There is only one main activity that States are asked to complete during the preparatory process, namely the development of a national report. These reports should have two main themes that conform to the Conference themes: adequate shelter for all; and sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world.
The Secretariat opened the discussion of main activities. It suggested the Committee consider, debate and adopt a common framework for country reports as proposed by the Secretariat (A/CONF.165/PC.1/CRP.1) that would ensure human settlement policies are based on empirical information. The proposed framework is composed of: an urban review; a shelter review; and other programmatic reviews. Each review is intended to follow a five-part format: analysis of the situation since Habitat I; application of a set of indicators in one or more cities leading to a selective policy review; formulation of a plan of action, bringing together all participants to set priority objectives and actions; identification of international assistance requirements for the three or four highest priority actions; and a statement of principles or national suggestions for points to be included in the Global Statement of Principles.
Most of the dialogue during the first week focused on the national reports. Indicators dominated the discussion, but there was also debate on country responsibilities in developing the reports and the availability of technical and financial support to assist States in fulfilling their reporting obligations. Because many countries were concerned about several aspects of indicators, the Secretariat suggested that an informal discussion group meet to discuss the issue further. This group met on the last day of the first week and was, in effect, a presentation on indicators by the World Bank and the Habitat II Centre.
The subject of indicators was as close as the PrepCom came to having a North-South issue. Most countries in the North supported the use of indicators and several from the South questioned them. The Secretariat and most donor countries supported indicators, their concerns largely driven by a desire to measure the effect of their contributions. While addressing Committee I, Dr. N'Dow stressed that States must have an idea of where they are today and where they are headed. The charting of progress requires information. He stressed that it must be kept simple so people are not frightened away. This quantitative information is essential, but should not dominate Habitat II or its preparations. Canada noted that assessing progress since Habitat I has been difficult because suitable indicators were not developed and tracked during the period since 1976. The Canadian government has provided money to identify urban indicators and believes it is very important. In response to concerns raised by some developing countries, the US referred to the framework for country reporting document (A/CONF.165/PC.1/CRP.1), paragraph 63 that requests that only 10 indicators form the backbone of the shelter review and that these are not difficult to get in most countries. Shelter indicators would also begin to produce important information at the regional and international level. It also stated that a similar set of minimum urban indicators would be developed. The Russian Federation suggested that two lists of indicators be developed to cover the two main themes. One list would be obligatory and another voluntary to allow countries with the financial ability and expertise to develop a greater set of indicators. Finland said that there are two levels of indicators, one at the national level so countries can be compared and another at the local level so communities can evaluate progress. Italy suggested ways in which the quality of the indicators could be improved.
Several developing countries questioned the relevance of the indicators to policy and expressed concern about the financial and human resources required to collect the necessary data. Mexico suggested that they were being asked to collect too many statistics, which was unmanageable. Zambia questioned the relevance of the statistics and called for a direct link between the need for a national exercise and a global plan and requested that the link be made clear. Tunisia noted that most of the housing is built in an informal way and bypasses administrative control, such as building permits. Consequently, accurate statistics would have to be pertinent to all housing and not just legal housing. Turkey was concerned that they would not be able to complete the set of indicators outlined in the Secretariat's framework document and suggested that there was too much emphasis given to them. Senegal noted that African countries would require additional financial resources to collect data for indicators. Likewise, Kenya noted that financial and human resources were required. Bangladesh requested technical assistance for collecting data.
Habitat International Coalition (HIC) commented that they were representing billions of people and that they hoped there would be more than indicators discussed. Habitat II cannot report in 1996 to the poor and say that it has tried to measure how poor they are and the problems they have.
Other aspects of national reports were also mentioned. In general most States supported the proposed format. In addition to the financial and technical assistance requested by some countries for indicators, further assistance was also requested for the development of their national reports. Barbados reminded delegates of the Small Island Developing States Conference. The 41 island States at this Conference would discuss a number of issues including human settlement, land use and shelter and the outcomes will be significant for helping that group of States prepare for Habitat II.
Other themes raised during the discussion of national reports are: [Return to start of article]