Human Settlement Legislation Developments + 30: Good Laws for a Better Habitat
Organized in cooperation with the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat and the Government of Canada
Mr. Adrian Alanis, Senator, Mexico, and Mr. Lee Richardson, Member of Parliament, Canada, co-chaired the round-table discussions. Mr. John Reynbolds, Privy Councillor, former Member of Parliament, Canada, served as moderator.
The round table afforded parliamentarians the opportunity to discuss legislative initiatives on human settlements, urban development and affordable housing. The discussion was divided into two segments: a retrospective of the past 20 years on urban legislation, and emerging priorities and future policies in support of urban sustainability.
Ms. Inga Björk-Klevby, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat, described the history and activities of UN‑Habitat. Noting the dire conditions in urban slums, she highlighted the commitments of the Millennium Development Goals on improved water and sanitation and slum upgrading. She called for the adoption of pro-urban-poor policies and stressed the importance of lawmakers in translating development objectives into action.
Parliamentarians from Germany and the Netherlands drew attention to the results of a study of urban policies in Europe over the past decade, stressing differences between countries in the use of various tools, including centres of expertise for regional development, the consolidation of municipal self-government, waste management and environmental assessment.
In sharing experiences from their own countries, delegates emphasized family planning, national legislation for urban planning instruments, an integrated approach between cities with overlapping spheres of influence, and success criteria for urban policies. Some participants cautioned that slums and shanty towns had the potential to deepen segregation and generate extremism. Others lamented the fact that sustainable habitats had not become a global priority, and said that the responsibility for improvement rested on the shoulders of legislators.
In looking to the future, participants emphasized the importance of putting urban poverty on the political agenda and taking an integrated multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approach. They suggested that financial resources directed toward slums and squatters should accompany foreign aid packages. The creation of a fund, similar to the post-Second-World-War Marshall Plan, was also proposed to support housing and urban development in African countries.
Mrs. Tibaijuka invited delegates to present the Habitat Agenda to their own parliaments.