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Speech delivered by the Executive Director during International Labour Conference 90th Session
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Mr. President The Director General of ILO, Mr. Juan Somavia Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to be here with you on the occasion of the 90th session of the International Labour Conference.

UN-HABITAT and ILO have had a very strong and useful partnership for many years, and I am sure that this partnership will be further strengthened as we implement the Millennium Declaration Goals. Specifically target 11 of the Millennium Declaration Goals aims at making significant improvements in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020, and also endorses the cities without slums initiative. This is another way of restating the Habitat Agenda, whose aims are provision of adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world. Indeed in paragraph 39 of the Habitat Agenda member states commit themselves to the "goal of improving living and working conditions on an equitable and sustainable basis, so that everyone will have adequate shelter that is healthy, safe, secure, accessible and affordable and that includes basic services, facilities and amenities, and will enjoy freedom from discrimination in housing and legal security of tenure". Consequently, the contribution of ILO in developing the Habitat Agenda at the Istanbul summit was significant and is reflected in the large number of references to employment, labour and the ILO conventions.

Following the Istanbul Conference, UN-HABITAT and ILO have been working together at various levels to implement the Habitat Agenda. For example, the collaborative work of the Sustainable Cities Programme of UN-HABITAT and the ASSIST and SEED programme of ILO in cities of Dar-es-Salaam and Kampala have been significant in improving the living environment and providing employment opportunities for the urban poor. These experiences have been replicated in many other cities all over the world.

Mr. Chairman,

The 21st century will witness massive and rapid urbanization, with two billion new residents in cities of the developing world in the next 25 years. Three billion people - nearly every other person on earth - already live in cities. Further more, the process of urbanization is irreversible. At the 1st Session of the World Urban Forum held in Nairobi last month, it was concluded that the future of humanity lies in cities. Sustainable urbanization is therefore a key to sustainable development. This has to be kept in mind as we prepare ourselves for the World Summit on Sustainable Development and as we discuss the ILO report on "Decent Work and the Informal Economy".

The process of urbanization, though stimulated by economic development, has led to sharp divisions between cities and among social groups. We see a massive increase in the urbanization of poverty as there are now three-quarters of a billion urban slum dwellers living on less than one dollar per day. The challenge is to provide sustainable livelihoods, safe and secure living environments, adequate shelter, basic services and a better quality of life for all urban residents, especially the urban poor. There is a close link between poverty reduction, decent work and slum upgrading.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

From UN-HABITAT's perspective, we would like to emphasize that ILO's current approach of meeting decent work deficits is essential for slum upgrading and for sustainable urbanization. Most urban slum dwellers are working in the urban economy - on both the formal and informal sides. It is because of the low earnings in the urban informal economy that the informal settlements we commonly call slums have developed in and around urban areas. The "deficit in decent work" is directly related to the "deficit in decent shelter." As the work deficits are improved, the ability of the informal sector workers to obtain decent shelter will also improve.

In ILO's report on "Decent Work and Informal Economy", seven essential securities denied to those in the informal sector are listed. From UN-HABITAT perspective, "security of tenure" needs to be included in this list of essential securities. It is evident that without secure tenure, the informal economy workers in cities are most vulnerable and subject to evictions. This in turn affects their ability to participate in the urban economy. The UN-HABITAT Campaign on Secure Tenure is based on the premise that the granting of secure tenure is the single most important catalyst in mobilizing individual investment in a locality. Insecurity of tenure is, likewise, often associated with the marginalisation of individuals and communities, with a concomitant lack of investment and with criminality and other challenges to effective urban governance.

The ILO reports refer to 'securing property rights' as an important policy for reducing deficits in decent work. The UN-HABITAT Campaign on Secure Tenure also promotes this notion. Secure tenure can become an asset for the poor and an instrument for mortgage-based housing finance systems, as well as an asset for financing informal economy activities. The rights-based approach of ILO is also consistent with the UN-HABITAT approach to rights-based shelter provision. The right to adequate housing is widely recognized as a human right in international law, and a number of resolutions on the issue have been adopted by UN bodies and appear in international human rights instruments like covenants, conventions, declarations and recommendations.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

At this point, I would also like to draw your attention to the crucial role played by local authorities in poverty reduction. The UN-HABITAT Campaign on Urban Governance promotes the notion of inclusive cities, where the poor and vulnerable are at the center of development policy and are participants in the decision-making process. There are many areas where local authorities can have an impact on poverty reduction. First, most local authorities control access to land and are responsible for land-use planning and regulation. Cost and the location of land available to the poor have a significant impact on their livelihoods. Second, the degree of success in local economic development is highly correlated with the resources available for capital investments in such things as improved access to land, infrastructure and services. Third, local economic policies can help the poor by promoting labour intensive work methods and by providing support for small-scale enterprises and the informal sector. Fourth, local authorities can improve the poor's access to justice and the enforcement of laws. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the ability of the urban poor to influence local decision-making greatly determines the "pro-poorness" of local strategic planning, priority setting and capital investment. These functions provide the link between urban governance and poverty reduction where progress in poverty reduction depends on the quality of the participation of the urban poor in the decisions affecting their lives and on the responsiveness of urban planning and policy-making processes to the needs of the urban poor. The needs of women and the children they support also warrant special attention.

Local economic development is critical in providing sustainable employment for the poor. Central to the Cities Alliance, promoted by UN-HABITAT and World Bank, the City Development Strategy (CDS) is an important activity being carried out in many cities around the world. The City Development Strategy is like an Urban Poverty Reduction Strategy Plan (U-PRSP). It is "an action-plan for equitable growth in cities, developed and sustained through participation, to improve the quality of life for all citizens." The goals of a City Development Strategy include a collective city vision and action plan aimed at improving urban governance and management, increasing investment to expand employment and services, and systematic and sustained reductions in urban poverty." It also integrates development aspects for a city and its hinterland - or the rural - urban linkages. ILO and UN-HABITAT can work together to develop adequate methodology for urban PRSP and provide such a framework for CDS activities for reducing deficits in decent work.

Excellencies ladies and gentlemen

UN-HABITAT has learnt through many years of operational experience that with appropriate support, the urban poor have the energy and ability to make the most decisive contribution to improving their own circumstances. The single biggest change that governments can initiate is to recognize the urban poor as legitimate urban citizens, with an equal stake in the city and, in so doing, remove all discriminatory restrictions on their activities and livelihoods. It is high time the urban poor are recognized for what they are - an asset for city development. Therefore, let us empower them by fighting poverty and not the poor and by fighting squatting and not the squatters.

At the global level, the Habitat Agenda and the Millennium Declaration Goals provide a roadmap and timeframe. UN-HABITAT is committed to establish partnerships with other UN agencies to help national governments and their partners meet these goals within the prescribed timeframe. Toward this end, I look forward to strengthening UN-HABITAT partnership with ILO at all levels in making a definitive impact on urban poverty reduction on shelter development. Let me end by inviting this August Assembly to observe World Habitat Day on 7th October 2002. The international observance will be in Brussels, hosted by the European Union and the Government of Belgium. The theme is "City-to-City Co-operation". In practical and operational terms - City to City can also become an effective tool to promote decent work as we learn best practice from one another.

I thank you for your attention.

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