GROUP OF 77 CALLS FOR AGGRESSIVE BOOSTING OF FUNDING TO HELP ACHIEVE SHELTER FOR ALL, AS SECOND COMMITTEE CONTINUES DEBATE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Sixty-second General Assembly
19th Meeting (PM)
group of 77 calls for aggressive boosting of funding to help achieve shelter
for all, as Second Committee continues debate on human settlements
Reports on Science and Technology for Development, Corrupt Practices Introduced
The international community must aggressively scale up funding and programmes to achieve sustainable human settlements and adequate shelter for all, which would entail ending poverty and providing, employment, transportation, water and sanitation, Pakistan’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today.
For the first time in history, half of humanity was living in towns and cities and one billion people in the developing world were urban slum dwellers, a figure projected to swell by two thirds by 2030, she said as the Committee continued its debate on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). Most of those people lacked safe housing, access to water and sanitation, modern energy supply and waste collection and disposal.
She said UN-HABITAT needed more predictable resources to address those challenges and urged development partners to provide financial and technical support to the agency. Despite a steady increase in funding over the past six years -- including a 10 per cent overall increase in total voluntary contributions to $126 million in 2006 -- non-earmarked contributions stood at just $10 million. That imbalance between earmarked contributions and a dependence on a small number of donors hampered effective implementation of UN-HABITAT’s programmes in accordance with the national priorities of programme countries.
While aggressive fundraising efforts had led to multi-year pledges of $57.1 million for the Water and Sanitation Trust Fund, only $20.1 million had been pledged for the Slum Upgrading Facility, she noted. Water and sanitation and slum upgrading targets must be addressed in an integrated manner, a step urged during the thirteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. Further, the Secretary-General should increase UN-HABITAT’s regular budget, which constituted only 10 per cent of total contributions to the Programme at current levels.
China’s representative said human settlements policies should be realistic and tailored to a country’s needs and the country itself should have ownership of the programme. Rural human settlements remained a weak link in efforts to address human settlement issues as a whole and there was a need to better integrate urban and rural development. All members of society must be involved in that process, with Governments taking the lead. The international community should work
together to promote economic growth, eradicate poverty and reduce the income gap in order to lay the foundations for proper human settlements.
Ethiopia’s representative said his Government was scaling up efforts to implement the Habitat Agenda, enacting an urban development policy to ensure that cities provided efficient public services and created jobs. However, the rapid growth of urbanization had further exacerbated urban poverty, a fact that was illustrated by an acute shelter problem, unemployment and a lack of access to adequate infrastructure and basic services.
The situation in least developed countries was bleak, he said, adding that Africa’s share of the world’s urban population was expected to climb to 17 per cent by the year 2015, exacerbating the uphill struggle faced by African countries to modernize cities in line with their development capacities. In least developed countries, 78 per cent of the urban population lived in slums, compared with just 42 per cent of the urban population in all developed countries combined. Without substantial investment in housing and urban development over the next two decades, the growing urban population would be unable to escape the urban poverty trap, which was accentuated by deplorable housing conditions, poor health and sanitation, poor nutrition and low productivity.
As the Committee took up globalization and interdependence, CheickSidi Diarra, High Representative for the Least Development Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, highlighted the special problems of least developed countries, noting that rapid economic growth had failed to increase productivity, create jobs and generate wealth in those countries in the absence of structural transformation, technological learning and innovation. As a result, extreme poverty remained and malnutrition had in fact increased in Africa due to low agricultural productivity, rapid population growth, environmental degradation and challenges associated with climate change. Those realities, alongside high food and oil prices, could jeopardize the attainment of internationally agreed development goals.
Nikhil Seth, Director of Economic and Social Council’s Support and Coordination in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the impact of international commitments, policies and processes on the scope and implementation of national development strategies.
Anh-Nga Tran-Nguyen, Director of Services Infrastructure for Development and Trade Efficiency at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on science and technology for development.
Dimitri Vlassis, Chief of the Crime Convention Section at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on preventing and combating corrupt practices and transfer of assets of illicit origin and returning such assets, in particular to the countries of origin, consistent with the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
Earlier, the Committee concluded its general discussion on sustainable development, during which Palau’s representative stressed that small island developing States (SIDS) produced less than 0.02 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, but were the most severely affected by climate change. It was imperative to reach an agreement on a set of quantified emission reduction targets for the post-2012 commitment period and for that commitment to address mitigating the impacts of climate change on small island developing States as one of the key benchmarks of its adequacy and effectiveness. Coral reef ecosystems were vital to Palau and many other States, providing one quarter of the fish catch in developing countries and feeding more than one billion people. The destruction of reef ecosystems would threaten sustainable development.
Also during the sustainable development debate, the Committee heard statements by the representatives of Bolivia, Israel, Paraguay, Kuwait, Cameroon, Pakistan (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Russian Federation, India, Belarus, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
A representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and also made a statement, as did representatives of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday 1 November, to continue its debate on globalization and interdependence.
The Second Committee met this afternoon to conclude its debate on sustainable development before continuing its consideration of the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).
(For background information, see Press Releases GA/EF/3190 of 30 October and GA/EF/3189 of 29 October).
It was also expected to take up globalization and interdependence, including science and technology for development, and preventing and combating corrupt practices and transfer of assets of illicit origin and returning such assets, in particular to the countries of origin, consistent with the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
Before the Committee was a report by the Secretary-General on the Impact of international commitments, policies and processes on the scope and the implementation of national development strategies (document A/62/303), which highlights key areas of international disciplines, rules, policies and processes that affect the design and implementation of national development strategies, and notes that many countries do not fully understand and are finding it increasingly difficult to implement the often wide-ranging and complex international obligations created as a result of globalization. International policies often constrain the bold, goal-oriented national development strategies of developing countries, particularly the least developed ones.
The report concludes that development partners must have a good understanding of a country and be able to advise its Government on how best to avoid risk and take advantage of opportunities. Developing countries must fully understand how the multilateral, regional and bilateral trade agreements they join impact their respective economies. They must also ensure that official development assistance (ODA) translates into higher public investment in social development. Donors must offer support in line with the national development strategies of recipient countries, while simplifying and streamlining their own procedures. The impact of new environmental, health and food-safety requirements on the access of developing-country products to key export markets must also be addressed.
Also before the Committee was a letter dated 4 April 2007 from the Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/62/71—E/2007/46), which contains a summary of the proceedings of the Intergovernmental Conference on Middle-Income Countries, held in Madrid on 1 and 2 March 2007. The Conference Declaration offers 10 conclusions, including one calling for a more complex and ambitious development agenda for middle-income countries, clearer guidance for donors and greater cooperation in such areas as democratic governance and international financial markets.
The Committee also had before it a letter dated 3 August 2007 from the Permanent Representative of Benin to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/62/216), which transmits the Istanbul Declaration adopted at the Ministerial Conference on Least Developed Countries, held in Istanbul on 9 and 10 July 2007 under the theme “Making globalization work for the Least Developed Countries”. The Declaration calls on developed countries to provide financial and technical assistance to least developed countries, particularly in agriculture, science and technology, and on development partners to facilitate foreign direct investment (FDI), fulfil their internationally agreed commitments, and increase their contributions to the trust fund of the Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance for the Least Developed Countries.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on Science and technology for development (document A/62/136), which tracks the implementation of General Assembly resolution 60/205 and outlines the work carried out by the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development in agriculture, rural development, information and communications technology and environmental management, among other areas. The report presents an update on United Nations system collaboration on biotechnology-related activities, and provides information on activities carried out by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and other relevant organizations to help developing countries integrate science, technology and innovation policies into their national development plans and strategies.
The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/62/85) transmitting to the General Assembly the Report of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption on its first session, held in Amman from 10 to 14 December 2006 (document CAC/COSP/2006/12), which states that participants considered steps to achieve anti-corruption objectives, covering asset recovery, trends and patterns in corruption and a review of implementation.
A report of the Secretary-General on Preventing and combating corrupt practices and transfer of assets of illicit origin and returning such assets, in particular to the countries of origin, consistent with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (document A/62/116) provides an account of the first session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, held from 10 to 14 December 2006 in Amman, Jordan. The Conference took significant steps to plot a course for the future, but Member States must make the same level of commitment to maintain that momentum until the second session.
The report says corruption undermines opportunities for sustainable economic growth, particularly in low-income countries, and notes that the lack of systematic knowledge on asset recovery is a challenge to making the Convention operational. The General Assembly should encourage Member States to support the work of the Conference of the States Parties and its efforts to ensure the Convention’s implementation.
GRAHAM CLOUGH, Deputy Representative, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) New York Office, said promoting sustainable economic growth in developing countries and economies in transition was at the core of all the agency’s activities. Many of its programmes and projects contributed to the implementation of action plans linked to Agenda 21, the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Mauritius Strategy. Industry had a crucial role to play in protecting the global climate, given that the industrial sector now accounted for around one third of global primary energy consumption and energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Both industrial energy use and carbon emissions were expected to grow by 2 per cent per annum over the next 25 years, and it was vital to vigorously tackle the way in which energy was used in industry and other major energy-consuming sectors.
However, climate change must not be tackled at the expense of economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries, he said. Ways must be found to reduce emissions while at the same time supporting economic growth and employment opportunities. Although there was no “silver bullet”, significantly improving energy efficiency was one area where objectives were fully compatible and rewards could be considerable. A recent study by the International Energy Agency showed that industrial energy intensity could be reduced by around 26 per cent, thereby potentially reducing global carbon dioxideemissions by some 12 per cent. Developing renewable energy and efficient energy sources was especially important to small island developing States, where people depended almost exclusively on imported fossil fuels for their energy needs, making them economically vulnerable.
JAVIER LOAYZA BAREA ( Bolivia) said humankind was not paying enough attention to environmental deterioration due to the overexploitation of natural resources, which was occurring at an increasing rate. The decisions of one country could impact the environmental equilibrium of other countries as environmental problems crossed national boundaries, with consequences for everybody, and it was in everyone’s interest to address them responsibly. Bolivia had adopted a new education model to generate public awareness and create a social consciousness throughout the country regarding the importance of responsible and sustainable consumption patterns. The objective was to ensure that people understood humankind’s complex relationship with the environment and took steps to both protect the environment and promote development. The current development model, based on unlimited economic growth, was not compatible with sustainable development.
He said his country adhered to a model based on the philosophy of indigenous communities, by which humans should only take from the earth what was necessary for the survival and well-being of current and future generations, and saving the planet was necessary to save humanity. Developing countries were particularly vulnerable to environmental deterioration and their populations, grappling with low standards of living and inadequate basic services, may not view environmental conservation as a priority. They used their limited resources to combat poverty, malnutrition, disease, illiteracy and unemployment. During the recent High-Level Event on Climate Change, it had been made clear that developed countries were largely responsible for environmental degradation and must assist developing countries with clean, efficient and renewable technology. The upcoming Bali Conference should not produce a wish list, but rather conclude with a clear mandate for the urgent implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.
SIMONA HALPERIN ( Israel) said agricultural research and technological improvements were crucial to increasing agricultural productivity and returns to farmers and farm labour, thereby reducing poverty and meeting future food needs at reasonable prices and without irreversible degradation of the natural resource base. But the full and beneficial effects of agricultural research and technological change would materialize only if national policies were appropriate.
She said her country was committed to sharing with developing countries its experience in strengthening agricultural productivity and advancing agricultural technologies, as well as its capacity-building programmes. Small-scale enterprise promotion was another means to eradicate poverty. Given that women comprised 70 per cent of the 1.4 billion people living in poverty, there was no doubt that the feminization of poverty was a global phenomenon requiring renewed attention. Israel promoted sustainable development in self-employed entrepreneurial capacities and in the empowerment of grassroots populations through its Centre for International Cooperation, or MASHAV.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was a reminder that environment and development were not in conflict, she said. Desertification was a result of development that compromised long-term environmental benefits for short-term gains, and combating it was a way to make dryland development sustainable. Environmental ecosystem services were underpinned by biodiversity, the components of which were intimately linked to service provision. Conservation of the unique dryland biodiversity was therefore critical to attaining dryland sustainable development. Israel was renowned for having successfully combated desertification.
NARINDER KAKAR, Observer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), welcomed the level of international attention paid recently to the serious threat of climate change, and he lauded the emphasis on the links between the ability to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the need for an urgent global response to climate change under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). IUCN called for agreement on a mandate to negotiate a comprehensive post-2012 framework under the Convention by 2009.
He stressed the need for due consideration to the links between climate change and biodiversity, especially the benefits of a landscape approach to natural-resource management that ensured sustainable livelihoods for mitigation and adaptation. Robust standards and criteria for alternative fuels were needed, so as to account fully for and safeguard against the range of subsequent environmental and social impacts of such fuel options. Rather than undermining the Millennium Goals, they must contribute positively to them.
Welcoming the progress made in the context of implementing decisions made at the Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2006, he urged Governments to act decisively to reverse degradation of the ecosystem services upon which development depended. Progress in advancing negotiations to create an international regime on access and benefit sharing was crucial to greater sustainability and equity in biodiversity usage. IUCN also underscored the need to promote further coordination among multilateral environmental agreements, and to make sustainable development effectively part of the overarching framework of United Nations activities.
JUAN ALFREDO BUFFA ( Paraguay) said the growing diversification of energy sources was an important aspect of sustainable development that affected many countries. As a landlocked country, Paraguay was dependent on the fossil fuels it used in transportation systems to export goods. However, the country was gradually switching over to new energy sources and focusing on ways to develop them. The country had a biofuel programme that provided a viable alternative to its dependence on oil-based fuels, which had consistently experienced the price variations affecting economies worldwide. The production of alternative fuels did not hurt the country by growing biofuels instead of food. Rather, using biofuels had made it possible to guarantee that Paraguay would be a supplier of food outside the country, adding to food security around the world.
JESSE CAMERON-GLICKENHAUS (Palau), noting that sustainable development was about improving living conditions in a way that ensured human survival, said his island nation was concerned about preserving unique marine ecosystems and protecting them from the unsustainable practice of deep-sea bottom trawling. The South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization had adopted interim measures that took a substantial step towards eliminating that practice, and Palau urged other regional fisheries-management organizations and States to follow its lead. To enhance biodiversity protection, the Government had launched the Micronesian Challenge, which tasked Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia with conserving 30 per cent of near-shore marine resources, and 20 per cent of land resources by 2020.
While protected areas were local, Palau would not be able to achieve its goals without international assistance, including funding and expertise to identify vulnerable areas and devise enforcement mechanisms, he said. Coral reef ecosystems were vital to Palau and many other States, providing one quarter of the fish catch in developing countries and feeding over one billion people. The destruction of reef ecosystems would threaten sustainable development.
Together, small island developing States produced less than 0.02 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, but they were the most severely devastated by climate change, he said. Palau stressed the absolute need to reach an agreement on a set of quantified emission reduction targets for the post-2012 commitment period. It was imperative that the effectiveness of that commitment address the mitigation of climate change impacts on small island developing States as one of the key benchmarks of its adequacy and effectiveness.
MOHAMMAD SULTAN AL-SHARJI ( Kuwait) said his country had been one of the first to actively confront natural disasters by providing bilateral assistance to affected countries and regions. Over the last three years, Kuwait had donated $100 million to countries affected by the Asian tsunami, $100 million to those affected by the earthquake in South Asia and $500 million to victims of Hurricane Katrina. It had also provided $300,000 to several Caribbean countries affected by Hurricane Wilma. Kuwait had donated $250,000 to help the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cope with the effects of flooding and provided $500,000 to assist those affected by Typhoon Yamin, which had hit parts of Pakistan.
The number of natural disasters had tended to increase during the last few years, causing heavy losses of life and negatively impacting the economy, social life and the environment, particularly in developing countries, he said. That called for the mobilization of efforts to confront disasters and contain the damages they caused. It was important to establish effective regional early warning systems in order to reduce the effects of disasters. Kuwait would continue to provide bilateral and multilateral aid to cope with the immediate impact of disasters, and to assist reconstruction efforts coordinated by Governments and relief organizations.
IYA TIDJANI ( Cameroon) said that while Africa contributed least to climate change, it would in the future most likely bear some of global warming’s most severe effects. Around the continent, environmental damage had caused some areas to succumb to desertification and rising sea levels. Evidence included the fact that Lake Chad had already lost 90 per cent of its initial surface.
Cameroon was addressing those issues and had ratified the Climate Change Convention, he said. It had defined a set of strategies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and establishing national plans for environmental management, biodiversity protection and combating desertification. Cameroon had also introduced clean technologies and was bringing about wider use of hydropower. Community forests were being granted by the Government, which was also developing renewable energy sources. However, the country could not tackle those issues alone. It was to be hoped that the Bali Conference would be able to reflect developing countries’ legitimate concerns and protect the environment for future generations.
The Committee then resumed its debate on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).
FAUZIA FAKHR-UZ-ZAMAN ( Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that, for the first time in history, half of humanity was living in towns and cities. Urban populations were projected to increase by two thirds by 2030, which meant that 1 billion people in the developing world lived in urban slums, which were growing exponentially. Most slum dwellers lacked safe housing, access to water and sanitation, modern energy supply, and waste collection and disposal. The challenge of sustainable human settlements and adequate shelter for all required urgent attention, especially as it was closely intertwined with poverty, employment, transportation and the provision of such basic services as water and sanitation.
She urged development partners to provide financial and technical support to UN-HABITAT, noting that its current resources were disproportionate to its task. Despite a steady increase in funding over the past six years due to the Programme’s resource mobilization strategy, the continued inadequacy and unpredictability of funding was a result of the imbalance between earmarked contributions and dependence on a small number of donors. Despite a 10 per cent overall increase in total voluntary contributions to $126 million in 2006, non-earmarked contributions stood at $10 million. That imbalance hampered effective implementation of UN-HABITAT’s programmes in accordance with the national priorities of programme countries.
Aggressive fundraising efforts had led to multi-year pledges of $57.1 million for the Water and Sanitation Trust Fund, but only $20.1 million had been pledged for the Slum Upgrading Facility, she noted. Water and sanitation and slum upgrading targets must be addressed in an integrated manner, a step urged during the thirteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. Countries that had responded to that call and made multi-year pledges were to be commended. The Group of 77 requested that the Secretary-General increase UN-HABITAT’S regular budget, which constituted only 10 per cent of total contributions to the Programme at current levels.
ANNA OVCHARENKO (Russian Federation), commending measures to stabilize and develop slums and reduce the number of the world’s slum dwellers, said her country approved of UN-HABITAT’s 2008-2013 strategic plan, which would address those and other issues. There should be an expansion of cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions and a strengthening of cooperation within the United Nations system on related activities. In the context of United Nations reform, the Russian Federation suggested setting up an evaluation system and improving statistical analyses of UN-HABITAT data.
She said her country had doubled its contributions to UN-HABITAT since 2006 and hoped its projects would be enhanced. The Russian Federation looked forward to Ms. Tibaijuka’s upcoming visit to its first national forum on housing.
LIU YUYIN (China) said the international community should work together to promote economic growth, poverty eradication and a reduction of the income gap, in order to lay the foundations for proper human settlements. Countries should have ownership of their respective human settlements policies, which should be realistic and suitable to their specific national situations. They should set their own policies, strategies, plans and priorities, while at the same time learning from each other’s experiences.
Human settlements must be sustainable, he said, stressing that efforts for economic development, social progress and environmental protection must keep pace with population growth. Human settlements must be integrated to ensure efficient use of resources and energy. International cooperation was essential, and developed countries should faithfully honour their financial and technical commitments to developing countries, in order to create the external conditions for socio-economic development.
Urban and rural development should be better integrated, since rural human settlements remained a weak link in efforts to address human settlement issues as a whole, he continued. There was a need for full societal involvement, with Governments taking the lead. China was working in earnest to fulfil its commitments, made at Habitat II and the General Assembly’s special session on human settlements, by working with all stakeholders to integrate rural and urban areas, improve living standards and create safe, healthy and comfortable living environments. Thanks to those efforts, the average housing space in China in 2003 had reached 23.7 square metres per person for urban residents, and 27.2 square metres per person for rural residents. Since 1990, the United Nations had awarded the World Habitat Award to 12 Chinese cities.
THAWAR CHAND GEHLOT ( India) said the global urban population had overtaken the global rural population for the first time in history, a trend that was expected to continue. The world’s ability to address the urban problems of poverty, pollution, planning and governance would influence global well-being in the twenty-first century.
He said his country had recently launched an integrated programme to promote the sustainable development of cities. It included providing basic services to the poor, namely land tenure, affordable shelter, water and sanitation, education, health and social security. In the rural areas, India had launched programmes to promote affordable housing, reaching out to the poor with construction grants, and focusing on improving employment. Within the South-South cooperation framework, India had also been sharing appropriate technology, especially in the field of cost-effective, environment-friendly and disaster-resistant construction. India was also committed in its support to UN-HABITAT.
ANDREI METELITSA ( Belarus) stressed the importance of the sustainable development of human settlements, noting that his country was working towards that goal in both rural and urban areas. Belarus was focusing on responsible city development, agriculture development and the upgrading of settlements in areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and invited UN-HABITAT to provide technical and other assistance.
MUDITHA HALLIYADDE ( Sri Lanka) said promoting and upgrading informal settlements and urban slums was one of the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals to which her country remained committed. Sri Lanka had launched several initiatives, including medium-term programmes, to upgrade 1.3 million housing units in urban and rural areas. It had embarked on an integrated programme to build 25 houses per village in underserved settlements and, as part of its poverty reduction strategy, expanded the supply of affordable, quality housing for the poor.
The Government’s Urban Settlements Improvement Programme helped communities in underserved urban areas to improve their social and environmental infrastructure, she said. In addition, Sri Lanka, with help from several donors, was implementing 34 large-scale water supply and sanitation projects targeting 8 million people. There must be a greater global partnership for cooperation in the financial and technical fields to strengthen the capacities of developing countries.
GENET TESHOME ( Ethiopia) pointed out that in least developed countries, 78 per cent of the urban population lived in slums, while 42 per cent of the urban population in all developed countries combined were slum dwellers. That bleak situation posed considerable challenges that could adversely affect the struggle to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Without substantial investment in housing and urban development over the next two decades, the growing urban population would be unable to escape the urban poverty trap, which was accentuated by deplorable housing conditions, poor health and sanitation, poor nutrition and low productivity.
Africa’s share of the world’s urban population was expected to climb to 17 per cent by the year 2015, he noted, adding that 43 cities each had populations of more than 1 million people, a figure that was expected to rise to 70 million by the year 2015. That expansion would exacerbate the uphill struggle of African peoples to modernize their cities in line with their development capacities. The migration of rural people to the cities had caused the continent’s unprecedented urban growth. Declining agricultural productivity or low prices, lack of employment opportunities, and the absence of basic physical and social infrastructure were the main “push” factors.
He said his country had taken steps to implement the Habitat Agenda, but the rapid growth of urbanization had further exacerbated the already existing urban poverty, which was reflected by an acute shelter problem, unemployment and lack of access to adequate infrastructure and basic services. The Government had enacted an urban development policy to ensure that cities provided efficient public services, created jobs and enhanced participatory democracy.
TRI THARYAT ( Indonesia) said globalization had helped to deepen and accelerate global urbanization, often with negative consequences. The world’s homeless population totalled more than 100 million, a major social development challenge. The Habitat II Agenda, formulated in 1996, was an international blueprint for healthy sustainable urban communities in the current century. Many steps had been taken since then to implement it, but much remained to be done, including greater mainstreaming of its goals into development processes and sustained funding. The Agenda’s success would depend on the availability of adequate, reliable funding and on making financial institutions and other creditors, including philanthropic entities, aware of the various issues at stake. For their part, Governments must commit to budgetary allocations to ensure implementation of the Habitat Agenda.
Resources must be tied to operational strategies to facilitate implementation of the Agenda, he continued. Recent landmark decisions made during the twenty-first session of the UN-HABITAT Governing Council would no doubt prove critical in that regard. The Programme’s role must be aligned to the specific housing needs of each recipient country, and it should therefore function as a partner to national Governments in helping to formulate appropriate policies and strategies to solve difficulties caused by unregulated urbanization. UN-HABITAT should focus on the implementation of national housing projects rather than the promotion of its own. At the regional level, it should popularize its mandate in order to build effective partnerships at the national and local levels.
ALICE ARMANNI SEQUI, Operations Liaison Officer, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the Federation had addressed the question of adequate shelter for all primarily in the context of disasters, particularly those related to climate change, which had increased substantially in recent years. Climate change indicators suggested that their number would increase substantially in the coming years, which was why the November 2007 IFRC Conference would discuss the humanitarian consequences of environmental hazards, including climate change, as one of the world’s main humanitarian challenges.
She recalled that the IFRC General Assembly had committed in 2005 to a leadership role in providing emergency shelter during natural disasters. That had required measures to scale up shelter capacity and support the wider shelter sector. IFRC had established collaborative arrangements with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN-HABITAT and other leading agencies of the Organization, non-governmental entities, and research institutions to promote greater preparedness and predictability.
The Federation was also supporting existing and new networks of shelter agencies, research institutions and donors, as well as key collaborative initiatives to promote the sector’s advancement, she said. That included recent steps to enhance engagement between the humanitarian and commercial sectors and to capitalize on the financial and technical resources potentially available. At the national level, IFRC was enhancing preparedness planning to include identification of shelter-sector assistance from humanitarian actors as part of Government-led disaster-response operations. IFRC also promoted locally-driven emergency shelter solutions by providing tools, fixings, basic materials and information on building techniques for safer homes.
The Committee then took up its agenda item on globalization and interdependence.
Introduction of Reports
NIKHIL SETH, Director, Office for Economic and Social Council’s Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the impact of international commitments, policies and processes on the scope and implementation of national development strategies (document A/62/303), saying globalization triggered both fears and hopes, with countries benefiting or losing out from its impact. During the present session, the Committee would focus on another critical dimension of globalization -- the impact of external factors on the ability to make domestic policies.
He said the report suggested how to make policies flexible and responsive to changing domestic and external circumstances. There was a need to ensure that developing countries had the institutional capacity to understand fully the implications of international obligations and processes. Developing countries should be able to participate actively in decision-making at the global level, and the international community, particularly the United Nations system, should assist them. The Committee should give clear guidance to the General Assembly’s sixty-fourth session so it could adopt an action-oriented resolution that would help to illuminate a part of a complicated canvas.
ANH-NGA TRAN-NGUYEN, Director, Division for Services Infrastructure for Development and Trade Efficiency, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the report of the Secretary-General on science and technology for development (document A/62/136), saying the centrality of technology was well-recognized at the international and national level. Policymakers in developing countries were now convinced that raising productivity, combating poverty and improving living standards depended increasingly on building solid capabilities in science, technology and innovation. However, countries that lacked the skills and infrastructure to join the knowledge economy would fall far behind, with serious social and economic consequences. Bridging that gap was a key concern among policymakers in the developing world.
DIMITRI VLASSIS, Chief, Crime Convention Section, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), introduced the report of the Secretary-General on preventing and combating corrupt practices and transfer of assets of illicit origin and returning such assets, in particular to the countries of origin, consistent with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (document A/62/116).
He said that since the report was finalized in June, significant developments had been seen, including ratification of the Convention by an additional 10 countries, which had brought the total number of States parties to 103, with 140 signatories. Regarding asset recovery, UNODC and the World Bank had launched the StAR Initiative in September. It would help developing countries build their capacities, strengthen their prosecuting agencies and bring their laws into compliance with the Convention. The political momentum for the Convention against Corruption was very strong, and now was the moment for the United Nations and Member States to pull together and ensure that it became an efficient instrument for development and reform.
CHEICK SIDI DIARRA, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Development Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, highlighted the special problems of least developed countries, pointing out that despite the fact that they represented 12 per cent of the world’s population, they had accounted for only 0.69 per cent of global output in 2005, and their share of world trade was still below the 1960 level.
Rapid economic growth in least developed countries had failed to increase productivity, create jobs or generate wealth in the absence of structural transformation, technological learning and innovation, he said. As a result, extreme poverty remained and malnutrition had in fact increased in African least developed countries due to low agricultural productivity, rapid population growth, environmental degradation and climate change challenges. Those realities, alongside high food and oil prices, could jeopardize the attainment of the ambitious targets of reducing poverty and hunger, as set out in the Millennium Goals and the Brussels Programme of Action of the Least Developed Countries.
He said sustained globalization called for the provision of greater international support to the world’s poorest nations, particularly in terms of building their productive capacity, technological learning and innovation, physical infrastructure, and mainstreaming trade into their national development strategies. Inclusive globalization required a greater voice for participation by the poorest nations in multilateral arenas. Sustained and inclusive globalization also required the broadening of national policy space and greater ownership by the poorest countries of their own development.
REHANA YAHYA BALUCH ( Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said equitable sharing of the benefits of globalization required the management of globalization through the strengthening of international cooperation and a global partnership for development. There was also a need to strengthen coordination within the United Nations system, in close cooperation with all multilateral financial, trade and development institutions to promote sustained economic growth, poverty eradication and sustainable development. Advances in science and technology and easier access to the latest technologies would certainly help developing countries achieve significant progress in agriculture, energy, health and trade, among other areas.
Turning to corruption, she said there was clearly a need to build knowledge and strengthen capacity in asset recovery, among other areas, particularly in developing countries. The Group of 77 called on developed countries to cooperate further in addressing issues relating to the repatriation of money, illegally acquired from the developing countries, to their respective countries of origin. The Group also looked forward to a fruitful outcome to the second session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, to be held in Indonesia in early 2008.
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