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close this bookThe NGLS Handbook of UN Agencies, Programmes and Funds Working for Economic and Social Development (NGLS)
close this folderUnited nations centre for human settlements UNCHS (HABITAT)
View the documentOrigins and background
View the documentUNCHS activities
View the documentUNCHS activities
View the documentNGO relations

UNCHS activities

UNCHS is the lead agency for coordinating the implementation of the Global Strategy for Shelter (GSS) to the Year 2000 and Task Manager for implementing the UNCED Agenda 21 Programme on Promoting Sustainable Settlements Development and other relevant sections. Habitat is also an executing agency that supports technical cooperation activities to prepare and implement national shelter policies and strategies upon request from governments. It carries out projects funded by such agencies as UNDP or other multilateral donors. UNCHS also undertakes research activities, supports subregional and regional training workshops and seminars, and distributes technical publications on human settlements.

Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000

In 1988, the General Assembly launched the GSS with the adoption of resolution 43/1 Xl. The main objective of the GSS is to stimulate measures that will facilitate adequate shelter for all by the year 2000. The concept of adequate shelter, already accepted by the Commission in the Programme for the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless (1987), means more than a roof over one's head: it means adequate privacy, adequate space, adequate security, adequate lighting and ventilation, adequate basic infrastructure and adequate location with regard to work and basic facilities all at reasonable costs.

Since the definition of adequacy varies from country to country, the strategy has been shaped through national strategies developed by governments acting in their own political, economic social and cultural context and according to their own resources, within the framework of biannual GSS Plans of Action approved by the Commission on Human Settlements and the General Assembly. The strategy combines both national and international efforts. The international dimension is seen as crucial to the strategy's success since it promotes integration of the strategy into all international organization work programmes, regardless of whether these organizations are intergovernmental or non-governmental. The strategy also promotes external assistance that enhances national capacities (domestic human and financial resources) to formulate and implement national action components of the GSS.

The general framework for the GSS has been defined as follows:

· 1989-1991: establishment of national policies and strategies and review of institutional arrangements to enable implementation of the chosen strategies;

· 1992-1994: introduction of new institutional arrangements and strengthening existing national programmes; and

· 1995-2000: full scale operation of national programmes and strengthening of institutions for activities beyond 2000.

UNCHS (Habitat), in its role as the coordinating agency for the implementation of the GSS, focuses on technical cooperation, the application of the housing indicators, research and development on shelter and related issues, information dissemination and cooperation with NGOs. In addition the centre, in cooperation with some 70 governments, 10 NGOs and a number of international agencies, undertook a mid-term review of the implementation of the strategy.

The Right to Adequate Housing

Following a ground-breaking initiative of the Commission on Human Settlements, Habitat has taken the lead over the past year in reviewing the human rights component of shelter and shelter provision. The centre's work, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights and other related United Nations agencies, paid off when, by adopting the Habitat Agenda, the world's governments committed themselves to the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing through a number of concrete measures. This was a decisive step towards realizing the goal of adequate shelter for all, one of the two principal themes of the Habitat 11 Conference.

UNCHS and Agenda 21

Agenda 21, adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, identifies and defines a sustainable human settlements programme as one that:

· provides adequate shelter for all;

· improves human settlements management;

· promotes sustainable land use planning and management;

· promotes the integrated provision of environmental infrastructure (water, sanitation, drainage and solid waste management);

· promotes sustainable energy and transport systems in human settlements;

· promotes human settlement planning and management in disaster prone areas;

· promotes sustainable construction industry activities; and

· promotes human resource development and capacity building for human settlements.

Habitat is the United Nations Task Manager for Chapters 7 and 21 of Agenda 21 on 'Promoting Sustainable Human Settlements Development" and "Solid Waste Management and Sewage Related Issues." In carrying forward these responsibilities, Habitat is working closely with national governments, local authorities, the private sector, NGOs, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).