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THE ISTANBUL DECLARATION AND THE HABITAT AGENDA

Committee I, chaired by Shafqat Kakakhel (Pakistan), held its first meeting on 3 June 1996. The US reminded the Chair that agreement had been reached at PrepCom III to circulate a compendium of NGO suggestions in Istanbul. An information paper was released on 4 June with the additional (NGO) comments on the Habitat Agenda. Responding to a number of delegations’ requests for clarification regarding NGO participation, the Chair explained that NGOs would have an opportunity to make comments during the official meetings, subject to conditions, but would not be able to take the floor during informal sessions. NGOs and local authorities continued, as they had during the PrepComs, to be able to present their proposals during the meetings of the working groups.

Committee I established two working groups. Working Group II, chaired by Glynn Khonje (Zambia), considered Sections E (International cooperation) and F (Implementation and follow-up) of the draft GPA. Working Group I, chaired by Kakakhel, considered the rest of the Habitat Agenda. An informal drafting group on the Istanbul Declaration was also established and chaired by Balkan Kazildeli (Turkey). A drafting group on the “right to housing,” chaired by Marcela Nicodemus (Brazil), met during the first week, and then continued to meet during the second week to address additional unresolved text from Working Group I. Many informal groups also convened to work on problematic issues.

In addition to the Chairs of the working groups, Committee I elected the following delegates as Vice-Chairs: Laszlo Lacko (Hungary), Clarkson Umelo (Nigeria) and Ramon Santelises (Chile). The Rapporteur was Ayse Ogut (Turkey). For Working Group I, Pavel Suian (Romania) was elected Vice-Chair. For Working Group II, Manford Konukiewitz (Germany) was elected Vice-Chair.

After taking care of procedural business, the Committee adjourned on Tuesday, 4 June to allow the working groups to meet. Although the working groups were supposed to complete their work by Tuesday, 11 June, prior to the High-Level Segment, this was not to be the case. Committee I attempted to reconvene on Thursday afternoon, 13 June, however, since a number of issues, including reproductive health and occupied territories, remained unresolved, the meeting was aborted and the working groups and drafting groups reconvened at 4:00 pm. After fourteen hours of informal consultations (6:00 am Friday), delegates believed they had reached a package deal regarding all references to reproductive health care, but at the last minute several delegates backed out because they preferred a stronger qualifying reference to the provision of reproductive health care services than paragraph 267 of the Beijing Platform for Action.

After hours of further informal consultations, Committee I was finally able to reconvene to adopt its report at 9:30 pm Friday, 14 June. The Chair said was impossible to produce the Report as a formal document in all official languages, and he introduced informal papers containing negotiated paragraphs and corrections. The Rapporteur introduced the Report including one formal document (A/CONF.165/L.1). The Chair invited delegates intending to enter reservations to do so now, rather than at the closing plenary. The US indicated its intent to submit a written interpretive statement.

The following countries entered reservations as follows: on the paragraph concerning the purpose of Habitat, which refers to “living in harmony with nature”: Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Algeria. On the paragraph on gender equality: Qatar, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. In a paragraph on reproductive health and sexual health: the Holy See, Argentina, Malta, Qatar, Guatemala, Lebanon, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Malta also reserved on the reference to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). On a paragraph concerning the family: the Holy See, Lebanon, Argentina, Qatar, Guatemala, Iran, Yemen, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. On a paragraph on the right to inheritance: Iran. The Holy See indicated its intention to submit a statement of interpretation on the reference to the family.

Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Algeria entered reservations on the bracketed references to protection of cities under foreign occupation. The Chair noted that many speakers had called for the deletion of those brackets. He said the group was beyond the drafting stage and delegates should be taking reservations. He noted that negotiations on some sections were not complete and urged delegations to continue so that the text could be adopted. The US stated her understanding that the text in brackets concerning illegitimate confiscation of land and foreign occupation would be deleted. She said if the brackets were removed and the text remained from these references and a bracketed reference to foreign occupation, the US would vote “no” on the Habitat Agenda. In light of the sensitive nature of the issue, such a “tragic” situation shows that the UN has not come as far as hoped. She said some delegations were using this forum to debate political issues when they should be focusing on human settlements development. The Chair adjourned the meeting for consultations. At 12:15 am, he announced that consultations had been successful and text would be ready for Plenary.

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