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Building Advisory Service and Information Network / February 1997 / No. 13

The Great Habitat Debate

BASIN-News is the international newsletter of BASIN, the Building Advisory Service and Information Network.

BASINnews is edited by
GATE, Germany, SKAT, Switzerland,
IT, U.K., CRATerre, France and

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Production: SKAT
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Number of copies: 2000
Cover Photo: Turkish mason's and BASIN's representatives at Habitat II put the finishing touches to the roof of the earth block demonstration house in Istanbul, by Nick Hall

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Habitat II: The Great Debate

The Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) met in Istanbul, Turkey, from 3-14 June 1996, the 20th anniversary of the first Habitat Conference in Vancouver, Canada. Habitat II, as the culmination of a cycle of UN conferences this decade, may be best remembered for the ground-breaking participation of local authorities, the private sector, parliamentarians, NGOs and other "partners" in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

The Istanbul event covered a wide spectrum of topics from human rights, environmental sustainability, economic globalisation and global governance under two main themes: managing urbanisation and improving the living environment.

Habitat II was the climax of a massive global effort that took several years of planning and debate by people concerned with human settlement. BASIN was among them and devotes this issue of BASIN News to examining issues deliberated at the conference and its conclusions. It contains personal reflections of people who attended, summaries of the presentations given at the workshops that BASIN organised in the NGO Forum and some extracts from declarations that were agreed at the conference.

One of the key paragraphs in the NGO declaration to the Conference captures the essence of BASIN's approach and principles. "The purpose of human life is not to make a profit - there is a multiplicity of human values and ideals. The economy should be based on quality of life, human-centred socially and environmentally sound sustainable livelihoods, and exist within the carrying capacity of the ecosystem. Local and sustainable production and consumption, an equitable distribution of resources and economic equality between men and women are central to the economy. Traditional techniques, improvements of traditional techniques and appropriate technology should be encouraged in building, through national and local legislation and policy"

Other sections of the NGO declaration elaborated on this theme; promoting better exchange of information between those concerned with sustainable settlements and encouraging more investment in research about locally appropriate building materials production construction systems.

BASIN made a substantial effort for the conference. Thirteen people from BASIN's partner organisations attended and made their presence felt through a programme of seminars and workshops, an exhibition, distributing literature, formal dialogue with other conference participants and the construction of a demonstration building. This issue of BASIN News analyses the content and the value of each element of these activities.


1. In Istanbul it was most heartening to confirm that the work of BASIN and of its partners is clearly at the cutting edge of sustainable development in both conceptual thinking and project practice. Whilst many of the other NGOs and academics who were in Istanbul focused on all-important but often irreconcilable issues such as human rights, values and ideologies, it was apparent that BASIN has great deal to say about turning concepts of sustainability and equitable development into practical options.

2. The quantity of information about sustainable building technology is not a problem; the big questions relate to the quality and the accessibility of this information. In future one of the primary tasks of BASIN is to act as an agent to facilitate screening and repackaging the information, filtering out the surplus, the biased, the duplications and the plain irrelevant and circulating the rest in media and language that are useful to people who need information.

3. BASIN and its partners learnt a great deal about the context of our work. The context in this environment is getting to understand, or at least listen to the perspectives of other professionals involved in settlement management. With this appreciation it is possible to position ourselves and to explain what we are doing in language that others can comprehend. BASIN has not had a lot of experience at operating at this global level, but it is certainly here that many important decisions are made, or at least are seeded.

4. Very few institutions occupy the niche that BASIN does. Of these, only a handful are grounded so firmly in local realities and have the breadth of coverage, technically, methodologically, geographically and historically. It was a real eye opener and very exciting to discover that BASIN counts among these few that have the innately practical approach to current development debates.

Where next for BASIN?

BASIN marked it's eighth birthday by completing an external evaluation, part of which was done during the Habitat II conference. The many informal discussions and questionnaires which were completed in Istanbul have convinced us that BASIN has immense potential to make an impact in the area of human settlements particularly in the South.

There is a growing need for the sort of information and advisory services provided by BASIN, and there is no other international exchange network which concentrates on environmentally sound, socially appropriate yet commercially viable construction issues. During the coming year the European-based founding partners of BASIN will be working closely with a number of Southern organisation - in India, Latin America, Africa and SE Asia to extend the reach of BASIN's technical and building process information services. And BASIN will also focus more on targeting policy makers and decision makers who can influence local and international decisions about sustainable building

The Habitat II Global Plan of Action covers a wide range of concerns in carefully worded language, but in our view it fails to prioritise the most crucial issues or to detail the mechanisms by which national and local government will turn the rhetoric into policies, strategies and action. It gives governments the scope to do, or not to do, anything they please. BASIN's task is highlight the importance of encouraging the widespread adoption of appropriate technologies and the practicalities of implementing the Habitat Global Plan of Action This is a vast challenge and one that can only be reached by working in partnership with others who are equally concerned about an equitable and sustainable world.

Nick Hall, BASIN

Editor's Note

The next issue of BASlNNews will focus on South/South Co-operation. Readers are encouraged to send contributions, comments and any suggestions, before 30th April 1997, to:

Shelter Forum,
P.O. Box 39493,
Nairobi, Kenya.
Tel: 254-2-442108
Fax: 254-2-445166

Istanbul: A summary of achievements

The Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements brought to a close a series of world conferences to define and launch a global agenda to meet the complex challenges created by a century of unparalleled change.

The objectives for Habitat II were:

- in the long term, to arrest the deterioration of global human settlement conditions and ultimately create the conditions for achieving improvements in the living environment of all people on a sustainable basis; and

- to adopt a general statement of principles and commitments and formulate a related Global Plan of Action capable of guiding national and international efforts through the first two decades of the next century.

The issue of shelter and sustainable human settlements is recognised as a problem of crisis proportions that affects all countries. The crisis appears in stark and dramatic statistics: in the year 2025 the Earth is expected to be home to almost 100 megacities with populations exceeding five million

The Habitat Agenda and Istanbul Declaration form the closing chapter of this agenda-sitting phase-one inspired largely by the end of the Cold War and a political opportunity for the UN to become a key player in shifting the traditional security agenda of States toward people-centred sustainable development. It is anticipated that Habitat II and the special five-year review of the implementation of Agenda 21 in 1997 will prepare the ground for a new era focused on implementation of the conference outcomes in a series of partnerships involving States and their new competitors for resources and influence in a rapidly globalising world: cities, transnational corporations, NGOs, and members of an epistemic and scientific community who have become indispensable sources of the risk-laden knowledge that informs contemporary policy in almost every area.

It was both appropriate and perhaps indicative of things to come that two of the major themes of Istanbul were "partnership" and local action. Given the importance of Local Agenda 21s in the dissemination and implementation of sustainable development concepts, Habitat II will complement and reinforce the UN system's desire to create essential alliance at the community level If some delegations demonstrated unease at the prospect of ceding sovereign control of the Habitat Agenda, there was no hesitation by the partners in asserting their expectation that things will never be the same again.

Another significant accomplishment of the Conference was the reaffirmation of the commitment to the "full and progressive realisation of the right to adequate housing." A debate on the future of the UN Centre for Human Settlements identified a continuing role for the Centre, and invited the General Assembly and ECOSOC to review and strengthen the mandate of the Commission on Human Settlements.

A Best Practices Exhibition also paralleled the Conference, and showcased examples of human settlements development from around the world. The Best Practices Initiative is an interactive, computerised tool developed by the Together Foundation. Users can access information on over 500 case studies in the realisation of Habitat's objectives - shelter provision for all and sustainable human settlements development.

Habitat II will fold neatly into the global policy agenda articulated and launched during the cycle of UN conferences dealing with children, the environment, human rights, population and development, social development and women. For example, the Habitat Agenda takes up and integrates environmental (UNCED) and population issues (ICPD) in the specific context of urbanisation. In Under-Secretary-General Nitin Desai's words: "The Habitat Agenda forces us to address issues on an integrated and local basis, something which is a logical development of many ideas which surfaced earlier."

The Agenda, accompanied by a commitment to local implementation, gives a timely momentum to the anticipated new phase in the UN's engagement with its emerging global constituencies (local authorities, women's movements, community based organisations, business and trade unions) as the international community grapples to respond to the ambivalent twins of globalisation and trade liberation. Habitat II represents the latest stage in the UN's project to re-define the traditional security agenda in the knowledge that the emerging insecurities posed by environmental, social and economic problems coincide with the causes of unsustainability.

Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Whose Agenda?

By the end of the century half the world's population will be living in cities. Today one billion people are homeless or inadequately housed and living in poverty - the majority in cities. By 2010 that number will have doubled.

Throughout the world rising unemployment has driven people to the cities. In the 'South' migration to urban areas has reached critical proportions. From Nairobi to Manila towns and cities are surrounded by squatter camps and shanty town; some are larger than the cities themselves. Those living in the shanty towns have extremely limited access to regular work, and land or building materials.

The Habitat Agenda recognises that 'more people than ever are living in absolute poverty and without adequate shelter.' It proposes that the 'eradication of poverty is essential to human settlements development.'

However, the Agenda fails to come up with a realistic solution or practical measures to achieve either sustainable settlements or adequate shelter Rather, it endorses market forces and assumes the more global trade will produce a 'trickle down' effect which will eventually benefit all. However, the evidence of NGOs is that unregulated markets only increase the gap between rich and poor and inevitably fail to address people's right to shelter.

"The free market approach promoted in the Habitat Agenda is actually creating the crisis that the Conference has been called to remedy. It must be replaced by strategies that tackle poverty and manage the market for everyone and not just the few," says Nick Hall, a BASIN representative.

With decades of experience of working with marginalised people in the South, BASIN believes that development only works when people are put at the centre of the equation, and when governments act in response to their needs and demands.

"If the economic trap is to be broken governments have to change the way they view marginalised people. They must recognise their creativity and initiative and accept that, however poor, people are the solution, not just part of the problem. The key ingredients are policies and commitments that support popular initiative, local enterprise and vibrant neighbourhood scale economies," Mr. Hall argues.

BASIN's experience has proved that a people-centred approach can work. Matching local skills to appropriate technology creates jobs and supplies local demand, at lower costs and with less pollution.

At an international level BASIN advocates the following measures:

- Regulating international and national markets for the benefit of all stake holders, not just corporate stockholders.

- Prioritizing co-operation with international agencies with the expertise and resources to assist in research and development.

- Transferring responsibility from central governments to local initiatives.

At a local level BASIN advocates:

- Encouraging local and international exchange of skills to extend knowledge within the community and create jobs.

- Identifying needs and technologies appropriate to the region.

- Channelling information to communities and local entrepreneurs from NGOs, government and international agencies.

- Promoting the production of building materials from locally available resources by small scale manufactures.

- Utilising energy efficient and environmentally friendly methods for their production.

- Enhancing the skills of builders to improve the quality and safety for buildings.

- Calling for changes to building and planning policies and laws so that they meet the needs of the poor more effectively.

The following case studies illustrate how BASIN has worked in partnership with people throughout the developing world.

Case Study 1: Building with Earth

Cameroon and Mexico

Cities do not have to be built with concrete blocks. Modern variations on traditional earth building techniques can be used to create low cost easily maintained buildings. Compressed soil blocks, for example, are increasingly popular in many countries. Production costs are low and small scale enterprises can employ local people to supply a local need, using readily available building materials. The result is new housing schemes for both public and communal buildings.

BASIN has supplied technical assistance to projects throughout the world. In Cameroon, a programme for promoting local building materials has drawn on BASIN's technical advice. Several earth block factories have been established, mansions have been built throughout the country leading to growing demand. One builder who attended a BASIN building course three years ago now employs some 30 workers. His training gave him new skills and encouraged him to acquire equipment to improve the quality of his buildings.

Mexico is another country where this technology is finding a popular market and following BASIN's work hundreds of new earth block houses have been built in Zacatecas. By matching the practical experience of office design with BASIN's advice to manufacturers, production equipment was adapted to meet local needs. Thanks to their quality and reliability these earth blocks have now been given official approval for use in large scale public housing projects.

BASIN's work in Cameroon and Mexico illustrates the case for applying appropriate technologies to specific conditions. Skilled jobs are created, local economies prosper and people are housed.

Case Study 2: Low-cost quality roofing

Tilemaking in India

Good quality roofing at an affordable price is a critical problem for low cost housing. Micro-concrete roof (MCR) tiles are one of the few success stories. MCR Research and Development was focused in the early 1980s in East Africa.

Building on the lessons of trials in Kenya, BASIN's experience in India on micro-concrete roof tiles has been very positive. While economic conditions hindered progress in Kenya, the same technology has flourished in India, where the market is more flexible. And the governments's national self-sufficiency policies have also aided the introduction of this technology.

MCR tiles are made from sand, cement and water on small electrically powered vibrating tables. As they require little energy to produce the tiles are cheap to make. Investment costs are low, and local needs can be catered for more efficiently, reducing transportation costs. Several Indian agencies have concentrated on this, and BASIN has provided training and technical backup.

Decentralization is an Indian priority and to date 35 small scale tilemaking plants have been established in various parts of the country, creating many jobs.

The project demonstrates what can be achieved by agencies working together. BASIN has focused its partnership for technology transfer with Development Alternatives, a leading Indian NGO. They now run seminars and training sessions in technology and business methods, and technical publications have been translated into Hindi.

The Original North-South partnership has now developed into a fruitful South-South exchange as Development Alternatives has spread the message to other NGOs throughout South Asia.

Case Study 3: Affordable Housing

Brickmaking in Zimbabwe: Meeting Regulations, Creating Jobs

Zimbabwe's urban population shift began in 1980, when government restrictions on internal migration were abolished. Since 1979 the population of the capital, Harare, has trebled. By the end of the century it will be close to 2 million.

Severe overcrowding is commonplace, and up to 35% of the population live in flimsy backyard shacks with poor sanitation. Economic and urban development policies are perpetuating this situation. For example, Harare's building regulations demand high standards for materials, particularly bricks.

Over the last five years technicians and business advisers, assisted by BASIN, have worked with a Harare co-operative on the production of market standard bricks which meet the stringent building regulation but are also affordable. By combining technical support and modern business methods, the co-operative has improved the quality of bricks while increasing production and reducing costs.

For example, substantial saving were made by changing the firing from timber to boiler waste left over by local coal-fired power stations. BASIN consulted brickmakers in Europe who use coal and their advice was adopted for local use.

Case Study 4: Disaster relief in Peru

Long-term Solutions for an Earthquake Region

The Habitat Agenda recognises that 'The impact on people and human settlements of natural and human-made disasters is on the increase'. This is an area where one of BASIN's main partners has direct experience.

When an earthquake devastated the San Martin region in the eastern foothills of the Andes in 1990, it claimed hundreds of lives and destroyed homes and livelihoods in many towns and villages. International aid flowed in and many agencies got involved in rebuilding programmed. Their priority was to re-house people fast.

BASIN took an innovative approach, looking for ways to reduce long term vulnerability. Staff had been working in the region for a year and had built up good relationships with the local people. Neighbourhood committees were formed to discuss local priorities, including upgrading houses which had survived the earthquake. Together they devised reconstruction plans and building schedules.

Based on a traditional building techniques, improved quincha relies on a flexible bamboo frame and is earthquake resistant. Unlike original quincha, the frame is anchored in a concrete foundation and the walls are protected with a cement render.

When a second earthquake struck improved quincha stood the test. Since work began a further 4,000 quincha structures have been built.

Quincha technology is appropriate to specific geographical regions, the process involved in rebuilding Alto Mayo is applicable almost everywhere. Consultation in partnership with local people, combined with technical support and the means to acquire materials, results in sustainable housing and greater long-term security for communities.

Local Initiatives Inadequately Addressed

Hundreds of millions of people live in desperate conditions in cities around the world. They have little opportunities to earn a secure living, and conventional urban management systems cannot cope with their needs. It was therefore surprising that debates leading up to Habitat 11 were dominated by talk about safety nets for the most vulnerable, and about human rights. Whilst these are fundamental in any society, it seems unlikely that the gap between diverse ideologies and conflicting vested interests will be substantially narrowed in Istanbul. Thus it is vital that attention is also given to promoting practical ideas that offer some hope of satisfying the basic needs of people around the world.

These basic needs are shelter, income, food and energy. People who live close together in towns and cities depend on basic services to deliver water and power, to take away waste and for transport. As well as homes, they need buildings for work, for education, for trade and for leisure. Cities are growing so fast that there is, inevitably, a massive demand for building materials and for appropriate management techniques to assemble them. It is therefore essential to learn to do more with less.

This ever rising demand for raw materials and components cannot be met by conventional energy-intensive centralized methods of production. Neither can those in need of housing and community facilities afford to pay the asking price. The state can no longer provide and - except in centrally planned economies - won't even consider providing. Hence new solutions have to be found. The best approach is to promote new ways to link people's needs with people's capacities. In exactly the same way as international trade and industry thrives in a supportive environment, so too does local initiative.

Locally appropriate solutions depend on local coordination of information, skills, finance and social organisation. Whilst the ingenuity and adaptability of people are not to be underestimated, the critical assistance they need is to learn how to make the best use of the natural resources and latent talent they have. And this is a dynamic need. Communities grow and their needs are constantly changing

The Vancouver Summit urged the public and private sectors to investigate and promote new ways to process raw materials and to develop low-cost building systems. Two parallel, often inter-related strategies have been pursued. One has worked on scaling down the processes and products of large scale manufacturing systems. The other has built on local wisdom and traditional building practices, aiming to improve the performance of local materials and to adapt essential rural designs to urban lifestyles.

Some experiments failed - experiments often do. But one clear factor is emerging. If the people who are supposed to benefit from a strategy have no part in developing it, there is much less chance of that idea succeeding. On the other hand many of the products and processes which were once (rather dismissively) called 'appropriate technologies' are now an accepted part of the building industry, particularly when they are used flexibly and with regard to local conditions.

For example, mechanically pressed blocks made of soil stabilised with cement are used throughout the world. They are popular wherever timber is scarce and the climate calls for buildings with a good thermal performance. And they are good business for the small labour intensive factories that local entrepreneurs have set up to make them. Cities don't have to be built with concrete blocks.

Similarly, tens of millions of a new type of lightweight concrete roof tile have been sold in the past decade. The tiles are an ideal alternative to metal sheet roofing; they can be made locally in small factories, they look good and they are very durable. Conventional concrete tile manufacturers, saddled with the massive investment cost of big factories have been known to manipulate the market in an attempt to squeeze out these new competitors. Lacking the power to fight back, this fledgling businesses have needed nurturing.

Portland cement is a wonderfully versatile binder, but strong and durable buildings can be built without cement. Buildings both grand and humble have stood for centuries without it. Clay and lime, to name but two alternative binders, are perfectly adequate for small buildings especially now that traditional knowledge of mortars and plasters is being enhanced with the best of modern science and technology These materials are appropriate for most urban building, and they don't need to be made in vast energy-intensive kilns, as cement does.

People are constantly coming up with new ways to use local materials - and doing more with less. This creativity has to be supported. Training, technical advice, research grants, low cost starter loans, tax holidays, nonrestrictive building codes; these are just some of the incentives which the now well-established big businesses have themselves needed in the past.

Governments and local authorities have a vital role to pay in ensuring that information about socially and environmentally useful technologies is available. They have a responsibility to develop policies and regulations which do not restrict the use of new materials and methods of building unnecessarily. They should encourage local initiatives and help enterprises to adopt and adapt the best technologies from around the world. And new research must be promoted. At the same time private and non-government organisations already committed to promoting sustainable development should redouble their efforts. There must be an equal partnership between experts and advisors on one hand and the local people who must make these ideas a reality, on the other.

Finally, ways have to be found to persuade the trans-national corporations and mega-industries to re-align their enormous productive capacity to match global limits and to the real needs of people in cities, towns and rural areas.

Guiding the management of technical change at every level of the construction industry is one of Habitat II's most urgent challenges.

Appropriate Building
Technology, Caucus

Was Habitat II Worth It ?

The Habitat II event involved more than 10,000 people (including official national delegations, local authorities, NGOs, researchers and academics), three preparatory committees, two weeks of activities in Istanbul and a series of meetings, workshops and discussions. It is impossible to estimate the scale of reports, papers and other documentation produced for this meeting.

Drawing conclusions about such a multitudes of activities, experiences and discussions is difficult and these reflections on Habitat II are inevitably personal perspectives. This short report draws together these perspectives through identifying and exploring three significant achievements associated with Habitat II, and three further "myths" that it has encouraged.

Useful lessons
Development does not have to be rural-focused

The domination of rural development is somewhat surprising given the number of urban dwellers and the scale of urban poverty. However, for many years, concerns about "urban bias" provided a reason for many development assistance agencies to avoid targeting poverty reduction projects on urban areas.

In most Southern nations, only a very small proportion of international assistance has been allocated to meeting needs for shelter, water supply, sanitation and other kinds of shelter-related infrastructure and services. It is also unusual for finance from official aid agencies and development banks to have a major role within total investments in any city or town. Very few development assistance agencies have had a coherent programme of support for urban areas.

The World Bank Group is an exception since it has had an urban development programme since the early 1970s - although its focus has changed significantly over the years. It is also the largest single source of development assistance for urban development in the South and has a large lending programme to urban environmental improvement - what it calls the "Brown Agenda" to emphasize its commitment to clean water and improved sanitation.

Some other agencies have significant urban programmes, although these have rarely been a significant proportion of total commitments. Some agencies simply refuse to fund urban projects. This is of ten in the mistaken belief that urban populations are already privileged by donor assistance. (Wealthy groups and powerful economic interests located in major cities may have received a considerable proportion of the benefits of donor assistance but the rapidly growing number of urban poor and most of the urban population outside the major cities have not.)

In recent years, there has been a greater awareness of the need to work specifically in urban areas and to give more attention to reducing urban poverty. The Urban Management Programme (of the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements) has been established and bilateral agencies are increasing their expertise and have, in some cases, established special programmes. The Urban Basic Services Programme of UNICEF is unusual in being a long-standing programme working with local government to improve health and community development in low-income settlements. More recently, UNDP have launched the LIFE programme (Local Initiative Facility for the Urban Environment). More international funding for shelter and community development projects is now coming through international private voluntary organizations such as MISEREOR (Germany) and CEBEMO (Netherlands) or through new agencies concerned with shelter such as Homeless International (UK) or direct to Southern NGOs.

Just by being held, Habitat II made a major contribution to encouraging development assistance agencies to address urban issues. Many development assistance agencies (multilateral, bilateral and NGOs) have long employed those with experience in working in urban areas but in many cases they have found it difficult to find an interest in, or support for, the development of such programmes. Habitat II has assisted such individuals by giving added legitimacy to their concerns and ensuring that a large number of urban staff recognise urban trends.

The European Commission has been drawing together urban experiences through a major evaluation and the policy unit has been considering a number of new urban initiatives. ODA has begun a major evaluation of main urban activities, such as the Slum Improvement Programme in India. The British funding institution has launched a new urban poverty programme in Kenya and established a special working group to draw together their specialist staff. In a number of other development agencies, decentralization programmes have enabled local priorities to be identified by local staff and urban poverty has emerged as a major issue.

An urbanizing world does not mean everyone living in "mega-cities"

For many years, much of the general literature about urban growth in the South stresses that it is "very rapid" or "unprecedented" or even "explosive". For instance, " is in the Third World that the urban explosion is taking place" (Davidson, Myers and Chakraborty 1992) and the " and well-being of literally hundreds of millions of men, and especially women and children, are threatened by an urban population explosion in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America" (WHO 1989) are typical of the kinds of general comments made about urban change in the South.

Although such analysis remain common, there is now a much greater understanding that urban change is neither taking place so rapidly, nor does it represent such a dramatic change for many of those living in urban areas. It is increasingly recognised that only a small proportion of the urban population lives "mega-cities". If a city becomes a megacity when it has more than 3 million inhabitants, then less than 5 percent of the world's population lived in mega-cities in 1990.

The table below illustrates the significance of many of the world's smaller towns and cities.

With this realization of the importance of smaller towns and cities has also come a recognition that smaller settlements have very different governance and development issues. In many countries, their economies are more closely tied to agricultural production and they may also act as local and regional administrative centres. The complexity of the urbanization process is also being recognised. There is a new understanding about urban dwellers' livelihood strategies that include urban agriculture and the importance of "city" activities in rural areas.

Agencies cannot expect much from UN conferences

1996 is a very different year from 1992. In 1992, expectations about the value of such mega-meetings were more optimistic. Whilst real progress was achieved at the Earth Summit, the NGO community now has much more experience about the promises and protestations made by governments of the floors of such global gatherings. Reflecting back on the Earth Summit, perhaps one of the most substantive achievements was in the bringing together of what had been two distinct groups of NGOs, those with environmental and those with development objectives

With Habitat II, it was evident that expectations among many of the NGOs were much more realistic. Some were possibly so realistic that they did not come. The Asian Coalition of Housing Rights is the major umbrella group for NGOs working on housing and urban development issues in Asia. Members were split on the value of participation primarily due to experiences during the International Year of

The world's urban population in 1990 and its distribution between mega-cities, million cities and urban centres

Population (millions)

Number of urban centres

Percent of urban population

Percent of total population

"The North"

Cities with 10 million plus inhabitants





Cities with 1-9.99 million inhabitants





Urban centres with less than 1 million





"The South"

Cities with 10 million plus inhabitants





Cities with 1-9.99 million inhabitants





Urban centres with less than 1 million




22 9

NOTE: "The North" is taken as all countries in Europe and North America, Japan and Australia-New Zealand "The South" is taken to include all other nations Calculated largely from data drawn from The World Urbanization Prospects (Rev 1994), United Nations, Population Division, New York, 1995, but adjusted, when new census data that was not included in this set became available The figures for the number of urban agglomerations are guestimates.

Shelter for the Homeless and several did not attend. Some NGOs preferred to focus on local and national preparatory activities; seeing such preparations as a good basis on which to form new contacts and alliances between government and civil society. Such preparations provided opportunities for moving forward national agendas, which they perceived as more relevant to securing progressive social change than the international agreements to be negotiated at Habitat II.

Many of the NGO participants that did come to Istanbul were aware that some of the major benefits were to be realised through the peripheral activities rather than the process of negotiation itself. Such peripheral activities include the extension of networking, the exchange of information, new funding opportunities (on both sides of this relationship) and a useful opportunity to cheaply organize international meetings and workshops that were due to be held some time during the year.

The New Challenges

The myth of partnership

Habitat II rightly placed considerable emphasis on partnership, and particularly the importance of a partnership between all of those involved in urban development. It emphasised the role of local authorities by admitting them as an additional party to the negotiations. In many meetings, speakers stressed the important contribution to be made by different groups within civil society, unions, private sector associations, NGOs and people's organizations. The proceedings of the official event further allowed many opportunities for both informal and formal inputs from a wide range of different groups.

However, whilst there was considerable enthusiasm for partnership, there was little critical review of the necessary conditions for effective partnership to be realised. Many of those speaking at Habitat II correctly identified a significant change in thinking about the governance of urban development. Many local authorities and state agencies are increasingly willing to work in partnership with other groups involved in urban development

However, there remain many countries and cities in which this general trend is less evident and it should not be forgotten that there are many cases in which a wide range of non-government groups are excluded from state activities.


Moreover, such partnerships appear consistently to be partnerships of professionals. The major means for securing greater participation in the diagnosis of problems and solutions are consultative workshops, seminars and meetings. In many towns and cities, such strategies have been effective in drawing in private sector groups, NGOs and academics interested in urban development issues. However, in general, the consultation process is driven by professionals for professionally implemented policies and programmes. As a consequence, many low-income groups are excluded from participation in debates around the problems, priorities and solutions for urban development. Whilst a small number of cities have made significant attempts to draw in those living in low- income settlements, in most they remain excluded. And this is despite an increasing willingness to recognise that it is low-income households themselves that are often the major urban developers.

Many of those at Habitat II assume that NGOs are effective representatives of the low-income groups with which they work. Increasingly such an assumption is being questioned. NGOs may be as likely to misunderstand and misrepresent, and be as reluctant to relinquish power as any other group. All too often, little attention is given to supporting the community to develop their own capacity and participate as prime movers in plans and programmes to improve their situation

In the context of the experiences exchanged at Habitat II, partnership has resulted in better policies but they are policies that are determined within the existing distribution of power. It is not a partnership for those most excluded from urban development programmes and policies.

The myth of best practice

Habitat II invested heavily in the concept of "best practice". "Best practices" are intended to provide a learning mechanism to enable the lessons that have emerged from substantive projects and programmes to be more widely disseminated.

Perhaps inevitably, the good intentions behind encouraging learning and sharing have become a selection process. Within such a process, accounting for success takes priority over a more considered sharing of experiences, including the lessons of failure. Best practice exhibits and demonstrations emphasise what has been achieved. However, there was little consideration given to the lessons that have emerged from difficulties, threats and failures. It is increasingly accepted that the process of development cannot be simply perceived as the identification of solutions to be replicated. There are many reasons why this has been the case and the following three are merely illustrative of the problems that have to be faced.

First, critical to the success of local development strategies is a strong sense of ownership. Where local people and local institutions are not committed and involved, programmes are rarely effective. Second, contextual factors often important to the success of a project. Replications often try to adapt themselves to take account of such factors, but often do so poorly. Third, many successful development strategies and programmes rely on opportunism. That is, for example, fitting new innovations and developments into a range of local opportunities that arise as a result of political change. The more rigid the replication process, the harder all these are to achieve.

This is not to say that agencies should not learn from other experiences. But such learning needs to be based on an accurate understanding of the challenge and the experiences to date. Such learning needs to go behind many of the best practice examples and consider a much wider range of issues. Learning also needs to start by recognising another myth, which best practice does little to address, the myth of agency effectiveness.

The myth of agency effectiveness

Perhaps inevitably, occasions such as major UN conferences encourage the exaggeration of the effectiveness of the programmes and projects of the development agencies that are present. Habitat II provided many opportunities, through seminars, workshops and exhibitions, for agencies to demonstrate the real problems that they have addressed and the things that have been achieved.

However, such discussions have to be viewed within a threefold context:

- very few urban development programmes are effective in providing support for large numbers of the urban poor over a long period.

- as already argued, very little development assistance is allocated to programmes that address urban poverty issues

- development assistance is only a small component of the global economy

Most development assistance programmes do little to effectively address the needs of the poor. Many projects increase the level of dependency and reinforce among the poor a belief that they cannot address their own problems. Many projects have failed to develop the institutional structure that is needed to maintain and sustain the projects that have been initiated And, despite many different initiatives from Northern and Southern NGOs, bilateral and multilateral agencies, few are successful in developing models that can begin to reach the estimated 600 million urban dwellers that are living in need.

At events such as Habitat II, the insignificance of much urban development assistance is often forgotten. Many governments do not listen to the policies and priorities of aid agencies and many of those that do listen are too weak to implement programmes on a substantive scale.

What remains is a situation in which the private sector exploiting the city resources and the poor are living within the informal urban economy. It is perhaps indicative of the lack of effective programmes and strategies that, it might be argued, privatization has done more to assist the poor than most NGO and agency programmes. The contribution of privatization has been to allow the poor access to services that were denied them when these services were in public hands Public agencies were reluctant to offer connections to the poor because of the legitimacy of their occupation of the land that was implied. With privatization, financial considerations have become dominant and households long denied access to legal services have now been invited to apply for connections.

This accidental and unintended significance of this policy measure in improving the lives of the poor throws into sharp contrast the large number of development assistance projects that touch the lives of a tiny proportion of the urban poor with ineffective and irrelevant investments. Habitat II did little to encourage such agencies to have a more realistic view of their achievements.

Diana Mitlin,
International Institute
for Environment
and Development (IIED)

Reflections on Istanbul

Below are extracts of personal perspectives by key speakers at the Building Partnerships workshop series organised by BASIN at Istanbul.

"The one precious message to come out of Istanbul was the importance of intangible values such as knowledge, discipline, organisation, commitment, co-operation and mutual support. For two weeks, shelter and human settlements issues were put centre stage by the world media forcing not only governments and experts but ordinary people world-wide to think seriously about how they will be living in the next century.

Amid the generalizations and the political posturing, there were nonetheless specific proposals and useful ideas developed at the numerous seminars, workshops and consultations, such as the series organised by BASIN. The refinement and elaboration of these random thoughts will take many years. The general debate was immensely enriched by the input of leading scientists, scholars, researchers and activists. NGOs, local authorities and the private sector had their say, some more audible than others. A new format for UN conferences was adopted, but the organizational problems were evident. Governments were generally put on the defensive. The weary UN system received a slight boost and was even appreciated, although the general tendency was to look at the larger picture irrespective of the relevance or future of UNCHS. Strategic perhaps, but hardly likely to further the cause of post-lstanbul implementation".

Prof Saad Yahya, Kenya

"At Habitat II, I was inspired by the delight of lonely pioneers of the struggle for people's freedom to build. While the struggle has much further to go than we be lieved, Habitat II has demonstrated the growing strength and global reach of the civic networks upon which a livable future depends. The few at Habitat I have become many who brought Habitat II overwhelming proof that it is people and only people, with freedom to use resources in their own ways who can build within affordable limits.

It was good for us to confront the widening reality of today's world. Turkey is at the crucial cross-roads. It is at war with one of its own ethnic communities and threatened by warring beliefs within and without. It will be really good for us all, however, if the experience so generously provided (our hosts took real risk on every side) accelerates awakening to the ground we share with the growing numbers now building a community-based and therefore sustainable civilization.

Habitat II will prove to be the vital paradigm of change if, as I believe, it lit the fuse that will blow away the blocks to three-way partnerships of enabling state powers and market forces with community based initiative - the third and vital energy stemming from love without which healthy life is impossible. To some extent we all unwittingly maintain these blocks, for instance by our failure to see our particular fields of work as mirror of the own and, therefore, as agents for changing it. It has taken me the last twenty years to see the implications of misconceiving housing as an end in itself, obscuring its real value as a powerful means of building community - the essential common purpose for which all can and must work together".

John FC. Turner, UK

"Before coming to Istanbul, I had read the statement of the New York Prepcom. It was rhetorical and could not possibly have any major impact on housing policy in Pakistan. For this reason, I did not attend the official conference at Istanbul

However, the NGO forum, the exhibition on best practices and related workshops and lectures were very informative. Although many of the housing and infrastructure programmes from the South that were displayed and discussed were known to me, those of the North were new and have given me and my Pakistani colleagues a number of ideas and concepts especially related to inner city rehabilitation and conservation. In addition, the sessions on energy and transportation presented new analysis and approaches. Currently, we are looking at what was presented and trying to see how it can relate to our conditions in Karachi.

The Conference was attended by teachers and students form the Department of Architecture and Planning, Dawood College, Karachi where I teach. Much of the literature and the details of best practices is being looked at by the Faculty and hopefully part of it will become teaching material. I am convinced that the visit to the conference will have a positive impact on the projects prepared by the students in the future and in their work as professionals.

The Conference brought together old friends and colleagues. One was able to catch up on what others have been doing and collect literature regarding the new directions that have been adopted. This bringing together of practitioners, community people and donors has made it possible for a large number of people to assess global change in housing and city planning issues and its new directions This will in the long run generate new interactions and consolidate the new processes which, given the "New World Order", are radically different from those of the past. The interactions at the Conference, it is hoped, will make the articulation of these new processes possible".

Asif Hassan, Pakistan

Building partnerships

The BASIN exhibition at the NGO Forum was arranged around a photographic display portraying partner activities on building and settlement for a sustainable future. This text below presents the accompanying text.

The gap between rich and poor has never been greater. Urban policies over the last twenty years have protected the interests of big corporations at the expense of small businesses. The result is high unemployment, despair and civil disorder.

The answer is to recognise that the poor are part of the solution not a threat. Social and economic partnerships which distribute wealth more evenly would make cities safer.

This statement offers a nine-point agenda for creating stability and hope in our cities.

1. Support local initiative

People are constantly coming up with new ways to use local materials and do more with less. Much can be accomplished by supporting people's initiative.

- Research and training effort should focus on small scale production in local workshops.
- Traditional techniques should be modernised.
- Technologies and production processes must be appropriately scaled to create jobs and serve local markets.

2. Build up local economies

Public housing schemes are far too costly for low income groups. Governments can solve the urban housing crisis through positive intervention at the local level, by:

- utilising local resources
- mobilising finance
- transferring responsibility to local organisations

3. Plan housing with work

A secure place to live without threats of eviction is a priority. No-one will invest energy or money on improving their neighbourhood without it.

But housing is only a means to an end. A low or no-cost home near a job offers people the chance to work their way out of poverty.

4. Utilise local materials

Cities do not have to be built with concrete blocks. Bamboo, soil block bricks, light weight concrete roofing tiles, clay and lime binders are just as durable and cost less. Concrete and steel framing is a waste of time and money for single storey buildings.

Small scale brick making businesses employ five times as many people as large factory plants. They require less investment and use less foreign exchange.

5. Mobilise local finance

Small businesses tend to be more creative and more responsive to local markets. But they need the same breaks that big companies enjoy.

Business promotion policies which stimulate local commerce include:

- low cost loans
- technical assistance
- research grants
- new business tax exemptions

6. Redistribute power

Local organisations are essential routes for sharing information. They are vehicles for monitoring the rights of vulnerable people and must be allowed to define local agendas.

Networks of NGOs such as BASIN offer examples of success from elsewhere which can kick-start positive change.

7. Keep regulations in perspective

Who sets standards? Are they locally appropriate? Building codes must accommodate new materials and improved traditional techniques.

People build in stages when they have the money. Regulations which insist that a building is fully complete before an approval certificate is released make gradual slum upgrading almost impossible. Laws should reflect reality.

8. Manage the future

Governments and international bodies are spending increasing amounts of money responding to global crises caused by waste and over consumption of natural resources. Fisheries, water supply, pollution, and global warming etc.

The richest 20% receive 135% of world income.

The poorest 20% receive 1.4% of world income.

Inequalities push up crime rates, fuel civil strife and force migration. More equitable division of the world's resources and the implementation of international treaties is the solution.

9. Empower through information

Making the right choice starts with having information about all the options. The challenge is to translate the experience which is retained by "experts" so that it is useful to the people who really need it.

What works in one place rarely works somewhere else. Adaptation is the key. Information on tools and techniques which improve peoples lives is the basis for making rational choices for the next millennium.


Ten good policies for better cities

1. Welcome the opportunities provided by the growth of cities, but combat inequality and environmental degradation. Otherwise the cost of cities will outweigh their benefits.

2. Release the energies and tap the resources for people and businesses, but don't leave everything to markets. Governments must coordinate the actions of others, monitor, and correct abuses. Freedom to build must be balanced by a duty to protect the interests of others.

3. The best way to protect the interests of vulnerable and disadvantaged people where government resources are scarce is to attack supply constraints - especially in the supply of land and finance - on a very large scale. Use positive measures, such as guided investments, rather than negative ones.

4. Strengthen the economic, political and civic institutions of the city. Establish open, transparent and accountable government. Create an enabling framework for civic action and respect non-governmental and communication-based organizations as independent expressions of civic society. Always involve women

5. Maximize the use of public/private partnerships to draw in additional resources and capacities, but don't confuse "private" with "commercial". All partners must receive benefits from their participation The public sector hold a fiduciary interest in the future for all citizens.

6. Concentrate on scaling-up successful ideas, attitudes and approaches, not just projects and programmes. Use scarce public funds to lever additional resources from large structures and institutions on a sustained basis. Strengthen links between formal and informal structures

7. Increase local control over resources with accountable structures and transparent performance monitoring. Public policy can make a difference, even when resources are scarce. Strengthen government capacity, but don't see urban management as a panacea.

8. Don't take on too much: focus on a few key cross-sectoral issues such as urban poverty, the "brown agenda" and supply constraints. Lay down time-bound goals and strategies to address them. Maximize the flow of information and learning.

9. Don't divorce shelter and human settlements from wider economic, political and social policies. Adopt a holistic approach.

10. Make policy according to the local situation, not imported models or ideologies. Global market economics does not supply all answers to problems of equitable and sustainable human settlements development.

Jobs in cities

Thousands of villagers migrate every day into the cities of the third world. Many, if not all, come there in search of jobs. Any community - big or small - where work and income are not largely bound to the land is a town or "city". The lights of most cities are bright enough to attract people from hundreds of miles around. Add to the immigrants the young adults who have grown up in the city, and the need for jobs can become quite enormous. The cities of India alone need to create more than ten million jobs every year.

The evolution of the city's economy and environment, and the long term well-being of its citizens, depend on how many and how sustainable the livelihoods it generates is. This, in turn, depends on the access people have to living space, workplaces and the means to move between them.

To what extent are the jobs created in today's city genuine livelihoods? And to what extent do they fulfill the livelihood needs of all its people?

Cities are qualitatively different from rural settlements. Villages are characterised by rudimentary infrastructure and limited ability to create non-farm jobs, either in the industrial or service sectors. Even small cities and towns have a critical mass of economic activities and monetised interdependencies that can absorb a wide variety of actions and skills. Rapidly growing cities, like most cities in the third world, have special characteristics that open opportunities for the creation of large numbers of sustainable livelihoods.

Such cities offer a range of possibilities for remunerative work in many sectors. Small and medium industries need many skilled and semi-skilled workers and provide jobs that are remunerative and relatively secure. Micro-industries and other informal sector occupations provide even larger numbers of jobs that are particularly suitable for new immigrants.

The city offers far more opportunities for moving up the social ladder than does the traditional social system of the average village. Habitat-related activities provide the largest number of jobs in a growing city The housing and construction sector covers an entire process, including material production, building, infrastructure development, installation of utilities such as energy, water and waste management systems. These could give people many livelihoods, including recent migrants with limited skills on survival in the city. Transportation, domestic service and the informal food sector provide the rest.

More important, especially for encouraging social mobility, the construction sector creates jobs at many levels ranging from the most unskilled, manual ones to sophisticated managerial and entrepreneurial opportunities for supervisors and small contractors. It also creates fixed assets and infrastructure that provide the basis for further job creation. Perhaps no other sector exemplifies as clearly the range of factors that influence the quality of livelihoods, and therefore the quality of life, of people.

Technology choice and the adoption of certain design, standards and approaches determine the nature of jobs that will be available in any sector. The capital cost of creating a workplace impacts on the rate at which jobs can be generated in a given economy. The infrastructure and other support systems also critically determine the value and distribution of jobs in the city In particular, these factors together are responsible for the diversity of work opportunities available to people and strongly influences the access to jobs by women and other specific groups that are ordinarily marginalised in the formal economy.

The future of the city lies in the kinds of livelihoods of which it is composed. For the third world city, new kinds of livelihoods are urgently needed. For reasons of financial and physical resource limits, these cannot be borrowed unchanged from the North The way forward will require much creativity and innovation, both for the development of locally appropriate technologies and for the design of effective institutions. Undoubtedly, such a future will depend on how quickly we can create sustainable communities.

The question is, thus, no longer how can we create jobs in cities, but rather how can we create sustainable communities that can create adequate number of sustainable livelihoods to meet the needs of all their citizens. The answer will surely need wider recognition that many best interests of the city, from its own point of view, are better served by increasing investments in its hinterland instead of as at present, only on itself. Above all, it will require creation of a broad range of opportunities for developing enterprises, from the small to the large in communities that range from the very small to the very large.

To achieve this, we now need to design new mechanisms to devolve governance to the community level; to establish market-based instruments to liberate the entrepreneurial energies for people and adequate community oversight to ensure that both government and the business sector act in the best interest of the citizen. This in turn will need innovative institutions to provide support, both to local governments and to enterprises, in such crucial areas as technology, marketing, finance and overall management. Given the rapid transformations that will necessarily occur in the third world, a major effort will be needed for providing training support to help people adapt to ever-changing jobs. Fortunately, the city - and the sustainable community of the future - as the crucible for innovation and the birthplace of entrepreneurship, is in a better position than anyone else to solve its own problems provided it now makes the conscious decisions needed to build its capacity to do so.

Ashok Koshla Development Alternatives, India

Developments Alternatives gave the presentation below to advance the case for sustainable enterprises as they key to sustainable development during one of the BASlN-organised workshops.

Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development

Leads to more:

Needs Sustainable

- Equity

- Consumption Patterns

- Economic efficiency

- Production Systems

- Environmental quality

- Endogenous Choices

Sustainable Development


Necessary conditions:

The basic need that is most unmet, in the North and the South

- Meet basic needs of all

- Maintain resource base

Example: India

Today's Technologies and

300 million new jobs needed by year 2010

Production Systems

Agriculture can absorb no more than 25%

No good!

Therefore, must create 18 million new jobs off- farm each year, starting today

To create one workplace costs $30,000 to $500,000

Example: India

Basic Theses:

Each year, job creation by conventional routes

- Prime task: large scale creation of Sustainable

would cost at least 1 trillion dollars


- 10 times the GNP

- Sustainable Livelihoods need sustainable


- Sustainable Enterprises need essential support

- The independent sector gives best support

- To do this, the I.S. also needs support

Sustainable Livelihoods

Sustainable Livelihoods

The Key to Sustainable Development

Jobs that

- yield a reasonable income

- give meaning to life

- care for the environment

Sustainable Livelihoods

Sustainable Livelihoods

Jobs that

Particularly for women, are the most effective route to

- produce goods and services for basic needs

- create purchasing power

- Empowerment

- The demographic transition

Profitable Enterprises for a

Sustainable Future

Designing the Sustainable Enterprise

Sustainable development

Towards the New Visions

Sustainable livelihoods

Sustainable enterprises

The Sustainable Enterprise

Industries in the South

Produces: green products and services

The special case of Sustainable

Operates: decentralised structures


Creates sustainable livelihoods

SMEs: backbone of production

Small Enterprises

in the South

Can be highly profitable but they must have

Example: India's SMEs have

access to support for

- 2 million units

- technology

- 20 million employees

- finance

- 70% of total industrial

- management/infrastructure

- 60% of exports

which are freely available to big business

Sustainable Enterprises

The Sustainable Enterprise


Generates: need-based products & services

Small - 1 to 100 employees

Conserves: natural resources

- $100 to $100 000 investment

Creates: broad-based purchasing power

Local - Skills/raw materials

- Markets/clients

Informal - Flexible

- Women and marginalised

Business: Threats & Opportunities

SMEs are typically


- dispersed

- located in populated areas

Markets stretched Resources

- highly polluting


Public accountability of SMEs

The handicaps of SMEs:

is limited:

- high costs of pollution prevention

Lack of - standards and regulations

- poor infrastructure and utilities

- enforcement machinery

- lack of finances

- effective trade associations

SMEs urgently need better


- information

- technology

Financial Managerial

- financing

- management skills

Delivering Products

Essential supports to the Enterprise

Technology Support

Management Support

Complete Technology Packages

- operational advice

- product design

- information

- production system specification

- marketing channels

- know-how and training

- communications

- maintenance and trouble-shooting

- infrastructure

- quality control specification

The T-F-M Shibboleths

Feasibility Reports; Facilitating access to credit

Technology: innovators see no "High Tech"

- fixed investment

Finance: Funders see high risk, low return

- working capital

Management: Government see no lobbies, roles

Evaluation and reporting; Certification/Guarantees

or many corporations see no profits or opportunities

Generating Support

Effective Support Systems

From Government, private sector, financiers and researchers


Small Enterprises

Need to demonstrate widely:

Do Not Exist

- Profitability

- Sustainability

National reports and national plans of action: a regional perspective

National Reports and National Plans of Action constituted the main contribution of the Habitat II process at the national level. The response at the national level was overwhelmingly positive. Most of the 124 reports received by the Habitat II Secretariat were prepared involving a large spectrum of actors, grouped together in national preparatory committees or coordinating bodies.

As part of the consultative process, many workshops, seminars and meetings took place worldwide at the local, provincial, national, sub-regional and regional levels, Many of the national reports reflect the diversity and richness of these consultations. At the national level, the main follow-up activity to Habitat II will be Plans of Action.


In addition to a high national demographic growth rate often exceeding 3 per cent per year, African cities and towns face urban growth rates varying from 4 per cent to 10 per cent. Nevertheless, in the last decade, many cities have experienced a decrease in their population growth rate. This is particularly visible in large metropolitan areas where economic and population crises have worsened living conditions and resulted in urban growth shifting to secondary towns.

Urbanisation rates in the region vary from less than 10 per cent to 60 per cent. During the 1980s, the deterioration of the urban environment could be explained by poor economic growth, poor local revenue collection, rural bias in government priorities, and a poor system of urban governance which ignored the action and potential participation of civil society.

Most countries propose to reduce the gap between the formal sector which provides expensive credit, conventional employment and serviced land to high income groups, and the so-called informal sector which incorporates more than 50 per cent of urban populations in terms of employment and provides low-standard services to the majority. Reviews of legal frameworks, as well as specific support programmes to improve access to land titles, credit, training, and business sites, are recommended to ensure that the informal sector is recognised and legalised and has security of tenure.

For the development of urban areas, many countries propose to finance primary infrastructure and then let the market organise itself within guidelines provided by land-use planning schemes. Other services will be completed later and the cost will be recovered through taxation. Labour-intensive projects will be developed.

The development of a balanced urban network is pointed out as an essential factor for rural development and in terms of providing services to rural communities. Formal housing-finance institutions have often failed to address the needs of the majority, and housing is mainly financed through individual and informal strategies. Financial proposals include the improvement of tax recovery for infrastructure and services and for housing, creation of secondary mortgage markets, development of savings and loans through the commercial banking system or through a housing bank, and developing and supporting housing cooperatives.

Local partnerships with the private sector (formal and informal) and with communities are considered essential to the improvement of access to basic services. Most reports consider the effective management of human settlements as dependent upon the efficiency of local authorities. Several governments propose to increase the autonomy of local authorities and to reinforce their financial and human resource base. Many proposals deal with reducing mismanagement by local authorities to improve transparency and accountability both to central governments and to the public. More attention will be given to social and economic processes than to spatial and physical issues which have traditionally been given priority in development planning.

Some reports point out civic participation, democracy and good governance as factors that need to be developed to prevent social conflicts, ethnic and civil wars and the resulting destruction. Countries recently affected by civil wars emphasise programmes on reconstruction and resettlement of returnees, mainly in towns, and highlight the need for international financial assistance

Though women are not legally discriminated against in access to land, credit, and employment, they are often penalised by customary laws, especially in relation to inheritance. Women, who are reported to represent between 10 and 25 per cent of heads of households in capital cities, are very often identified as key economic actors in poverty reduction and in the informal sector. Many countries propose specific action to increase income-generation for women. NGOs dealing with street children are also being supported.

Countries recognise that domestic financial resources are essential for the development of human settlements and that international resources must be allocated to support national processes. International financial assistance is requested to rehabilitate and improve basic infrastructure and services, to restructure unplanned urban areas and to develop support programmes for micro-enterprises.

Asia and the Pacific

Asia is a vast and diversified continent with population varying from 700 people per (the most densely populated country in the world) to as low as 6.5 people per Annual population growth rates tend to be between 2 and 4 per cent, with urban population growth rates often slightly higher than the national average.

Urbanisation trends are also quite varied in the region. The Middle East is the most urbanised, with some countries having over 70 per cent of their populations living in urban areas. In the South-East, levels of urbanisation are between 20 and 50 per cent, while in South Asia, they are between 20 and 30 per cent.

Over the past two decades, there has been a major change in housing policies with the role of Governments in the provision of housing shifting from that of developer to that of facilitator, ie. from public to private provision. Most Governments still report they are directly involved only in the provision of low-income housing. The low-income groups needs are reported to be met by public housing and the informal sector.

Reduction of poverty has been, and continues to be, a key priority in the less developed countries. There is a growing consensus in most countries on the significant role of urbanisation in national economic development, for example, in creating jobs in the non-agricultural sector, in promoting rural-urban linkages and in harnessing the economic opportunities available in the sub-region.

Housing conditions in the poorest countries are often characterised by sub-standard housing with poor infrastructure and services. Slums and squatter settlements have proliferated in many of the large cities. The emphasis in most reports is on the provision of shelter, access to land and basic infrastructure and services for low-income groups. Urban productivity is linked to the productivity of the urban poor. Urban renewal policies should focus not only on physical aspects of neighbourhoods but also on the social aspects, including employment, education and health However, in more industrialised countries, the focus is on decreasing housing shortages for both low-and middle-income groups and on improving housing standards, particularly the per capita floor area, to meet higher standards.

The importance of mobilising sources of finance is emphasised with proposals such as privatisation of housing-finance institutions, encouraging commercial banks and private developers to invest in the low-cost housing sector with bank quotas, subsidised loans and tax exemptions, promoting housing mortgages and a secondary mortgage market and encouraging community-based finance systems and housing cooperatives.

The need for sustainable land-use is acknowledged by all countries. Those with large urban populations and megacities propose to regulate the population distribution and ensure regional development by developing small and medium-sized towns and strengthening regional and inter-regional development.

The more developed countries propose to improve the management of transportation systems through the development of a more diversified transport infrastructure which takes into account environmental impacts, affordability, and energy efficiency. These countries also highlight the need to strengthen environmental awareness and management and to ensure a more stringent enforcement of regulations. Most countries in the region acknowledge their lack of institutional capacity to deal with human settlements and urbanisation problems and propose as a starting point the review of existing institutional and legal frameworks related to human settlements They also recommend the promotion of participatory approaches by raising public awareness and participation in development issues, by strengthening the capacity of local authorities and by supporting partnerships between communities, NGOs, CBOs, and the private sector.

There is a consensus that regional cooperation is an important dimension of international cooperation. International assistance should be timely, appropriate and responsive to the needs of the recipient country. And it should be unconditional.

Central and Eastern Europe

The level of urbanisation in this region is generally about 60 per cent and the population is relatively stable. The centralised system that operated previously in most countries was characterised by low productivity and efficiency, overemployment, and a distorted pricing system. Environmental considerations were disregarded, and polluting technologies and high-en orgy consumption patterns were common. The transition period is characterised by restructuring, privatisation foreign investments, trade liberalisation, introduction of private land-ownership, mass privatisation of housing and a rise in the property market, with the appropriate legislation already adopted or under preparation. In most countries, more than 50 per cent of housing stock is privately-owned, although private land ownership is still not possible in some places. In some instances, the lack of individual resources has hampered housing privatisation and has also caused a decline in the maintenance and rehabilitation of existing housing.

Implementation of economic reforms has raised the cost of living, increased unemployment and led to a drop in construction activities. However, the GDP of most countries is now gradually improving. Many countries seek to reduce poverty through the implementation of social reforms, the promotion of sustainable economic growth, the development of long-term and medium-term credit, the improvement of legal frameworks for the advancement of foreign capital, and the use of modern technologies.

Many countries have new housing policies in place, with the key objectives being the allocation of land for private housing construction, the provision of urban infrastructure, and the development of adequate financial instruments. Additionally, there are proposals to review the legal framework for rental housing, joint housing ownership, land tenure and expropriations. Governments plan to reduce their participation in housing finance to a minimum, while maintaining their influence on the market through appropriate regulations. Other proposals for supporting the development of housing markets include ensuring the availability of materials, technology and credit, and encouraging household savings for mortgages etc.

Many countries propose to rehabilitate urban infrastructure through the involvement of the private sector by ensuring that there is adequate cost-recovery. Some countries propose to give responsibilities for the provision of infrastructure and basic services to local authorities. The use of sustainable energy and modern energy-saving technologies will be promoted and the efficiency of heat supply systems will be improved. Most countries indicate the maintenance and improvement of existing public transportation systems is a priority, many plan to improve the ecological situation in industrial areas and in the largest cities. Many countries also acknowledge that their legal frameworks for disaster mitigation need to be improved.

Apart from new construction, emphasis is also placed on the rehabilitation of the old housing stock Restoration of historical buildings and promotion of traditional architecture are often mentioned.

Urban planning used to be centrally conducted, but is now the responsibility of the local authorities, and a new legal framework for urban planning and has teen established or is under preparation. Urban policies will be implemented through consultative processes involving key actors, and monitoring systems will ensure follow-up.

Some countries lack a comprehensive strategy for regional planning and propose to address unbalanced regional development through the establishment of a network of medium and large towns and the strengthening of selected villages as rural centres. Safeguarding the rural environment is also highlighted.

The responsibility and autonomy of regional and local authorities will be increased to deal with land, finance, investment planning, urban management and housing. Some countries also intend to enhance financial resources through improved tax collection. Staff training and capacity-building programmes will improve the cost-efficiency of administration of human settlements.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Despite the heterogeneity of human settlements, urban populations stand at 50 to 60 per cent and even reach 75 per cent in most developed countries. The population growth rate is higher in cities than in rural areas (where is can even be negative), but it has greatly decreased in the last decade, particularly in the largest metropolitan areas.

Social crises, limited investment resources, demographic trends and rapid urbanisation have resulted in a large deficit in housing, serviced land and infrastructure, which has led to the deterioration and overcrowding of existing housing stock, and development of squatter and unplanned settlements, which may house up to 60 per cent of the urban population in some cases. Inadequate rental housing policies have hampered private investment in developing and maintaining the existing housing stock Conservation and rehabilitation of existing stock is a priority in some countries.

Access to potable water and adequate sanitation is still considered a key problem in many countries. Countries indicate that a more efficient cost-recovery system for infrastructure and services could be achieved through improved tax collection combined with progressive user charges. Upgrading and regularisation of squatter settlements and uncontrolled urban areas remains a priority, including legalisation of land tenure, upgrading housing through community-based housing institutions and the provision of loans.

New financing mechanisms were set up in answer to the gradual withdrawal of central governments from the direct provision of housing. In financing public housing, many proposals deal with the encouragement of participation of the private sector in the provision of loans and mortgages, taking into account the low demand for mortgages at market rates and the need to assist the very low income groups through new subsidy schemes and specific financial funds. For the poor, the promotion of non-conventional financial systems such as community loan systems and cooperatives is encouraged. International organisations are often identified as providers of credit for urban programmes.

The deficit in basic social infrastructure has resulted in environmental deterioration affecting major urban centres. Programmes to address contamination of water resources, soil erosion and aquifer rehabilitation are considered priorities in some countries. Progressive introduction of standards and measures is proposed to prevent and reduce the negative impacts of urban and industrial development on the environment.

Most countries propose to rehabilitate, revitalise and/or increase the density in urban historical centres, taking into account preservation of architectural heritage. Recovery of urban land in central and low-density peri-central areas is pointed out as one way of preventing costly urban sprawl which damages the environment and agriculture.

In most countries, accelerated urbanisation has concentrated the population in major urban centres and resulted in an unbalanced national and regional human-settlemeat network. Regional economic planning and strengthening of secondary towns are key factors identified to address this issue. Informal economic activities in some countries represent more than 50 per cent of overall employment. Income disparities and social inequity have been on the increase in the last 20 years. Many countries, notwithstanding, have recently benefitted from improvement in social-development conditions. Most address urban poverty through national, regional and local economic programmes and they strongly link urban problems with economic development. Overcoming poverty is the most important goal in many countries, and housing is pointed out as a first step towards economic and social sustainability. Specific social programmes to address the needs of women, indigenous groups, children and youth will be developed. Support to informal-sector activities, small-scale businesses and industries through training programmes, access to cooperative credit and to business sites are also proposed. Urban violence due to social and geographic exclusion, and the growth in drug-dealing, increasingly affect big cities, breeding forms of violent repression and resulting in a large growth in private security services. The need for security is felt more by the poor and some countries will develop alternative methods managed by local authorities and based on partnerships (systems of justice based on mediation and forms of community policing)

Democratisation has increased the responsibilities and autonomy of local authorities and facilitated the participation of the civil society in urban management. Some countries propose to strengthen the autonomy of regional and local authorities but technical and financial assistance from central institutions is seen as necessary, particularly in less-developed regions. The goal of many urban policies is the encouragement of citizen participation, and there are many proposals to establish community consultation mechanisms. NGOs and CBOs are identified as key actors to decentralise housing policies to the regional and/or municipal level and, in large metropolitan areas, to create a basic urban administration subsystem (micro-urban regions) to bring administration closer to the population.

Western Europe, North America and others

In many countries, a fairly high percentage of the population is elderly but the population is still slowly increasing. The level of urbanisation varies between 55 per cent to 85 per cent. GNPs in the region are fairly high. In the context of budgetary restrictions, most countries have a developed social welfare system but they are now experiencing financial difficulties in maintaining it. The recent recession has left most economies constrained by high rates of unemployment (averaging 10 to 13 per cent)

Housing policies are based on the combined principles of the market economy and public-sector intervention which plays the major role in the provision of social housing. Although there are no housing shortages and there is a widespread recognition of the right to housing, affordable housing for low-income groups and the homeless is still a problem. Inadequate policies for the integration of immigrants and other disadvantaged groups have led to social tensions in several countries. The problem of homelessness needs to be addressed by reactivating the whole housing chain by supporting access to home ownership for middle-income groups so as to free public rental housing for very low-income households.

Integrated social-development programmes will be extended in marginalised urban areas to reduce the risks of social fracture and to counteract economic, ethnic and social segregation, with positive discrimination mechanisms, extended partnerships, reinforcement of services, education, social links, public participation and security, promoting socially diverse neighbourhoods, attracting and developing economic activities, housing and urban rehabilitation. Forms of new local justice and police coordinated by municipalities have been established to address the need for new forms of social regulation. Networking between experts and the local authorities is important for the exchange of experiences. Employment creation is a major priority. Unemployment reduction plans aim at improving economic competitiveness, supporting enterprises and job creation, and addressing poverty traps that keep people out or work. Some countries intend to expand their subsidised jobs and community-management programmes which can be a means of employment creation for vulnerable groups. In some countries locally-crafted solutions and the private sector are seen as the key to the economic success of cities. The role of central governments is to support these efforts.

In the less-developed countries, emphasis is placed on the improvement of city planning mechanisms, provision of water, and the rehabilitation of infrastructure and services. Easy access to transportation infrastructure is a key factor in urban transformation; settlements will be limited to areas where this infrastructure is already in place so as to reduce urban sprawl. Less-developed countries focus on improving their control on unauthorised land development. Several reports address the curb of decreasing populations in rural areas.

Several countries have implemented strict environmental legislation affecting urban planning, but global policies which simultaneously address economic development, social solidarity and environment at the metropolitan level are not fully developed. Most countries propose to reduce their emissions into the soil, water and air, and to improve their monitoring system.

The historical and cultural heritage will be protected in major urban projects through the promotion of partnerships and the use of regulatory measures, interventions and financial incentives

In many countries, large metropolitan areas do not benefit from adequate administration. In most countries, local authorities are responsible for the implementation of housing and urban policies. The trend is to increase their responsibility through continuous decentralisation, and coordination and partnerships with central government. However, local initiatives need to respond to national priorities and the central government's involvement is essential to promote national unity and innovation and to arbitrate between contradictory local interests and contradictory values, many countries intend to promote the participation of women in elected and professional bodies.

Some Governments indicate that they will pay increased attention to urban development in their bilateral cooperation Priority issues in international cooperation are poverty reduction, the feminisation of poverty, capacity-building and decentralization, environmental protection, encouraging democratic governance, enabling housing strategies and the empowerment of women. There is some concern, however, about the coordination between bilateral agencies, international agencies and NGOs.

This analysis is a summary of a Habitat II Conference document entitled "National Reports and National Plan of Action: Report of the Secretary-General" by the UNCHS {Habitat}

The BASIN-AEA Awareness seminar for Egyptian decision makers


An Awareness Seminar on Appropriate Building Technologies (ABT) was jointly conducted by BASIN and the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) in the newly completed AEA Guest House at the Inshas Science City Project site, about 40 km northeast of Cairo City. It took place from 14 to 25 September 1996.

The aim was to introduce a range of building technologies that have potential for application in Egypt and other countries of the, region, whereby the emphasis lay in the use of low-cost, locally available, and environmentally suitable materials, which can be processed with average skills and relatively low capital input on a small and medium scale.

In all, there were 29 participants, 24 of which were mainly Egyptian architects and engineers both from the private sector as well as governmental institutions, and 5 were architectural students.

The costs were shared between AEA and GATE, with contributions in kind from the other BASIN partners and Misereor.

Lectures and demonstrations

The seminar was opened by the AEA Chairman, Prof. Hisham F. Aly, at a ceremonial opening session at Sonesta Hotel in Cairo, attended by a number of dignitaries The participants and invited guests then proceeded to the AEA Guest House at Inshas for the introduction of the participants and lecturers.

The first working session was a keynote presentation by Hannah Schreckenbach, Vice-President of BASIN, who gave a general overview of the economic, social, environmental, technical and other aspects of appropriate building technologies, stressing the importance of utilizing local resources, of energy efficiency (not only in the application of a technology and ultimate use of a building, but also in the initial processing of raw materials) and of appropriate building design, in order to achieve significant improvements in the building sector.

Hugo Houben, President of BASIN and Vice-President of CRATerre, gave a general introduction to earth construction techniques worldwide and described possible applications in Egypt. He then went into greater depth on the production of compressed earth blocks (CEBs). A highlight of the seminar was his demonstration of soil testing methods. Adel Fahmy, one of the most experienced Egyptian architects in earth construction, demonstrated the production of CEBs on a manually operated press and many participants were then able to make their own CEBs.

In his slide presentation, Adel Fahmy showed examples of projects carried out by him in Egypt and West Africa, explaining the advantages of using "tafla", the clayey soil found all over the Egyptian Desert, which he had used for building his own house at Lake Karoon.

Hany El-Miniawy, another well-known Egyptian architect, described projects carried out in Algeria and Egypt, which included individual buildings as well as urban upgrading projects, eg the Nasriya Project in Aswan, Upper Egypt.

Prof. Raif Muhanna of Damascus University, Syria, presented his award-winning stone shell construction system using undressed natural stone, which is found on the ground all over Syria-hence no quarry and little energy is needed. The vaults of stone and cement mortar are constructed on wooden formwork and require no reinforcement.

An overview of energy-saving building materials, design principles and construction techniques was given by Prof. Gernot Minke of Kassel University, Germany. He then presented innovative earth construction technologies developed at his Building Research Laboratory. Under his guidance, at the demonstration site, the participants were able to lay bricks with the help of a rotation guide and learn the principles of constructing a structurally optimized dome.

The British architect and lime expert, Stafford Holmes, explained the traditional techniques of processing various building materials, particularly in the context of maintaining and repairing old buildings. In the demonstration shed, the participants were shown the principles of slaking quicklime, and were able to prepare and apply limewashes.

Hannah Schreckenbach's keynote presentation.

Solomon Mwangi, of ApproTEC, Kenya, explained the principles of micro concrete roof tile production, a technology that is quite unknown in Egypt, mainly because, until recently, sloped roofs have not been very common there. However, there are now good chances of introducing it as an economic alternative to burnt clay tile roofing, which is increasingly being used in new building projects. The participants were able to make MCR tiles themselves and were amazed how simple it was.

Realizing that many participants were not fully aware of the differences between various types of soil and natural stone, Gerhard Merschmeyer, the building materials expert of Misereor, Germany, focused his presentation on the identification of raw materials and suitable methods of processing them. He also devoted considerable time to brick production, with and without firing.

Khaled Nabil, architect and lecturer at Zagazig University, outlined the principles of ABT, describing it as a multi-disciplinary process rather than a choice of a product. Based on the example of interlocking blocks (developed in Thailand), he illustrated the difficulties of introducing a new technology in Egypt.

Prof. Samy Kamel of El Minia University, presented his vault construction system using natural limestone blocks, which are available in great quantities in Egypt. Prof. Abdelbaki Ibrahim, President of the Centre for Planning and Architectural Studies, Cairo, presented a project proposal for a housing scheme for sheltering the needy.

In his presentations, Sherif Aigohary, architect and co-ordinator of the Inshas Science City Project (see BASINnews No. 12), gave an overview of the project concept and described the principal passive design (energy saving) features of the buildings, both in theory and during a tour through them.


Three excursions were undertaken, each of which gave the participants and lecturers an opportunity to study traditional Egyptian architecture. The long trips in the bus also gave them a chance to discuss various issues of the seminar and draw up plans for future activities:

a. Visit to the house of Hamid Said

This was the first private house built with mud bricks by Hassan Fathy. It was built for his friend, Hamid Said, in 1942 and expanded in 1945. At that time, the house was surrounded by palms and open fields on the outskirts of Cairo, but now it is an oasis in the midst of a dense urban area (Marg), with brick and concrete buildings all around. Hamid Said and his wife, both artists, still live there and occasionally permit visitors to see the house and discuss art, architecture and philosophical themes with them.

b. Visit to the coptic monastery of St. Macarius and the Ramses Wissa Wassef Arts Centre

The monastery, located at Wadi El Natrun between Cairo and Alexandria, dates back to the 4th century A.D. It is not open to the public and can only be visited with special permission. Some of the finest examples of Coptic art and architecture can be seen there. Most of the old buildings have been carefully renovated to preserve their historic features, and several new buildings have been built since 1969. The monastery is completely self-sufficient, with large farm areas, power generator, farm buildings, health care facilities, as well as modern printing facilities.

The famous Arts Centre, named after the Egyptian architect, Ramses Wissa Wassef, is an excellent example of traditional Egyptian mud brick architecture (which won an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1983). The Arts Centre, located near the pyramids of Gizeh, was built for poor children of the neighbourhood to learn traditional Egyptian crafts, such as carpet weaving, pottery and batik dyeing, the results of which have even been on display in several exhibitions in Europe

c. Visit to the House of the Sun and Wind

The house, owned and built by Adel Fahmy, is situated in a little village overlooking Lake Karoon, about 130 km southwest of Cairo. It was built mainly from the stone and "tafla" clay available on the 1750 m² site. When he began to build in 1936, he trained some villagers to build domes and vaults without shuttering, a technique that was new to them, but which they now master and have applied in many other buildings in the village.

Group work

At the end of the seminar, the participants were divided into four groups at random, and each was asked to draw up feasible proposals for follow-up activities based on the issues dealt with during the seminar. This exercise was a new experience for all the participants and resulted in some very interesting proposals, such as:

- establishing an Egyptian Earth Construction Association;

- preparing an ABT atlas for Egypt;

- setting up an ABT Building Advisory Service Centre;

- developing a mobile ABT workshop for demonstration in rural areas;

- implementing an ABT awareness seminar for small producers;

- collaborating with the Ministry of Industry to formulate ABT standards and building codes;

- revising the curriculum of the architectural course of Zagazig University and utilizing the workshop and equipment at Inshas for practical demonstrations and laboratory tests;

- building a new community for 20-25 young families, using ABT.


On the last day, the participants were asked to express their opinions about various aspects of the seminar. 10 boards had been prepared with questions regarding the suitability of the venue and seminar facilities, time schedule, sequence and content of lectures, the information material provided, and so on, In each case it was necessary to attach self-adhesive dots next to 2 or 3 possible answers, such as "good", "satisfactory" or "poor". In some cases, they had to write their comments on cards and pin them on the boards. By this method, views could be expressed anonymously, so nobody had to fear being asked to explain why a negative view was expressed or something was rated "poor". One could therefore expect a fairly impartial evaluation of the seminar, which on the whole received very positive ratings.

In reply to the question about the relative percentages of time that should be given to theory, case studies, practical demonstrations and excursions, should a similar seminar be organized again, the result was 25 % for theory, 25 % for case studies, 35 % for practical demonstrations and 15 % for excursions. Asked what they felt were the highlights of the seminar, the replies were:

- the visit to Hamid Said's house;
- the group work;
- the interactive method of conducting the seminar;
- the encouraging spirit of the lectures;
- the mixing of theory and practice;
- and, in view of the achievements of the lecturers, the confidence gained that things can be changed in Egypt.


Judging by the attention that the seminar received from the media (several news paper articles, special reports in architectural and scientific journals, and a full coverage by Nile TV), it undoubtedly made an impact in professional circles. Prof. Fawzy H. Hammad, the former Chairman of AEA and initiator of the Inshas Science City Project, who actively participated in some of the sessions and excursions, even spoke of this being a historic event for the Egyptian building sector.

Therefore, summing up the experience of this first awareness seminar on ABT in the Arab region, all the participants, lecturers and organizers felt that it was a great success. As the seminar evaluation showed, the degree of satisfaction was very high and many participants were eager to start projects to apply the knowledge acquired at the seminar. The participants have agreed to keep the BASIN members informed about their ongoing activities, which shall be reported in forthcoming issues of BASINnews.

Kiran Mukerji
Consultant Architect
Stamberg, Germany


With hopes and aspiration,
Men, women, children, youth and old
Step out of their homes into our global neighbourhood.
Many fulfil their desires and ambitions.
Millions remain desperate and defeated.

Our neighbourhood of villages, towns, cities and metropolis,
Our neighbourhood for jobs, food, clothing and homes,
Our neighbourhood is insecure and unsustainable.

Rich and poor nations in the north and the south,
In the east and the west of our neighbourhood
Have equal cornerstones to live and work in peace and security
Rich and poor have opportunities for a better neighbourhood.

Truthful living and hard work,
Enlightened leadership and effective governance,
Form the cornerstones of our better neighbourhood.
Friendships, partnerships and solidarity in
Our homes, factories and schools is the neighbourhood worship.

Sustainable environment, social and economic security for all,
Adequate shelter, health, education and employment for all,
do not have to be mere slogans for us all
Make them your goals and commitment to a new neighbourhood for all.

T.S. Chana, Kenya


Here I stand in Istanbul
Trying to understand all this confusion
I was warned, but never thought it would
Be so evident

Yes, I stumble over fallen shacks and houses
In Tibet, Atlanta and Turkey
As I mumble my housing rights
And my right to survive and exist.

I was warned, but never ever thought
The gap between the rich and the poor was so wide
The gap between NGO's and government was so wide
And the understand between NGO's
And the poor was so poor.

How much of this information will reach
The homeless? only God knows
Why is it so hard to give recognize and approve me my
Housing rights? Only they know.

Nevertheless I will continue
To mumble my housing rights
And probably take them if they not recognize
From an empty stomach
Maybe this time they will hear because, here I stand in Istanbul

This poem was dedicated to South African Homeless People
Patrick Hunsley Magebhula, South Africa


Second Asia Regional RAS Seminar
on Micro-Concrete Roofing Technology
Baguio City, Philippines: 9 - 14 June 1997

The international Roofing Advisory Service (RAS) hosted by SKAT (Swiss Centre for Development Cooperation in Technology and Management) within the framework of BASIN (Building Advisory Service and Information Network) is organizing in cooperation with MCR Network Philippines, the Second Asia Regional RAS Seminar on Micro-Concrete Roofing (MCR) Technology.

This seminar will include experience sharing as well as specialized lectures intended to help participants deliver tiles and roofs of good quality. Topics will include roof substructure, limits of application, mix design, and cement additives. A field trip will also be organized to ongoing housing projects using MCR tiles exclusively.

If you are interested to participate, please contact:

SKAT/RAS Mr. Daniel Schwitter, Vadianstrasse 42, CH-9000 St.Gallen, Switzerland, Fax: 0041 71 223 54 55

or MSU-IIT/MSFI Mr. Daniel S. Mostrales, 9200 lligan City, Philippines, Fax: 0063 63 221 4056.


Building materials and construction technologies that are appropriate for developing countries, particularly in the low-income sector, are being developed, applied and documented in many parts of the world. This is an important prerequisite for providing safe, decent and affordable buildings for an ever-growing population.

But such new developments can do little to improve the building situation, as long as the information does not reach potential builders. The types and sources of information on standard and innovative building technologies are numerous and very diverse, making access to them difficult.

Thus, in order to remedy this drawback, Shelter Forum, GATE, ITDG, SKAT, CRATerre are cooperating in the Building Advisory Service and Information Network, which covers five principal subject areas and coordinates the documentation, evaluation and dissemination of information.

All five groups have a coordinated database from which is available on Documents, Technologies, Equipment, Institutions, Consultants as well as on Projects and Programs. In addition, printed material or individual advice on certain special subjects is provided on request. Research projects, training programs and other field work can be implemented in cooperation with local organizations, if a distinct need can be identified and the circumstances permit.

BASIN is a service available to all institutions and individuals concerned with housing, building and planning in developing countries, but can only function efficiently if there is a regular feedback. Therefore, any publications, information, personal experiences, etc. that can be made available to BASIN are always welcome and will help BASIN to help others.


Advisory Service provided by
Shelter Forum
P.O. Box 39493
22 Chiromo Access Road
Off Riverside Drive
Nairobi, Kenya
Phone: + 254 - 2 442108
Fax: + 264 - 2 - 445166

Shelter Forum (SF) is a coalition of non-governmental organizations, which deal with issues on affordable shelter in Kenya. The main goal of SF is to enhance access to affordable shelter for all, particularly the poorest, among whom the most vulnerable are women and children, through advocacy, extension and networking.


Advisory Service provided by
P.O.Box 5180
D-65 726 Eschborn
Federal Republic of Germany
Phone: + 49 - 6196 - 79 3190
Fax: + 49 - 6196 - 79 7352
e-mail: hannah.schreckenbach@GTZ.DE

GATE (German Appropriate Technology Exchange) a programme of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fhnische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, acts as a centre for the dissemination and promotion of appropriate technologies for developing countries.


Advisory Service provided by
Myson House
Railway Terrace
Rugby CV21 3HT
United Kingdom
Phone: + 44 1788 - 660631
Fax + 44 1788 540270

The Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) is an independent British charity, founded by Dr. E.F Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful, to help increase the income-generating and employment opportunities of small-scale industrial activities in developing countries.


Advisory Service provided by
Vadianstrasse 42
CH-9000 St.Gallen
Phone: + 41 - 71 - 228 54 54
Fax: + 41 - 71 - 228 54 55
e-mail: 100270.2647@COMPUSERVE.COM

SKAT (Swiss Centre for Development Cooperation in Technology and Management) is a documentation centre and consultancy group which is engaged in promoting appropriate technologies in the Third World.


Advisory Service provided by
CRATerre - EAG
Maison Levrat, Parc Fallavier
BP 63
F - 88092 Villefontaine Cedex
Phone: + 83 (0) 474 95 43 91
Fax: + 83 (0) 474 95 64 21

CRATerre, the International Centre for Earth Construction, is a specialised unit of the school of Architecture of Grenoble, dedicated to the promotion of earth as a building material.