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close this bookJournal of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies - Volume 4, Number 1 (HABITAT, 1996, 42 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe aim of the Network and its Journal
View the documentSecond United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) -''The City Summit'', Istanbul, Turkey. 3-14 June 1996
View the documentHabitat II and the Construction Sector
View the documentConstruction Sector For Housing And Infrastructure Delivery - An Issue Paper Prepared For The Habitat II Conference**
View the documentHabitat II - A Breakthrough for Non-governmental Organizations in Committee II of the Conference
View the documentHabitat II - Shelter-Afrique Launches a Continental Housing Investment Programme and Seeks to Expand Membership
View the documentCost - effective Building Technologies - Technology Transfer, Dissemination and Extension: The Indian experience***
View the documentHabitat II - Conference closes as Habitat Agenda is Adopted, UNCHS to be Strengthened as Implementing Agency
View the documentEvents
View the documentPublications Review
View the documentBack cover

Habitat II - A Breakthrough for Non-governmental Organizations in Committee II of the Conference

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs), for the first time in the history of the United Nations, were able to state their positions on Habitat II issues and offer proposals as to their roles in the follow-up to the Habitat II Conference.

After a warm welcome from the Chairman of Committee II - the "partners' committee" - NGO representatives affirmed their commitment to the goals of the United Nations. A speaker on behalf of the present NGOs, stressed that although NGOs had often been perceived as "troublesome and critical", they had traditionally played a vital watchdog role in the follow-up to a wide range of United Nations resolutions, declarations and plans of action, such as the one being negotiated in Istanbul. Moreover, NGOs had more often acted as the real popular conscience on social, economic and environmental issues within national and international contexts.

In the opening statement it was also stressed that the presentations made did not and could not adequately represent all partners in the NGO community partly because of the wide divergence of opinion that exists within their ranks and partly because of the extremely short time that had been allocated to each partners hearing in Committee II. Several NGO caucus representatives who addressed the Committee stated that transparency and accountability were valued in the NGO community. They expressed a firm commitment to partnership with government at all levels and with the private sector.

The role of women in shelter and human settlements development and sustainability was highlighted by most of the speakers, who were themselves predominantly women. A speaker after noting (he major role that women play in the struggle for and consolidation of shelter and communities, said "Evictions around the world are the greatest threat to the well-being and development opportunities of poor communities. The non-recognition of the rights of communities within countries coupled with the current paradigm of economic development are the major causes of eviction".

Another speaker argued (hat though women were strong in community organizations, they were weak in national and international decision-making systems. She urged that women he accorded greater access to relevant institutions of government and international cooperation. One tangible way to achieve this would he for the international community and governments to create enabling legal frameworks and provide finance for capacity-building within women's groups and for NGOs that are assisting women's groups to develop their skills and knowledge.

When contributions were invited from the floor, the great majority of national delegations from developed and developing countries expressed strong support for the participation of NGOs and for the increased role of women in the processes of shelter improvements as well as in social and environmental matters generally. A few delegations raised questions about whether the NGO panel presentations were fully representative of all the views among them. It was asked whether Committee II would come out with a recommendation that reflected what the NGOs were saying in the meeting. The Committee chairman indicated that the Committee would report to the Plenary and that the Plenary would take note of what had been said.

A speaker said "NGOs have been independent and what they have achieved has been done without the support of governments. There is a need to create a vehicle for partnerships." The speaker noted that NGOs had been the major monitors of the follow-up of earlier United Nations conferences.

In the second segment of the session a series of short NGO presentations were made by panellists covering the issues of the Disabled Persons, Youth, Rights and the Child, International Law and the Family, and the Environment. A participant. speaking on behalf of the disabled, stressed the need to involve disabled people in the design of settlements and the need for them to work with the NGOs in the to] low-up to Habitat II so as to improve their situation in an urbanizing world. The meeting was also reminded that all the major problems associated with urbanization - unemployment, rural-urban migration, crime and urban environment deterioration - impacted most strongly on youth. The Rights of the Child Caucus representative highlighted the plight of street-children, child labourers and girl children.

An NGO representative stated that the void of the traditional family had not been strong in the Habitat II Conference. There was a need, he believed, for dialogue between family-oriented NGOs and lawyers as there were complex issues lacing both in the cities of today. Another NGO representative pointed out the need to utilize Local Agenda 21 to deal with the deteriorating urban environment and environmental conservation globally.

In the Committee discussion that followed, there was general emphasis on the role of the NGOs in the various areas presented by the panellists. Several speakers from the NGOs expressed the need to follow-up the partners' Dialogues started in the preparatory process of Habitat II and voiced the need for this to be sustained and for UNCHS (Habitat) to play a key role in the process.

Several speakers urged a dialogue between NGOs and governments and the need to place the poor themselves at the heart of their own development process. They stressed the need for credit mechanisms to reach the poor as the NGOs have found the poor to be credit-worthy as "without credit there was no development possible".

In the final segment of the meeting, the presentations from the NGO Regional Caucuses covering Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as the Middle East and Arab Region were heard, each highlighting their particular problems. These were followed by presentations on the implementation of the results of the Conference and the importance of NGO involvement in the process. A number of national delegations responded positively. Other delegates questioned the motives and roles of NGOs especially when they interfered in internal politics. However, many national delegations asserted their confidence that NGOs had a vital role to play and were vital to achieving the goals of the Conference.

Note: Text has been taken from a press release produced in Istanbul.

The Secretary-General of Habitat II Conference is discussing the production process of a low-cost building material during an exhibition in Istanbul. Photo: Amrik Kalsi, UNCHS (Habitat)