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PREPARATIONS FOR THE CONFERENCE

Discussion on this agenda item was based on document A/CONF.165/PC.2/2, Progress report of the Secretary-General of the Conference on the activities of the Conference secretariat, and document A/CONF.165/PC.2/2/Add.1, Progress report on national preparations. In his introduction, Wally N'Dow said preparations at the national level have included dissemination of guides and working documents as well as briefings and advisory missions. As of February 1995, 79 countries had established national committees, and 52 had submitted progress reports. Regional and subregional preparatory meetings have been held in Africa, the Arab States, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe. Global and regional meetings of mayors, development banks, city associations, NGOs and professional associations were also held. The Secretariat also reported on host country preparations, such as NGO activities and the trade fair, and described the participatory design process for preparing the Draft Global Plan of Action.

The two-day discussion of this agenda item focused on preparations for Istanbul, information dissemination, reports by countries on their preparations at the national and regional levels, financing of preparatory activities in developing countries, and preparations for the Dubai competition on best practices.

Preparations for Istanbul and Dubai: Several delegates noted that there is a lack of information on logistical and other matters 13 months before the Conference, and called for the host country to provide the necessary information to facilitate national preparations. India also requested information on the Istanbul trade fair, while Kenya stated that being a self-financing event, it will be difficult for small firms to participate. Gabon said the Committee had received no information about the civil war in Turkey.

Turkey responded that registration and rules of procedure are the responsibility of the United Nations. Regarding the trade fair, an organizing company has been identified through a tendering process, and it will communicate with governments soon. A flyer providing details on the trade fair is available. The fair, located close to the Airport, plans to exhibit low cost products, services and technologies for low cost housing and construction, as well as financing institutions. Fifteen percent of the exhibition grounds have been set aside for allocation to the least developed countries. In addition, Turkey said the best answers on the "alleged civil war" should come from the Secretary-General of Habitat II, who recently visited Istanbul. He informed delegates that Turkey had hosted many international meetings in 1994.

Regarding the Dubai competition on best practices, the Secretariat said it is currently considering the selection criteria and the possibility of setting up an independent international jury comprising all key actors.

Information dissemination: Several delegates also complained about the information flow between the Secretariat and governments. Information is either not received or received too late, especially for countries without missions in Nairobi. National committees are not informed about regional meetings, there is no feedback from the Secretariat on whether work undertaken by governments is relevant or not and there is no information about preparations for the NGO forum in Istanbul. China called for publicity on the Conference.

The Secretariat said it utilizes four channels to communicate to governments: missions located in Nairobi; national steering committees that have provided their addresses to the Secretariat; key actors; and the media. The Secretariat announced it would distribute an information sheet during the session providing an overview, a timetable and a list of parallel and public events during Habitat II. The timetable for national reports would be discussed at this PrepCom. Reports from about 40 upcoming international meetings would be consolidated into a progress report before PrepCom III.

National and regional preparations: Several countries, including India, Kenya, Ukraine, Hungary, Finland, Romania, Nepal, Ghana, Benin, Algeria, Tanzania, Cameroon, Senegal, Bulgaria, Malawi, Gabon and the Gambia reported that they had either set up multi-sectoral national coordinating committees, prepared national reports or both.

Indonesia is planning a national awareness campaign. Greece has held three national conferences and has begun a country-wide competition on best practices. Nigeria will hold a workshop for local councils. Kenya stressed that Habitat II should synchronize the two indicators' programmes so that countries do not repeat the exercise when gathering information.

The regional activities reported include a seminar hosted in Eastern Europe and a meeting held in September 1994 by the Economic Commission for Europe, which led to the establishment of a follow-up task-force. France is planning an international mayors meeting in November. UNIDO will organize a colloquium on various issues and regional consultations with the housing industry. ESCAP will convene a forum on urban issues in Asia.

Financial issues: India, supported by Kenya, Swaziland, Malawi, Gabon and Algeria, noted that although PrepCom I had decided that half of the funds received by the Secretariat for national preparation would be shared evenly among developing countries and the other half allocated on the basis of need, no money had been received. India also noted that the Secretary-General's report was silent on how the resources mobilized so far, reported in paragraphs 6 and 34, had been used. Furthermore, India was not aware that there is funding for developing countries to support the documentation of best practices. The Gambia, Sudan, Hungary and Zambia said they needed funds to continue the activities they had initiated but were now unable to complete. Uganda said recent promises for financial assistance and assistance to women participants have not materialized. China said the Secretariat should actively seek funds to support the full participation of developing countries.

The Secretariat reported that the total income, including pledges and funds requested from the regular UN budget, is US$5.3 million. The total received to date is US$4.6 million. US$3.3 million has been spent for partial reimbursement of activities including PrepCom I participation, regional and subregional meetings, gender and women's networking activities, documentation on best practices and NGO participation. In kind contributions amount to US$8.9 million. Cash pledges have been provided by 18 countries, including two developing countries. Thirty-nine requests for financial assistance have been received from developing countries. The assistance provided falls into three categories: application of indicators, documentation of best practices and ad hoc technical assistance. In total, 55 countries have received technical assistance. The Secretariat hopes to provide assistance to 39 countries in 1995, in particular to national committees, regional and subregional meetings and the preparation of national reports and national plans of action.

DISCUSSION OF THE DRAFT DECISIONS: The working group then established an informal drafting group to prepare a report on the issue of best practices. The group submitted A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.8, Criteria for nominating and selecting best practices, which the group discussed. The Bureau of the Committee also prepared A/CONF.165/PC.2/CRP.2, Organization of work, including establishment of committees and procedural matters, and A/CONF.165/PC.2/CRP.3, Rules of procedure, as a response to requests for information on preparations for Istanbul.

Criteria for Nominating and Selecting Best Practices: The document, A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.8, was first considered in an informal session and then presented to the Working Group. The document sets out three criteria for nominating best practices — impact, partnerships and sustainability — and provides reporting guidelines, including deadlines, format, gender analysis, indicators, video-films and national competitions.

The proposal to have an 11-member jury was discussed in detail and it was agreed that the number shall be determined by the Secretary-General, but that it should consist of an odd number of persons. In addition, the question of "gender" representation on the jury was raised and consensus reached that "gender sensitivity" rather than "gender balance" will be necessary when establishing the jury. There was also protracted debate on whether to use the word "good governance." It was agreed that the term should be replaced with "efficient, transparent and accountable management...." The summary submissions should be provided by 1 September 1995, and the detailed ones by 1 December 1995. It was also agreed that this document would replace paragraphs 38-46 of A/CONF.165/PC.2/2/Add.1, Guidelines for national preparations.

Organization of Work: Following requests from delegates on information on the preparations for Istanbul, PrepCom Chair Lujanen presented document A/CONF.165/PC.2/CRP.2, Organization of work, including establishment of committees and procedural matters. The document addresses pre-Conference consultations, the election of officers, adoption of the rules of procedure, adoption of the agenda, organization of work, participation of local authorities and the report of the Conference.

The document highlights the level of participation of NGOs and local authorities, based on the provisions of GA resolution 49/109 of December 1994, and the decision of the PrepCom at its first session to involve all the listed sectors as full members of the national committees.

A two-day pre-conference consultation will be held in Istanbul to deal with organizational matters, with one representative from each delegation attending. This proposal needs General Assembly endorsement. The section on election of officers and adoption of rules of procedure is based on a standard UN format, and the agenda will be adopted during PrepCom III. One Plenary and two Main Committees are planned. The Plenary will have two segments: a general debate on the themes of the main conference and a high-level segment. Committee I will prepare the Draft Statement of Principles and the Global Plan of Action and address organizational matters. Committee II will conduct hearings between member States and participants from other sectors and possibly receive recommendations on thematic issues from round-tables. Representatives of Local Authorities' associations will have access at the level of government delegations without the right to vote. The Report of the Conference will include the hearings from Committee II.

Before the document was adopted, some issues were extensively debated. Delegates primarily directed their attention to sections of the document dealing with participation of local authorities and establishment of committees.

Rules of Procedure: The Rules of Procedure, which were circulated in document A/CONF.165/PC.2/CRP.3, were discussed concurrently with the preparations for Istanbul. The most contentious issues related to the level at which local authorities will participate in Istanbul and the election of officers.

The Secretariat noted that the Rules of Procedure used standard UN language except for Rule 61, which defines terms of participation for local authorities. Delegates debated the rule extensively, some arguing that local authorities would receive sufficient representation as national delegates, or that their designation as observers should be made by national committees, not by international associations of local authorities, as stated in the proposed rule. The US, Finland, Senegal and France said there should be two avenues for local authorities to participate as national delegates and as representatives of local authorities associations. Indonesia and Mexico expressed concern about possible double representation.

During deliberations of an informal drafting group established under Working Group I, India said Rule 61 should be amended to say that national committees are the main vehicle for local authorities' participation, and proposed amending the rule to admit local authorities "designated by international associations of local authorities and respective national committees acting together." India said it objected to the possibility that Rule 61 would permit local authorities to attend without the knowledge of either the national government or the national committee. France said the rule should not refer to governments. Canada said it would strenuously object to giving national governments authority to veto participants. Senegal, supported by Uganda, Finland, France and the UK, said the problem was political, and that efforts to control or monitor what local authorities will say was not in line with democracy or freedom.

Habitat II Secretary-General Wally N'Dow was summoned to the drafting group meeting. He appealed to India to permit the meeting to move forward unless the issue created a preponderant constitutional crisis. Participation of local authorities is fundamental to the agreed spirit of partnership for Habitat II. Partnership means giving up part of the governmental process. If governments can decide who attends at Istanbul, progress on participation of non-governmental partners has been lost.

India said he would heed the appeal, and a small group was formed to propose specific compromise language. After brief consultations, France, Finland and India presented the text that was adopted both for Rule 61 and paragraph 22 of the Organization of Work: "Representatives of local authorities, designated by accredited international associations of local authorities in consultation with national associations of local authorities, invited to the conference may participate, without the right to vote, in the deliberations of the conference, its main committees and all working groups as appropriate, on questions within the scope of their activities. Every effort shall be made to make the representation of local authorities balanced in terms of region, size and type of local authorities."

Rule 62 on NGO participation was adopted with little debate. It states that NGOs may be accredited as observers to attend public meetings of the Conference and the Main Committees. If time for speakers is limited, NGOs may be requested to choose speakers who will intervene on behalf of coalitions.

Committees and election of officers: Paragraph 8 on election of officers originally provided for election of a president, 27 vice presidents and an ex-officio vice president, and other offices deemed necessary by the Conference. Paragraph 12 of the Organization of Work and Rule 46 of the Rules of Procedure originally established a Plenary and two Committees. The drafting group dealt with these paragraphs together.

In paragraph 8, the Philippines proposed text designating a Chair for the drafting committee. Canada preferred that delegates be given the option to elect the Chair of a drafting committee "in accordance with practice at other conferences." China suggested that similar language permitting a drafting sub-committee could be added to paragraph 12 on committees. The Philippines said a drafting committee should be established under the Plenary, not as a sub-committee, and that Rule 46 on Main Committees should do the same. Delegates agreed to "a chairman for a drafting committee which may be set up in accordance with the practices of other UN conferences" in paragraph 8 and the reference that the Conference could establish "...two Main Committees and a drafting committee which may be set up in accordance with the practice of other UN conferences" in paragraph 12 and Rule 46.

The Philippines proposed new text that the drafting committee "shall consider the decisions, resolutions and other documents emanating from Committee 1 and Committee 2 before submission to Plenary." Numerous delegations objected to this proposal. The Philippines said its proposal should be bracketed. The drafting group Chair noted consensus seemed against the Philippines proposal. A small consultative group was formed, which proposed that the drafting committee shall undertake work on documents, resolutions and decisions that may be allocated to it by the Conference.

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