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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

Publications Review

Published by UNCHS (Habitat)

An Urbanizing World - Global Report on Human Settlements 1996

This Global Report on an Urbanizing World assesses conditions and trends in the world's human settlements - cities, towns and villages. The growth in urban poverty has been one of the most noticeable trends during the 1980s and early 1990s. Another has been the limited achievements of governments and international agencies in improving housing and living conditions, including expanding the provision of safe and sufficient water supplies and adequate sanitation and drainage. Recent estimates as to the scale of the health burden suffered by those living in poor quality housing also highlight how little progress has been made.

However, while global achievements in improving housing and living conditions have been limited, there are also many examples in the Global Report of success. Certain national or city governments have greatly increased the proportion of their population with piped water and good sanitation. Many government agencies and non-governmental organizations have worked with low income groups and their community based organizations to greatly improve housing conditions and basic services (water, sanitation, drainage, health care and garbage removal) at low cost.

There are new models for housing finance that can allow low-income households to acquire better quality housing and still achieve high levels of cost recovery. Perhaps most fundamentally, there are new examples of city authorities that are more democratic, accountable and responsive to the needs and priorities of their citizens. These emphasise how much good governance matters. Within low-income countries or cities, good governance can greatly improve housing and living conditions which in turn can produce a 10 to 15 year increase in average life expectancies, without compromising good economic performance through excessive public expenditure. Within higher income countries, good governance can reduce poverty and deprivation and also the problems so often associated with contemporary urban living - high levels of homelessness, crime and violence, and the concentration of the unemployed and unskilled in declining city centres or other districts.

Below are the key issues and messages of this Report under six headings:

· The role of cities within development

1. The role of cities and urban systems in economic development

2. Without competent and accountable urban governance, much of the potential contribution of cities to economic and social development is lost

3. Promoting urban development does not mean neglecting rural development

· Urban trends

1. Contrary to most predictions, population growth rates slowed for many cities in the South
2. The world is less dominated by mega-cities than predicted
3. The links between urban change and economic. social, and political change

· The limited social achievements

1. Rising poverty level
2. Long-term social trends

· Housing conditions and trends

1. Poverty and housing conditions
2. The enormous health burden of poor quality housing
3. Poverty and insecure tenure
4. The growing number of homeless people
5. Governments as enablers, not providers


· Governance

1. The new institutional frameworks for urban authorities
2. Enhancing the role of citizen groups, community organizations, and NGOs

· Towards sustainable development

1. From environment protection to sustainable development
2. The social components of sustainable development
3. New approaches to planning

559 pp, HS/382/95E, ISBN 0-19-823346-9

Shelter provision and employment generation

This publication is a collaborative effort of two United Nations agencies, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) and the International Labour Office, joining their policy research and technical cooperation experiences to illustrate the dynamic linkages between shelter and employment. Shelter pro vision brings together issues that are at the hearth of the 1995 World Summit for social integration. It is for this reason that this publication is not only a key input of both agencies into the Social Summit, but more importantly will help put into practice the many recommendations in the fields of poverty alleviation and employment generation that are expected to come out of the Summit.

Shelter is much broader than housing. Investments in shelter not only improve and expand the available stock of housing units, but furthermore improve both the working and living environment. The shelter strategies analyzed here can help reduce poverty while at the same time generating new employment opportunities for the poorest population groups. However, in addition to expanding the quantity of employment opportunities, shelter provision can also improve the quality of employment, particularly for those working in the urban informal sector, where the home and the workplace are often combined.

This publication has been produced as a follow-up to a recommendation made by the fourteenth session of the Commission on Human Settlements calling upon UNCHS (Habitat) and ILO to intensify cooperation in coordinating their research and operational activities on employment-generation and labour-intensive programmes. It also links UNCHS (Habitat)'s goals for adequate shelter for all with the ILO's goal of promoting full employment and improved working conditions.

The main premise of this joint publication is that investment in shelter are productive investments, rather than consumption expenditure. Investments in shelter generate income, and increase the labour productivity of the occupants. This has one major implication for development policies: It implies that shelter provision is not only a goal but, more importantly, it is a tool of development policy. Any investments in housing, infrastructure or services have effects on the national income that go far beyond the direct investment itself. Shelter provision triggers additional investments - and employment - in building-materials production, transport and marketing. This additional employment in turn leads to higher demand for a variety of local goods and services - mainly by semi-skilled and unskilled workers with little propensity of buying imported goods - and thus increased employment in the production of such goods as well.

In addition, low-cost housing and basic infrastructure and services such as drainage, access roads and solid-waste management generate more jobs per unit of investments than high-cost housing and primary infrastructure since they are more suitable to labour-intensive methods. The involvement of small-scale informal construction enterprises - and indeed local communities - in the execution of housing and infrastructure projects should therefore be supported, as they use more unskilled labour, fewer imports and less hard currency than their large-scale, formal-sector counterparts. There is thus an urgent need to facilitate the activities of the informal sector in shelter provisions, which includes increasing its productivity and its ability to adhere to acceptable health, safety and labour standards.


The interagency collaboration which this publication represents is just one facet of the rapidly growing partnership between the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) and the International Labour Office. Other elements of this collaboration include the umbrella Urban Poverty Partnership Programme which, through a series of hands-on demonstration activities in collaboration with low-income communities, will help put many of this book's findings into practice. The Urban Poverty Partnership's "Seeing is Believing" approach usefully complements the findings of this publication. Likewise, the ILO within its mandate is supporting UNCHS (Habitat) as it prepares for the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in 1996, with a view to turning cities of despair, faced with growing unemployment and homelessness, into cities of hope.

249 pp. HS/339/94E, ISBN 92-2-108523-6

The human settlements conditions of the world's urban poor

More than one billion people are currently living in absolute poverty, with incomes too low to meet their daily requirements in terms of food, clothing and other basic needs. A similar, or even larger number of people do not have access to safe and healthy shelter. The latter half of the twentieth century has seen the continuous transfer of the world's population into urban areas. In 1950, less than 30 per cent of the world's population was urban. By 1995 this figure has increased to 45 per cent. Within the next ten years, more than every second human being will live in cities and towns.

We are, however, not only living in an urbanizing world. We are also living in a period which can best be described as the age of the 'urbanization of poverty'. By 1985 some 330 million urban dwellers in developing countries had incomes so low that they were characterized as living in absolute poverty. Ten years later, in 1995, the figure is estimated at 430 million. At the same time, more than 600 million urban residents in developing countries live in health-threatening houses and conditions characterized by lack of basic services such as piped water, sanitation and health care.

There is a considerable regional variation to this general picture. While three quarters of the poor in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in North Africa and the Middle East, live in urban areas, a similar proportion of the poor live in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa. The trend, however, is general. Rapid urban growth in all regions is accompanied by a relative (and in most cases also an absolute) increase in the number of urban poor. The explosive growth of informal settlements in many sub-Saharan African cities is a visible manifestation of this.

There are many reasons for the increasing 'income poverty' and 'housing poverty' in urban areas. One of these is the process of urbanization itself. When this occurs at a time of worldwide economic recession - and as we are increasingly realizing that present policies for human settlements development fail to cater for the special circumstances of the groups affected by extreme poverty - it is not surprising that a large proportion of the 65 million people that are added to the urban populations of developing countries each year end up unemployed or underemployed, living in very poor shelter conditions.

It is against this reality that the fourteenth session of the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements requested the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) to report to the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) on the human settlements conditions of the world's urban poor. This publication has been prepared in response to that request to present recommendations on how to address the shelter problem of the poorest groups within the context of enabling shelter strategies.

The dual problems of urban poverty and inadequate human settlements conditions in developing countries constitute two of the most fundamental challenges to politicians and policy-makers throughout the world. The growth of the informal sector is a symptom of the inability of the formal sector to absorb the labour potential of an increasing number of urban dwellers. Yet, the informal sector is also the most important arena for shelter provision, and in many cases the only arena open to the urban poor.

The Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 200 calls for the introduction of enabling shelter strategies which implies a change from policies of government intervention to policies of enablement. Yet, as is acknowledged in the GSS, this process of liberalization embodies certain dangers to the urban poor. Increased demand for land and housing is accompanied by increased 'commercialization' of these markets. As choice is a positive function of income, many among the poor may end up with no choice at all. Thus, although liberalization is a necessary condition for the success of the GSS, it is by no means a sufficient one.

This is not an argument for abandoning the enabling approach. Yet, if we are to improve the human settlements conditions of the poorest groups it means going beyond enabling shelter strategies. Enabling shelter strategies does not imply that the public sector should withdraw from shelter provision completely. In fact, it is only by enabling the "not-so-poor" to help themselves, that governments can make resources available for direct assistance to the poorest groups.

215pp, HS/391/96E, ISBN 92-1-131300-7


Multilingual glossary of human settlements terms

A provisional glossary of terms relating to Habitat was issued by the Documentation and Terminology Service of the United Nations Secretariat in May 1976, primarily for use by the translation and interpretation teams at Habitat: United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, which was held at Vancouver, Canada, from 31 May to 11 June in that year. That glossary, issued in Arabic, English and French, provided a list of 650 terms in those languages.

In the 15 years since the Vancouver Conference, the need has arisen for a more complete glossary of terms, and this publication is an attempt to address that need. It does not pretend to cover the whole range of human settlement terminology: that could only be done by publication running into several hundred pages and several volumes.

What makes this glossary different from any predecessor is the inclusion of a definition for each term. This feature should help users to avoid the trap of selecting an inappropriate usage when two or more words or phrases in one language may translate a single word or phrase in another, a trap that could involve misunderstanding, disagreement or embarrassment.

155 pp., HS/252/92A/C/E/F/R/S, ISBN 92-1-131176-4