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Goals set by Istanbul's Habitat forum still 'elusive,' head of UN agency says

Goals set by Istanbul's Habitat forum still 'elusive,' head of UN agency says

With 1.2 billion people in the world still lacking adequate housing, the goals set five years ago by a landmark United Nations conference remain "elusive," a top United Nations official said today as the UN General Assembly opened its special session in New York to review progress since the 1996 forum in Istanbul.

Speaking at a joint news conference at UN Headquarters, Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), emphasized the importance of bringing shelter back into the UN strategy for fighting poverty. "The delivery of shelter would not come about by decree alone but would require investment at different levels," she said. "While progress has been made, much remains to be done."

Ms. Tibaijuka noted that several delegations at the session had called for the honouring of past commitments regarding international development assistance, which would be one of the important sources of funding to break the vicious cycle experienced by many developing countries.

Commenting on concerns raised by some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that they had been left out of the review process, Ms. Tibaijuka said that the Assembly had passed a resolution last December to accommodate Habitat partners in the special session. She said she was not aware of NGOs being excluded, especially since the Assembly had this morning authorized an unprecedented number of them to speak at the session.

The Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the special session, Ambassador German Garcia Duran of Colombia, told the press that negotiations continued on the draft declaration on cities and other human settlements in the new millennium - the main outcome document to be adopted at the end of the session. The declaration would give political strength to the process of implementing the Habitat Agenda adopted at the Istanbul conference. That process, he said, had so far been inadequate.