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close this bookHabitat Debate - Vol. 5 - No. 3 - 1999 - Security of Tenure (HABITAT, 1999, 63 p.)
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Agadir Declaration Pledges Support for World Charter

Participants at a Regional Consultation, held at Agadir, Morocco on 9 June 1999, pledged full support for the World Charter of Local Self-Government.

In his opening speech, Mr. Daniel Biau, the Acting Deputy Executive Director of the UNCHS (Habitat), emphasized that the aim of the World Charter of Local Self-Government is to draw up an internationally agreed framework for decentralization policies as a vital contribution to improving people’s living conditions in cities in all regions and continents. This message was reinforced by the Moroccan Minister of Regional Planning, Environment, Reconstruction and Housing, Mr. Mohammed El-Iasighi, who said that the Moroccan National strategy was to “strengthen the decentralisation process and to be nearer to the citizens within the framework of partnership with all stakeholders”.

The World Charter was initiated by Mayors and representatives of Local Authorities at the World Assembly of Cities during the Habitat II Conference in Istanbul in June 1996. The Conference itself highlighted the Mayors’ call for “the development of national laws and regulations to provide for effective decentralization and local democracy, taking into account the principles of autonomy” and for “developing a global Charter that must set out the key principles underlying a sound constitutional or legal framework for a democratic local government system”.

The World Charter represents an important partnership between UNCHS (Habitat) and local authorities world-wide. The meeting in Agadir was the first of a series of regional consultations which Habitat is organizing together with the World Association of Cities and Local Authorities Coordination (WACLAC), the coordinating arm of ten international and regional associations of local authorities which include, amongst others, the International Union of Local Authorities and the United Towns Organization.

The Regional Consultation in Morocco concluded with the adoption of the Agadir Declaration in which the participants pledged full support to the idea of producing a World Charter. The participants also appointed a small committee for coordination in the Arab States and to liaise with other regions. The Committee is constituted of representatives from Dubai Municipality, WACLAC, the Agadir Urban Community, the General Organization of Islamic Capitals and Cities and UNCHS (Habitat).

The Agadir Declaration is an important first step in arriving at a consensus on the World Charter. A week later, the Charter received unanimous support from the Chamber of Local Authorities of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 16 June 1999. Regional consultations for Latin America and the Caribbean were also held in Santiago, Chile from 6 to 8 July 1999. More consultations are planned for Africa and Asia. After all the consultations have been completed, a revised version of the document will be presented to the inter-governmental negotiating machinery of the United Nations; it is hoped that by the year 2001, the General Assembly of the UN will accept the World Charter of Local Self-Government as an international convention.

For further information, please contact:

Rolf Wichmann
Office of the Executive Director
UNCHS (Habitat)
P.O. Box 30030
Nairobi, Kenya

GUO Network

The Global Urban Observatory (GUO) is building a prototype of the Global Urban Observatory Network that will provide “proof of concept” for a global urban knowledge infrastructure. The GUO has selected the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) in Toronto, the Society for Development Studies (SDS) in Delhi and ENDA in Dakar as the three contractors for a World Bank funded project on capacity building for the global application of urban indicators. Staff from these three institutions will receive two months training on monitoring and evaluation using indicators and will then incorporate urban indicators into their own regional training programmes.

The contractors will work simultaneously with the key partners in six regions to identify local urban observatories (UOs) in at least eight cities and national observatories in at least two countries in each region. Decision makers and technicians from these UOs will receive training on indicators collection, management and application in policy development and will collect a set of about 25 key urban indicators and at least ten more extensive indicators, selected specifically within each region. The resulting city indicators database will be analyzed and, along with other information, will become part of a concise State of the City report, organized along the lines of the Commitments chapter in the Habitat Agenda. It is intended that these city reports will be compiled at the national level, analyzed for their policy implications and, in turn, will become part of a country’s national report to the UN General Assembly for Istanbul+5.

The GUO has now prepared a standard Letter of Agreement spelling out the operating principles for the GUO Network. Upon agreement with those principles, the candidate UO is eligible to participate in the capacity building programme, which will include training on specific monitoring tools and methods. One such tool - being developed with World Bank infoDev funding - in a partnership between the GUO and geographic information system software maker, ESRI, and now nearing its testing phase, is the UrbanDataLink, an easy-to-use package of software for development, selection and analysis of urban indicators. The embryonic GUO Network will be tied together electronically using an Intranet facility provided by another GUO partner, the Together Foundation.

In addition to funding from the World Bank and support from the UK, the Global Urban Observatory received a grant of US$945,000 from the United Nations Development Account for a proposal to build monitoring capacity and networking facilities for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda in Least Developed Countries. The activities under this grant are intended to complement those under the grants from the World Bank.

For more information on the Global Urban Observatory visit our homepage < or contact Jay Moor, Coordinator of the GUO in the Urban Secretariat.

BTF to Begin Work in Kosovo

The joint UNEP/UNCHS (Habitat) Balkans Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements (BTF) has established working relationships with the principal United Nations authorities in Kosovo, and the KFOR leadership, in order to share information and coordinate activities related to environment and human settlements. Pekka Haavisto, BTF chairman, has said that a BTF team would soon begin work with the Interim Civil Administration component of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Following agreement with the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, Sergio De Mello, and the Regional Coordinator for United Nations Assistance in the Balkans, Martin Grifiths, a BTF (Habitat-led) team of experts will design strategies for local authorities and communities so that they can effectively participate in the reconstruction efforts. The team will concentrate on creating mechanisms for land title registration, resolving tenancy and property disputes, strengthening municipal administration and leadership. It was agreed that UNEP be involved in the areas of the establishment of an “environmental administration” (in the framework of general civil administration) and environmental education and training.

In Pristina the BTF team also met with commanders from the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, KFOR. KFOR has started an assessment of the damage to human settlements and infrastructure (i.e. water availability) in Kosovo, and agreed to fully cooperate, and share their findings, with the planned BTF mission. Early preparatory BTF missions to the Balkans region have included visits to Serbia (which included trips to Pancevo and Novi Sad oil refinery) and Montenegro. Mr. Haavisto has also discussed cooperation with the Danube Commission and other partner organizations.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP and Ag. Executive Director of Habitat, established the Balkans Task Force in May 1999 to look at the direct environment and human settlements impacts of the conflict in the Balkans and to the wider consequences to countries of the region, including Bulgaria and Romania.

As part of the BTF, Habitat organized a workshop in Pristina in August 1999 to consider the creation of an independent Commission on Housing and Property Rights under the auspices of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

“Housing rights and urban governance are emerging as some of the key issues upon which the future stability of Kosovo will depend,” said Toepfer. “Despite the massive scale of destruction, the problem of reconstruction involves more than just rebuilding damaged and destroyed houses.”

For over a decade, legislation prevented Albanians from buying their own home. To overcome this form of apartheid, where a Serb could not sell a house to an Albanian, many individuals made informal arrangements of ownership. Such arrangements now make the task of tracing and verifying ownership of properties difficult. An additional problem is that there are no comprehensive records of land and property rights as a large part of the original cadastral records has been either destroyed or removed from Kosovo.

Without proper records and legally recognized structures of urban governance, ethnic conflict is likely to be exacerbated, especially as disputes about illegally occupied land and property are difficult to resolve. This means that successful reconstruction and rehabilitation depends on, amongst other things, the formation of an independent Commission on Housing and Property Rights. Mechanisms must also be established for mapping and recreating land registration and titling systems.

The latest information on the work of the BTF can be accessed from the World-Wide-Web at It can also be accessed from the UNCHS (Habitat) website at: The site contains information that was not previously in the public domain such as detailed situation reports and maps. The site also contains general information on the task force, the latest news, developments and contacts, and links to United Nations agencies, NGOs and other important partner sites.