The Committee II was convened to allow the delegates to debate informally on items 5 and 6 of the provisional agenda that deal with the Draft Statement of Principles and Commitments, and the Draft Format of the Global Plan of Action, respectively. They were guided in their work by the Reports of the Secretary-General of the Conference on the Draft Statement of Principles and Commitments (A/CONF.165/PC.1/3), on the Draft Format of the Global Plan of Action (A/CONF.165/PC.1/5), and on Major Reviews (A/CONF.165/PC.1/6).
The Draft Statement of Principle sets out the four fundamental principles upon which the human settlements Global Plan of Action may be based. Principles I and II are substantive and address the two themes recommended by the Commission on Human Settlements: (a) Sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world; and (b) Adequate shelter for all. Principles III and IV are operational in their focus on the key implementing mechanisms of management and enablement.
The Draft Format for the Global Plan of Action contains a suggested table of contents, and a programme format, based on that used for Agenda 21 and to be applied to human settlements programmes and subprogrammes at all levels.
The report on Major Reviews outlines the four key cross-cutting issues that need to be reviewed by the Conference and that underlie past mandates and current strategies. It traces the implementation of Habitat I recommendations, the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless (IYSH), the New Agenda for Human Settlements the Global Shelter Strategy, and the human settlements related chapters of Agenda 21.
The delegates first voiced their general comments on the three documents, and a restricted but geographically-balanced and open-ended drafting group then convened to incorporate those comments in a new amended text. In the course of the general discussion, the delegates were supposed to make specific comments on the documents, but all through the debate, many delegates took the floor to bear witness to the particular problems that their countries are experiencing, and the debate became unfocused at times. Four main issues did arise in the discussion of all three documents: rural migration and uncontrolled urbanization; decentralization and local participation; human settlements problems; and, gender equity. The debate in Committee II on rural migration and uncontrolled urbanization reflected that of the Plenary, in that some developing States delegates insisted that as much emphasis be given to rural areas as to cities, while some developed countries wanted to highlight the problems raised by uncontrolled urbanization. Several delegates attempted to put urbanization in a better light as cities are also economic and cultural centers and the problem is not so much one of size as that of the speed at which the cities expand.
The question of the balance between rural and urban concerns was debated heatedly and Italy tried to bridge the two concepts by highlighting that the development of cities has an impact on the adjacent rural areas. India added that the urban migration could be slowed down if the appropriate infrastructures are set up in rural areas.
Another widely accepted proposal was that the relationship between central and local government needs to be revisited. On this particular point, the representative of a group of local initiatives NGOs called on all governments to stop paying lip service to promises of decentralization and engage in a more cooperative approach with the local authorities. France called for greater transparency and less uniformity. Token gestures of decentralization were highlighted as what needs to be avoided most. Additional language on participation was suggested, as was the deletion of the mention of purely national programmes. Both for the draft programme of action and for the declaration of principles, many were of the view that gender equity was not given enough emphasis. [Return to start of article]