The Secretary-General of Habitat II, Dr. Wally N'Dow, stressed that this is more than a Conference, but an awakening of the world that time is running out to address how we live, where we live and above all, if we live. He outlined many of the challenges facing the issue of human settlements: the fleeing from rural areas to cities and urban areas; environmental decay; urban poverty; deteriorating social structures; infrastructure and management deficits and the expected impact of population growth. To address these challenges he proposed a strategic shift in social and economic development and reorientation of policies. Dr. N'Dow listed five expectations of the Conference: a greater awareness of the urban revolution and associated problems; capacity building at all levels, particularly at the local government level; new partnerships forged between all levels of government, NGOs, private sector, and communities; identification of new strategies and policies to reduce the level of urban policy, including the effective implementation of the Global Strategy for Shelter; and innovative strategies and policies to mitigate the environmental impact of urban growth and, thus, contribute to an accelerated implementation of Agenda 21 and its goals of sustainable development. He called for a greater understanding of the rural environment so that planners can help stop urban flight. He attached strong importance to contributions of the NGO community and the private sector and argued strongly in favor of their intense involvement, both in the preparatory process and at Habitat II.
Elizabeth Dowdswell, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive-Director of UNEP and UNCHS(Habitat), reminded delegates of the linkages between this Conference and UNCED, and the need for Habitat II to turn rhetoric on sustainable development into action. The poor, especially in mega-cities, are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards. The challenge is to make environmental considerations a forethought and not an afterthought in planning. Another message from the UNCED process is that policy making must be transparent, accountable, intersectoral and inclusive with broad popular participation. She urged the Conference to engage the civil society and private sector and create pressure from below.
UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali identified three questions that need to be addressed: the urgency of the crisis; the priorities of Habitat II; and the outcome of the Conference and its implications for development. He said that the most visible consequence of mass migration is the phenomenal growth of urban areas and the challenge of sustainable development is a challenge of urban settlements. He dubbed this Conference "The City Summit." While States bear the primary and ultimate responsibility for the development of their citizens, they are not alone in their endeavor. Through this Preparatory Committee can come consensus on a global plan of action to sustain life and work in urban environments. The Global Plan of Action will incorporate recommendations of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Fourth World Conference on Women, and a decade of other UN Conferences.
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