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close this bookHabitat Debate - Vol. 3 - No. 1 - 1997 - Partnerships (HABITAT, 1997, 65 p.)
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The second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) addressed two crucial trends which will significantly shape the course of human settlements development and management in the 21st century: the progressive urbanization of the planet and the devolution of powers and responsibilities away from central Governments to other institutions, organizations and sectors of civil society. The reasons which underlie these defining phenomena range from profound economic and political changes to the general rise of participatory approaches in development.

Habitat II, the “City Summit”, held in Istanbul, Turkey, in June 1996, set a precedent by formally including representatives of civil society in the deliberations of the Conference. At the Conference, Member States of the United Nations agreed to work closely with local authorities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector to improve cities and communities around the world. This principle of partnership, retained as the fundamental philosophy of the Habitat Agenda - the Goals, Principles, Commitments and Global Plan of Action adopted at Istanbul - is the driving impulse of future international cooperation in human settlements development. The energy and dynamism of civil society is the driving force behind the Habitat Agenda; without the active involvement of civil society, the promises made at Istanbul will come to naught.

This issue of Habitat Debate explores the concept of partnerships and how various sectors of civil society can contribute to ensuring that the commitments made in Istanbul are carried forward. Contributors to this issue examine the various paths to effective partnerships and the avenues open to partners in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. This issue also looks at the obstacles to true partnership in human settlements development and how power imbalances in partnerships can be addressed. We at UNCHS (Habitat) hope that through publications such as Habitat Debate we will encourage more debate on this issue and will foster greater understanding of the inter-relationship between public policy and a better quality of life.

In pursuit of the “partnership principle”, the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 51/177 of 16 December 1996, requested the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements - which has been given a central role in monitoring the implementation of the Habitat Agenda - to “review, at its sixteenth session, its working methods in order to involve in its work the representatives of local authorities or international associations of local authorities, as appropriate, and the relevant actors of civil society, particularly the private sector and non-governmental organizations”.

Because of the Commission’s rules of procedure, as they stand today, it has not been possible to fully involve representatives of local authorities, the private sector and NGOs in its work. The sixteenth session of the Commission, to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 28 April to 7 May 1997, will therefore discuss whether to expand its membership to include representatives of local authorities, NGOs and the private sector, thus making it a truly representative policy-making organ of the United Nations.

Dr. Wally N’Dow
Assistant Secretary-General
UNCHS (Habitat)