The United Nations Conference on Human Settlements -- commonly known as Habitat II -- will be held on the 20th anniversary of the original Habitat Conference held in Vancouver in 1976. Habitat I was a product of the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. Whereas Stockholm was about international environmental problems, Habitat I was convened to address local environmental problems, such as housing, shelter, infrastructure, water, sewage, transport, etc. In a similar fashion, Habitat II received its impetus from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio.
In response to a resolution from Habitat I, the United Nations General Assembly established the United Nations Commission for Human Settlements, comprised of 58 States elected by the General Assembly (with rotating membership). In the same resolution (GA 32/162) the GA also created a new UN agency -- the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), which serves both as Secretariat for the Commission and carries out the functions mandated by the Commission and the General Assembly. In its report in 1991 the Commission recommended to the General Assembly that it convene Habitat II (A/46/8). The Commission was anxious to examine what had happened since Habitat I and to review the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000 (prepared by Habitat and adopted by General Assembly Resolution 43/181). The General Assembly agreed in principle and called for a report from the Secretary-General, which was submitted at the 47th Session in September 1992. After UNCED, the GA decided that human settlements was a crucial cross-sectoral issue, as indicated by Chapter 7 of Agenda 21 ( "Promoting Sustainable Human Settlement Development") and decided to convene Habitat II in 1996. General Assembly Resolution 47/180, "United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II)", was adopted in 1992 and decided to convene this Conference from 3-14 June 1996 in Istanbul, Turkey.
The importance given to the link to other environment and development issues is reflected in the resolution, which notes that UNCED recognized the proper management of human settlements as a prerequisite to the attainment of the overall goals for sustainable development, and acknowledged the multifaceted aspects of human settlement policies and programmes.
The objectives for Habitat II, as mandated in General Assembly Resolution 47/180, are:
The organizational session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for Habitat II was held at UN Headquarters in New York from 3-5 March 1993. The Bureau was elected, consisting of one Chair, three vice-Chairs and a Rapporteur. Several basic decisions regarding the organization and timing of the process were also taken.
The Fourteenth Session of the Commission on Human Settlements (UNCHS) was held in Nairobi from 26 April-5 May 1993. The session decided that the two themes for Habitat II would be: Sustainable Human Settlements in an Urbanizing World; and Adequate Shelter for All. It was also decided that the Conference should be modest in scope, and subject to feasibility. The Commission also proposed to hold a World Trade Expo and an NGO Forum in conjunction with Habitat II. The first Bureau meeting of the PrepCom was held in Vancouver from 17-18 September 1993.
Several other meetings were held in advance of this PrepCom. African countries were particularly active: the African Ministers and Authorities in Housing and Urban Development met in November 1993; the African Expert Group Meeting on the Identification and Development of Urban Indicators met in January 1994; the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting of Experts on Human Settlements in Africa met in March 1994 and was followed by a Special Meeting of African Ministers responsible for Human Settlements; and a Broad-Based Workshop on Habitat II Conference Preparations was held in March 1994. Both the Regional Seminar for Arab States on Habitat II issues and the 10th General Conference of the Arab Towns Organization were held in March 1994. The Western European and Others Group (WEOG) held a Heads of Delegations Meeting in April 1994. Habitat International Coalition (HIC) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) also met prior to the Conference.
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