Iraq and Baghdad within three months. Before the war we were the second largest UN agency in Iraq with an annual budget of US$ 400m. My staff were temporarily removed during the war and have now been sent back.
    2. End of last year, after an urgent request by the Permanent Members of the Security Council, I fielded a mission in Afghanistan immediately. My team of experts prepared an Urban Reconstruction Plan of US$ 200 within a record time of six weeks.
    3. I have sent a sizeable team of experts to Kosovo to establish the Housing and Property Directorate and a Property Claiming Commission. We are also providing capacity building and technical support to municipalities in Kosovo. In particular, we have been implementing a comprehensive and up-to-date cadastral system for the urban areas.

    Distinguished Delegates,

  4. The key point I want to make sure that I cannot respond quickly to those post-conflict-situation without a reasonable amount of non-earmarked resources at my immediate disposal. The Global Parliamentarians can play a pivotal role to make Member Governments aware of the crucial importance of having human settlements contributions institutionalised in the national budget and secondly in the form of general non-earmarked contributions.

  5. Mr. President, Madame Minister, Hon. Members of Parliament, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I cannot end this short statement without paying glowing tribute to the Board of Governors, the Presidents of the Regional Councils, the Membership of the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat, for your steadfast work in promoting the implementation of the Habitat Agenda in your various countries. I note with deep appreciation the support you have given to our programmes and initiatives, especially our work on integrating local authorities within the governing institutions of UN-HABITAT. We continue to look forward to your efforts in empowering our Habitat partners through appropriate legislation, to facilitate their work in the Habitat Agenda.

  6. Finally, I bring you greetings from the Secretary-General of the United Nations who continues to be a firm believer in the partnership concept in the work of the United Nations. He appreciates the work of parliamentarians in furthering the noble goals and aspirations of the United Nations family. I join him in wishing the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat every success in your deliberations.

    Vielen Dank.

    Berlin, Germany, 13 May 2003

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