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close this book Commission on Human Setllements - 16th Session
close this folder 16th Session of Commission on Human Setllements
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View the document Discussions during the session
View the document NGO and other activities at thr 16th session
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Discussions during the session

Habitat Assessment Reports

The two assessment reports of Habitat discussed during the session were a report of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), and a report on the centre's organization and management, which was sponsored by the governments of Denmark, the Netherlands, South Africa and Uganda.

The OIOS report recommended, among other things: integration of research and technical cooperation activities of the centre;

- strengthening of regional activities;

- improved internal communication flows and transparency;

- compliance with audit recommendations; and

- introduction of a mechanism to monitor and evaluate organizational performance.

During the discussion, Dr. N'Dow said that while Habitat espouses the idea of an assessment of its work by member countries, the centre must be given the opportunity to be a full partner in the assessment process. He said that Habitat takes note of the OIOS report findings and accepts its recommendations. He said, however, 'the centre has been unable to correlate the main findings of the report with its recommendations."

He noted that several of the OIOS recommendations were already underway, and were either being implemented or being formulated when the OIOS assessment team undertook a one-week review of the centre in September last year. However, he explained that some administrative matters had been overshadowed by preparations for Habitat II and preconference activities. "The conference," said Dr. N'Dow, "took its toll on our small staff and presented us with challenges we had not faced before, not least of which was limited resources."

Several member governments agreed that assessments of the centre could contribute positively to discussion on its revitalization. A representative of India, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 Developing Countries (G77) and China, said that while management and financial matters deserved the attention of the commission, its interest lay in ensuring that the work programme and budget are implemented by a centre that is capable.

The Kenyan delegation, which supported the position of the G77 and China, said that while it is important to make Habitat more effective, accountable and transparent, the centre also needs more resources and support to fulfil its mandate.

The Netherlands delegation noted that the last three years in particular have been difficult for Habitat, since the centre was burdened with organizing a global conference. The delegation noted that the main concern of the commission should be to ensure that the Habitat agenda is implemented. In that regard, the Netherlands delegation said it expects the centre to come up with its own proposals for restructuring.

In a resolution, the Secretary-General is requested to ensure prompt implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Office of Internal Oversight, taking into account the observations and comments of the Executive Director of the centre and the views expressed by the members of the commission at the 16th session.

The Bureau of the Commission, with the support of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, is requested to monitor improvements in the administrative and financial management of the centre and to report thereon to the commission at its 17th session.

A statement by NGOs said that the assessment reports were flawed because they based their analysis on opinions and responses that were not diverse enough. "What is missing from these assessments," said the NGOs, "is a detailed examination of the actual programmes of work of the centre and their impact, and the incorporation and views of the various partners and beneficiaries themselves; these elements and perspectives must also be reviewed."

The NGOs said they recognized the central role that Habitat had played in involving civil society in the Habitat II process, and they support the centre's mandate of implementing the Habitat Agenda. "It is vital," they stressed, "that the centre be strengthened so that it may take full advantage of the energy and ideas generated by Habitat Il in the implementation of its mandate and to more effectively respond to people's processes."

Revitalization of Habitat

A resolution on revitalizing the Habitat Centre sets out guiding principles and recommendations to focus the work of the centre and improve its efficiency. Recommendations on general management include implementing a series of clear and coherent policies incorporating the centre's mandate, strategic plan and mission statement and developing further formal processes of institutional learning. Financial resource recommendations include the urgent need to broaden the centre's funding base, and take measures to attract more nonearmarked contributions (earmarked funds are those tied to a particular project specified by the donor). With regard to administrative management, the resolution says the financial arrangements of the UN office in Nairobi "should be brought into line with those of similar United Nations administrative offices...Consideration should also be given to whether the continued existence of the United Nations office at Nairobi is justified." The centre should develop human resources and staffing strategy that, among other things, promotes the development and recognition of skills, greater emphasis on staff development, more team-based work, improved management practices and a high degree of staff involvement. "The existing imbalance and disparities in gender and geographical representation," says the resolution, "especially at the senior levels, must be rectified urgently through affirmative action." There was no discussion of merging the centre with other UN agencies.

Involvement of Civil Society

In 1996, the General Assembly requested the commission to review at its 16th session its working methods in order to involve in its work the representatives of local authorities or international associations of local authorities, and the relevant actors of civil society.

There was consensus at the commission that the involvement of local authorities, NGOs,- the private sector and other members of civil society is vital to Habitat's work and for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. However, several delegations said Habitat's proposal to expand membership of the commission to include partners from civil society was not legally tenable, and India and China were against expanding membership. Not all NGOs favoured becoming commission members for fear it would threaten their integrity and their independent role. However, all delegations were unanimous in their opinion that there is a need to involve members of civil society in an on-going process of consultation and in implementing projects in member countries.,

In a resolution entitled Review of the Working Methods of the Commission on Human Settlements: The Involvement ofPartners, the commission decided that at its future session it will provide opportunities for partners to engage in a dialogue among themselves and with governments.

Future Role of the Commission

In a resolution on its future role, the commission affirmed that in fulfilling its mandate, it will assist the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in monitoring, reviewing and assessing progress made in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, among other things, through the analysis of relevant inputs from governments, local authorities and their associations, relevant NGOs and the private sector. The commission will also identify issues where system-wide coordination needs to be improved and modalities for achieving this.

The resolution also urges the commission to adopt a multiyear programme for a focused and thematic approach, culminating in an overall review and appraisal of the Habitat Agenda in the year 2001. The work programme will, inter alia, provide a framework to assess the progress achieved in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda and will be in line with the coordinated UN follow up to the 1990s global conferences. The work of the commission in relation to the programme of work shall be primarily focused on the relevant provisions of the Habitat Agenda, with a view to ensuring its effective implementation. The commission, at its future sessions, will include the following substantive items, derived from Habitat II:

- consideration of issues identified in the multi-year programme of work;

- review of the relevant UN plans and programmes of action pertaining to the themes "sustainable human settlements development" and "adequate shelter for all;" and

- emerging issues, trends and new approaches to issues affecting human settlements development.

At its 17th and 18th sessions, the commission will focus on monitoring implementation of the Habitat Agenda and assessing its impact. The sessions will be structured around the four substantive areas of the Habitat Agenda, as follows:

- adequate shelter for all, incorporating also the monitoring of the Global Shelter Strategy;

- sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world, incorporating also the monitoring of chapter 7 of Agenda 21;

- capacity building and institutional development; and

- international cooperation and coordination:

Concerning Habitat's activities toward the realization of the human right to housing, the commission decided that, in addition to existing approved elements of their work programmes, a joint programme will be elaborated between Habitat and the Centre for Human Rights. The programme will aim to assist member states with the implementation of their commitments in the Habitat Agenda to ensure the full and progressive realization of the human right to housing.

Work Plan and Budget

Although the commission did not adopt a work plan, it endorsed the overall orientation of Habitat's medium-term plan for the period 1998-2001, which will be implementation of the Habitat Agenda. Several delegations expressed the need for a clear linkage of the 1998-1999 work programme with the Habitat Agenda and the financial aspects of its implementation. For this reason, the commission decided to request the secretariat to prepare by 15 June 1997 a revised work programme, which will take into account the centre's revised budget. The commission also requested a report on the clear linkages between the Habitat Agenda and the future work programme of the centre.

The proposed budget for Habitat was the subject of much debate during the session. Habitat noted that while the overall level of voluntary contributions to the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation continues to grow, the level of nonearmarked contributions continues to decline. According to Dr. N'Dow, in 1991 only US$3 million of Habitat's funding was earmarked. However, by 1996 the figure had risen to US$16 million. This trend affects various activities of the centre, which has introduced measures to reduce expenditure. The centre is also preparing a fund-raising strategy based on the new medium-term plan.

The commission approved a budget of US$24 million for the biennium 1996-1997 and a budget of US$21 million for the following biennium. During the session, 23 governments pledged contributions to the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation.

1999 Commission on Human Settlements

The commission decided that it will focus on the following special themes at its next session, to be held in 1999:

- local implementation of the Habitat Agenda, with particular attention to Agenda 21; and

- international cooperation for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.