During the general debate, which was held in Plenary over the course of five sessions, 86 statements were made by governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Although the level of progress varied, all delegations recalled their national preparations for Habitat II in their opening statements, including broad-based national preparatory committees, action plans and progress reports. Many States have organized public awareness campaigns, workshops, and national or regional preparatory meetings.
Some have initiated urban indicator programmes and reviews of national housing and environmental policies and submitted proposals for the Dubai competition on Best Practices.
Delegates recounted recent events that have exacerbated human settlements problems. Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Lebanon cited war; Ghana and Burundi mentioned natural disasters; and Burkina Faso and other developing countries spoke of severe economic crises. Others cited the initiation of specific national steps. Japan, Sri Lanka, Paraguay and Chile said they were increasing the availability of rental and low-cost housing for the poor. Countries with economies in transition, such as Poland, stated they were taking steps toward privatization of their housing sectors and securing land tenure. Namibia described an enabling housing process that allows people to build their own houses according to their needs, priorities and resources.
Delegations also commented on the goals for Habitat II. India addressed rural-urban linkages, Indonesia called for South-South cooperation, and Australia mentioned the need to recognize principles from other recent UN conferences. Norway, the Netherlands and China called for sustainable human, urban and economic development. Gabon cited the need for revised financing mechanisms to secure housing, and Kenya mentioned the need to strengthen the UN Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS). NGOs mentioned additional goals including increased urban planning, a panel of mayors from around the world, increased security of tenure, and emphasis on the quality of life. One NGO questioned whether safety for delegates can be secured in Istanbul, in light of the recent civil war.
Delegates also commented on the Global Plan of Action. The EU said the final output should be a single document indicating the Conference's political goals. Sweden said that the focus on household and city-level matters should increase. Brazil and the Philippines indicated that the role of the international community should be clear, particularly with regard to technical assistance. China mentioned the need for measures to control excessive population growth. Mexico said that the current document goes beyond the terms of reference given to the Conference. Finland cited basic structural problems with the document.
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