Your Excellency, Ambassador Petr Kopriva, President of the Governing Council
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As an enormous universal gathering of faiths put away their differences and assembled in Rome to lay Pope John Paul II to rest, 827 delegates from 92 Member States, including 48 Member States of the Governing Council, 39 representatives of Local Governments and their organisations and 92 representatives of NGOs as well as participants from the UN system, IGOs, professional associations and the private sector, assembled in Nairobi to provide guidance to one of the United Nations’ key programmes in the fight against global poverty. Despite many points of view and frank exchanges on objectives and on ways and means, this assembly – the Governing Council for the United Nations Human settlements Programme – must be congratulated on overcoming its differences and forging a consensus. From this week of give and take, we are reminded, finally, that partnership is about finding common ground and balancing interest.
Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,
On this note, of compromise and consensus, it is an honour and privilege to present to you my concluding statement. I do this with a deep sense of appreciation for your collective effort on behalf of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.
The matters brought before the Governing Council at its 20th session are of utmost importance to the human settlements work of the United Nations, and the decisions reached at this session will enable UN-HABITAT to fulfill its mandate within the UN system.
Once again this Governing Council has reaffirmed that the plight of the world’s urban poor should be among the irrevocable priorities on the world’s development agenda.
Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
During the past five days, all of you were involved in intensive debates on the various agenda items, in very constructive negotiations on resolutions, in substantive dialogues between Habitat Agenda partners, as well as in a series of parallel events on important matters related to the future of human settlements. Despite the difficult final few hours, I am sure that you will share my conclusion that this twentieth session has been extremely interesting, thought-provoking and successful. With your active participation and constructive contributions, this Council has adopted significant resolutions and decisions that will help guide the work of UN-HABITAT and its many partners in reaching the targets of the Millennium Goals and in implementing the Habitat Agenda.
I am particularly gratified that this session was so well attended by member states, local authorities and partners from civil society organizations. With so many participants, we have been able to engage in meaningful discussions on a range of issues in the various sessions, dialogues, parallel events and informal meetings of partners.
First, I wish to thank all those who came here to participate in the parallel events, which proved to be both varied and informative. We all came away from these events more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about related agenda items and about how technology and even art help us to better understand the human environment. The preparation for these events was time consuming and in some cases costly but I assure the rewards were significant.
The groundwork for this Governing Council was well laid by the Committee of Permanent Representatives who, as the subsidiary body of the Governing Council, worked tirelessly in various working groups before the Council meeting. I am thankful to them for their keen interest in UN-HABITAT activities and for their support in the preparation of this meeting. I look forward to the continued support of the Permanent Representatives during the coming two years in carrying out the decisions of this Governing Council.
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
Before touching on the highlights of your substantive work, I wish to express my deep gratitude to the President of this twentieth session, His Excellency Ambassador Petr Kopriva from the Czech Republic. Under his skillful leadership this council has been able to successfully conclude its work, incorporating many important decisions.
I also wish to express my thanks to the Vice-Presidents: His Excellency Ambassador Jose Luis Casal, of Argentina who capably chaired the Drafting Committee; His Excellency, Ambassador Bernd Braun of Germany, chairman of the Committee of the Whole; and Her Excellency Ambassador Rosalinda Valenton Tirona of the Philippines, who chaired the Contact Group. With their skills of diplomacy and negotiation, the committees were able to achieve consensus on most agenda items in a relatively short time.
May I also add that the Council’s successful conclusion relied heavily on the hard work and constructive engagement of the Drafting Committee, which has worked long hours in a very positive atmosphere.
To Rapporteur, Ms. Edna Deima Tobi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Nigeria, who successfully presented the report of the Council a short while ago, I extend a special thank you. And, I must thank all Members of the Bureau who had an onerous workload and intensive duties, which were performed with dedication and commitment.
I also extend my gratitude to our host country – Kenya – for its continuing hospitality which delegates to the Council have learnt to appreciate for many years. We were greatly honoured by the presence of the President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, and by the Assistant Minister for Environment, and Noble Laureate, the Honourable Wangari Maathai at the opening session. It was in their presence that I affirmed Kenya’s partnership with UN-HABITAT in a joint effort to improve the lives of slum dwellers in Kenya. I look forward to working with our host country and the Government of Kenya to meet our commitments.
I would like to reiterate my gratitude to the Committee of Permanent Representatives in Nairobi, under the capable chairmanship of Ambassador Wojciech Jasinski of Poland. They have also provided consistent and sound guidance to the Secretariat in preparing for the range of issues, which were the subject of debate during the last five days. Moreover, we owe them our thanks for the support they have demonstrated to the programme of work of UN-HABITAT.
In line with a long-standing practice, our partners in the United Nations system of organizations and agencies, especially the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), have supported us during this session of the council, for which we are very grateful. My special thanks go to Dr. Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi for his personal support and friendship.
I would like to thank the media representatives who have followed this Governing Council session with great interest and who have done their best in conveying the messages of this twentieth session to the outside world. As usual, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin has done a superb job in keeping us all up-to-date on the substantive negotiations and I wish to thank their hard working reporters who have reflected our proceedings with speed, fairness and accuracy.
My thanks go equally to the staff of the Conference Services at UNON, the interpreters and translators and all those who have been kept busy with processing documents and ensuring the logistics of this conference.
And of course my thanks are extended to my own staff in the UN-HABITAT who ensured a professional level of Secretariat services to the deliberations in the Plenary, in the Committee of the Whole and in the Drafting Committee on the substantive issues of this Council.
Here, I must stop and direct your attention to my friend and colleague, Mr. Joe Mungai, the Secretary to this Governing Council and Chief of External Relations and Inter-Agency Affairs. This will be Joe’s last Governing Council meeting as he will be retiring shortly. Joe holds a bachelors degree in economics from the University of Dar-es-Salaam and a masters degree in international economics and international relations from Columbia University in New York City. A carrier diplomat, Joe joined the secretariat in 1978 and has been our indispensable liaison with the diplomatic community. An intellectual and visionary thinker, I’m sure all would join me in wishing him a most well-earned retirement. I have now to com to terms of organizing the next Governing Council without the steady fast cool hand of Joe.
I must also inform the Governing Council that another collegue and steady hand, albeit behind the scenes, will soon be leaving us. This is Jay Moor, my Special Advisor on Policy and Planning. Jay hails from Minnesota, USA. After graduating with a PhD in Urban Planning at the University of Washington, in Seattle, he worked in the Governor’s office in Alaska for 13 years. He then joined the Centre for Housing, Building and Planning at UNDESA and worked on their field projects in Korea and the then Yugoslavia, now Serbia-Montenegro. Jay continued in field projects until 1993 when he joined the Secretariat for Habitat II. A visionary thinker and prolific writer, Jay provided the first draft of the Habitat Agenda. It was Ambassador Engfelt of Sweden, one of the chief negotiators at Habitat II and one of the chief organizers of the 1972 Stockholm conference on the Human Environment, who remarked and I quote “Jay is the Father of the Habitat Agenda”.
Ladies and Gentlemen, if from now on my speeches become boring and uninspiring, you now know my problem. We shall all miss Jay – particularly your quality to work calmly behind the scene.
Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,
I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the Governing Council for its approval of the work programme and budget for 2006-2007. As requested in resolution L1, I shall develop an overarching mobilization strategy to increase non-earmarked contributions and the donor base for presentation to the GC 21.
In the context of the Secretary General’s report on his new proposals for the reform of the UN Secretariat, I welcome your decision requesting me to invite the OIOS to undertake a review of the current administrative arrangements at UN-HABITAT, including its relationship with the United Nations Office at Nairobi to enable both organizations to function more effectively and efficiently.
Last, but certainly not least, I would take this opportunity, once again, to thank all the governments and partners that have continued so generously their financial support. My special thanks go to the Governments of Germany and Sweden and to the private firm, BASF, each of which announced financial contributions to UN-HABITAT during this twentieth session of the Governing Council.
Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me now to turn to some of the highlights of this week’s deliberations and dialogues, the results of which provide UN-HABITAT and our partners with further guidance on the road toward cities without slums.
Judging from the lively discussions in the dialogue sessions on civil society, disasters, decentralization and finance, the dialogue process is more invigorated than at any time in the past.
Wednesday’s plenary dialogue on decentralization and strengthening local authorities, for example, discussed the draft guidelines on decentralization that were prepared by the Advisory Group of Experts on Decentralization (AGRED), which I established following resolution 19/12. Participants agreed that the local is the most effective level of service delivery and therefore decentralization is vital to the development process. It was felt that issues, such as revenue equalization, are determined through a continuing dialogue between central government and local authority associations. Most germane to our own monitoring and evaluation functions, participants in this dialogue agreed that further research is needed to evaluate central-local models of fiscal relations in order to improve existing systems.
The essence of your work here this week is found within the texts of the various resolutions, which delegates painstakingly negotiated and delivered in time for this last meeting. I gratefully acknowledge the council’s decision to strengthen the Slum upgrading Facility of the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation. You have welcomed the priority accorded to the Slum Upgrading Facility as an essential measure for slum improvement and you have agreed that the Facility should be capitalized to a minimum level of US$30 million.
I am also grateful that you have emphasized the importance of UN-HABITAT being given the focal point role in following-up human settlements issues arising from CSD13. This is entirely congruent with our role as focal point for implementation of the Habitat Agenda and for monitoring Target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals.
The council has agreed on the importance of the World Urban Forum as a primary opportunity to expand the human settlements agenda and have requested special financial support for the next World Urban Forum which will be hosted by the Government of Canada in the city of Vancouver in 2006. I look forward to seeing you all there and would like to thank the Hon. Joe Fontana and the Government of Canada for the grand preparations that have already started for this premier event on the Habitat agenda.
In another resolution, you have acknowledged the importance of civic values as components of urban governance and the need to commence a process of reflection on these values, using the third World Urban Forum as an important mechanism to facilitate this.
You have, in that same resolution, requested me, in cooperation with Governments and other Habitat Agenda partners, to develop tool kits and recommendations for local authorities and civil society, with a view to improving access to relevant information, and to consider modalities for enhancing civic and democratic values, taking into account the laws and culture of each country.
I am further gratified that the council has (a) affirmed the strategic UN-HABITAT role, and the importance of sustainable relief interventions, in post conflict and man-made disasters, (b) reconfirmed the importance of women’s land property rights to ensure gender equality in human settlements, and (c) endorsed the positive independent evaluation of our campaigns and the proposals to strengthen them, recognizing the centrality of the campaigns in UN-HABITAT activities. Each of these resolutions signals your confidence in our strategic direction in several substantive areas.
I am most appreciative of your endorsement of the Habitat Programme Managers and your agreement that the future deployment of HPMs will be addressed as part of the medium term strategic and institutional plan, to be developed for the twenty-first session of the Governing Council. In line with your resolution, I shall undertake an independent strategic evaluation of the performance and impact of HPMs before the end of 2006. A report on this evaluation shall be presented to the Governing Council at its twenty-first session. I am confident that the evaluation will confirm my conviction that country-level and local action is a cost-effective way to promote global goals.
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
I am now most delighted to acknowledge the initiative by several countries, and announced by the representative of Norway, to launch a high-level commission on the legal empowerment of the poor. Such an initiative would resonate with the General Assembly directive in its resolution A/69/484 that [and I quote] “Encourages Governments to support the UN-Habitat … [in] promoting administration of land and property rights, in accordance with national circumstances, and enhancing access to affordable credit by the urban poor.” I can say that UN-HABITAT would be pleased to interact with Member States in the process of creating such a commission and delivering its mandate.
I would now like to take this opportunity to announce that the official celebration of World Habitat Day 2005 will take place in Indonesia on the customary first Monday of October. The theme this year is, “The Millennium Development Goals and the City,” and it is my intention to use this theme and World Habitat Day as a venue to launch an integrated slum upgrading and disaster mitigation programme in Indonesia.
May I also remind you all that on World Habitat Day, the Habitat Scroll of Honour award, the most prestigious award in our field, will be presented to individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions in shelter and human settlements. I welcome nominations for the Habitat Scroll of Honour awards for 2005. The submission guidelines are included in the World Habitat Day 2005 brochure distributed to delegates during the Governing Council and can also be found on UN-HABITAT's website. Deadline for submissions is 15 August 2005.
Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The decisions of this council have reaffirmed the vision of UN-HABITAT and its role in meeting the Millennium Development targets and the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. I thank you for the support of proposals to further strengthen UN Habitat and to equip us better for our significant role in improving the lives of millions of slum dwellers around the world. Let me also once again thank all of you who have continued to support UN-HABITAT financially. I often say, and repeat again that this organisation cannot serve you well as long as it remains underfunded. I appeal to you to support us with the resources for the budget you have approved so that we can stick to the priorities you have set. I will not tire in my efforts to mobilize resources for the work you want us to do. I hope you will also not tire in your efforts to support us.
I wish to assure you that I will continue focusing my attention on the implementation of the resolutions of this Governing Council, guided by your support and direction, and assisted by the Committee of Permanent Representatives and the Bureau of the Governing Council.
I do believe that collectively, we can all work together in meeting the challenge of rapid urbanization, the growing urbanization of poverty and build together a world where everyone has secure shelter with the promise of a life of dignity, good health, happiness and hope. This governing Council meeting has provided us with many important decisions and the guidance to meet all challenges.
I thank you all once again for your active participation and support.
Kwaheri. Goodbye. I wish you a safe journey home.