At a time when half of the world's 6 billion people are living in cities and the world is facing unprecedented urban growth, mainly in the developing world, the Member States of the United Nations have renewed their commitment to the principles of adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development.
The governments made that commitment after working through the night of 8 to 9 June to conclude the special session of the General Assembly to implement the Habitat Agenda - the outcome of the Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), held in Istanbul in 1996. Without a vote, the States adopted a Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, at 7 am on Saturday morning.
While welcoming progress made in implementing the Agenda, the governments recognized the obstacles in the way of developing human settlements and noted with great concern the current conditions of human settlements worldwide. In the face of those and other challenges, they pledged to accelerate their efforts to ensure the Agenda's full and effective implementation.
They also resolved to encourage social and economic policies designed to meet the housing needs of families, with particular attention to the needs of children; and to promote changes in attitudes, structures, policies and other practices relating to gender in order to eliminate all obstacles to human dignity and equality in family and society.
The Declaration urged the strengthening of international assistance to developing countries in their efforts to alleviate poverty, including by creating an enabling environment to facilitate the integration of the developing countries into the world economy, improving their market access, facilitating the flow of financial resources and implementing all initiatives regarding debt relief.
The governments resolved to take effective measures to remove obstacles to the realization of the rights of peoples living under colonial rule and foreign occupation. They also resolved to expand and strengthen the protection of civilians in conformity with international humanitarian law.
The document also addressed, among many other issues, the provision of shelter and other basic services for post-conflict and post-disaster countries; proactive planning of land supply to promote the efficient functioning of land markets; the need to eradicate
legal and social barriers to the equitable access to land; actions to address the impact of HIV/AIDS in human settlements; the issues of urban crime and violence; and the need to take concerted action against international terrorism.
During the one-week meeting, 171 speakers addressed the plenary session, including 2 vice-presidents, 3 deputy prime ministers, 69 ministers and 20 vice-ministers. Three UN entities and 11 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also spoke in the plenary. The session was attended by 450 NGO representatives from 170 organizations, as well as 67 mayors.