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WORKING GROUP II

The Working Group, chaired by Amb. H.L. de Silva (Sri Lanka), focused on Agenda Item 3, Draft Statement of Principles and Commitments, and the Global Plan of Action (GPA) contained in document A/CONF.165/PC.2/3. The draft GPA has five sections: a preamble, key issues, principles, a strategy and commitments. There are three principles: civic engagement, sustainability, and equity. The strategy of enablement is a central element. It emphasizes partnership between people in various social sectors, and its objectives are to increase participation through broad-based consultation and building of partnerships.

The first commitment is related to the enablement strategy. A long set of government commitments follows, including gender equity, strategic partnerships, institutional and legal structures, public service, leadership and accountability. Separate commitments sections are included for NGOs and community-based organizations, business groups, academic and scientific institutions, professional associations, media, philanthropic foundations and others.

Introducing this document during the Working Group's first meeting, Wally N'Dow explained that this Plan of Action is important not only for Habitat II, but as a way to transform the promises of other major initiatives, such as Rio, Cairo and Copenhagen Conferences, to the local level. The four basic philosophies used in developing the document were civic engagement, sustainability, equity and enablement.

After N'Dow's presentation, several delegates made their comments. France, on behalf of the European Union (EU), said the Conference's documents must be more action-oriented to support government actions and added that the current draft does not sufficiently focus on the Conference themes and lacks a substantive base. Pakistan, supported by Egypt and Sudan, said the document does not reflect the overriding responsibility of the international community. The problem has been left to national governments, local authorities and the private sector, but they will not have the fiscal, technical or financial resources to meet the commitments. An NGO, Women and Shelter, said the role of women in urban settlements has been overlooked and the document contains no details on the negative effects of structural adjustment programmes. Habitat International Coalition said the present document is unsuitable and needs to be fundamentally restructured.

In order to enable governments to prepare a more detailed and comprehensive document, the Working Group agreed to meet informally. Dr. Glynn Khonje (Zambia) was appointed the Chair of the open-ended informal working group, which met twice and discussed the document prepared by the Secretariat as well as a draft proposal submitted by the EU.

During the first meeting of the informal working group, the Secretariat outlined the methodology used to develop the draft GPA, the fundamental premises used in its elaboration and how changes in the problems of human settlements argue for a new approach to urbanization. The Secretariat also introduced another document A/CONF.165/PC.2/3/Add.1, Draft Statement of Principles and Commitments and the Global Plan of Action, which focuses on three programme areas: sustainable urban and regional development; sustainable shelter and community development; and sustainable settlements management and governance.

Delegations never discussed the second document, but pointed out technical problems with the Secretariat's draft GPA, including its avoidance of the political issue of planning, the responsibilities of national governments and an implicit anti-rural bias. The EU circulated its outline for the structure and the content of the final document, as a possible alternative to the Secretariat's GPA. The document contains brief sections describing a preamble and the three principles from the Secretariat draft and reorganizes the discussion on commitments into subject-oriented clusters.

Dr. Khonje suggested that delegates first deal with the GPA's structure and then discuss substantive issues. The EU summarized its proposal, reiterating the need for the GPA to support Habitat II's agreed political aims. He said the final GPA could be divided into two documents — one covering principles and commitments, and a second containing the GPA. The commitments should be between governments, and the action programme should include national or sub-national elements. The African Group said the final document should have four sections: a preamble; principles, strategies and commitments; the GPA; and a fourth section describing monitoring and evaluation programmes based on performance measures and indicators.

Several delegates supported the general structure of the EU outline and recommended additions or modifications, including a section describing strategies and a timetable for their implementation; sections on financial resources and mechanisms; combining the preamble and principles; and additional emphasis on national plans or international aspects. Delegates also noted the need to distinguish clearly between principles, commitments and strategies and to determine the sectors or administrative levels to which they should apply.

The group then discussed substantive elements. Several comments from delegates underscored the preamble's importance in setting the scope for the document: a new conceptualization of settlements and settlement problems; integration of rural and urban concerns; an evolutionary perspective on settlements; inclusion of people of all spiritual heritages; and a justification for the global conference encompassing the similarity of different countries' problems, ecological concerns, new human rights related to settlements and international responsibility for the solution. Regarding general substantive issues, delegates highlighted the need for: a plan that allows for national action; inclusion of rural as well as urban concerns; financial and fiscal issues; and development concerns related to both settlements and natural and human resources. Several delegates stressed that the document should be written in simple language for politicians and the public to understand.

The Chair accepted the proposal by several delegates to establish a drafting group to combine the various texts. The group would consist of two representatives from each regional group, two NGO representatives, and a representative each from the EU, the African Group and local authorities. The drafting group was asked to combine the Secretariat's draft of the GPA with the EU outline and the African Group outline.

The drafting group, also chaired by Dr. Khonje, included representatives from: Africa (Kenya and Senegal), Arab States (Sudan), Asia (the Philippines and China), Eastern Europe (Poland and Hungary), European Union (Germany), Group of 77 (Pakistan), Latin America and the Caribbean (Brazil and Cuba), Local Authorities (UK), NGOs (two Habitat International Coalition representatives) and the Western European and Others Group (US and Finland).

The drafting group held one session Thursday and, without first reporting back to the informal working group, gave its proposals on the structure and content to Working Group II on Friday. The structure has a preamble, principles, goals and commitments, and a Global Plan of Action. The principles are drawn from the EU document, with an addition of the principles of international solidarity and justice, the family, peace and poverty eradication. In addition, the document would contain an outline of the commitments, a comprehensive preamble and an outline for the Global Plan of Action.

The drafting group worked through the weekend. They agreed on the structure and completed preparation of the Principles, Preamble and Goals and Commitments. Yet, by the end of the session, the Working Group had only completed a first reading of the Preamble, Principles and Commitments.

PREAMBLE: The group considered the preamble contained in A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.2. Paragraph 1 recognized 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 reviewed the state of urban growth and state of human settlements since Habitat I and noted that there has been no significant improvement in shelter conditions. Japan objected to this statement since 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 noted 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.

Paragraph 4 underscored 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 described the world situation since the end of the Cold War.

Paragraph 6 highlighted the effects of poor housing and homelessness, in particular in developing countries, noting that developed countries are also face 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. It was agreed that the two options, "is equally entitled to" and "have basic human needs, including" would be left in brackets.

Paragraph 7 dealt with the effects of industrialization on the environment in developed countries and the lack of personal acceptance of responsibility.

Paragraph 8 outlined the constraints facing local authorities in addressing human settlements. Delegates endorsed the alternative text provided by the International Union of Local Authorities on measures to strengthen the operational capacity of local authorities.

Paragraph 9 highlighted the role of cities in economic development as well as their negative social and environmental effects, which can become an obstacle to stability, well-being and development. Delegates said the paragraph's orientation is negative.

Paragraph 10 focused on international migration and stressed that the 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 called 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 stated 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 stressed the need for decision-making that is decentralized and includes participation of affected persons.

Paragraph 14 focused on the status of women as a measure of a nation's development and stressed the need for equality in all aspects. Delegates also requested a new paragraph on children and youth.

Paragraph 15 underscored the justification of the preceding paragraphs and endorses the principles, goals and commitments in the document.

Paragraph 16 outlined the objective of the principles, goals and commitments adopted by Habitat II.

A revised version of this document, A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.2/ Rev.1, was presented to the Working Group, but was not discussed.

PRINCIPLES: Six principles were considered, at the end of which two principles, Livability and Partnerships, were added.

Peace: The principle states that peace is an essential condition to achieve sustainable human settlements. It calls on all nations to renounce armed conflicts, various forms of strife, foreign aggression and occupation, and urges the international community to promote peace, justice and security and to resolve conflicts by peaceful means.

India said the statement that "governments at all levels, the international community and civil society should collaborate to preserve peace," assumes that peace exists, and suggested they should also strive "to secure" peace. Benin, supported by the Holy See, suggested including "to promote and preserve peace," rather than "to secure," deleting "collaborate" and adding "lasting" to the statement that "just and comprehensive peace is an essential condition." Sweden and Zambia questioned the inclusion of the qualifier "just" to the concept of peace. Benin, India, Nigeria and the Holy See stated that there are many examples where countries have experienced peace, but it is imposed and unjust.

Family: The principle recognizes the family as the basic unit of society and its constructive role for all sustainable human settlements, and calls for all conditions necessary for its integration, preservation, improvement and protection to be facilitated.

Turkey noted that many statements in this principle are actually commitments and proposed moving them to that section. She added that specifically including the family as a principle requires including other societal units such as the community and the individual. Many delegations responded that the family should be highlighted as a principle because of its importance.

International Solidarity and Cooperation: The three-paragraph principle outlines the justification for human settlements, the rationale for international solidarity to meet the challenges of human settlements and the relevance of global terms of trade, technology transfer and extended economic cooperation to urbanization issues.

India, supported by the Russian Federation and Nigeria, said the title should include "assistance." Nigeria suggested the addition of "substantial assistance." Sweden, supported by the US and Australia, said the main financial responsibility will lie with national governments and local authorities. The US then proposed: "implementation of the GPA will require application of substantial resources, local or international...."

Government Responsibility and Civic Engagement: The principle recognizes the responsibility of governments in creating conditions for meeting the shelter needs of people, including providing guidance and setting norms, standards and rules. It also calls for women to be enabled to achieve their full potential in participating in making decisions affecting their living and working environments. It then outlines what civic engagement is: understanding and acting on one's own responsibility to the community; and one's obligations towards others. Governments are responsible for promoting civic engagement in human settlements.

Delegations made several suggestions regarding the responsibilities of governments including: settlement planning frameworks should be consistent with Agenda 21; mobilization of adequate financial and technical resources should occur within States; effective and just human settlement management should be ensured; and property rights should be established.

Sustainability: The principle calls for all human settlements to be developed and adjusted to requirements of sustainability. The principle identifies three aspects essential to sustainable human settlements: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and social sustainability. Environmental sustainability requires planning that takes into account the ecosystems' carrying capacity. Economic sustainability deals with managed settlements that provide sustainable economic growth, in particular addressing consumption, transport, economic and development activities. Social sustainability ensures that settlements provide conditions such as social welfare, solidarity and social cohesion in families and ethnic groups.

Substantive discussions centered on: whether to delete the actors mentioned in the principle; the need to replace "social sustainability" with alternative wording because the concept could not be defined at the World Summit for Social Development; deletion of the reference to debt; and the need to specifically identify the relevant government institutions. Several delegations wanted the impact of "natural disasters" recognized. Discussion on the economic aspect focused on the choice between "sustainable economic growth" or "sustained economic growth." Developing countries want the latter, arguing that it is the language used in the Rio documents.

Equity: This principle states that all men and women, in particular the vulnerable and disadvantaged, should have equitable access to all benefits of human settlements, and rights and obligation in equitable development and management of the settlements. Equitable human settlement includes: having access to shelter, infrastructure, basic services and resources; effective participatory decisions; addressing physical and mental health; transparency, efficiency and accountability; burden sharing through equitable taxation; and encouragement of volunteerism for the public good.

Turkey suggested referring to equity between settlements, not just within settlements and suggested additional language. Sweden stated that the special needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged people warranted a separate sentence. Brazil, supported by many other delegations, commented that the idea of good governance should not be included because it is too controversial. Other suggestions included mentioning physical and mental health needs, referring specifically to homeless people, and providing education and training for women and children.

Livability: The principle of livability lists thirteen items that livable human settlements should provide, including: adequate living and sanitary conditions; the basic medium for the preservation of the cultural memory of people; spaces and flow channels that respond to the behavioral needs of the inhabitants; and a variety of human interaction and access to resources and information.

Pakistan commented on the need to eradicate crime. Israel requested a reference to the integration of the natural environment into the city. Bangladesh suggested a provision regarding the education of children. Brazil, supported by Israel and the Holy See, said the document lacks specificity and fails to define the term livability. He enumerated points that were repetitive or unclear. The UK questioned whether the principle, after removal of the duplicative points, would be worth retaining. The Chair stated that the principle should be retained but must be harmonized with other principles.

Partnerships: The principle on partnerships states that "partnerships between and among all actors are essential to the development of sustainable human settlements and the provision of adequate shelter for all, as they have the ability to integrate and mutually support objectives of participants through, inter alia, forming alliances, pooling resources, sharing knowledge, contributing skills, and capitalizing on comparative advantages." Delegates stated that this principle is less explicit than the others. Brazil suggested a reference to urban management and Benin proposed two additional paragraphs on the importance of partnerships in addressing human settlements problems.

Although this document was revised and issued as A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.3, it was not discussed.

COMMITMENTS ON ADEQUATE SHELTER FOR ALL: The group first considered the national and international commitments related to "ensuring adequate shelter for all" contained in documents A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.4(No.1) and A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.4(No.2), respectively.

National Commitments: The draft commits governments to ensure an adequate supply of shelter and to improve living conditions on a sustainable basis so that everyone will have access to affordable and adequate shelter. To this end, governments shall look into: (a) policies to ensure adequate shelter for everybody, including the poor and disadvantaged; (b) policies that ensure access to serviced land, finance and credit, and affordable building materials; (c) macro-economic and shelter policies that maximize the positive economic impacts of shelter development; (d) the promotion of partnerships among all actors, especially between the private sector and community; (e) the establishment of a regulatory and legal framework to ensure equitable access by all people to resources for shelter development; (f) expanding the supply of affordable rental housing with due consideration to the rights and obligations of the tenant and owners; and (g) removal of all forms of discrimination that may place disadvantaged groups in a vulnerable position in the housing market.

Kenya proposed "National Commitments for Adequate Shelter for All" as the title. Zambia, supported by the UK and Israel, provided text that highlights the shelter aspect in physical planning. Australia submitted text to indicate where shelter should be provided.

Debate ensued on the preference between the terms "shelter for all" and "housing for all." The Secretariat said the CHS uses the terms interchangeably, but the PrepCom should use "shelter for all," as recommended by the 14th Session of the CHS. Germany said shelter for all refers to both housing and the provision of basic services, but suggested that due to ambiguity in the term "basic services," "public services" should be used instead. This triggered another debate. Delegates agreed to use "basic services," and to define the term at the beginning of the document.

International Commitments: In this section, governments commit themselves to supporting the implementation of the commitments through multilateral and bilateral cooperation, technical assistance [new and additional] financial resources and through follow-up, monitoring and evaluation of global urbanization. It then outlines the various aspects it will assume, including: promoting international peace and security; strengthening demand-driven international cooperation and partnerships; promoting international support for the implementation of the GPA; and periodically evaluating and revitalizing the role of the UNCHS.

The UK suggested that the GPA should also be implemented "through national actions." Benin said it was not necessary to mention national actions because international commitments are intended to support national commitments. Benin, Brazil, China, Algeria, the Philippines, Cuba, Senegal and Gabon supported the inclusion of new and additional financial resources. Zambia said it could be included, but should be matched by a pledge in the national commitments "to adopt and implement measures that will encourage increased domestic savings for shelter development." India said new and additional resources could be added if a conditional clause could be included. Egypt supported provision of new and additional resources but proposed "adequate financial resources." Denmark agreed that new and additional resources are necessary but proposed the commitment should include "to the extent possible." Germany, supported by the UK, the US, Australia and Japan, said new and additional resources did not belong in the section on international commitments. He said the language was added to documents in Rio only after a careful examination of the incremental financial implications, which has not yet been done for the GPA.

Kenya recommended changing the title from Global Plan of Action to "Commitments in an Urbanizing World." Poland said commitments should not be directed to developing countries only because they should be universal. Croatia said a reference to countries in need should mention "particularly those with large numbers of refugees." Bangladesh and the Philippines proposed a paragraph on disaster management. The International Local Government Associations called for language encouraging decentralized cooperation and capacity building.

When these two documents were revised and then issued to the Group, each with an additional section on commitments on sustainable human settlements. These latest versions of national and international commitments are contained in documents A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.4(No.1)Rev.1/Add.1 and A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.4(No.2)Rev.1, respectively. In the national commitments, the section on sustainable human settlements commitments covers issues including: development of human settlements that are socially and economically sustainable; management of transport to minimize negative effects; balanced development of urban and rural settlements, the special needs of the largest metropolitan areas; respect for cultural traditions, religious beliefs and spiritual values; eradication of poverty; decentralization and empowerment of the local governments and efficient, transparent and accountable management; enablement and participation of all actors; and policies that combat segregation, discrimination and exclusion.

The informal working group was unable to do a second reading of the revised documents to enable the Working Group to adopt them. It was therefore agreed that the Working Group should receive the documents from the informal working group and then present them to PrepCom III. Following questions on scheduling, document distribution and input from workshops and delegations, the Chair stated that documents prepared so far are the product of a drafting group, not a negotiated process. He assured delegates that they could submit comments and that the revised drafts would be circulated.

DRAFT DECISION: The Chair presented a draft decision of the Bureau on intersessional arrangements contained in document A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.6. The draft decision states that the PrepCom, having received Working Group II's report on matters considered, decides to continue drafting during the intersessional period in a similar informal manner through an open-ended drafting group to facilitate further negotiations. The delegates questioned the definitions of "similar informal manner" and "open-ended drafting group," the dates of the sessions, modalities and costs.

Many delegations requested that the document distinguish the topics already discussed from those still pending. The Chair replied that all documents currently have the same legal status because they have not been adopted and are subject to change. However, several delegates expressed concern that the work achieved is not reflected in the decision and feared starting from scratch at PrepCom III. The US summarized the situation: the group has a set of non-negotiated documents. Although some parts have been discussed, they represent the beginning of a complete reformulation. Following this meeting, the Secretariat will put together a revised draft to facilitate the work of the drafting group. That group will make changes, and the Secretariat will create a second draft that will then serve as the basis for negotiation at PrepCom III. The group was satisfied with this summary, but did not accept the decision as amended.

At its final meeting on Friday, 5 May, Working Group II continued discussion on the draft decision on intersessional arrangements, and the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) introduced an amended text based on the Bureau's draft decision. The document issued as A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.9 explained the intersessional process in more detail and mentioned two drafting sessions. Delegates asked for clarification on venue and duration, agreed on the composition of the drafting group during the intersessional period and stressed that the group must be open-ended because of travel constraints on developing countries. The Secretariat commented that the question of location and duration has not been decided, and will be determined by cost considerations. Delegates also questioned the need for two sessions and the process for submitting comments, and suggested that the drafting group also be given the mandate to negotiate.

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