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INTERSESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

Numerous meetings, workshops, roundtables and colloquia have taken place since PrepCom II concluded in May. The following are summaries of several of these meetings. For information on other intersessional meetings, the Habitat II Secretariat has put together a calendar of events. Contact them at the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS), PO Box 30030, Nairobi, Kenya; tel: +254-2-62-3133; fax: +254-2-62-4060; e-mail: habitat2@unep.no.

CONFERENCE ON WORLD CITIES AND THE URBAN FUTURE: The United Nations University (UNU), in cooperation with the Japan Habitat Society and the National Institute for Research Advancement, organized the Conference on World Cities and the Urban Future in Tokyo from 23-25 August 1995. The meeting attracted speakers from 14 countries and over 250 participants. The first objective of the Conference was to focus on a special class of cities — world cities — and to explore how world cities have been transformed through new waves of technological and structural changes in the world economy. The second objective of the conference was to examine how globalization trends are changing the economic foundation and the socio-cultural fabric of mega-cities and the major metropolitan centers, particularly in the developing world. The output of the Conference will be published in a book as well as a series of policy recommendations. As part of its programme on mega-cities and urban development, UNU is also publishing a series of books on mega-cities and urban development trends in Pacific Asia, Latin America and Africa.

For more information, contact: Dr. Fu-chen Lo or Jacob Park, UNU, fax: +81-3-5467 2324; e-mail: park@HQ.UNU.EDU.

ANDEAN REGIONAL SEMINAR ON "THE NEW CITY WE WANT": Sixty representatives of governments, institutions, civil society, academia and community organizations met in Quito, Ecuador, from 4-6 September 1995 at the Andean Regional Seminar on "The New City We Want." The seminar was hosted by the Government of Ecuador, in collaboration with UNCHS (Habitat). The purpose of the seminar was to define the feasibility of regionalizing Habitat's Community Development Programme for the six countries of the Andean Region (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela).

Participants discussed the physical, social and economic situation of the Andean cities and the role that civil society plays in their development and governance. The discussion was basically centered on issues such as how people's rights to participate in decisions that affect their lives has been eroded and the lack of access to basic needs, such as shelter, education, health and ecosystem protection. Delegates adopted the Declaration of Quito, which contains commitments on: equity and social justice; development alternatives; collective construction of a new kind of city; solidarity for self-management; creation of requisite conditions for self-management; and collective Andean action. For more information, contact: Mr. G. Lüdeking, UNCHS (Habitat), tel: +254-2-62-3110; fax: +254-2-62-4265.

INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON CHALLENGES OF THE INFORMAL TOWN: Over 250 practitioners, researchers, experts and decision-makers from Latin America, Europe, South Africa and several development aid organizations took part in this seminar, which was held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, from 11-15 September 1995. Four roundtable sessions and five workshops were held in an attempt to draw on the collective knowledge and experience of the participants to make meaningful, action-oriented proposals and recommendations on the challenges of the informal town. Among the general conclusions and recommendations of the seminar are the following:

For more information, contact Mr. I. Imparato, UNCHS (Habitat), tel: +254-2-62-3703; fax: +254-2-62-4265.

CENTRAL AMERICAN SEMINAR ON CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: This seminar, on the issue of "Building the Cities of the 21st Century," was hosted by the Government of Costa Rica, in collaboration with UNCHS (Habitat) from 12-13 September 1995 in San Jose, Costa Rica. More than 50 representatives of governments, civic society, academic institutions, NGOs and community-based organizations from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama participated in the seminar. The purpose of the seminar was to share and discuss experiences of strengthening the civil society's involvement in the development and management of Central American cities.

In its concluding document, the seminar reviewed the new priorities in a transitional period from internal conflicts to the construction of democracy and development. Citizen participation and community management should be the fundamentals of the new economic, social and political processes that are being developed and practiced in the region. The role of governments must be redirected towards facilitating equitable participation and developing policy frameworks that will enable democratic, just, sustainable and safe cities.

For more information, contact: Mr. G. Lüdeking, UNCHS (Habitat), tel: +254-2-62-3110; fax: +254-2-62-4265.

ROUNDTABLE ON HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT FOR BETTER CITIES: The Roundtable on Human Resource Development for Better Cities was organized jointly by the Rotterdam-based Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) and UNCHS (Habitat), and was supported financially by the Government of the Netherlands. It was held from 4-6 October 1995 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The roundtable discussed the challenge of building the human capacity necessary to make a significant impact on the scale and complexity of urban development issues. The roundtable also reviewed the current draft of the Global Plan of Action, particularly its chapter on Capacity Building and Institutional Development. The meeting discussed experiences and adopted a number of recommendations that were transmitted to the second session of the Informal Drafting Group. The roundtable also agreed to take its fully-documented results to the Partners Forum on Capacity-Building at Habitat II, as a basis and agenda for the debate on human resource development in Istanbul.

The roundtable discussions focused on what was needed to bridge the major gap between capacities of actors involved in urban development and the needs of rapidly growing and poorly functioning cities. Changes in approach, such as the focus on participative development processes, where a wide variety of actors have to develop a shared vision and practical modalities, places new demands on those involved in building their capacity. The scale of the capacity needed to manage urban development was seen as such that innovative thinking and organization is necessary to be able to respond to the challenge. Examples of this include targeting trainers and other key professionals where a maximum multiplier effect can be obtained. The resources and energies of the private and non-governmental sectors must be stimulated and tapped. Opportunities in new media and electronic communication should also be exploited.

Issues addressed by the participants included: human resource development policies; institutional implications; capacity needs assessment; target groups; subject areas; training capacity; role of education; delivery systems; impact and effectiveness; and sustainability.

For more information, contact: Mr. T. Sudra, UNCHS (Habitat), tel: +254-2-62-3034; fax: +254-2-62-4265.

INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON WOMEN'S ACCESS, CONTROL AND TENURE OF LAND, PROPERTY AND SETTLEMENT: This workshop was held in Gavle, Sweden, from 9-11 October 1995. It was co-organized by the National Land Survey of Sweden, the Swedish Preparatory Group for Habitat II, Boplats 96 and UNCHS (Habitat). Twenty-six experts from around the world participated. The objective of the meeting was to provide a forum for independent international experts to: analyze present legal rights to land and settlement of women; identify the obstacles and mechanisms behind the fact that women have less access, control and tenure of land property and settlements than men; work out a legal framework for women's equal access to land and security of tenure; and make specific recommendations and proposals for legal and customary guidelines to ensure that women are granted equal access to land and property.

The experts emphasized the following guiding principles: men and women shall have full and equal access to economic resources, including the right to inheritance and ownership of land and property (Beijing Platform for Action, paragraph 63(b)); security of tenure as a condition of adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world, affecting both urban and rural areas; the substance and spirit of citizenship should be accorded to all people, particularly the poor and women; and the responsibility of governments at all levels to ensure that all rights of men and women are protected under law. The experts also outlined commitments to be made by the international community, national and local governments, NGOs and community organizations, and research and training institutions. Recommendations were made on reviewing, modifying and clarifying existing legislation; implementing and enforcing the law; promoting communication, education and monitoring; and follow-up actions.

For more information, contact: Lars Karlberg, Executive Secretary of the Swedish Preparatory Group for Habitat II, e-mail: Lars_G.P._Karlberg@ETT.se or Barbro Carlestam, tel: +46-26-15-30-00; fax: +46-26-68-75-94.

AFRICAN NGO HABITAT II WORKSHOP: Forty representatives of African NGOs met in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 14-15 October 1995. They discussed African urban development and human settlements issues; African NGO practices and positions related to those issues; the overall framework of and possible strategic responses to the Global Plan of Action and the Habitat II process; and prospective roles and challenges for NGOs in the human settlements field.

In addition to preparing a report on their deliberations, the NGOs drafted a declaration for presentation to the African Ministers Meeting on preparations for Habitat II that began on 16 October. The NGOs requested that local authorities and national governments: decentralize the management of cities; establish mechanisms for the production and dissemination of information concerning social, political, environmental and cultural change in urban areas; implement participatory management systems through collaborative planning; institute appropriate economic policies that support the work of women; actualize the concept of the right to housing as a fundamental right; and implement lasting solutions for refugees and other displaced persons.

The NGOs who signed the declaration undertake to: build their expertise and capacities so that they can better support local development initiatives; support and strengthen the organizational, negotiating and development capacities of grassroots communities; strengthen inter-NGO links; increase opportunities for consultation and dialogue within local communities; work in partnership with governments, local organizations and the private sector to implement the Global Plan of Action; and support the strengthening and enhancement of the UNCHS. For more information, contact: Mr. Malick Gaye, Enda-RUP, e-mail: rup@endadak.gn.apc.org; fax: (221) 23 51 57.

REGIONAL MINISTERIAL MEETING FOR AFRICA ON PREPARATIONS FOR HABITAT II: Ministers and representatives from 50 African countries, five non-African countries, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs participated in the Regional Ministerial Meeting for Africa, which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 16-18 October 1995. The ministers adopted the Johannesburg Declaration on the African Common Position for Habitat II. The Declaration addresses such issues as the need for an enabling policy environment; the need for a rural-urban development balance; planning of sustainable human settlements; the role of cities and towns as engines of economic development and growth; the need to strengthen urban governance, including more effective decentralization of power and responsibilities to local authorities; the need for community participation and partnerships; the role of NGOs; the place and role of the private sector; the value of the informal sector; the need for land-tenure reform; finance and access to credit; poverty; disaster mitigation; crime and violence; capacity-building; the role of women; the needs and contributions of youth, the elderly and people with physical disabilities; the needs of children; development of local building materials; and the role of the donor community and international institutions to provide new and additional financial and technical assistance resources.

For more information, contact: Mr. S. Sesay, UNCHS (Habitat), tel: +254-2-62-3033; fax: +254-2-62-3080; e-mail: habitat2@unep.no.

VANCOUVER HABITAT II COLLOQUIUM: The Vancouver Colloquium, which was held from 26-27 October 1995, addressed the theme "Sustaining Cities: Urban Solutions to Global Problems." The meeting was organized by the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the International Centre for Sustainable Cities. Participants sought to emphasize the contributions that solutions to urban problems can make to environmental sustainability, social balance and governability in the world. Leading practitioners and analysts shared their experiences and ideas and suggested proposals on the contributions that city-regions can make. For example, cities can help limit the negative impact of carbon dioxide gases and preserve green space, clean air and water in the local and global environment. Cities can also contribute policy solutions to the significant social dislocations caused by urban poverty, homelessness, crime or limited employment, and on the sense of community and citizenship implied by adequate and accepted governing forms. A book on the proceedings will be published in time for Habitat II PrepCom III in New York.

For more information, contact: Mr. Peter Oberlander, tel: +1-604-224-3967; fax: +1-604-224-7347.

MEETING OF LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN STATES: Ministers, vice-ministers and high ranking authorities in charge of housing and urban development from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean met in Santiago, Chile, from 13-17 November 1995, and approved a Regional Plan of Action for Human Settlements. The Plan is intended both as an aid to regional governments in bringing their housing and urban development policies up to date and as the region's contribution to the World Plan of Action to be agreed to at Habitat II. Its main objective is to achieve authentic development strategies that can ensure social equity, economic growth, environmental sustainability and the realization of human potential within a democratic framework. The Regional Plan of Action consists of five thematic areas: achieving social equity and alleviating urban poverty; the productivity of human settlements for improving the quality of life; improving the environment in human settlements; governability and participation; and policy and management efficiency.

For more information, contact: Mr. P. Jensen, ECLAC, tel: +56-2-210-2308; fax: +56-2-208-0252.

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON BEST PRACTICES IN IMPROVING THE LIVING ENVIRONMENT: More than 700 participants attended the International Conference on Best Practices in Improving Living Environments, held from 19-22 November 1995, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Participants reviewed new and innovative ways to solve such urban problems as the lack of adequate low-income housing, waste disposal, and air and water pollution. Organized by UNCHS (Habitat), in collaboration with the Municipality of Dubai, the conference's main objective was to share expertise on a global basis with government ministers, mayors, academics and community leaders by analyzing 25 "best urban practices" from around the world. Some examples of best practices highlighted at the Conference included: Curitiba, Brazil; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and the Ile de France region of France, which consists of Paris and its suburbs. For more information, contact: Ms. Rasna Warah, Information Officer, UNCHS, Fax: +254-2-62-3080; e-mail: habitat2@unep.no.

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