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WORKING GROUP II

Working Group II chaired by Amb. de Silva convened Tuesday morning to hear the progress report of the informal working group. Dr. Khonje, Chair of the informal working group, reported that the group had completed consideration of the draft principles to be presented to the Working Group later in the week. The Working Group adjourned and the informal working group begun consideration of the Preamble to the Global Plan of Action, as contained in document A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.2.

Paragraph 1 recognizes the centrality of human concerns to sustainable development, as well as the human being's entitlement to a life in harmony with nature and shared spiritual and moral values. There was a brief debate on the need to include 'ethical values.'

Paragraph 2 reviews the state of urban growth and state of human settlements since Habitat I and notes that there has been no significant improvement in shelter conditions. Japan objected to this statement as it implies that all international efforts have been useless. India said that it was a fact that little change had been made. Agreement was reached that 'despite the great effort by the international community and States, there have been no significant changes....'

Paragraph 3 notes that Habitat II has been preceded by other UN conferences whose contributions are reflected in the Global Plan of Action. Habitat II's function is to continue the process. Italy requested mention of the effects of technology on human settlements in developed countries. With few amendments, the paragraph was accepted.

Paragraph 4 underscores the importance of sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world. Benin, supported by the Philippines, Kenya and the Holy See, said the word 'human' should be deleted as the process aims at achieving 'sustainable development.'

Paragraph 5 describes the world situation since the end of the Cold War. After prolonged debate, a small committee was set up to provide consensus text, which now reads, "The current world situation is marked by prospects of hope and elements of concern. The end of the Cold War has provided opportunities for new patterns of international cooperation and has caused major structural changes in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. At the same time, many countries face many economic problems and, as always the poor, disadvantaged and other vulnerable groups, especially women and children suffer the most. It is recognized that the problem faced by human settlements in many regions are greatly influenced by international economic inequalities, the debt burden, negative impacts of certain effects of structural adjustment programmes and unsustainable models of development."

Paragraph 6 highlights the effects of poor housing and homelessness in particular in developing countries, noting that developed countries are also faced these problems. It acknowledges the 'right to a place to live in peace and dignity.' Forty- five minutes of debate produced no consensus on the 'right' issue, despite delegates' warnings against reverting to discussions that took a week in the Commission without yielding consensus. It was agreed that the two options, 'is equally entitled to' and 'have basic human needs, including' will be left in brackets. Belgium noted that the issue here is a moral obligation referring to the right to dignity of living, not the right to adequate housing.

Paragraph 7 deals with industrialization's effects on the environment in developed countries and the lack of personal acceptance of responsibility. UNIDO said 'indiscriminate industrialization' is the problem.

Paragraph 8 outlines the constraints facing local authorities in addressing human settlements. The International Union of Local Authorities provided alternative text on measures to strengthen the operational capacity of local authorities, which was endorsed.

Paragraph 9 highlights the role of cities in economic development as well as their negative social and environmental effects, which unless resolved will become an obstacle to stability, well-being and development. Delegates said the paragraph's orientation is negative. Hungary suggested it should be placed before paragraph 7.

Paragraph 10 focuses on international migration and stresses that education, housing, employment and social integration needs of migrants should be addressed by host countries. Croatia suggested additional text providing for international assistance for reconstruction of human settlements for refugees and internally displaced persons.

Paragraph 11 calls for preventive measures beyond the city-level, against natural, technological and other disasters. Benin added 'man-made disasters' and introduced language referencing excessive military expenditures, arms trade and investment for arms protection and acquisition.

Paragraph 12 states the need to address urban-rural linkages related to economic development in rural areas. Several alternatives were given to eliminate the impression that urbanization is a negative process.

Paragraph 13 stresses the need for decision-making that is decentralized and includes participation of affected persons. There was debate on the meaning of 'lowest local level possible.' Denmark's proposal, 'decisions made at the level as close as possible to those affected...,' was accepted.

Paragraph 14 focuses on the status of women as a measure of a nation's development and stresses the need for equality in all aspects. Several delegates supported the approach to have a section on women. Several amendments were made. Delegates requested a new paragraph on children and youth.

Paragraph 15 underscores the justification of the preceding paragraphs and endorses the principles, goals and commitments in the document. Paragraph 16 outlines the objective of the principles, goals and commitments adopted by Habitat II. Both were accepted with minor amendments.

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