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CLOSING PLENARY

PrepCom Chair Martti Lujanen called the final plenary to order at 3:30 pm, on Friday, 5 May 1995, and invited the Secretary- General for Habitat II, Wally N'Dow to make a statement.

N'Dow said he was encouraged by the pioneering spirit delegates had shown that is not given to defeatism and old habits but to finding and creating ways to resolve potential impasses and roadblocks in dealing with issues that could have detoured and diverted the PrepCom. The PrepCom has opened up the Conference to its constituents, thus Habitat II will be a real conference of partners, a vision no other conference has achieved. The GPA that will emerge must be a real blueprint for enablement, an open and flexible instrument characterized by a willingness to accommodate differences.

PrepCom Chair Martti Lujanen said delegates have a better idea of what each individual country and other institutions should do in order to make the Conference a success. The PrepCom is making a historical change for two reasons: for the first time, local authorities will be able to participate as full partners and this is the first UN conference to recognize NGOs and local authorities as partners. He said the strong national involvement through the national coordinating committees and the national plans of action have provided the success in PrepCom II. The Chair then invited the Chairs of the Working Groups to present their reports.

WORKING GROUP I: Pamela Mboya, Chair of Working Group I, presented four decision documents. With regard to the future work of the PrepCom, Norway, Canada and Italy initially objected to the proposal for a two-week PrepCom III but, in order to attain progress, relented. However, Norway, supported by Canada and Australia, made a statement for the record, noting that the decision taken is not in line with the letter of paragraph 3 of GA resolution 49/109, and that they reserve the right to re-open the matter later. With regard to the decision on Best Practices, the Chair highlighted the amendments made by the Group and the draft decision was adopted.

With regard to the decision on the organization of work, including establishment of committees and procedural matters, there was a brief discussion on the status of full-length statements that will be circulated after the seven-minute statements are presented in Plenary. The reference to the circulation of written statements was deleted. After a discussion on the participation of the European Community (Rule 47), the entire document was adopted.

The Secretariat noted that in line with PrepCom I recommendations and operative paragraph 4 of Part A of the decision document A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.5/Rev.1, the Group reviewed, finalized and adopted the document that will be sent to all governments in the report of the Committee. In addition to the few amendments made, the section on Best Practices will be replaced with the new recommendations.

WORKING GROUP II: Dr. Glynn Khonje, who chaired the Group's informal working and drafting groups, presented the report, on behalf of Working Group II Chair Amb. de Silva. Khonje introduced the Group's report contained in a draft decision, A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.9. He said that after considerable debate, the Working Group has approved the decision regarding intersessional arrangements for the drafting of the GPA.

The draft decision acknowledges the work done under the chairmanship of Khonje and decides to continue with the drafting and review of documents during the intersessional period in an open-ended informal group with a core team of 15, and requests the Secretary-General of the Conference to provide appropriate assistance during that process. The draft decision recommends that: the drafts prepared by the Group should be submitted to the Secretariat who will prepare a draft document to facilitate the work of the informal working group; the first intersessional meeting of the informal drafting group take place no later than August 1995 to review the Secretariat draft, which will thereafter be forwarded to member States; and if deemed necessary, the drafting group will meet a second time no later than the end of October 1995. The final document should be submitted to governments at least six weeks before PrepCom III. The document will be considered non-negotiated.

Responding to a question by the Russian Federation, Khonje said the first intersessional meeting is likely to take place in Nairobi, and the second in New York to coincide with the GA discussions on Habitat II.

In response to Swaziland, Khonje said the core drafting team will comprise the 15 who had been drafting the Group's documents during the session, however, other interested delegates who are in a position to fund their own participation can also participate. Chile requested that once the dates of the meetings are decided, all member States should be informed. Without further discussion the paper was adopted.

PrepCom Chair Martti Lujanen then turned to Agenda Items 5, Arrangements for the third session of the Preparatory Committee and the provisional agenda, and 7, Other matters.

ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA FOR THE THIRD SESSION OF THE COMMITTEE: Lujanen said the arrangements for PrepCom III and the provisional agenda are contained in document A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.5/Rev.1, which had already been adopted.

OTHER MATTERS: The Chair drew attention to document A/CONF.165/PC.2/L.7, accreditation of NGOs. The Committee reviewed the rules received, in accordance with the rules of procedure for the accreditation of NGOs to the Preparatory Committee and the Conference itself. The Bureau has recommended the accreditation of NGOs listed in the annex to the document. The document was adopted.

ADOPTION OF THE REPORT OF THE SECOND SESSION OF COMMITEE: The Rapporteur, Marjorie Ulloa, presented her report on the work of the Second Session of the Committee. Lujanen said this report would be forwarded to ECOSOC and the General Assembly and closed the session.

REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS (CHS)

Editor's note: The Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of the UNCHS is limited to those items on the agenda that have direct relevance to the negotiations on the decisions to be taken in Istanbul. Please contact UNCHS directly for further information on the work of the Commission.

The 15th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements (CHS) met in Nairobi, from 25 April to 2 May 1995. David Johannson (Finland), Chair of the 14th Session who presided over the Commission's opening Plenary, said the session shall consider proposals on the new objectives for the UN Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS), including those anticipated for adoption by the Habitat II Conference, the role of the Centre within the UN and the proposals on the work programme and budget for the biennial period 1996-1997. Assistant-Secretary-General of UNCHS (Habitat) Wally N'Dow said the session carries a special significance as it is the last before Habitat II. Five resolutions related to the Habitat II Conference, contained in four decision documents, were passed by the Commission as follows:

THE RIGHT TO ADEQUATE HOUSING: The CHS first addressed the right to adequate housing during a week of debate in Committee II under CHS Agenda Item 4, Activities of the UNCHS: Progress report of the Executive Director. Much of the discussion centered on housing rights, as described in document HS/C/15/2/Add.2, "Towards a Housing Rights Strategy: Practical Contributions by UNCHS (Habitat) on Promoting, Ensuring and Protecting the Full Realization of the Human Right to Adequate Housing." The report was the result of Commission Resolution 14/6 recommending that the Executive Director of UNCHS explore ways in which the Centre could support development of the right to housing.

The US said that while it endorsed the goal of shelter for all and rights of non-discriminatory access to housing, financing and other conditions that support adequate housing, the right to adequate housing should be deleted. The Netherlands, Sweden and the Holy See supported retaining the right to adequate housing. An informal consultative group chaired by the Philippines and including the US, Mexico, the Netherlands and Uganda was formed to draft a resolution on the right to housing.

The group produced a draft resolution that takes note of the UNCHS report and requests the Executive Director to examine and update the report. The Executive Director is to consider the legal, social, economic, political and practical aspects, and the views and concerns expressed by some member States, including those regarding the existence and/or the legal status of the right to adequate housing. The Executive Director will report to the next Commission meeting. The draft resolution was adopted by the Committee.

The US then introduced a series of revisions that would change or remove references to the right to housing from all of the CHS documents. The US did not want to send documents to other meetings that mention a human right to adequate housing when the meaning is not clear. He did not believe that the right to housing exists in international law as a separate human right. Documents referring to that right were a misrepresentation of facts that needed correction. Text describing the need for adequate housing was sufficient.

The Russian Federation, supported by Sweden and Mexico, suggested placing an addendum in relevant documents noting the reservations of some delegations. The Netherlands said other fora would clarify uncertainties regarding the right to housing, so the references should remain. Canada, supported by Uganda and India, suggested adding text that would note that the right to housing is an aspiration and a goal, but not a legally-binding concept. The Chair appointed an open-ended working party, chaired by Brazil and including the US, Uganda, India, Romania and Canada, to develop a proposal on the revisions.

This working party presented a draft that takes note of the appearance of the term "right to adequate housing" in several Commission reports and states that any such reference should be understood as referring to the basic need for adequate shelter and the goal of governments to help their populations meet that need. The phrase does not, in such documents, refer to an international human right. The draft also required that the statement be appended to documents distributed outside the Commission. Brazil said the draft did not prejudice other decisions or activities of the commission.

The Netherlands objected to the working party's text, noting that it prejudges the Executive Director's report agreed to in the Committee's resolution. Supported by Sweden, the Holy See, France, and Senegal, the Netherlands proposed an alternative stating that no consensus existed on the interpretation of the concept of the right to adequate housing.

The Philippines rejected the working party's text, noting that it would manacle the ability of member States to apply their own legal systems regarding right to housing. It would preclude further consideration of other instruments on the right to adequate housing and negate existing international instruments that many delegations believe include the human right to housing. The right does not mean a State is obliged to give property to citizens.

Cameroon opposed the working party draft. China said the document should be re-examined. Supported by Mexico, the Russian Federation said the document should indicate that there is no consensus on assessing the legal meaning of the right to housing or on the contents of the documents, and that this should be indicated in Commission documents.

The Chair proposed a non-paper stating that: the Commission found no agreement on the existence and/or the legal status of the "right to adequate housing;" a note to that effect be appended to documents distributed outside the Commission; factual errors on this matter be corrected; and the Commission's biennial work programme (HS/C/15/7) should be revised to reflect this. No consensus was reached and the non-paper was withdrawn.

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