Magazine article UN Chronicle

Practical Steps to Implement Shelter Strategy Taken by Human Settlements Commission

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Practical Steps to Implement Shelter Strategy Taken by Human Settlements Commission

Article excerpt

Practical steps to implement Shelter Strategy taken by Human Settlements Commission

The first practical steps to implement the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000, the United Nations blueprint to help solve the alarming world-wide housing crisis, were taken at the twelfth session of the Commission on Human Settlements (24 April-3 May).

Some 350 delegates from 85 countries, meeting in the Colombian seaside town of Cartagena de Indias, agreed on ways to promote and monitor the Strategy, which aims to improve the deteriorating shelter situation throughout the world by the end of this century.

Unanimously adopted by the General Assembly on 20 December 1988, the document strongly advocates a wide-ranging social mobilization, rather than exclusive Government intervention, to solve the global housing crisis. It focuses on the disadvantaged and the poor, and stresses the full participation of women.

Arcot Ramachandran, Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT), predicted that the problems of deteriorating human shelter conditions, fueled by years of neglect, could reach "the boiling point" in the 1990s. Living in cities and towns, he said, stimulated political awareness. That translated into greater impatience and expectations on the part of an urban poor majority. As more developing countries become urbanized over the next decade, "the voice of the urban poor will become decisive", he said.

In an opening address, Colombian President Virgilio Barco Vargas said that in the poorest communities the majority of households were headed by women who had a double responsibility as mothers and workers. Women had to participate in decision-making concerning the construction and improvement of settlements, he stressed.

A home. . .the most

important factor

In approving 24 texts, the Commission often cited the Global Strategy as the key document to guide action to improve housing in various ways, particularly in the context of a medium-term UN plan (1992-1997) for human settlements and a biennial work programme (1990-1991) for HABITAT, which was established following the first world-wide UN conference on human settlements, held in Vancouver, Canada, in 1976.

A "home for the human being", the Commission stated, is "the most important factor of social, cultural and economic production". The 58-member body stressed the role of human settlements development as a means of revitalizing the economies of developing countries, particularly in investment in the construction sector, and recommended that it be accorded priority in formulation of the fourth international development strategy. The needs and requirements of low-income groups, in particular, were cited.

It urged the international community to establish conditions favouring the generation of investments essential to the economic growth of developing nations, stating that "shelter as an investment is a social asset ... uniquely vital to production and an incentive to development".

The Commission also stated its conviction that national shelter strategies could be a "crucial instrument of enablement" leading to full mobilization of all types of resources on a sustainable basis and thereby facilitating adequate shelter for all by the year 2000. It commended Governments which were revising and implementing these strategies.

Partnership between Governments and the private and community sectors, at both the national and the local levels, would be a central element in the success of the Strategy, the Commission stated. …

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