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close this bookHabitat Debate - Vol. 3 - No. 1 - 1997 - Partnerships (HABITAT, 1997, 65 p.)
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UNDP: Inter-Agency Cooperation and Follow-up to Habitat II

by Anders Wijkman

During the Habitat II Conference in Istanbul, I drew attention to our need to rethink fundamentally our approach to many development challenges. We may indeed call it a revolution in thinking as regards the participation of people, the involvement of local authorities, the empowerment of women, and the need to view economic growth not as an end in itself, but rather as a means to promote equity, social development, and environmental sustainability.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) made serious efforts to assist developing countries prepare for the Habitat II Conference, working in close cooperation with UNCHS (Habitat) and other UN agencies. In 1994, it organized an International Colloquium of Mayors and planned and organized a series of regional preparatory meetings in Africa, Asia/Pacific, Arab States, Latin America/Caribbean and Eastern Europe. UNDP launched a publication series for Habitat II on critical issues such as urban agriculture, gender and housing, South-South cooperation, and eco-technologies. We also organized a roundtable on urbanization and globalization having sponsored the development of the most comprehensive collection of studies on this issue.

During the Conference, we organized a series of parallel events at both the NGO Forum and the official Conference, focusing on the most crucial issues related to urbanization in developing regions.

UNDP Follow-up Strategy

UNDP’s mandate is to promote people-centred sustainable development. To further that end, we support thematic, multisectoral development programmes. As UNDP’s resources are limited, its programmes must focus on particularly strategic areas. The most important areas of follow-up to Habitat II for UNDP continue to be the following:

(a) Support to alleviation of urban poverty through country-anchored strategies and programmes. We know that growth is necessary, but it has not led to greater involvement by the poor in the in the development process. What is also needed are strategies that are preventive rather than reactive and in line with the commitments made at the Social Summit, as well as the development of macro-economic frameworks that enable economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability.

(b) Assistance in improving the quality of the urban and peri-urban environment. UNDP wants to promote cutting-edge technologies; it is widely recognized that conventional technologies in energy, transport, water, waste management etc. are not sustainable. If we do not change course, our cities will drown in the waste products we generate. New technologies offer potentially good solutions. Our task is to close the gap between the potential of what these technologies could do and the current reality; we need partnerships among the public sector, the private sector, and the scientific community in doing this.

(c) Assistance in improving the capacity of local governments and administrations through support to the decentralization of authority and resources;

(d) Assistance in providing adequate shelter through access to land, credit, construction materials, and local and community level organizations; here I would specifically mention start-up for small credit schemes;

(e) Exploring ways to bring about connectivity in terms of telecommunications for poor regions in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to allow local populations to improve access to information, distance education, telemedicine etc.

A cross-cutting issue of great concern in our work will be to eliminate gender imbalances in the design of programmes and to remove barriers to women’s full participation, recognizing that men and women use their cities in different ways and that the voices of women have not been sufficiently heard.

Modalities of Cooperation

Habitat II provided a good opportunity for UNDP to listen to our partners. Given the resources available and our identified focus areas, UNDP is committed to furthering the implementation of the Habitat Agenda:

(a) Through our more than 130 field offices around the world, we will support Governments, NGOs and other partners at the country level. Coordination of UN agency activities is fundamental. The role of UNDP’s Resident Representatives, particularly in their function as Resident Coordinators, is of paramount impor-tance. We will strengthen collaboration with the agencies in the UN system, especially with the UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat).

(b) Local authorities and cities’ associations will play a prominent role in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. The World Assembly of Cities and Local Authorities in Istanbul was a landmark event. We will build upon and expand our partnership with cities’ associations.

We want to strengthen further our partnership with and support to NGOs, as well as with the private sector. This will be reflected in our programmes at the country, regional and global levels. The Local Initiative Facility for Urban Environment (LIFE programme), Public-private partnerships, Africa 2000, and Asia/Pacific 2000 are examples of our future support.

We fully recognize the critical role of Parliamentarians in implementing the Habitat Agenda. We are interested in new partnerships with networks of Parliamentarians including the Global Parliamentarians for Habitat, Inter-parliamentary Union, the Parliamentarians for Global Action, and other networks.

UNDP will continue to promote Technical Cooperation Among Developing Countries (TCDC) at the human settlements level, to support the dissemination of best practices through our network of country offices, and to aid in fostering mutual technical and financial commitments between developed and developing countries and other partners.

Finally, we believe that the Habitat Agenda’s impact and relevance will grow as its goals and principles are transformed into concrete action through partnerships. We are eager to support demand-driven Habitat II follow-up proposals coming from our Country Offices in all regions, and will spare no effort in responding to the challenges ahead.

Anders Wijkman is the Assistant Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support (UNDP/BPPS).

For more information on UNDP’s urban development cooperation activities, please contact: Jonas Rabinovitch, Manager

Urban Development Team, UNDP
304 E 45th street, 10th floor
New York, N.Y. 10033, USA
Fax: (212) 906 6973
E-mail: jonas.rabinovitch@undp.org