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HABITAT: UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS:REVIEW AND FOLLOW-UP ACTIVITIES

277. The Governing Council considered agenda item 8 at its 69th and 70th meetings on 16 and 17 May 1977. The Council had before it a report by the Executive Director (UNEP/GC/92) on Habitat: United Nations Conference on Human Settlements and the follow-up activities to it.

278. The Executive Director briefly introduced the item by stressing the nature of the role that the Governing Council was expected to play at the present stage and referred in that connexion to paragraph 21 (a) of his report.

279. Delegations expressed appreciation to the Government and people of Canada for serving as host for Habitat, and commended' UNEP for its valuable contribution to the Conference and its ongoing efforts to ensure that the momentum generated by the Conference was not lost. They welcomed the Executive Director's introductory statement and generally endorsed the view expressed in document UNEP/GC/92 that the General Assembly did not expect the Governing Council to attempt to make definitive recommendations relating to institutional arrangements for human settlements within the United Nations system. The role of the Council was to express views on that question, which could be communicated to the Secretary-General prior to the sixty-third session of the Economic and Social Council.

280. It was generally recognized that human settlements were a matter of grave importance, particularly to the developing countries, and that the world community had an obligation to seek improvements in that area so that mankind's basic needs could be fully satisfied. Several delegations also said that human settlements questions were an integral component of social and economic development. A few delegations referred to General Assembly resolution 31/110 on the living conditions of the Palestinian people, and noted with satisfaction paragraph 13 of the Executive Director's report (UNEP/GC/92) regarding the implementation of that resolution. One delegation requested that the report called for in the resolution should receive priority attention, and another said that it should be ready for submission to the General Assembly at its thirty-second session.

281. With regard to paragraph 13 of document UNEP/GC/92, one delegation stated that its Government had fully recorded its views elsewhere, most recently at the thirty-first session of the General Assembly, where it had voted against resolution 31/110. Should the Council decide to endorse by consensus the Executive Director's suggested action in paragraph 22 of his report, that delegation's participation in the consensus should be seen in that light, since its Government had in no way qualified its position on General Assembly resolution 31/110.

282. Most delegations stated that Habitat had succeeded in formulating adequate recommendations to help countries deal effectively with human settlements problems, but that, before an effective programme of international co-operation could be formulated and implemented, the question of institutional arrangements remained to be satisfactorily settled. One delegation expressed regret that international co-operation on human settlements was fraught with controversy, uncertainty and reticence, and at times greatly impeded by national self-interest.

283. It was agreed that the discussions at the sixty-third session of the Economic and Social Council would be crucial, since the General Assembly decision on the type of definitive intergovernmental body for human settlements and on the organizational links and location of the human settlements secretariat would be based primarily on concrete recommendations by the Economic and Social Council. The Council would take into account the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Restructuring of the Economic and Social Sectors of the United Nations System, the financial implications of alternative institutional arrangements, the results of regional consultations and the report of the Secretary-General on co-ordination in the field of human settlements.

284. One delegation expressed the view that it would be premature to deal with the structural relationships of the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation before a decision was taken on institutional arrangements. Another said

that the essential functional link between the Foundation and UNEP should be maintained, and that the Foundation should receive without further delay the financial support it urgently needed.

· 285. One delegation said that the resolution adopted at the fourth meeting of the Conference of Ministers of the Economic Commission for Africa regarding an

· intergovernmental regional commission on human settlements would be made available

· to the Economic and Social Council, which should also have before it the relevant parts of the Stockholm Action Plan, 24/ in which the integral relationship between the natural environment and the manmade environment was recognized, as well as the recommendations adopted by the Governing Council in section C of the annex to decision 72 (IV).

286. Delegations generally agreed that Habitat had reached broad agreement on the need for a consolidation of United Nations secretariat units engaged in the preparation and implementation of human settlements programmes, and on the definition of objectives for co-operation within the United Nations system, as well as on the main functions of the consolidated secretariat. While recognizing that solutions to human settlements problems must be sought primarily at the national level in order to reflect adequately the differences existing between countries in the nature of those problems and in the cultural, social, economic and technological context within which they emerged, most delegations felt that there existed sufficient homogeneity within the various regions for international co-operation efforts to be focused primarily at the regional level. Several delegations stated that, if the bulk of the work were carried out at that level, the central secretariat unit should be very small and entrusted essentially with co-ordination on functions; that would imply a certain strengthening of the relevant units of the

is regional commissions, as well as the redeployment to the commissions of some of the existing staff resources dealing with human settlements in the United Nations system. One delegation stated that regrouping in a consolidated secretariat staff financed from the regular budget and from voluntary contributions might lead to confusion.

287. Several speakers were agreed that, in accordance with the principles ad opted at Stockholm, the integrity of the human environment concept should not be tampered with; the natural environment and the man-made environment were both essential to the quality of life of people and must not be separated. Thus, a number of delegations indicated a preference for the establishment of the human settlements secretariat within the framework of UNEP and for the designation of the Governing Council as the intergovernmental body responsible within the United Nations system for global policy and co-ordination of human settlements programmes. One delegation observed that the work of UNEP, the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation and the Centre for Housing, Building and Planning should be properly harmonized, since they were the three organizational units in the United Nations system competent to deal with human settlements, and suggested that the Council should concentrate in alternate years on human settlements and the general environment programme.

288. Some delegations, however, cautioned that such an approach might distort UNEP's basic functions by placing operational responsibilities upon the secretariat, thus hampering its vital role as a coordinator and catalyst, and making it difficult for the Governing Council to discharge effectively its broad co-ordination responsibilities in the environmental field. One speaker said that such considerations should not be exaggerated, since the bulk of the work would at any rate be carried out at the regional level. Another delegation stated that, should the General Assembly decide to assign over-all responsibility for human settlements to UNEP, relevant operational activities should be carried out in such a way as not to affect the nature of UNEP as a non-operational programme.

289. Some delegations said that UNEP should, in accordance with its mandate, concentrate its attention on the environmental aspects of human settlements. Two delegations stated that UNEP should not compete with such developmental organizations as UNDP and the World Bank. Several delegations said that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, with a revitalized and strengthened Centre for Housing, Building and Planning as its focal point, should be entrusted with central responsibility in that area. Two delegations felt that the intergovernmental body having over-all responsibility for human settlements should consist of policy-makers and experts, with a size and membership similar to that of the Preparatory Committee for Habitat; the meetings of that body might be rotated among the various continents. One speaker took the view that the Economic and Social Council could be the responsible intergovernmental body.

290. It was generally recognized that, should the General Assembly decide to entrust a body other than UNEP with over-all responsibility for human settlements within the United Nations system, UNEP should continue to be responsible for the environmental aspects of human settlements problems and that appropriate linkages should be established between that body and UNEP.

291. One delegation expressed its preference for the establishment of a new institution, and suggested that the Centre for Housing, Building and Planning and the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation could be progressively developed into such an institution dealing with human settlements. Another delegation suggested the establishment under UNEP of a programme activity centre on human settlements in its country.

292. Most speakers said that they kept an open mind with regard to the location of the human settlements secretariat unit, a question which could best be decided, on the basis of the financial implications of the various possible alternatives, once the broader issue of institutional arrangements had been settled. One delegation observed that the criterion of efficiency should also be taken into account in that regard.

293. A few delegations stressed that national, regional and international non-governmental organizations, professional organizations, universities and

research centres and other bodies with specialized knowledge in human settlements should be closely associated, not only at the implementation but also at the planning and policy-making stage, with the new institutional structures, and one speaker said that such relationships should be formalized once the question of institutional arrangements had been settled. Another delegation suggested that UNEP might usefully draw on the resources of the ECE International Documentation Centre on Habitat, and stressed that better use should be made of the pilot projects developed for Habitat by its Government and others, since they had considerable informative and educational value, and could enhance the practical aspects of UNEP's work.

294. Several delegations expressed satisfaction with the establishment of the United Nations Audiovisual Information Centre on Human Settlements, and the representative of Canada reported on the status of negotiations between the United Nations and the Canadian Government on the content of the final agreement under which the Centre would carry out, with a financial contribution of $3.5 million from Canada, a three-year programme for the world-wide distribution, promotion and use of the audio-visual material prepared for Habitat.

295. The representative of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs said that an intradepartmental task force under the leadership of the Centre for Housing, Building and Planning, had been established in the Department and was engaged in a thorough review of the Department's response to the recommendations of Habitat. The Centre was undertaking a number of joint projects in human settlements with the World Bank, UNDP, the regional commissions, UNEP, the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation and various Governments in

the area of human settlements. The Department of Economic and Social Affairs strongly supported the decentralization of human settlements programmes to the regional and subregional levels and, to that end, the strengthening of the relevant units in ECLA, ECA, ESCAP and ECWA to a level comparable to the human settlements unit of ECE. The Department already maintained close contacts with non-governmental organizations having specialized knowledge of human settlements, and would further

· intensify its efforts to achieve broader collaboration with non-United Nations institutions active in that field. Should the Economic and Social Council decide to reconstitute the Preparatory Committee for Habitat, human settlements programmes would have been placed upon a very solid foundation.

296. Responding to the debate, the Executive Director recalled UNEP's support of the need for promoting action at the national and regional levels and for strengthening the relevant units of the regional commissions through redeployment of existing staff resources. He reiterated the position of UNEP as it appeared in paragraph 9, annex II, of the Habitat document entitled "Programmes for

international co-operation" (A/CONF-7o/6), and quoted the following part of that paragraph: "If the Governments decided at Vancouver on the establishment of a large fund to help finance the establishment of human settlements wherever needed, especially in the developing countries, the proposed institutional arrangements in this alternative would not meet the requirements. In that case, the United Nations Environment Programme would stick only to its policy guidance co-ordination role in the field of human settlements as part of its, over-all responsibility in the field of the environment."

He also informed the Governing Council that he would contact developing countries which had received assistance from the Fund of UNEP for the preparation of audio-visual material for Habitat in order to ensure that the copyrights of such material would be transferred to the Secretary-General or his designated agents.

Action by the Governing Council

297. At its 70th meeting, on 17 May 1977, the Governing Council adopted by consensus a draft decision suggested by the President on Habitat: United Nations Conference on Human Settlements. 25/