Statement by Mr. Syed Zahid Hussain Chairman of G-77 ( Nairobi Chapter) at the Second Session of UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum (September 13, 2004 Barcelona, Spain)

The Chairperson,
Honourable Ministers,
The Executive Director of UN-HABITAT,
The Mayor of the city of Barcelona,
Your Excellencies,
HABITAT Agenda Partners,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Permit me to begin by congratulating the Chairperson, upon her election to chair this important forum, and to express the full support of the G-77 and China to her leadership. We have full confidence in her wise leadership and look forward to the successful conclusion of the deliberations at this Second Session of the World Urban Forum.

2. Having said that, madam Chairperson, I wish to express my gratitude to address this Second Session of the World Urban Forum on behalf of the G77 and China. The G77 and China is the largest grouping of countries in the United Nations, representing and articulating the collective interests of four-fifths of the world population residing in the developing countries. The G77 and China fully recognizes the challenges posed to this Forum resulting from the merger of the Urban Environment Forum (WEF) and the International Forum on Urban Poverty (IFUP) into the unified World Urban Forum (WUF), as stipulated in resolution 18/5 of February 16, 2001 of the Commission on Human Settlement (CHS). The G77 and China is following with interest the trend of progress of the Forum in regard to its substantive focus on the arena of international cooperation in Shelter and Urban Development.

Madam Chairperson,

3. The G77 and China would like to appreciate the preparation of the dialogue papers for this Forum. We are confident that these papers will stimulate interesting discussions aimed at coming up with practical strategies for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) particularly those related to Sustainable Human Settlement Development.

Madam Chairperson,

4. G77 and China has supported UN-HABITAT in promoting an effective implementation of the HABITAT Agenda. Our group continues to play a vital role in strengthening UN-HABITAT as a fully-fledged UN program and as an organization with a clear and definite mandate. As such we attach importance to the deliberations of the Second Session of the World Forum which has brought together a wide range of experts to discuss the theme – Cities: Crossroads of Culture, inclusiveness and integration?

5. We believe that this Second Session of the World Urban Forum is a good opportunity for participants to discuss social and economic development and environmental protection issues as interdependent and mutual reinforcing components of Sustainable Human Settlement Development in a highly urbanizing world. We therefore hope that the Forum will facilitate identification of new issues, sharing of lessons learned and exchanging of best practices, and sound policies in line with sustainable Human Settlement Development.

Madam Chairperson,

6. On our part, we would like to point out issues that we believe are hampering sustainable urban human settlement development. We hope that experts at this Second Session of the World Urban Forum, in their deliberations will reflect upon these issues and come up with solutions to address them.

7. We recognize that rapid urbanization, coupled with population growth is one of the most serious challenges for the developing world and it inhibits the achievement of the goals of the HABITAT Agenda. The theme of Cities: Crossroads of Culture, inclusiveness and integration is therefore of direct relevance to us.

8. The United Nations projects an increase of two billion people to the world’s population over the next 30 years and another one billion over the next 20 years. This will occur mainly in developing countries, and almost entirely in urban areas. By 2020, the majority of the people in developing countries are expected to be living in towns and cities. The changing patterns of the population in the developing world, have led to implications on the lives of its people.

9. This is a phenomenon that has been exacerbated by the trends of globalization. The inevitable inextricable link between the level of development and urbanization is also responsible for effects on social, economic and environmental aspects of cities.

Madam Chairperson,

10. As G-77 and China, we also recognize that poverty and the failure of the international community to check its unabated spread are the main causes for the multiplicity of problems faced by cities. Persistent poverty in rural areas continues to increase rural-urban migration. While this migration may contribute to cultural diversity, migrants face difficulties in being integrated into the mainstream of society and are unfortunately excluded from economic pursuits and denied their basic human needs.

11. The most vivid manifestation of urban poverty is the sprawling slum areas that are mushrooming every day. At present the population of slum dwellers is less than a billion, but if the trend is not checked, it may reach 1.5 billion in the next 15 years. The urban poor are condemned to live a life of misery in all forms of deprivation.

12. Further more, we believe that the issues of gender equality and social inclusion in the provision of health and human services such as adequate shelter, water and sanitation should be effectively addressed at this forum.

13. The Millennium Development Goals, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and the HABITAT Agenda all reflect the concern attached by the international community to address urgently the question of poverty eradication. In this connection, we welcome the initiative of the Government of Brazil to facilitate the meeting of world leaders to address poverty eradication to be held in New York in September, back-to-back to the United Nations General Assembly.

14. We are grateful to note that the Commission on Sustainable Development has refined the strategy for achieving the MDGs and other internationally agreed targets towards achieving that goal.

15. It is only through a co-ordinated and action oriented strategy that we can hope for tangible results. The crucial role of our developed partners, the civil society and other stakeholders remain central to genuine transfer of technology, capacity building and adequate provision of ODA which continue to generate problems in this regard and need to be solved urgently.

Madam Chairperson,

16. These issues and suggestions we have pointed out are neither exhaustive nor conclusive. We hope however, that experts at this Second Session of the World Urban Forum, in their deliberations will reflect upon them as benchmarks and come up with solutions to address them.

17. I cannot not end without expressing special thanks to the organizers of the forum, more especially the City of Barcelona, for their invaluable input in organizing and ensuring success of this Second Session of the World Urban Forum.

18. On behalf of G-77 and China, I would like to wish all participants fruitful deliberations and successful outcome of the Second Session of the World Urban Forum.

Thank you.