Press Releases

    GA/EF/3124
    2 November 2005

    Second Committee Unanimously Approves Texts on Humanitarian Aid for Ethiopia; Rehabilitation, Economic Development of Kazakhstan's Semipalatinsk Region

    Delegates also Begin Considering Implementation of Conference on Human Settlements, Strengthening of UN-Habitat

    NEW YORK, 1 November (UN Headquarters) -- Expressing concern over recurrent drought and the dire humanitarian situation in Ethiopia, the General Assembly would stress the need to address the underlying causes of food insecurity, as well as recovery, asset protection and sustainable development in affected areas of the country, according to one of two draft resolutions unanimously approved by the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today.

    Also by that draft, on humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation for Ethiopia, the Assembly would call on development partners, in cooperation with the Ethiopian Government, to integrate relief efforts with recovery, asset protection and long-term development, including the structural and production options needed to stimulate accelerated rural growth.  It would also call on those parties to address the underlying causes of the country's recurrent drought, in line with the poverty reduction strategy paper and the rural development strategy, bearing in mind the need to prevent such crises in the future, and to improve the population's resilience.

    By terms of the second text, on international cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of Kazakhstan's Semipalatinsk region, the Assembly would call on the international community and United Nations bodies to continue their support for that country in tackling the challenges of rehabilitating Semipalatinsk and its population, including by implementing Kazakhstan's national programme on addressing the problems of the former Semipalatinsk nuclear-testing grounds in a comprehensive manner.  The Assembly would stress the importance of regional cooperation in that regard

    Further by that text, the Assembly would call upon States, multilateral financial organizations, non-governmental organizations and other international entities to contribute to the region's human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development.  It would also urge the international community to assist Kazakhstan in formulating and implementing treatment and care programmes for the affected population, and in ensuring economic growth and sustainable development in the region.

    Also today, the Committee began its general discussion on the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) by hearing Anna Tibaijuka, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the agency, introduce the Secretary-General's report on that agenda item.

    She said that a billion of the world's urban population comprised slum-dwellers living on less than $1 a day, mostly under the age of 25, with no serious employment prospects.  Often lacking access to clean water and sanitation, they were the most disempowered in terms of poverty and access to health and education, and the most vulnerable to diseases like HIV/AIDS.  If left unchecked, their number could reach 2 billion in 2030.  The battle to achieve the Millennium Development Goals would be won or lost in the cities, she added.

    UN-Habitat was currently undertaking two demonstration projects to support its slum upgrading and water and sanitation targets, she said.  The Slum Upgrading Facility involved mobilizing funds, with a strong emphasis on raising domestic capital.  It was operational in 15 African and Asian cities and had received $20 million from the United Kingdom and Sweden.  The Water and Sanitation Trust Fund had helped mobilize international finance and investment in water and sanitation projects, which had succeeded in raising $1 billion in matching grants and loans for more than 30 cities in Africa and Asia.  It was also working on quick-impact initiatives in several least developed countries, including some in the Lake Victoria region of East Africa and the Greater Mekong River Basin of South-East Asia.  Both initiatives were aided by the World Bank, as well as the African and Asian Development Banks.

    Unfortunately, generating support for such initiatives was difficult because urban poverty was not part of the mainstream agenda, she said.  To help attract more attention, UN-Habitat had appointed 30 programme managers to work in United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) offices in assisting country teams to stage awareness-raising campaigns.  UN-Habitat was also working to promote various regional ministerial conferences on housing and urban development, so as to spread the use of best practices between regions in Africa and Asia.

    Regarding financing, she said funding for UN-Habitat had increased from $16.5 million five years ago to $85.2 million in 2005, but the Programme was still "not out of the woods".  While most of those funds came from a small number of countries, a case could be made for the strengthening the Programme in the context of the current United Nations reform.

    During the ensuing debate, many delegates expressed their support for UN-Habitat and echoed the Executive Director's call for more donors to support initiatives under the Habitat agenda.  Kenya's delegate pointed out that inadequate and unpredictable funding to UN-Habitat and the Human Settlements Foundation was due to its dependence on too few donors.  The imbalance between earmarked and non-earmarked contributions could lead to difficulties for the Programme.

    He called for increased voluntary non-earmarked contributions by the international community in support of the Human Settlements Foundation, preferably on a multi-year basis.  Those contributions should also support the Water and Sanitation Trust Fund and the Slum Upgrading Facility in order to help developing countries mobilize public investment and private capital for slum upgrading, shelter and basic services.

    Jamaica's representative, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" and China, added that the efforts of many developing countries in dealing with urban poverty were hindered by low revenues and debt servicing.  The international community should implement its commitments to support developing-country efforts by providing needed resources, capacity-building and technology, and by creating an enabling international environment.

    Pakistan's delegate echoed the Executive Director's remarks regarding the need for appropriate land-use planning and building codes to ease the dramatic loss of human life, property damage and displacement of entire communities in the aftermath of natural disasters.  Last month's earthquake in South Asia had destroyed much of the physical infrastructure in parts of northern Pakistan and Kashmir, leaving more than 3.5 million people homeless.  The early involvement of human settlement experts in assessment and reconstruction would be critical, he said.

    The representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also touched on that topic, saying that construction-site planning and city development must be guided by a disaster-prevention culture with adequate water, sanitation and waste management to ensure a healthy environment and to reduce or avoid diseases and epidemics.

    The delegate of the Russian Federation said that the rate of urbanization, together with the persistence of economic problems in various places around the world, called for the strengthening of coordination between UN-Habitat and other agencies, such as UNDP and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), as well as the deepening of its relations with the Bretton Woods institutions.

    In earlier business, Egypt's representative introduced a draft resolution relating to the permanent sovereignty of occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories over their natural resources.

    Other speakers today included the representatives of China, Indonesia, Croatia, India and Nigeria.

    The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 3 November to begin its general discussion of sustainable development.

    Background

    The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to begin its general discussion 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).  It was also expected to take action on two draft resolutions relating to humanitarian or disaster relief assistance for Ethiopia and Kazakhstan.

    Before the Committee was the Secretary-General's report 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) (document A/60/168), which reviews UN-Habitat's activities in assisting States to reach the Millennium Goal of achieving significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers by 2020, and makes recommendations for future work.

    According to the report, UN-Habitat has strengthened the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation to support its activities and mobilize resources for affordable shelter, infrastructure and basic services.  A three-year pilot project for the Slum Upgrading Facility has been launched, and UN-Habitat has expanded efforts to assist States in achieving the Millennium slum target, and responding to demand for disaster mitigation and post-conflict humanitarian assistance and reconstruction.

    The report says that UN-Habitat's monitoring and research projects have been adjusted to support States in monitoring implementation of the slum target, and preparing flagship reports to enable Governments and other Habitat agenda partners to achieve it.  The Programme has also published The State of the World's Cities 2004, and the Global Report on Human Settlements for 2005 on financing urban shelter.  In addition, the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure and the Global Campaign on Urban Governance was launched in over 10 countries, with follow-up actions being initiated to build local capacities.  Water and sanitation programmes in the least developed countries of the Great Lakes region of East Africa and the Mekong Delta of South-East Asia have been launched under the Water and Sanitation Trust Fund.

    Secure tenure and improvements in shelter, as well as water and sanitation have direct effects on health and nutrition, gender equality and women's empowerment, and reduction of vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and other diseases, the report says.  Governments should urgently adopt pro-poor, gender-sensitive urban policies and action plans, and strengthen the UN-Habitat and the Human Settlements Foundation by providing non-earmarked, predictable funding and regular budget resources for core programme activities.  In addition, Governments and financial institutions should contribute generously to the Water and Sanitation Trust Fund, the Slum Upgrading Facility and other technical cooperation trust funds to enable UN-Habitat to mobilize public investment and private capital for shelter and basic services.  Governments should also support UN-Habitat's normative and operational activities, working with programme managers to promote slum upgrading, affordable shelter and sustainable urbanization.

    Also before the Committee was a note of the Secretary-General (document A/60/347) transmitting the report on the coordinated implementation of the Habitat agenda (document E/2005/60), which reviews efforts to attain UN-Habitat's two goals -- improving shelter for the world's poor, and ensuring sustainable human settlements development.

    The report states that UN-Habitat's work is organized around the four subprogrammes of shelter and sustainable human settlements development; monitoring the Habitat agenda; regional and technical cooperation; and human settlements financing.  The strategy includes advocacy of global norms, analysis of information, field-testing solutions and financing.

    On shelter and sustainable human settlements, the report says that a global campaign for secure tenure was successfully launched in three West African countries; memoranda of understanding were signed with three East African countries, and cooperation agreements were concluded with five other countries to promote slum-upgrading.  In addition, work was carried out on law and land review in three regions; an international task force to facilitate negotiated policy alternatives to unlawful eviction was established; and progress was made in implementing the Water for African Cities and Water for Asian Cities programmes.

    As for Agenda monitoring, the report says UN-Habitat's monitoring systems were strengthened to track the Millennium Development Goal of improving the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers; Urban Inequities Surveys were implemented in selected cities; and modules were added to the Demographic and Health Surveys.  From existing survey and censuses, the proportion of slum-dwellers in cities was estimated to reach 1.4 billion slum-dwellers by 2020, if current proportions of slums to urban populations remain valid during the forthcoming five-year periods, until 2020.

    Regarding regional and technical cooperation, the report states that the Regional and Technical Cooperation Division of UN-Habitat assisted several countries with post-war reconstruction and recovery, helped in identifying disaster-prone areas and in formulating mitigation strategies.  It also worked as part of the United Nations strategy programme for Iraq reconstruction and fund raising; coordinated Cities Alliance projects; and carried out country assessments in 10 countries, as well as fund-raising for regional and national projects.

    With respect to financing, the report says $1.8 million was raised for the design phase and $10 million for the slum upgrading facility three-year pilot phase during the review period.  Considerable progress was made in preparing a pipeline of programmes in three East African countries, and consultations to set up the cooperation framework for country collaboration are at an advanced stage with the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

    Among its recommendations, the report encourages Governments to include human settlements in national development plans, and promote city and metropolitan planning in national poverty reduction strategy documents, as well as United Nations development assistance frameworks; assess conditions and trends in urban slums; and create a pro-poor policy environment that places the highest priority on improving the living environments of slum-dwellers.  It also encourages Governments to support the participation of UN-Habitat partner groups from developing countries in the third session of the World Urban Forum, to be held in Vancouver, Canada, in June 2006; and to increase the non-earmarked component of their contributions to assist with implementation of the Habitat agenda and the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium.

    The Committee also had before it the report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (document A/60/8, Supplement No. 8), containing details of the Council's twentieth session.

    Introduction of Draft Resolution

    MOHAMED ELFARNAWANY (Egypt) introduced a draft resolution on permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/C.2/60/L.11).

    The text drew attention to accepted international principles, United Nations resolutions, statutes of the International Court of Justice, and the relevant Geneva Conventions addressing the permanent sovereignty of peoples under occupation over their natural resources. 

    It described Israel's exploitation of the occupied Palestinian and Syrian Golan territories, expressing concern over the destruction of agricultural land, including the uprooting of vast numbers of fruit trees.  It also pointed to Israel's confiscation of land and diversion of water resources, as well as the detrimental effect of building the separation wall.  The draft called on Israel to stop exploiting, damaging and causing loss or depletion of resources in the occupied Palestinian territories, and to cease its construction of the wall.

    ANNA TIBAIJUKA, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), introduced the report on 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), saying that over 50 per cent of the world's population lived in cities, with vast majorities living on $1 a day.  They lived in slums without access to clean water and sanitation, overcrowded in shacks made of temporary building materials that could not withstand storms or heavy rainfall.  Without secure tenure, they risked eviction, often without notice.  Most slum-dwellers were under the age of 25, with no serious prospects for employment.  They were the most disempowered in terms of poverty and access to health and education, and the most vulnerable to diseases such as HIV/AIDS.  The number continued to grow and the battle to attain the Millennium Development Goals would be won or lost in the cities. 

    She said that since her previous address, UN-Habitat had implemented two initiatives as part of the Habitat agenda to support its slum upgrading and water and sanitation targets.  The first of those, the Slum Upgrading Facility (SUF), was operational in 15 African and Asian cities having received initial funding of $20 million from the United Kingdom and Sweden.  The Slum Upgrading Facility worked in partnership with Governments, people living in slums and local financial institutions to mobilize funds for slum upgrading, with a strong emphasis on raising domestic capital.  Technical assistance and seed funding were used to broker public-private partnerships and create innovative financial packages, such as the credit guarantee pilot scheme in the United Republic of Tanzania.  There, for every dollar guaranteed by the Slum Upgrading Facility, a commercial bank would agree to give loans of $4 to low-income borrowers who belonged to the women's housing cooperatives.

    The second initiative, the Water and Sanitation Trust Fund, had attracted $50 million from Norway, Canada, the Netherlands and Sweden, she said.  Its main focus was to help mobilize international finance and investment in water and sanitation projects targeted at the poor by monitoring bankable projects and advocating on their behalf.  So far, the Fund had succeeded in liberating $1 billion in matching grants and loans for informal settlements in more than 30 African and Asian cities.  The Fund was also working on Quick Impact Initiatives in several least developed countries, including in the Lake Victoria region of East Africa (affecting 15 urban settlements in Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda, with a total population of 1 million) and the Greater Mekong River Basin in Asia (affecting 12 urban settlements in Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Viet Nam).  Those projects had been undertaken with the aid of the World Bank and the African and Asian Development Banks.

    Both initiatives showed that it was possible to mobilize capital and establish partnerships with the private sector, and underlined the critical contribution of civil society organizations, she said, stressing, however, that they were demonstration initiatives and needed to be scaled up considerably within the next five years.  Their focus should not only be achieving the water, sanitation and slum upgrading goals themselves, but also assuring the continued support of donors.  All those in a position to do so should give their support and so render meaning to the Habitat agenda.

    Another major challenge in pursuing the Habitat agenda was bringing the issue of slums into the mainstream, she said.  The number of people living in slums was growing steadily and the number currently stood at 1 billion.  It was projected to reach 2 billion in 2030, or one in four people, if the "business-as-usual" scenario remained in effect.  To combat that, immediate focus must be given to innovative financing mechanisms for urban shelter development.  Unfortunately, generating support for such mechanisms would be an uphill battle due to the general lack of attention to the urbanization of poverty on the part of policymakers.  Shelter issues continued to fall between the cracks and were hardly reflected in discussions, even at international forums.  To help bring more attention to the problem, 30 Habitat programme managers had been appointed to work in United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) offices, helping country teams to mainstream those issues.  Governments should promote the issue of housing finance and sustainable urbanization by working with them. 

    On the policy front, UN-Habitat worked on promoting various regional ministerial conferences on housing and urban development, so as to spread the use of best practices between regions in Africa and Asia, she said.  An African Ministerial Conference had been established under the auspices of the African Union and had held its first meeting in South Africa in February 2005.  Plans to establish an Asia-Pacific ministerial conference were underway and would hopefully be finalized in 2006.  Canada would host the third World Urban Forum in June 2006 to build awareness of the urban agenda among Governments, local authorities and civil society.

    In conclusion, the said that the disasters witnessed in 2005 showed that prevention could be enhanced greatly through the adoption and enforcement of more appropriate land-use planning and building codes.  UN-Habitat's combined capacities as both a humanitarian and development actor, and its long-term commitment to the relief-to-construction continuum, had led it to develop a conceptual framework and operational guideline entitled "Sustainable Relief and Reconstruction", from which reconstruction efforts could benefit.  Sometimes, something as simple as giving people a place upon which to build could avert a housing crisis.

    Funding for UN-Habitat had increased from $16.5 million five years ago to $85.2 million in 2005, but it was still "not out of the woods".  Most funds came from a small number of countries, but in the context of the current reform of the United Nations, a case could be made for strengthening the Programme.

    DIEDRE MILLS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" and China, said the most sustainable solution to the human settlements dilemma was to reduce poverty by expanding employment, and to provide access to markets for the goods and services of rural and urban semi-skilled and unskilled workers.  The persistence of poverty and diseases like HIV/AIDS, as well as the increasing frequency of natural disasters, especially in developing countries, implied not only reduced capacity, but also suggested that investment in human settlements, including infrastructural facilities for water and sanitation, would be for replacement rather than additional facilities.

    Stressing that the most critical constraint to human settlements was financing, she said many developing countries were hindered by low revenues and debt servicing.  The international community should implement fully its commitments to support developing-country efforts by providing needed resources, capacity-building, and technology, and by creating an international enabling environment.  Increased and predictable financial contributions to UN-Habitat and the Human Settlements Foundation to ensure timely, effective and concrete global implementation of the Habitat agenda, the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, and the water and sanitation and slum upgrading goals of the Millennium Declaration were also vital.  States should support UN-Habitat through increased non-earmarked contributions and Governments should provide multi-year funding to support programme implementation and capitalization of the Foundation and its Slum Upgrading Facility.

    LIU ZHONGXIN (China) said that comprehensive implementation of the Habitat agenda required actions by all sides, provided that the domestic circumstances of each country and its autonomy in decision-making were respected.  In tackling human settlements, countries might learn from and draw upon each other's experience, but it was impossible to adopt a uniform approach or model due to differences in political systems, laws and regulations, economic development levels, culture and traditions, customs and practices, and natural environments.  Human settlement development should also be coordinated with population growth, productivity expansion, resource utilization and environmental protection, and should involve extensive participation by the whole society.

    She said that to address the question of human settlements required not only domestic effort, but also a sound external environment and effective international cooperation.  To that end, developed countries needed to demonstrate political will in honouring commitments made to developing countries on financing, technology transfer, provision of expertise, market access, as well as debt relief and cancellation.  In China, top priority had been given to housing and human settlements development through a housing commercialization system, establishing a socialized housing security system, securing the right to shelter and the interests of low- and middle-income households, improving housing functions and qualities, and developing energy-efficient housing.  The country's efforts in human settlement development had been recognized by the international community, and it had received UN-Habitat awards for 12 of its projects in 2004.

    JAMIL AHMAD (Pakistan) said the need for pro-poor policies focusing on tenure security for slum-dwellers and access to affordable housing had increased, considering the growth in population and the increase in the number of slums worldwide.  The international community should expand technical assistance to developing countries; identify disaster-prone areas and draw up mitigation and rapid-response strategies for post-disaster and post-conflict situations; and provide sustained technical assistance in reconstruction efforts.  UN-Habitat should strengthen its capacity to provide prompt assistance in post-conflict and post-disaster situations; Governments should provide non-earmarked, predictable funding and regular budget resources for its core programme activities; and support should be mobilized for the Human Settlement Foundation and its Slum Upgrading Facility.

    He said that the devastating earthquake that had struck parts of northern Pakistan and Kashmir in October had left behind a trail of death and destruction.  In addition to killing more than 55,000 people and injuring many more, it had completely destroyed the physical infrastructure in the affected region.  More than 3.5 million people had been rendered homeless and shelter-less, and reconstruction would be a colossal challenge.  With the assistance and support of the international community, the country would reconstruct through coordinated efforts.  The early involvement of human settlement experts in assessment and reconstruction would be critical.

    ANNA OVCHARENKO (Russian Federation) said her country supported the gradual strengthening of UN-Habitat and noted the Programme's successful efforts in advancing the global campaign to guarantee the right to housing for all, and monitoring developments in the elimination of slums and providing access to clean drinking water and sanitation for the urban poor.  The urgency of those issues was particularly pronounced in light of the increasing decentralization of urban management and the growth of local self-governing bodies in many nations.  Also, with so many natural and man-made disasters hitting different parts of the world, providing those self-governing bodies and civil society organizations with the assistance to manage humanitarian assistance efforts was more necessary than ever. 

    She said the rate of urbanization, together with the persistence of economic problems in various places around the world, called for additional steps to improve UN-Habitat.  In that context, there was a need to strengthen the coordination between agencies, such as between UN-Habitat and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UNDP, as well as to deepen relations with the Bretton Woods institutions.  With regard to the programme's administrative component, the Russian Federation supported the establishment of a staff post for the Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat.  And regarding the work already being done in Africa, Asia and Latin America, attention should also be given to countries with economies in transition in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as human settlements in the far North and Arctic regions.

    NGURAH SWAJAYA (Indonesia) said that promoting a multi-sector, multi-actor and integrated approach to human settlement development within the framework of the Habitat agenda was essential.  Human settlement problems in developing countries, both in urban and rural areas, were still characterized by a lack of safe and sufficient water supplies, including adequate basic sanitation facilities.  According to current trends, experts had projected that 6 billion people would be living in cities by 2050, and that half of them would be poor and living in slums.  The international community must intensify its efforts to implement the Habitat agenda to ensure that cities developed sustainably.

    The Government of Indonesia had launched two national programmes to improve the lives of over 2 million slum-dwellers in 32 cities, he said.  Since horizontal urban space was diminishing, it had decided to explore the vertical limits of housing projects.  An example was the affordable apartment project developed in Jakarta, which included the necessary infrastructure for clean water and sanitation, as well as educational facilities.  Other activities included a two-month public awareness campaign to create greater understanding of the Millennium Goals, to improve the lives of slum-dwellers and halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

    ALEMKA VRCAN (Croatia) said the rapid growth of cities required comprehensive and improved sustainable development, with attention to the ecological, economic and social dimensions.  The Croatian National Habitat Committee had initiated activities to prepare guidelines for the housing policy included in the development strategy for the twenty-first century.  That policy focused on the housing system and the distribution of population, improvement of structurally weaker housing areas, standardization of housing conditions, protection of spatial and environmental resources and security issues.  Croatia had also started a publicly funded housing programme in 2000, with more than 100 towns and cities taking part.  To date, 11,000 apartments had been constructed according to standards set by the Economic Commission for Europe.

    She said that with a 4,000 km coastline on over 1,000 islands, of which 47 were inhabited, Croatia was aware of the need to protect the coastal zone and had adopted a regulation on the protection of protected coastal areas in September 2004.  The regulation placed restrictions on building areas for industry and the energy sector in compliance with existing spatial and landscape characteristics.  Croatia also supported the active role of UN-Habitat and turned to that Programme for guidance in its sustainable urbanization efforts.

    MITRASEN YADAV (India) said that the twenty-first century would be increasingly urban, and well-being would depend on how problems of urban poverty, pollution, planning and governance were tackled.  It was important to provide developing countries with financial and technical assistance in their efforts to eradicate poverty in both urban and rural areas, through employment generation to create durable economic infrastructures and to provide food security for the poor. 

    India had several policies and programmes to improve employment and livelihood opportunities in rural areas, he said.  The Golden Jubilee Village Self-employment Plan emphasized micro-enterprise development in rural areas, with emphasis on organizing the rural poor into self-help groups, capacity-building, the planning of activity clusters, infrastructure development, technology, and credit and marketing links.  The Jawahar Employment Plan aimed to generate employment opportunities through the creation of economic infrastructure and community and social assets.  The Draft National Slum Policy endorsed an upgrading and improvement approach in all slums, rather than slum clearance.

    He said that innovative responses were needed to meet human settlement targets, and India had been actively pursuing schemes for standardizing and popularizing cost-effective, environmentally-friendly housing construction technologies, designs and materials.  The country had also been evolving ideal types of sustainable rural human settlements consistent with agro-climatic variations and natural-disaster proneness.  Projects for remote, inaccessible, disaster-affected areas and those that were socially and economically backward, in terms of infrastructure, were a priority.

    SCOTT O. E. OMENE (Nigeria), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that in many developing countries, the availability of long-term finance was limited, while the cost of short-term lending was either prohibitive or beyond the reach of the poor.  In light of that, it was necessary to support the State's participation, not as a primary provider of shelter, but as a facilitator through various instruments, such as credit guarantee schemes, social housing and target subsidies.  Nigeria was pursuing the implementation of a "National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy", in conjunction with the New Partnership of Africa's Development (NEPAD), which was a land reform programme seeking to place the country on the path to economic growth and sustainable development.  It was to be hoped that the international community would support that programme by providing financial and technical assistance, capacity-building, transfer of environmentally sound technology, market access and policy space for the implementation of development strategies that were responsive to national needs and priorities.

    He said that without adequate and predictable financial resources, UN-Habitat would not be able to fulfil its mandate or support developing countries to realize their human settlement objectives.  Indeed, Africa, through the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development and its housing programme, needed UN-Habitat's support to continue with its programmes.  Nigeria welcomed the establishment of Habitat Programme Managers, believing that they promoted the integration of the global and normative mandate, programmes and campaigns of UN-Habitat.  The country had a Habitat Programme Support Office and a Habitat programme manager, and it looked forward to their deployment as part of the agency's medium-term strategic and institutional plans.

    SOLOMON KARANJA (Kenya) said that the continued inadequacy and unpredictability of funding to the UN-Habitat and the Human Settlements Foundation -- due to the imbalance between earmarked and non-earmarked contributions, as well as its dependency on too few donors -- had reduced its ability to function as a fully-fledged Programme.  The international community should increase voluntary non-earmarked contributions to support the Foundation, preferably on a multi-year basis.  It should also support the Water and Sanitation Trust Fund, and the Slum Upgrading Facility for UN-Habitat to help developing countries mobilize public investment and private capital for slum upgrading, shelter and basic services.

    He said that man-made and natural disasters had considerably reduced gains made in the area of human settlements, causing loss of life, destruction of property and untold human suffering.  To mitigate the impact of disasters, the international community should assist Governments with financial resources and technical expertise in establishing early warning systems.  UN-Habitat had wide experience in disaster mitigation and post-conflict assistance through its involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Liberia.  The Programme should be involved in the activities of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee for disaster and humanitarian affairs, and mainstream its best practices into the Peacebuilding Commission.

    IAN LOGAN, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that the natural disasters of the past few months were reminders of how critical sustainable urban planning and construction were in reducing vulnerability and risk, especially in hazardous locations.  Construction-site planning and city development must be guided by a disaster-prevention culture with adequate water, sanitation and waste management to ensure a healthy environment and reduce or avoid diseases and epidemics.  Red Cross/Red Crescent societies worldwide had implemented community-based settlement programmes that contributed to that objective, both during and after disasters struck, and as longer-term activities.

    Adequate planning and construction to prepare for the unexpected should include cost-effective flood, earthquake and storm disaster resistance, which were effective in preventing the future loss of limited resources, he said. 

    In creating a national plan, a system for disaster-risk management, including a risk-reduction element was critical.  The most vulnerable populations needed particular attention, as poverty often forced them to live in fragile settlements in the most hazardous locations.  Poor people were often more prone to disease and disasters due to their habitat and situations, as well as their limited access to social-support systems.  To improve their lives, the international community must start with vulnerability and risk reduction, resilience and capacity-building.

    Action on Draft Resolutions

    The Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on international cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan (document A/C.2/60/L.4/Rev.1).

    Also without a vote, it then approved a draft resolution on humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation for Ethiopia (document A/C.2/60/L.7/Rev.1).

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