May I first congratulate you on taking over the chairmanship of this important committee and, through you, congratulate the other members of the Bureau who will be working to ensure a successful outcome to this session of the Second Committee.
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to address this Committee today on behalf of the Secretary-General to introduce the three documents that have been prepared for your consideration under item 102 – Implementation of the Habitat Agenda and outcome of the special session of the General Assembly on this topic.
In 2001, the international community reaffirmed the importance of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda for sustainable development in the 21st century and began to take decisive steps to strengthen the Commission and the Centre to guide and support the Agenda's successful implementation. The Millennium Declaration’s goal of making significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020 and its endorsement of the Cities Without Slums Initiative is another way of restating the goals of adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements embodied in the Habitat Agenda.
You have before you 3 reports namely, The report of the Commission on Human Settlements; the Secretary-General’s report on the twenty–fifth special session of the General Assembly for an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Outcome of the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), and the Secretary-General’s report on options for reviewing and strengthening the mandate and status of the Commission on Human Settlements and the status, role and function of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat).
Report of the 18th Session of the Commission on Human Settlements
Reports of the Commission on Human Settlements are regularly submitted to this Committee in compliance with General Assembly resolution 32/162. This year’s report, contained in document A/56/8, refers to the eighteenth session of the Commission held in Nairobi from 12 to 16 February 2001. Delegations were engaged in intensive debates on all agenda items, with very constructive negotiations on resolutions, substantive dialogues between Habitat Agenda partners and a series of side events on matters of interest to the future of human settlements. The eighteenth session assessed progress made under revitalization and further strengthening of the organizational structure of the Centre for better effectiveness. The Commission also approved the Centre’s work programme and budget for the next biennium.
Also, dialogues with Local authorities and other Habitat Agenda partners during the session’s high-level segment, introduced by the Commission at its seventeenth session, were repeated successfully at the eighteenth session. Thus, such dialogues have become an important feature, in many ways unique to the Commission, and a useful tool to conduct a highly professional exchange of views between Commission members and their partners in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.
The eighteenth session underscored the importance of maintaining a balance between normative and operational activities at all levels. It confirmed the importance of the two global campaigns - secure tenure and urban governance - in achieving the Habitat agenda’s goals of adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world. At operational level, policy advocacy was gauged as critical in promoting policies which will facilitate requisite investments in shelter and infrastructure development.
Intensive discussion and subsequent approval of the 2002-2003 work programme and the budget had confirmed that revitalization of the Centre was an ongoing process. Continuing support by the member States was vital if the Centre’s capacity for the discharge of its mandate as a focal point in the United Nations system for the Habitat Agenda was to be enhanced.
I wish to bring to your attention that the report of the Commission on Human Settlements includes a draft resolution, which required action by ECOSOC, on the establishment of the Committee of Permanent Representatives as an inter-sessional subsidiary body of the Commission on Human Settlements. I am pleased to inform you that the resumed substantive session of the Council of 2001 has adopted the draft resolution on 24 October 2001, and the Committee of Permanent Representatives has already been formalized accordingly. This decision is important in the light of an overall strengthening of the status and role of the Commission, which, despite its responsibilities regarding the human settlements programme and the monitoring and implementation of the Habitat Agenda, still retains its original status of a “standing committee” of ECOSOC.
Special Session of the General Assembly on Habitat II
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:
The twenty–fifth special session of the General Assembly for an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Outcome of the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) was held from 6 to 8 June 2001 here in New York. In the special session, the global community reconfirmed the importance of the Habitat Agenda for sustainable development in all countries in light of increasing urbanization and the centrality of cities to socio-economic growth, cultural development and integration, and environmental sustainability. The Habitat Agenda will continue to guide us in this Urban Millenium.
The Secretary-General’s report, contained in document A/56/477, has been prepared in accordance with General Assembly resolution 55/195. It gives an overview of the proceedings and outcome of the Special Session. By all accounts, the special session on Istanbul +5 is regarded as an outstanding success, particularly in two ways:
First, as regards the process of building global consensus through open and transparent dialogue; and
Second, as it marked five successful years of progress in implementing the Habitat Agenda as a development issue concerning all nations. Over 100 countries submitted national reports on the implementation of the Habitat Agenda since Istanbul.
The Special Session concluded its work successfully by adopting a “Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium” by consensus. The Declaration is a very substantive and forward-looking document, which will guide the work of the Commission on Human Settlements and of its Secretariat, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), in the challenging years ahead.
The successful outcome of the special session was the result of collective effort. The five-year review and appraisal of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda was a broad-based and inclusive process. It benefited greatly from the guidance provided by the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Commission on Human Settlements. There was close collaboration amongst the organizations of the United Nations system, particularly with the regional economic commissions, and with civil society.
Member States and Habitat Agenda partners participated most constructively in all phases and events of the review and appraisal process – providing reports on the status of implementation in their respective countries; taking part in various preparatory processes. The special session was most fortunate in having a supportive Bureau and an effective Secretariat.
Most importantly, the session rekindled the spirit of innovation and participation which had animated the Istanbul Conference. For the first time ever at a special session of the General Assembly, a Thematic Committee provided a forum for the presentation and informal discussion, open to all Habitat Agenda partners, of experiences from all regions of the world in implementing the Habitat Agenda.
In addition, the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General attended the largest gathering of mayors ever assembled at the General Assembly in an event called “The Voice of Cities,” during which local authorities expressed their pledge to the Millennium Declaration, the Habitat Agenda and their future partnership with the United Nations.
The Special Session, in paragraph 66, endorses the establishment of the Habitat Task Manager System proposed by the Council, as it would allow better monitoring and mutual reinforcement of actions undertaken by international agencies in support of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. We are also pleased to report that we had a very productive interagency consultation prior to the special session itself with the participation of 23 UN partners.
Report on Options for reviewing and strengthening the mandate and status of the Commission on Human Settlements and the status, role and function of the United Nations Centre for Human
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Paragraph 67 of the “Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium” invited the Secretary General to report to the General Assembly, at its fifty-sixth session, on options for reviewing and strengthening the mandate and status of the Commission on Human Settlements and the status, role and function of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), in accordance with the relevant decisions of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Habitat II Conference.
The background to this decision was concern about the need to strengthen the status of the Commission on Human Settlements and the status of the Centre itself. It was recognized that the status of Habitat and its governing body, the Commission, is not commensurate to its broad mandate of focal point in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. This has constrained Habitat’s participation in the coordination machinery of the United Nations system, with adverse consequences on the visibility, attention and support that human settlements require as a cross-sectoral dimension of development.
To remedy this anomaly, the Secretary General recommends the elevation of both the Commission and its Secretariat. As regards to the Commission, the report presents two options. The first one is to upgrade the Commission from a standing Committee to a functional Commission of ECOSOC. The second option is to elevate the Commission to the status of a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, reporting through ECOSOC.
Neither option contemplates any change in the mandate, membership and modus operandi of the Commission. The first option has budgetary implications, since all members of functional Commissions of ECOSOC are entitled to financial assistance from the UN in covering the travel expenses of one member of delegation. In both cases, the Commission will be in a position to strengthen its co-operation with ECOSOC functional Commissions and other bodies of the United Nations and to strengthen its capacity to discharge its mandate by reviewing the options in this area contained in the Secretary-General’s report.
As regards the Centre, the report recommends one option, namely, upgrading the UNCHS into a Programme on Human Settlements. It is important to note that this new denomination for the Centre does not have any budgetary implications, because the Centre is already, de facto functioning as a programme, although it is not so denominated.
I wish to underscore the fact that upgrading the status of both Commission and the Centre is only one part of our revitalization efforts. However, it is a critical reform in facilitating further gains in the other other reform components already underway, in particular our thematic focus on the eradication of urban poverty; our functional focus on the complementarity between normative and operational activities; the improvement of our managerial and financial situation and the regularization of our staff. All these elements should be seen as mutually reinforcing. The transformation of Habitat into the UNHS Programme and of the Commission into a functional Commission or a subsidiary body of the General Assembly are not only symbolic decisions expected from the General Assembly, they are also necessary conditions to allow Habitat to discharge its coordinating functions more efficiently and to respond to the growing expectations of Member states.
This institutional reform would bring our programmatic and institutional revitalization to a close and enable us to concentrate efforts on resource mobilization. In this regard, I am pleased to report to you that over the last year the funding position of the Habitat Foundation has improved markedly, as several member states have resumed their funding, and others have increased it considerably. I would like to sincerely thank you for this support.
The SG’s report, also points out to the need to intensify efforts to enhance Habitat’s role in the field; todiversify sources of financing for technical cooperation projects and programmes; and to identify new avenues for interagency collaboration. One specific option indicated in the Secretary General’s report, would be the revitalization, through partnerships with international development banks and other finance institutions, of the Habitat Human Settlements Foundation, originally created as a revolving fund to support, inter alia, selected shelter programmes in the developing countries and the strengthening of housing finance institutions.
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:
The issues before this Assembly are crucial and critical in the advancement of the Habitat Agenda. I therefore hope that the recommendations of the Secretary-General on how to proceed will receive the full support of the General Assembly and that an appropriate decision will be taken at this very session to seize the momentum generated by the Special Session.
I thank you, and I wish you success in your deliberations.