19 to 23 October 2000
Hangzhou, People's Republic of China

Executive Summary

Five years after the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul, the UN General Assembly will meet in June 2001 to review and appraise the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. In preparation for this session, ESCAP and UNCHS (Habitat), in collaboration with The Urban Governance Initiative, the Asian Development Bank, the WHOfs Western Pacific Regional Office and CityNet, organized a Regional High-Level Meeting for the Asia-Pacific region from 19-23 October 2000 in Hangzhou, China. The Ministry of Construction and the Municipality of Hangzhou hosted the meeting which was organized around six key areas of the Habitat Agenda: Poverty, Environmental Management, Economic Development Governance, Shelter and International Cooperation. In the spirit of Habitat II, representatives from national and local governments, NGOs, research and training institutes and the private sector participated in the meeting which was attended by 157 participants from 22 countries.

The objectives of the meeting were to (a) to look back and review the experiences since Habitat II and to draw lessons for a common regional perspective, (b) to look forward, identify the challenges ahead and develop ideas on how to address these challenges, and (c) to discuss and recommend regional and international support mechanisms for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. After the presentation of an overview paper on Istanbul+5 and five background papers of the themes of the Meeting, four stakeholder symposia were convened, for national governments, local governments, non-governmental organizations, and research and training institutes.

The symposium of national governments reported positive developments in the shelter sector, with the adoption of more realistic building standards, an increase in public-private partnerships and community-based approaches to low-income housing. Some policies such as the resettlement of rural households to reduce rural-urban migration and urbanization had, however, failed. Governments were decentralizing powers and functions to the local level, but decentralization of financial powers remained limited. Inroads in poverty alleviation had been made through the empowerment of the poor, a focus on women in poverty alleviation and increased stakeholder participation in local decision-making, but more needed to be done.

The symposium of local governments felt that the roles, powers and functions of different levels of governments needed clarification. Resources and decision-making had to be devolved to the local level. Through an appropriate legal framework, capacity building and human resources development, local governments should be empowered to address urban issues. Security of land tenure was critical for housing the poor, but local governments lacked power to acquire land. Similarly, cities in the region faced environmental problems, but local authorities lacked the capacity to enforce environmental laws. They were also unable to promote local economic development by a lack of resources and the absence of a legal framework to mobilize them. To alleviate poverty, local governments needed to increase their support to community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations that work with the poor, especially with women. Multi-stakeholder coalitions should monitor and evaluate actions towards urban governance.

The symposium of non-governmental organizations focused its attention on the process of implementation of the Habitat Agenda which they did not see as a people's agenda. It had been drafted and approved by national governments, and many stakeholders were unaware of it. The Agenda needed to be localized and its implementation institutionalized by the creation of Habitat Committees at national, sub-national and municipal level. The Agenda was quite comprehensive, but new issues (globalization, international debt, indigenous knowledge, corruption) had emerged. The Agenda had to be made more readable and understandable. There was concern that Istanbul+5 was a session of the General Assembly where civil society would not be represented. NGO views were often not included in the national reports and reported progress differed from reality. Greater transparency was needed in the review of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, and the country reports should be the result of a broad consultation process with involvement by all stakeholders. Audits by actors not involved in its implementation, should be incorporated in the monitoring and reporting on the progress in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

The symposium of research and training institutes identified the need to critically analyze and document "best" and "worst" practices. Clients needed to be identified so that the research results could be used in policy development and programmes. Many issues had already been researched and findings had to be disseminated to decision-makers in the government and civil society. In this respect, the symposium asked ESCAPfs assistance in developing and hosting of a regional portal website. Because training needs were constantly changing, institutes should determine the needs before building training programmes. Government officials needed to change their attitude, become more entrepreneurial and manage the assets of the local government more effectively. They should learn to work in a participatory way and develop the ability to understand the realities of cities.

In the subsequent plenary session, participants cautioned against over-reliance on poverty alleviation in slums and squatter settlements, as urban poor who did not live in such settlements would be excluded. Considerable efforts were necessary to re-educate people to change their attitudes and reduce consumerism and wasteful behavior. Participants agreed that policy makers, researchers and civil society did not fully understand the implications of globalization and its impacts on economies, societies, cultures, cities and the poor. Methodologies and indicators were needed to audit governments on good governance and measure progress in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. However, there were not only problems in the cities of Asia and the Pacific, but also many initiatives to find solutions. A better use should be made of these solutions through the sharing of experiences at regional level through existing regional networks like CityNet and LOGOTRI.

The last decade had been the decade of UN conferences. The UN should make the current decade the decade of implementation and assist countries in implementing the recommendations and actions of all world conferences held in the 1990s. There was a need for more regional cooperation to further the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. UNESCAP and UNCHS should increase their activities to assist countries in the implementation and reporting of the Habitat Agenda through seminars and advisory services.