Resources for:
  Civil Society
  Business Persons
  Children and Youth

Thematic Areas

 Printable Version


294. The Governing Council considered the item on Habitat: United Nations Conference on Human Settlements at its 36th meeting and had before it the progress report (UNEP/GC/35) prepared by the Secretary-General of the Conference and transmitted to it by the Executive Director.

295. Introducing the debate, the Secretary-General of the Conference thanked Governments, particularly that of Canada, and members of the United Nations system for their assistance in the preparations for Habitat, which were progressing satisfactorily. There was every reason to believe that Habitat would be successful, but its success would ultimately be judged by how far it led to meaningful change in the planning, management and care of human settlements.

296. Whereas 1974 had been a year of organization, 1975 must be the year of action. At the Preparatory Committee meeting in January, the high level of participation by Governments and the great interest they had shown had been proof of their support for Habitat. Many interim national reports on human settlements had been received. The countries which were active in preparing for Habitat would not only help the secretariat, but would themselves benefit from the experience. The forthcoming regional Preparatory Conferences at Teheran, Cairo, Caracas, and probably Geneva, would be of great importance as an opportunity to review expert papers, exchange views and information and identify issues of regional importance, and Governments should ensure that they were represented at the highest possible level.

297.The Conference secretariat had received many proposals for audio-visual presentations, but, the funds presently available to support national contributions 'in that field were inadequate. The Secretary-General therefore requested the ,Governing Council to allocate the $1.5 million referred to in the progress report ,of the Preparatory Committee (UNEP/GC/35, paras. 12-15), in order to ensure the

broadest possible participation in the audio-visual programme, especially by developing countries

298.He had visited nearly 70 countries and had found universal dissatisfaction &bout human settlements. The inability of most national Governments and local authorities to cope with the problems of environmental deterioration in cities was more to lack of organization and political commitment than to absence of ,"sources. Accordingly, and in response to the increasing public frustration at be problems, the Conference would concentrate on practical solutions to human settlement problems. There was already consensus on certain major themes, but be final provisional agenda would not be drawn up until after the regional preparatory Conferences had taken place.

299.Comprehensive human settlement policies, based on national territorial planning d integrated with national development plans, should replace purely sectora1 approaches. The Conference would ensure that human settlements planning enjoyed the same degree of universal acceptance as national economic an d financial planning and would lead to a new commitment to social justice and to a resolve to provide appropriate living standards for all citizens. If it succeeded, the investment in time, effort and money would have proved justifiable and worth-while.

300. Delegations gave whole-hearted support to the Conference and endorsed the step taken and plans made by its secretariat. The Government of the host country, Canada, was congratulated on its plans for Habitat.

301. Several delegations noted that the recent Preparatory Committee meeting had been very useful in helping the Conference secretariat to focus more sharply on the issues, and that the regional Preparatory Conferences would both stimulate wider interest in Habitat and help individual countries in preparing their contributions to the Conference. It was pointed out that countries not represented on the Preparatory Committee could still influence the agenda of Habitat by taking part in the regional meetings. Other delegations sought an assurance that the Secretary-General would continue to keep in close touch with Governments between now and the opening of the Conference.

302. There was general agreement that human settlements problems were already among the most serious issues facing mankind, and would become even more challenge in a world which was fast becoming more urbanized. Some delegations pointed out that human settlements problems could not be divorced from issues of social justice the situation was most serious in developing countries, where the process of urbanization was most rapid. Several speakers agreed with the Secretary-General that the resources and knowledge needed to deal with human settlements were already available, but needed organizing, which required a new degree of political commitment. The plans for the Conference had aroused public expectation that Governments would act more decisively than in the past. Several delegations considered that human settlements problems could only be tackled as an integral part of economic and social development, and some said strategies for human settlement, housing etc. should be integrated in national development plans. It was pointed out that human settlements problems were central to the relationship between environment and development.

303. Most countries agreed that Habitat should have a strong practical bias and should be consumer-oriented, with the major emphasis on demonstrating how practice solutions could be applied to common problems, and on drawing up an effective plan of action. The Conference should provide a means of exchanging knowledge and experience, and its success should be measured by how far there was a successful transfer of ideas to countries, especially developing countries, in need of guidance on human settlements problems. Several delegations pointed out the need for an integrated approach to the solution of those problems and for a well structured programme for Habitat.

304. Several delegations emphasized the importance of balance in the themes to be given prominence at the Conference, both between the treatment of different aspects of the problem and between the issues facing different regions. Various delegations suggested the following priority topics for consideration by the Conference:

(a) Exchange of information on human settlements technology, especially utilization of solar energy and recycling of wastes;

(b) Encouragement to developing countries to develop authentic local solutions to the difficulties they faced;

(c) Study of problems resulting from migration from countryside to town, which posed problems in both urban and rural communities; steps

(d) Rural settlements, which in many developing countries still housed most of the population;

(e) Human settlements in tropical and subtropical regions, where the problem was most serious;

(f) The law and practice relating to land ownership.

(g) Development of appropriate standards for those living in human settlements.

(h) The need to urge the World Bank and other sources of financing to support socially rather than economically profitable projects in human settlements.

305. Many delegations reported on steps being taken at the national level to prepare for Habitat - in some cases as a result of a visit by the Secretary-General - including the organization of conferences, meetings, seminars, workshops or symposia to bring together all those with an interest in the field of human settlements, national coordinating committees to prepare for the Conference, a human settlements co-ordinator" appointed to give a focus to relevant plans, and special publications and competitions designed to increase awareness of the Conference. Several delegations underlined the importance of participation at the local level in preparing for Habitat, and many considered that the involvement of the public at large, as well as non-governmental organizations, was needed to create an informed body of public opinion about human settlements issues. Most speakers gave a brief account of their plans human to submit reports, audio-visual presentations etc. as their national contributions Habitat.

306. There was widespread support for the Secretary-General request for the allocation of $1.5 million to finance audio-visual contributions from developing Several assurance that the funds would be made countries.

Funds would be made directly available to developing countries possessing the technical resources to prepare such contributions, and would not be spent on bringing in outside need Another pointed out that it was the substance of the presentations, not their technical quality, which primarily mattered. Several delegations said that the additional funds should be spent exclusively where they were needed,

'hat is, to support developing countries' submissions. Two delegations voiced o be -their concern that, because of the recent rapid rates of inflation, $l0,000 was sufficient to finance individual presentations from developing countries.

307, Reference was made to the relationship between Habitat and other members of e United Nations system responsible for human settlements problems; the need for oi3e co-operation with the Centre for Housing, Building and Planning of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the importance of creative link between Habitat and the United Nations Habitat and Human

Settlements Foundation were specifically mentioned. One delegation also expressed the view that there should be no undue haste in reorganizing the United Nations stem to deal effectively with human settlements problems; it would be better to await the results of Habitat before taking action. In setting up the Foundation, care should be taken to avoid pre-judging recommendations which might come from Habitat.

308. Many delegations considered participation by non-governmental organizations in Habitat and related activities, inter alia, through the proposed Habitat Forum which would immediately precede it, to be vital. One delegation spoke of the need to ensure effective participation by non-governmental organizations from developing countries. The representative of the International Union of Building Societies and Saving Associations assured Habitat of the full support of the Union, and declared its willingness to provide training and technical assistance.

309. Replying to a number of the points made, the Secretary-General said he was particularly heartened by the response of delegations to the request for an allocation of $1.5 million. If approved, the extra funds would finance audio-visual programmes from developing countries. Support would be given to those projects which were substantively important; the standard of presentation should be no more than the minimum necessary. The funds could certainly be used to finance local preparation of audio-visual submissions, and the regional workshops the secretariat was planning would be helpful in that respect, particularly to developing countries. The secretariat was working closely with the Centre for Housing, Building and Planning and would maintain close contact with Governments during the remainder of the preparatory period. The support from Governments for the active participation of non-governmental organizations in Habitat was encouraging.

Action by the Governing Council

310. At its 36th meeting, the Governing Council adopted by consensus a draft decision submitted by the Bureau on the allocation of $1.5 million to the budget of Habitat (decision 37 (III)). 27/