Role of Law makers
UN-HABITAT believes that partnership with parliamentarians is vital to build support for its mission and the implementation of HABITAT Agenda and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Because parliamentarians act as the bridge between the people and their government, they are instrumental in advocating for the rights and needs of the people.
Parliamentarians are close to the aspirations and wishes of the people and have a direct and critical role to play in the improvement of the lives of slum dwellers. In particular, UN-HABITAT recognizes, in a great manner, that parliamentarians are key for developing synergies among Habitat Agenda partners. It is Parliamentarians that set the laws and hold the key to funding.
They are in charge of making governments accountable to their international commitments such as the MDGs. What is expected is coherent action by governments in delivering on their promises, and by parliamentarians in holding their governments to account. For UN-HABITAT, partnership with parliamentarians can help in mainstreaming issues of shelter and urban poverty reduction into national policies
UN-HABITAT regularly receives parliamentary delegations both at its head quarters and the out posted offices. Recent meetings include the delegations of parliamentarians from Norway, Sweden, South Africa, U.K, Tanzania Namibia and China. Joint activities also have been initiated with parliamentary associations such as TPAPD (Tanzanian parliamentarians for for food security. The executive director also receives invitations from parliaments to address their members. Addresses to the British parliament, German parliament and the US congress can be mentioned in this context.
UN-HABITAT’s partnership with parliamentarians
The Global Parliamentarians on Habitat (GPH) functions as the international parliamentary group that is committed exclusively to promoting sustainable human settlements development. Founded in 1987 in Yokohama, in the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless, it has maintained close cooperation with UN-HABITAT, culminating in its participation both at 2nd UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), in June 1996 and at the Istanbul+5 Meeting in New York in 2001. From its inception to now, it has held five Global Forums of Parliamentarians and several regional council meetings. It also maintains collaborative links with the Latin American Parliament and the
The Global Forums usually attract over 200 parliamentarians and about 300 other participants from over 50 countries the world over. The Forums review the achievements of parliamentarians and plot new strategies and programmes for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda at the global regional and national levels.
The GPH is headed by a President, Hon. Peter Goetz (German Parliament). It has five regional councils for Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and for Oceana, which ensure its programme of work reflects the realities and aspirations of each region. The councils also promote inter-regional cooperation especially in the development and application of relevant legislation to enhance the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. Individual parliaments adopt proactive polices to pressure national governments to support international cooperation in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.
In keeping with it commitments made in Istanbul in June 1996, the GPH has continued to devote its efforts in strengthening its structure, expanding its influence among parliaments and promoting the implementation of the Istanbul Declaration and Habitat Agenda, at the national, regional and international levels, especially developing strategies for the adoption of relevant legislation and good public policy in conformity with the goals and aspirations of the Habitat Agenda.
In November 2002, in Abuja, Nigeria, the Executive Director Dr. Tibaijuka performed the commissioning ceremony of the Africa Regional Council of the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat. The Africa Global Parliamentarians on Habitat was established by African parliamentarians to promote the implementation of the Habitat Agenda in Africa. Over the years, the members of this body have drafted and passed relevant legislation and introduced policies to encourage decentralization and solve problems relating to land, housing, urban planning and poverty alleviation.
The Fourth Global Forum of Parliamentarians on Habitat, which was held in Berlin on May 12-14 2003, adopted the Berlin Declaration calling on governments, inter alia, to increase financial support for the realization of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020. Governments were also called upon to ensure the availability of predictable financial resources for UN-HABITAT to strengthen its work on poverty alleviation.
Prior to the Global Forum, in May 2003, during the 19th Governing Council of UN-HABITAT, a side event entitled “Challenges faced by legislators in enhancing Local Government” was organized in Nairobi, Kenya. A number of parliamentarians and local authorities who were also part of various national delegations participated in the event and contributed to highlighting their role in enhancing local governance.
Fifth Global Forum of GPH was held in Rabat, Morocco in November 2005.Fifth Regional Forum of the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat for the European Continent in close co-operation with other Habitat stakeholders was held in The Hague, The Netherlands, from 12-13 May 2006 and adopted the Hague declaration.
Recently, the Global parliamentarians on Habitat (GPH) met on Wednesday, 1st April 2009 in the UN premises in Nairobi during the GC22 to discuss and exchange views on how to strengthen the GPH as well as its regional forums to make them more active in promoting the housing and human settlements agenda as well as achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) under current financial crisis and climate change. More than 50 parliamentarians from 17 countries attended the meeting and passed a resolution in support of UN-HABITAT’s main theme of GC22 and presented in the closing session. Furthermore, the meting established the African Parliamentarians chapter of GPH and the office bearers were elected by African parliamentarians for its Board of Directors.
A letter of understanding has been signed with the Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa (AWEPA) in December 2008 to work together in a parliamentary mobilization programme for achieving the common goals and objectives. AWEPA works to reduce poverty, improve livelihoods and defend human rights by promoting an African-European partnership to strengthen parliamentary democracy through effective functioning of parliaments in Africa.
UN-HABITAT had developed understanding with the Commonwealth parliamentary Association (CPA) and working closely and supporting on the issue of sustainable urbanization for sustainable development. UN-HABITAT was invited to participate as discussion leader in the 54th Commonwealth parliamentary conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1-10 August 2008. CPA also sent their representative to the GHP meeting in Nairobi during Governing Council 22 meeting in April 2009.
Other parliamentarians forums are also contacted and engaged to work closely with UN-HABITAT such as Parliamentarians for Global action (PGA) and Inter parliamentary Union (IPU) in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda and achieving the MDG’s.
World Urban Forums and GPH
At the Third Session of the World Urban Forum in Vancouver, the Parliamentarians Roundtable was hosted by the Canadian parliamentarians in collaboration with the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat.
The round table was entitled, “Parliamentarian Roundtable Human Settlement Legislation Developments + 30: Good Laws for a Better Habitat”. Almost twenty years after the formal inauguration of the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat in 1987, this session provided parliamentarians an opportunity to take stock of key milestones, successes and challenges in their contribution to human settlements, urban development and affordable housing around the world. Looking to the future, new priorities for supporting urban sustainability were identified at both global and domestic levels and opportunities for collaboration on legislative initiatives explored.
2008 will be the eighth year since the adoption of the MDGs. The challenges before us are enormous and with out the active and catalytic role of parliamentarians, the targets set by MDGs cannot be realised
WUF IV provided an important platform for the parliamentarians to show case and discuss some of the success stories, good practices and policy approaches for Parliamentarians in the North and the south aiming at promoting the right policies to achieve the Millennium Goals and urban poverty reduction. The theme of the round table meeting was on the Cities and the Climate change and the role of global parliamentarians. The meeting was chaired by Hon. Peter Goetz and the speakers were selected to represent all major regions of the world. The speakers gave overview of the problems resulting from climate change and how their country and regions are finding solutions to mitigate. More than 100 parliamentarians participated in the discussion and agreed to play a pro-active role to pass the relevant policies and allocate adequate resources.
Preparation for the round table meeting of parliamentarians during the WUF V in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in March 2010 in progress to get feedback from the parliamentarians on the difficulties and problems encountered by them and to learn lessons from others.