2 March 2005
Sustainable Development Preparatory Meeting Holds Interactive Discussions on Water, Sanitation, Human Settlements
Over 1 Billion People Worldwide Lack Access to Safe Drinking Water; Over 2.5 Billion Lack Access to Improved Sanitation
NEW YORK, 1 March (UN Headquarters) -- With over 1 billion people worldwide lacking access to safe drinking water, and over 2.5 billion lacking access to improved sanitation, the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development devoted its attention today to policy actions and possible actions to tackle those challenges.
The meeting, convened to lay the groundwork for the Commissions firstever policy segment -- set for 11 to 22 April, is considering measures to speed up efforts to ensure safe water, sanitation and housing, and to help countries stay on track to meet the commitments and targets agreed at the World Summit for Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002), as well as the Millennium Development Goals.
The discussions on water, chaired by Vice-Chairman Khaled Aly Elbakly (Egypt), focused on two critical issues -- access to safe drinking water and integrated water resources management. Delegations also focused on how the phenomenon of rapid urbanization -- mostly in the developing world where informal settlements in and around major cities are expected to increase dramatically over the next decade or so -- would complicate local and national strategies to provide most basic services, particularly safe drinking water.
At the same time, they also stressed that widespread poverty was a key obstacle to improving drinking water supplies in rural communities. Overall options put forward included allocating sufficient financial resources, ramping up poverty alleviation programmes, debt swap or outright cancellation, safeguarding water quality by strengthening and enforcing pollution controls, and intensifying agricultural water productivity by adopting more efficient conservation and irrigation practices.
Many believed better water management could make a key contribution to poverty reduction, as recognized in the Millennium Development Goal on halving the number of people without access to drinking water and improved sanitation by 2015. Discussions also focused on two of the main water stewardship challenges -- enhancing water use efficiency and managing competing uses. Policy options ranged from infrastructure improvement and upgrading to improved demand management, and from expanded research and extension of services to the adoption of water efficient and environmentally friendly technologies.
Among the challenges raised during the discussions on sanitation, chaired by Vice-Chairperson Dagmara Berbalk, head of the National and International Water Policy Division, of Germanys Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, was that most countries did not have clear policies on sanitation and did not recognize it as a national development priority. Speakers stressed the need to raise the priority of sanitation and hygiene, particularly in national budgets, since improved water supply and sanitation were critical to a countrys overall economic development and growth.
Also highlighted was the importance of sanitation and hygiene education, which some said could create demand for sanitation services. According to the Secretary-Generals report on sanitation, surveys had shown that, where households and communities were aware of the health and economic benefits of sanitation and hygiene, there was a greater willingness to pay for improved facilities and services and to alter hygiene behaviour.
With estimates of the total cost of meeting the 2015 sanitation target in developing countries amounting to an additional $10-20 billion per year, speakers stressed the need for greater resource mobilization, and further exploring public/private partnerships in that regard. Resource mobilization was particularly important so that water and sewerage utilities were able to upgrade existing services and to extend them to unserved populations. As recalled by one delegate, the economic, social and environmental benefits from improved sanitation and hygiene ranged from $3 to $34 per $1 invested, mainly as a result of reduced mortality, improved health and reduced costs of illness, and higher productivity.
Discussions also focused on managing waste water and strengthening monitoring systems, with a particular focus on cost-effective waste-water treatment and reuse, and strengthening systems for monitoring progress on sanitation. Waste-water treatment was a great challenge for developing countries, due to its high costs and the technical skills required for operation and maintenance.
Setting the stage for forthcoming discussions on human settlements, the Commission also held an expert-level panel today on policy options aimed at improving housing and living conditions of the urban and rural poor. Currently, there were almost 1 billion urban slum-dwellers worldwide. Target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals called for improving the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers by 2020. Among the issues raised during the panel were ensuring womens rights to land ownership and credit, adopting pro-poor housing finance policies, and security of tenure.
The panellists were Maria Antonia Trujillo, Minister of Housing of Spain; Silvia Andere, Public Administrator in the Municipal Urbanization Corporation of Belo Horizonte in Brazil; Sylvia Martinez, Senior Advisor with the United States Federal Housing Finance Board; and Elliot Sclar, Professor of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
The Commission will meet again tomorrow, 2 March, to hold simultaneous interactive discussions on water and human settlements in the morning, and on sanitation and human settlements in the afternoon.
The Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for the thirteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) continued its week-long session today with a series of panel discussions examining various challenges facing global efforts to provide safe water and sanitation. The CSD delegations were also expected to hold a plenary this afternoon on human settlements.
To facilitate the work of the Commissions thirteenth session, member governments are meeting this week for interactive discussions on a possible framework of policy options and actions. In addition to the outcome of the twelfth session of the Commission, the Secretary-Generals reports and regional contributions will be important inputs to the interactive discussions. The Commissions Chair will prepare a text based on these discussions, which will capture the various proposals and suggestions for action that are likely to emerge from the preparatory meeting, for consideration at the thirteenth session.
Interactive Panel Discussion Water (AM)
With over 1 billion people worldwide lacking access to safe drinking water, and with weak institutions and management pressuring Earths freshwater supplies, the global water agenda centres on two critical issues: access to safe drinking water and integrated water resources management.
In a wide-ranging interactive panel discussion this morning convened by the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting, delegations also focused on how the phenomenon of rapid urbanization -- mostly in the developing world where informal settlements in and around major cities are expected to increase dramatically over the next decade or so -- would complicate local and national strategies to provide most basic services, particularly safe drinking water.
At the same time, they also stressed that widespread poverty was a key obstacle to improving drinking water supplies in rural communities. Overall options delegations put forward included allocating sufficient financial resources, ramping up poverty alleviation programmes, debt swap or outright cancellation, safeguarding water quality by strengthening and enforcing pollution controls, and intensifying agricultural water productivity by adopting more efficient conservation and irrigation practices.
Vice-Chair KHALED ALY ELBAKLY (Egypt), who moderated the panel, pointed out that over the years, a great deal of experience had been accumulated in terms of good practices, and what could work under what circumstances. In some countries, national policy decisions had contributed significantly towards accelerating progress, and in others, rural communities had benefited from community-driven initiatives.
There were many who believed that strengthening financial and technical capacities of public utilities was the key to expanding water services in urban areas. Others, he said, saw private sector partnerships as an important way to address constraints in urban areas. In any case, there appeared to be wide agreement that subsidies needed to be well-targeted to expand water services for the poor.
That sentiment was echoed by the representative of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, who urged the donor community, however, to address the irony that, while indeed everyone seemed to understand the importance of providing subsidies for poor countries, the world financial institutions were often adamant about not backing grants for those very same countries, whose economic situations were not considered ideal.
The representative of Italy spotlighted what emerged as a major concern for most delegations: the troubling nexus between the environment, poverty and development. He was among those that stressed the need to raise public awareness about poverty and its linkages to the management of water resources, the delivery of water services and the overall water security of poor people. Many speakers said that better water management could make a key contribution to poverty reduction, as recognized in the Millennium Development Goal on halving the number of people without access to drinking water and improved sanitation by 2015.
As delegations exchanged experience about successful and unsuccessful project approaches designed to meet diverse needs for water security of the poor, a representative of non-governmental organizations noted that recent studies had shown that lack of access to water or health problems caused by unsafe water accounted for 5.6 billion working days and 450 million school days lost worldwide each year. The representative of Azerbaijan called attention to the unique needs of transition economies, as well as the water and sanitation needs of countries which hosted large populations of migrants or refugees.
Indonesias representative said that improved access to water for both urban and rural poor could create livelihood opportunities that could break the cycle of poverty. It was also necessary to catalyze pro-poor financing and action at policy and project levels. He was among the speakers who also noted that ensuring the sustainability of freshwater resources meant addressing such diverse issues as forest protection and rehabilitation of degraded lands.
Costa Ricas representative supported the implementation of initiatives aimed at generating payment for environmental or ecological services. Under such programmes in her country, forest and plantation owners were financially and legally acknowledged for the environmental services their forests provided to the community, both nationally and globally. They had allowed the Government to recover forest coverage, and to focus those resources on protecting biodiversity and contribute to the prevention of fires and other natural disasters.
The representative of the United States offered several policy options aimed at promoting integrated water resources management, including among others, the creation of government mechanisms for coordinating water monitoring and allocation activities within or among ministries, and policies that strengthened the capacity of and provided support for joint management of shared water resources.
South Africas representative stressed that water resource management should be seen as a step towards overall sustainable development.
Speakers from Egypt and Algeria were among the delegations spotlighting the unique concerns of arid and semi-arid countries -- where water was as strategic commodity as petroleum. Algerias representative called for greater investment and training programmes to help countries in desert regions benefit from new technologies in desalinization. Sharing national experiences, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, whose country had suffered droughts followed by devastating floods, called for the creation of networks for rainwater collection, recycling and reuse.
Japans representative said that leakage prevention was one of the most important ways to manage water resources in urban areas. As for rural communities, Japans experience had shown that small-scale providers tended to provide services to the poor. But at the same time, costs tended to be high, which often undercut their capacities. National governments should intervene in such cases, putting in place facilities and infrastructure for small water supply systems.
Among the major groups speaking today, a representative of trade unions urged the government delegations not to forget to invest in people. The solution was not only material and infrastructure upgrade, but expanding and increasing education and training. The lack of human resource development was the greatest hindrance to building up and maintaining water services, he said.
Trade unions derived their strength from the workplace, and they knew about negotiating agreements; they knew about training; and they knew about managing change that respected people and their rights. He urged the Meeting to recognize the contribution trade unions could make towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The representative of Norway called for a greater focus on empowering women and girls, as key agents for change in the area of water resource management and sanitation. She urged delegations to keep women and gender issues on the agenda for CSD-13, and ensure that outcome of the intergovernmental preparatory meeting address gender concerns.
Interactive Panel Discussion Sanitation (AM)
According to the latest report of the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), over the period 1990 to 2002, global sanitation coverage rose from 49 per cent to 58 per cent of the worlds population, with over 1 billion people gaining access during the period. Despite that progress, there were still over 2.5 billion people who lacked access to improved sanitation.
Opening this mornings interactive discussion, Commission Vice-Chairperson DAGMARA BERBALK, head of the National and International Water Policy Division, of Germanys Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, said that sanitation was not only about low-cost ecosanitation but also about waste water treatment and waste water plants. It was also about how to get all that done. An important issue was how to get sanitation higher up on the agenda, as well as into national policies.
One of the difficulties highlighted by speakers was that most countries did not have clear policies on sanitation and did not recognize it as a national development priority. It was vital to raise the priority of sanitation and hygiene, particularly in national budgets. Stressing the need for budgets allocated to sanitation, Norways representative said it was necessary to make the case for investments in sanitation and water; it must be seen as a sound investment. Improved water supply and sanitation, and water resources management, were critical to a countrys overall economic development and growth.
In many areas, noted Switzerlands representative, lack of political commitment had led to poor performance and lack of services. To improve the number of those with access to sanitation by 2015, there was a need for a major paradigm shift. Governments had to play the role of boosters, who put water and sanitation high on the national agenda. Also, it was agreed by a number of delegates that integration of sanitation into national sustainable development and poverty reduction strategies, as well as integrated water resources management plans, could promote improved sanitation, hygiene and health and, in the process, sustainable development.
Stating that sanitation was closely related to human dignity and security, the representative of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that sanitation should not be treated in isolation from the design and delivery of other services. The profile of sanitation needed to be raised at the national government level, she agreed, particularly within finance ministries.
The importance of sanitation and hygiene education was stressed by several speakers, including the representative of the United States, who stated that hygiene education would create demand for sanitation services. According to the Secretary-Generals report on sanitation, surveys had shown that, where households and communities were aware of the health and economic benefits of sanitation and hygiene, there was a greater willingness to pay for improved facilities and services and to alter hygiene behaviour.
Estimates of the total cost of meeting the 2015 sanitation target in developing countries amounted to an additional $10-20 billion per year, based on hygiene promotion and low-cost facilities. As recalled by one delegate, the economic, social and environmental benefits from improved sanitation and hygiene ranged from $3 to $34 per $1 invested, mainly as a result of reduced mortality, improved health and reduced costs of illness, as well as higher productivity.
Nearly all speakers agreed on the need to further explore public/private partnerships in the area of resource mobilization. Mobilizing additional public and private resources, said Japans representative, required the close cooperation and coordination of national governments, donors, private entities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It was agreed by many that developing countries could not achieve the internationally agreed sanitation targets without the support of the international community. Resource mobilization was particularly important so that water and sewerage utilities were able to upgrade existing services and to extend them to unserved populations.
On the issue of cost recovery, the representative of Egypt noted that the cost of sanitation infrastructure was four times that of similar water infrastructure, making it extremely difficult to achieve full cost recovery for investments in sanitation. Echoing that view, the representative of UN-Habitat said that pricing and cost recovery related to sanitation were not as amenable as those related to water supply. It was necessary to evolve mechanisms for cost recovery for sanitation. To that, South Africas representative noted that full cost recovery was seldom possible in developing countries, and emphasized the need for governments to specifically budget for sanitation needs.
Among the other issues discussed were how national government strategies and policies relating to sanitation encouraged the participation of local authorities and community organizations; the role of women and the need to involve them further as agents of change; the question of subsidies; the road map, which followed last years Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Forum held in Dakar, Senegal; and capacity-building and education at various levels.
Interactive Panel Discussion Water (PM)
The Preparatory Meeting began its work in the afternoon with a panel discussion on two of the main water stewardship challenges: enhancing water use efficiency and managing competing uses. Delegations also touched on the related issues, water quality and ecosystem management and disaster prevention.
Opening the discussions, Vice-Chair KHALED ALY ELBAKLY (Egypt) noted that most water efficiency research centred on the agriculture and farming sectors -- the largest water user in most countries -- chiefly because of critical water scarcity concerns. It was clear that even modest improvements in those sectors could free up large volumes of water for other uses. Equally clear was that, in some areas, if existing agricultural usage patters continued unchecked or were allowed to reach excessive levels, that could disrupt or damage fragile ecosystems, or constrain supplies for industrial growth or urban development.
Policy options to address those challenges ranged from infrastructure improvement and upgrading to improved demand management, and from expanded research and extension of services to the adoption of water efficient and environmentally friendly technologies, he said. Setting the stage for comments from delegations, he asked the Meeting what were the key institutional, technological, and economic policy options that had proven successful, and which could be replicated elsewhere. Among other queries, he asked: Are our research and extension systems responding to foreseeable water crises?
Many speakers during the discussion that followed stressed that efficient water use helped to reduce the need for costly water supply and waste-water treatment facilities and helped maintain stream flows and healthy aquatic habitats. But the representative of Panama said that it was impossible to create one formula that could address all problems for all countries. Following such a path had led to repeated failures, particularly in developing countries. Water efficiency and use strategies should be created to focus on environmental, as well as human needs of local communities -- particularly poor rural areas -- with a view to involving all stakeholders to help achieve real and sustainable development. We can not continue with twentieth century practices in the twenty-first century, he said.
The representative of Kenya, describing his countrys water use and efficiency initiatives, also called for increased stakeholder participation. He noted joint efforts under way to improve use of the Nile River and its tributaries. He also hailed the work of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), which had initiated a programme focused on many of the small- and medium-sized villages around Lake Victoria. The key objectives of that initiative were twofold: first, to improve the water supply and sanitation coverage of the urban poor in these towns; and secondly, to arrest the increasing pollution of the Lake from those towns. He encouraged more development partners to consider such projects in Africa.
Some representatives noted that it was difficult for many developing countries to put in place systems that accurately monitored water uses for irrigation in their farming communities. Improvements in national- and local-level monitoring and assessment systems would have to be undertaken, accompanied by international efforts to mobilize relevant resources and promote technology transfer, they said.
When the discussion turned to improving water quality and ecosystem management and disaster prevention, speakers addressed agricultural and urban water and energy conservation, reclamation and reuse of water, land and water use, and drainage management. The representative of Switzerland said that stressing the value of ecosystems was the only way to convince decision makers to take conservation seriously. She was also among the delegations calling for wider adherence to the 1971 Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran), which aimed to halt the worldwide loss of wetlands and to conserve those that remain through wise use and management.
An NGO representative agreed that protecting and valuing ecosystems, and ensuring fair disruption among users were critical for both water security and human development. She also joined other major groups and government delegations who called for policies which addressed the specific needs of each segment of the entire water spectrum -- river basins, catchments and local communities.
The representative of the United States said that policy options in the area of demand management could include developing water conservation standards, and establishing usage based tariffs. Options for ecosystem management could include eliminating the discharge of pollutants in navigable waters, and outlining a national plan to reduce levels of pollution to maintain or improve aquatic and wildlife ecosystems and provide recreation.
Japans representative recalled the recently held United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe -- a long-planned event which gained added importance in the wake of the devastating Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. He noted that countries pledged to reduce the risks facing millions of people who were exposed to natural calamities by adopting the Hyogo Framework for Action: 2005 -- 2015, which calls for putting disaster risk at the centre of national policies, strengthening the capacity of disaster-prone countries to address risk, and investing heavily in disaster preparedness.
Interactive Panel Discussion Sanitation (PM)
The afternoon discussion, also chaired by Ms. BERBALK, focused on managing waste water and strengthening monitoring systems, with a particular focus on cost-effective waste-water treatment and reuse, and strengthening systems for monitoring progress on sanitation.
Most waste water in developing countries, she noted, was discharged into the environment without treatment, contaminating downstream water supplies used for drinking water, irrigation, fisheries and recreational activities. Waste-water treatment and reuse was an issue primarily in urban areas with sewerage systems. In rural areas and urban areas with on-site sanitation facilities, such as latrines or septic tanks, waste water went into the ground where it was filtered and purified, providing that the disposal site was sufficiently far from sources of drinking water. Waste-water treatment was a great challenge for developing countries, she added, because of its high costs and the technical skills required for operation and maintenance.
While noting that meeting the Johannesburg targets was a real challenge for a number of developing countries, the representative of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that no single solution would work in all developing countries. But there were successful experiences in some countries which could be used and adapted in other countries. He noted that access for the poor was a challenge, due to the costs, which they themselves might not be able to bear. In such situations, governments had to come in and play a role. Also, while emphasizing the need to focus on low-cost technologies, he said that, in some circumstances, the low-cost solution might not be the best solution. Hence, the appropriateness of technologies must be taken into account.
On the issue of funding, Senegals representative mentioned that people were trying to find makeshift solutions, which might not be the best solutions. In Dakar, for example, there were areas where the water was very polluted, due to lack of sanitation. Unless people were helped to have proper sanitation, they would continue to seek makeshift solutions. It was necessary to find solutions to funding for individual-style sanitation facilities.
Referring to sanitation as an orphan within government sectors, the representative of UN-Habitat said that, as human settlements and sanitation were closely linked sectors, sanitation could find a home within the institutional home of human settlements. The security of tenure was an important issue related to sanitation, because if people did not feel secure about how long they would living in a certain place, they would not invest substantially in sanitation. Creating the demand for sanitation was also a key policy issue, because sanitation in the final analysis was a household choice. Therefore, the social marketing aspect of sanitation became important in that regard.
On the reuse of treated waste water in agriculture or for other uses, Egypts representative felt that reusing water after treatment was not a very economical option. His country did not use used water in agricultural projects, for example, unless it was confident that it had been treated safely and hygienically. It was difficult to reach that level of purity with used water, he said, emphasizing the need for further regulations on the treatment of water to use it in agriculture. Any treatment of water without such regulations would be hazardous for later use.
The lack of water was an ongoing concern in Algeria, that countrys representative said, due to population explosion and the needs of industry and agriculture. In his semi-arid country, treated water went to industry and roads were washed with such water. There were about 45 purification plants that were operational or being built. The use of waste water required the necessary infrastructure to collect and purify water, which, in turn, required funding and technology transfer. The use of recycled water in agriculture was not something that everyone agreed with, and he agreed with Egypt that precautionary steps were needed, as well as training to overcome prejudices regarding recycling and using treated water.
Ecological sanitation was an option raised by a representative of NGOs, who said that one of the problems associated with that model was getting stuck with sanitization. If it was possible to zero in on sanitizing waste in an affordable way in order to reuse it, then the ecological sanitation approach would gain wider acceptance.
A representative of trade unions noted that there was no mention in the Secretary-Generals report of employment and decent jobs in relation to water and sanitation. It was clear that any capital investment in sanitation would create jobs. Economic growth was necessary so that more and more people could afford to make some contribution to sanitation.
It was agreed by many speakers that monitoring and evaluation of sanitation and sewage, coordinated with monitoring of water supply and quality, were needed to assess convenience, reliability, sustainability, and adequacy of sanitation services. Also needed was monitoring of the public health impacts of sanitation programmes and the impacts of new technologies and approaches. The representative of Barbados, like others, wanted to see practical and achievable policy solutions, for monitoring, adopted at the upcoming thirteenth session of the Commission.
Among the other issues discussed were the role of the central government; the need to ensure financing for household hook-ups; accountability mechanisms for monitoring; the link between waste water and solid waste; the need for technology transfer, finances and capacity-building for developing countries; and the need for the involvement of and close collaboration with civil society in the area of monitoring.
Panel on Human Settlements
Setting the stage for the weeks discussions on human settlements, the Meeting then held an expert-level panel discussion on policy options aimed at improving housing and living conditions of the urban and rural poor.
MARIA ANTONIA TRUJILLO, Minister of Housing for Spain, said it was important to take action to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reaching by 2020 a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers. She said that sustainable development of cities depended on the improvement of precarious developments and integrating their communities into regular urban life. Addressing the myriad challenges would mean first drawing up and supporting land rights which provided security in land tenure or ownership. In addition, a special focus should be placed on women and land rights/ownership. A gender perspective should be mainstreamed into all plans and projects, she added.
Along with urban and rural planning initiatives, improvement of human settlements also required the mobilization of financial resources at local and national levels. It would also require education and training -- of residents, as well as carpenters or engineers -- and broad cooperation between all stakeholders, she said. All those measures must be holistic and coherent. They must be enforced with sustainability in mind, and be based on the notion of social equity, environmental quality and institutional coordination. Narrow or isolated measures would be limited in scope, she warned.
ELLIOT SCLAR, Professor of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at Columbia University, said that improving human settlements was crucial to global prosperity and sustainability. Increasingly, human settlements were going to be urban settlements. As the United Nations Population Division had noted, by 2030, the urban population would increase by 2 billion. The urban challenge was powerfully economic in nature, he said, as most of the growth was to take place in the cities of developing countries. Currently, there were almost 1 billion urban slum-dwellers worldwide.
He recalled that target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals called for improving the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers by 2020. The Millennium Project Task Force 8, for which he served as co-coordinator, concluded that a two-pronged strategy was needed -- slum upgrading and preparation of alternatives. The challenge was not just to identify policy ideas, but to identify policy ideas that were implementable and that could transform government practice.
He proposed that the urban poor be recognized as active partners and not as objects of development. Secondly, it was important to improve governance. In that regard, it was necessary to involve all stakeholders in the process of coming up with solutions, and to embrace local strategies. Thirdly, it was important to support and enact local pro-poor policies, to provide infrastructure and services with the poor and not just for the poor. Fourthly, he stressed the need to mobilize financial resources. Local banking institutions had to be nurtured. Security of tenure was also crucial, since it gave people an incentive to do their own upgrading. Fifthly, it was important to empower local action, by strengthening and supporting local actors on the ground, and improve monitoring and evaluation.
SILVIA ANDERE, Public Administrator in the Municipal Organization Corporation of Belo Horizonte in Brazil, who had spent more than a decade working in the Belo Horizonte slums, which housed 2.5 million people, with more than a third living in precarious situations, said the challenges was how to ensure ownership of those homesteads. Her group tackled the issue from a land tenure perspective, and over the past 10 years, municipal legislation had paved the way for the creation of a planning instrument addressing education, sanitation and health, as well as public works concerns. The overall plan recognized the rights of squatter settlements and provided the framework for the regularization of land tenure.
Belo Horizonte inhabitants had participated in the process from the very beginning, she added, because even when good works were completed, repairs and maintenance had to be carried out by the inhabitants themselves. In addition, even though Brazils new constitution -- adopted in 1988 -- had guaranteed housing for everyone, there was still a long way to go, particularly since, beyond settling the issue of land rights and ownership, livelihoods inside the Belo Horizonte had to be improved.
SYLVIA MARTINEZ, Senior Advisor with the United States Federal Housing Finance Board, said that even in developed countries, it was difficult for the poor to get housing financing. She would focus on, among other things, housing finance strategies that were more appropriate for serving the poor. She agreed that a functioning real estate financial system began with a sound legal system, and should recognize informal settlements. To attract capital, governments must establish the legal foundation for ownership. Clear proof of ownership was essential for housing finance systems. Also, housing finance policies should be designed so that they reached the poor. She cautioned that national housing banks could be driven by their own financial considerations and depart from their housing mission.
Similarly, she continued, bond financing was often mentioned as a means for financing housing for the poor. However, bond financing was probably limited in its ability to reach the very poor. In addition, governments should develop strategic plans for integrating the poor and stimulating local capital formation. They should also support financing programmes appropriate for the poor and make sure they reached both urban and rural communities. Policies to encourage individual wealth creation were also important. Sustainable development depended on sustainable financial institutions. In that connection, governments could facilitate training to small institutions and serve as a catalyst for public/private partnerships. The mechanisms for housing finance were all too often not well understood. Therefore, she was glad to see the United Nations playing an increasing role as a clearing house for information on improving the living conditions of the worlds poor.
To questions from Azerbaijan about forced evictions, Dr. SCLAR said that the practical problem with evictions was that they never worked. He did not support forced evictions in any way, and believed that when populations did have to be moved, such actions occurred within the law and took place only following negotiations with the population.
The representative of Bolivia asked about problems surrounding land speculation and property use. Ms. MARTINEZ said she agreed that the practice could indeed become problematic, particularly when urban informal settlements were turned into higher-income dwellings and residents were displaced. There were some legal remedies, such as forming corporations that could forestall the sale of property for a prescribed number of years, she added.
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