SECOND COMMITTEE PANEL DISCUSSION ON HABITAT
Editor's Note: The following informal briefing note was written by Laura
Ivers email@example.com of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB), a
publication of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The
ENB has covered the entire Habitat II process and is currently seeking
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On Thursday 29 October 1998, the Second Committee of the United Nations
General Assembly hosted a panel discussion on the Status of the
Implementation of the Habitat Agenda. Second Committee Vice-Chair Burak
�z�gergin (Turkey) moderated the panel comprised of: Dr. Klaus T�pfer,
Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Acting
Executive Director of the United Nations Center for Human Settlement
(Habitat); Millard Fuller, President, Habitat for Humanity International,
Professor Robert Geddes, Former President, American Institute for Architects
and Dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University, Giovanni
Vernetti, Deputy-Mayor and Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable
Development in Turin, Italy; and Dr. Irene Weise van Ofen, International
Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP). In opening the panel, �z�gergin
recalled that Habitat II, held in Istanbul in June 1996, elaborated the
Habitat Agenda, the international community's view of urban environments.
The panel aimed to provide the committee, media and habitat partners with a
deeper understanding of the commitments made at Habitat II and progress
toward this objective.
Dr. T�pfer emphasized the importance of the Habitat Center and hoped that it
will become the global center for addressing urban problems in an integrated
manner. He noted that the world's urban population is expected to double
over the next 30 years, and identified unprepared and under-resourced
governments as two major obstacles to accommodating this demographic shift.
He said urban violence, caused by segmentation of populations, poverty and
underemployment, will be a focus of peace policy in the future. He also
noted that trends of population segmentation in urban environments are
resulting in safety becoming a private good, and emphasized that urban
safety must be provided as a public good to avoid exacerbating this problem.
T�pfer identified contact between local authorities and the Habitat Center
and cooperation with woman's groups as key aspects for success in
implementing the Habitat Agenda.
Dr. van Ofen, highlighted IFHP activities and emphasized the importance of
integrated and grassroots approaches to addressing habitat issues. She noted
local Agenda 21 efforts and called upon NGOs to act as intermediaries
between governments and local populations. She said identifying the
importance of wide participation was one of the most significant outcomes of
Habitat II. Professor Geddes detailed his experience in conducting an
inter-university (including Princeton, Harvard, New York University and
Columbia University) comparative analysis of environmental well being and
social justice in various cities in North America, including Seattle,
Toronto and Mexico City, in preparation for Habitat II. He underscored the
importance of commitment to adequate shelter, sustainable human settlements,
and enabling and participation of local communities.
Millard Fuller, Director of Habitat for Humanity International (HHI), said
the crisis of shelter needs is being met by a social and religious movement
compelled to solve a solvable problem, and described his organization
development from building one house in Georgia and to building over 70,000
homes in 61 nations. He noted various HHI initiatives, including Houses that
Congress built, Women Build Houses and First Ladies Build. Giovanni
Vernetti, shared experiences from an urban revitalization initiative in
Turin, Italy. The initiative aimed to: stop urban expansion; renovate the
existing town; regenerate industrial areas; develop housing for the poor;
decrease air pollution through promotion of ecologically sound public
transportation; and promote partnerships between the various sectors. Based
upon the experience in Turin, he stressed that habitat and local agenda 21
initiatives must be integrated.
In the question and answer period, a delegate from UGANDA asked to what
extent urban planners use "rural urban planning" - planning to create jobs
away from the urban center. A delegate from AUSTRIA asked if cooperation
between local communities and the UN through Habitat has been successful.
Participant also inquired about: clean water supply for urban area; self
help programs for local communities; how to surmount obstacles of funding or
entrenched interests; and how to combat anti-urban stereotypes.
In response, T�pfer said he is currently working to stabilize the Habitat
Center in order to regain donor confidence. Regarding "rural urban
planning," he said stabilizing urban areas through rural area stabilization
is no longer a viable solution, and said problems must be solved within the
city. He highlighted the economic, social and environmental advantages
cities provide. On the topic of water supply, he detailed a program on water
for cities in Africa funded by the Turner Foundation. On local community
participation, T�pfer said that local community participation at Habitat II
was exhilarating and that he is looking at models for local-international
cooperation, like that of the ILO, where local groups participate actively
in the overarching program. Geddes noted local and state level movements in
the United States that bring together Habitat and Environment and said he
did not see likelihood of such movements developing at the national level.
In his closing remarks, Dr. T�pfer underscored the importance of cooperating
with all organizations linked to Habitat, and noted the Habitat Center's
catalytic role to play in addressing all types of urban issues.
This informal issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (c) (email@example.com) is
written and edited by Laura Ivers (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Editor is Pamela
Chasek, Ph.D. (email@example.com) and the Managing Editor is Langston James
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for the Bulletin during 1998 is provided by the United Kingdom Department
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