The twelve paragraphs of the Preamble outline the purpose and rationale for Habitat II. It recognizes the need to improve the quality of human settlements that affects the daily lives and well-being of people. The Preamble reaffirms the results from recent world conferences, including those on women, social development, population, small island States, human rights, children and education. It also acknowledges the effects of urbanization, the challenges facing cities and towns, urban-rural linkages, the growth of poverty and the role of local authorities.
Delegates proposed several topics for inclusion or further elaboration, such as partnerships and enablement, and the vulnerability of women, children, the elderly and indigenous peoples. The EU proposed several references to human rights and language on gender from the FWCW. The US highlighted the principles of sustainability, enablement and partnerships. The G-77 and China requested language on the right to development, and the Philippines stressed the need to reference the needs of migrant workers. Some delegations commented that the volume of contributions threatened to make the document unwieldy and unfocused. Debate frequently centered on the level of detail needed to fully explain human settlement problems and on references to other UN conferences and agreements, such as Agenda 21.
The Plenary adopted the Preamble, which includes bracketed paragraphs regarding: democracy and transparent government as indispensable foundations for sustainable development; the rapidly increasing number of displaced persons; the needs of children and youth; shelter and urban management policies; the role of women; and the link between sustainable settlements and sustained economic growth.