Fourth Meeting of the U.S. National Preparatory Committee for Habitat II
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
The United Nations will convene the Second Global Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul, Turkey, in June 1996. The Conference, known as The City Summit, comes 20 years after the first Habitat Conference in Vancouver, Canada, in 1976.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is leading domestic preparations for the Conference. The National Preparatory Committee (NPC), a group appointed by HUD Secretary Henry G. Cisneros to ensure that public, private, and nonprofit sectors are fully included in the process, is overseeing domestic preparations.
The NPC held its fourth meeting on February 29, 1996, at HUD. Assistant Secretary Michael A. Stegman convened the meeting for Secretary Cisneros.
THE BEST PRACTICE DATABASE FOR HUMAN SETTLEMENTS
Mr. Stegman said the news conference, held at the United Nations during the two-week international preparatory committee meeting, to announce the winners of the U.S. National Excellence Awards competition was successful and drew a good deal of local news. Of the 25 winning programs, 22 representatives attended the news conference in New York City. Mr. Stegman said the model programs will be presented in Istanbul and take part in an international Best Practices competition featuring 500 model programs from around the world. The United States will also be producing a book of the National Excellence Award winning programs.
The Together Foundation, a private nonprofit organization in New York City, is compiling a computer database of the Best Practices winners from around the world. William Sims of the Together Foundation said the database creates a catalogue of Best Practices by using standard criteria and reporting forms. The database will be available on the World Wide Web, CD-ROM, and diskette for Windows and DOS. The Web and CD-ROM versions will have full-motion video and pictures, and the diskette versions will feature pictures. The Together Foundation is also producing a book of the winners that will resemble a small telephone directory. Mr. Sims said the challenge has been creating a database that can be used in a variety of formats, and is interesting and user friendly. He then gave a demonstration of the database.
Mr. Sims said there would be enough funding for all 500 international Best Practices submissions to be included in the database. Foundations, such as the Kellogg Foundation, are providing some support for the project. The products will be beta tested in April and produced in May, and all the products will be ready by the start of the Istanbul Conference. No prices have been set, but Mr. Sims said a CD would probably cost between $39 and $49, with the diskettes costing less.
DATA BOOK ON INDICATORS
Mr. Stegman next discussed the collection and dissemination of urban and shelter indicators, something the Secretariat is asking all national committees to do. The U.S. delegation is surpassing those requirements by putting together a data book of 1,400 variables on the 77 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. The data, which are being compiled by the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University, are being collected from various sources on housing, economic development, jobs, and health from 1970, 1980, 1990, and post-1990. The data book is expected to be released in late April.
PARTNERS FOR LIVABLE COMMUNITIES
Mr. Stegman then introduced Robert McNulty of Partners for Livable Communities. This organization is working with seven communities to capture a process of improving citizen participation and interest in their communities. Citizen activists, elected officials, heads of nonprofit organizations, and government officials are conducting a series of facilitated and mediated forums to capture a process that can be replicated in other communities. The results will be highlighted in Governing magazine. The goal is to create a leadership process that will truly and honestly garner public participation in communities.
Mr. Stegman then introduced Mencer Donahue Edwards, Director of the U.S. Network for Habitat II, who is organizing a series of town meetings throughout the United States. Mr. Stegman said the meetings are designed to promote the development of local solutions to the challenges of cities and urbanization. The town meetings bring an array of organizations together to discuss the issues related to sustainable development.
Mr. Edwards said the idea for town meetings is to make Habitat II seem not so distant and make it relevant for U.S. citizens. With an emphasis on civic engagement, the town meetings, set up by local organizers, are open forums. They are opportunities for people to discuss what they think should happen in their local regions and then translate that into a message that can be taken directly to Istanbul. Each town meeting should end with a statement that can then be fed into the National Report and the U.S. Citizens Statement for Habitat II.
Mr. Edwards said a Web site has been created, and that a number of public access sites have been set up to allow citizens to go online and make comments about Habitat II preparations. Mr. Edwards said the meetings can be important tools for stimulating voter education and political action, and give the participants a clear choice about how the principles of Habitat II can be implemented at the local level. Mr. Edwards said the kind of excitement being generated contradicts the notion that sustainability is too ethereal a notion. If the town meetings are successful, there will be a large constituency to move forward the United States domestic agenda.
Because of the excitement that has been generated at the town meetings, the National Report will contain a section (maybe in the form of a chapter or an appendix) of some of the recommendations that came from these meetings, Mr. Stegman said. Drafts of the report have been distributed for comment, and many organizations have provided input. Norman Dong of HUD said the original deadline for comments of March 1 would be extended for another week. Mr. Dong said there would be some case studies in the report, and urged members to send him examples of programs that could be used as models for others around the world.
The following comments were made about the report:
- The role of American cities should be put in the context of the United States and the world. We should admit that American cities have major problems. The grassroots initiatives, the reinvestment efforts, and HUD's reorganization efforts should be emphasized. We should freely admit that many Federal programs have been counterproductive and have allowed regions to sprawl.
- There is no mention of rural areas and the interaction between rural and urban. The importance of small-town activity should be mentioned.
- There is a heavy emphasis on Federal Government activities, but a lack of State, local, and private efforts.
- In paragraph two of the introduction, a fifth question should be added: How can the Federal Government best support the work of nonprofits and citizen groups?
- There is a need for a framework. Population shifts are changing the demographics of cities; immigrants are especially responsible for this shift. It should be stressed how immigrants have revitalized the cities. Also, there is not a good sense of the people who live in cities.
- The diversity of cities should be emphasized more strongly.
- There should be a greater focus on housing and homelessness.
- The world should know that the United States is actively engaged in finding a balance among economic concerns, the environment, and social equity in its cities.
- Because the vast majority of attendees will be from developing countries where citizens are not allowed to participate in government, the report should talk about the partnership efforts that exist in the United States.
- The impact of construction and infrastructure on cities is missing from the report.
- There is no mention of the role of youth in cities.
- Gender issues are not adequately addressed.
ENGAGING LOCAL LEADERS IN HABITAT II
Mr. Stegman asked for suggestions on how to engage local officials in the Conference. He said local officials, unlike nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), are not promoting Habitat II. William Hansell raised concerns about the political fallout of local political leaders attending such a Conference. A partnership with a private company has been set up to allow about a half-dozen city leaders to attend Habitat II. Mr. Hansell said the leadership of his organization will be present at the World Assembly of Cities and Local Authorities, which meets in Istanbul for 2 days before the opening of Habitat II.
The third and final Preparatory Committee Meeting (PrepCom III) for the Habitat II Conference was held at the United Nations Building in New York, February 5-16, 1996. Mr. Stegman, who was Head of the U.S. delegation, reported on the proceedings. Jan Peterson of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women, who was very active at PrepCom III on behalf of the Women's Caucus, spoke to the Committee about the role, operations, and influence of NGOs, which is growing at international conferences and Habitat II.
Mr. Stegman said that the purpose of PrepCom III was to finalize preparations for the Conference and approve a final text of the Global Plan of Action or "Habitat Agenda," the main Conference document. Much more progress was made on the former than the latter.
The review of the draft text of the Habitat II Agenda involved a line-by-line reading; the process was tedious and the progress slow. When PrepCom III ended its work, only half the text had been formally approved. The remaining half of the text contains the more controverted passages and wording remains to be decided at the Conference itself.
The two most contentious issues in the text centered on (1) the need for a statement on "the right to adequate housing," and (2) using "sustainable development" as the unifying theme for all discussion of development.
Ms. Peterson spoke about the important role of the NGOs in the Habitat II process, particularly the role played by the Women's Caucus at PrepCom III, and about the linkages between Habitat II and the other major world conferences that have preceded it. The U.N. has become very open to the voice of the NGOs, and the Women's Caucus at Habitat's PrepCom III took steps to strengthen this position.
U.S. DELEGATION AND PARTICIPATION IN ISTANBUL
Mr. Stegman said he expected that the U.S. delegation will be announced in mid-April and Secretary Cisneros will be named head of the delegation. A core group representing Federal agencies includes HUD, the Department of State, USAID, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The core group is having serious discussions with the White House about the delegation's composition and size. Mr. Stegman said that although the official delegation will be small, a group of advisors to the U.S. delegation may be appointed.
He continued by stating that the U.S. Government would be unable to pay the travel costs of advisors, adding that many in the delegation will have to pay their own costs. While HUD will handle logistical issues, such as briefings, it is not in a position to make travel arrangements for the U.S. members. To help committee members plan for Conference activities, HUD will provide information assistance on an individual basis. Peggy Armstrong of HUD said those interested in attending Habitat II should complete the forms in the NPC meeting packets and mail back the information by mid-March.
Sandra Smithey of USAID said that although NGO accreditation would allow a person in the compound where the negotiations are scheduled to take place, most Habitat II events will occur outside of the compound and one need not be accredited to attend those events. To qualify as an NGO, one must be able to prove that the organization is indeed an NGO and has an interest in the broad topic of human settlements. To date, 800 NGOs have been accredited for Habitat II. Because of this large number, each national NGO will be allowed two delegates and each international NGO will be allowed five delegates.
Ms. Smithey said very few NGOs have been turned down and suggested that those NGOs having problems with accreditation should call the New York Habitat office at (212) 963-4200. In addition, she said that she can be reached at (703) 875-4530, and Ms. Armstrong can be reached at (202) 708-3896, ext. 244.
It was also noted that American companies can participate in a Trade Fair. There will be roundtables and forums at the Best Practices pavilion, as well as a number of informal discussions.
Mr. Stegman said Habitat II was always intended to be a start, not a finish. He continued by saying that a group of delegates has already committed to speaking in Harlem about Habitat II following their return.
The following comments were made about possible post-Istanbul activities:
- Follow-up will be determined by the Conference's structure. The value will be in the networking among people and national and international organizations.
- HUD should facilitate mutual learning exercises and encourage a "grassroots mentality" when seeking new solutions.
- The Best Practices idea should be continued and there should be an opportunity for the winners to learn from each other.
Mr. Stegman concluded the meeting by asking if the NPC should meet again before the Conference. It was decided that there was no need to do so, but those NPC members going to Istanbul would be available to meet if an issue arose. Participants suggested that HUD convene a Post-Istanbul NPC briefing.
HABITAT II NATIONAL PREPARATORY COMMITTEE MEETING ATTENDEES FEBRUARY 29, 1996
Committee Members and Alternates
Mr. Michael Stegman, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Mr. Joseph Belden, Housing Assistance Council
Mr. Eric Belsky, Fannie Mae
Mr. Harvey Bernstein, Civil Engineering Research Foundation
Mr. Don Borut, National League of Cities
Mr. Jim Brooks, National League of Cities
Ms. Kim Buermann, Mortgage Bankers Association of America
Ms. Marcie Cohen, AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust
Ms. Cushing Dolbeare, National Low-Income Housing Coalition
Mr. Michael E. Doyle, Cooperative Housing Foundation
Mr. Mencer Donahue Edwards, U.S. Network for Habitat II
Ms. Jane Fortson, The Progress and Freedom Foundation
Ms. Maria Foscarinis, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
Mr. Robert Geddes, FAIA, New York University
Mr. Joe Hall, Banana Kelly
Mr. William Hansell, International City/County Management Association
Ms. Stephanie Harmon, GMAC Mortgage Corporation
Dr. Ronald Johnson, Research Triangle Institute
Mr. Thomas L. Jones, Habitat for Humanity International
Mr. Russell V. Keune, American Institute of Architects
Mr. G. Thomas Kingsley, Urban Institute
Mr. George Latimer, National Equity Fund
Mr. Marty Levine, Fannie Mae
Ms. Miriam Lowe, National Association of Realtors
Mr. David Mammen, Institute of Public Administration
Mr. Robert McNulty, Partners for Livable Communities
Mr. Richard Nelson, Jr., National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials
Ms. Molly Harriss Olson, President's Council on Sustainable Development
Ms. Ayse Pamuk, University of Virginia
Mr. Ting C. Pei, The Pei Group
Mr. Neal R. Peirce, Urban Affairs
Dr. Janice Perlman Mega-Cities Project Incorporated
Rev. Charles Rawlings, National Council of Churches
Ms. Nan Roman, National Alliance to End Homelessness
Ms. Marta Sotomayor, National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCoA)
Mr. Lee Tawney, City of Baltimore
Mr. Steve Tuminaro, Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation
Mr. Eddie Williams, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
Ms. Laurie Wood, National Association of Home Builders
Ms. Cristina Yablonsky, International Masonry Institute
Mr. Todd Zylstra-Garth, Habitat for Humanity International
Ms. Peggy Armstrong, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Monica Brown, Aspen Systems Corporation
Mr. Norman S. Dong, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Christine Eaton, Aspen Systems Corporation
Ms. Barbara Ferris, IWDC
Mr. John Geraghty, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Faye Haselkorn, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Mr. Greg Logerfo, Department of State
Ms. Janice London, Aspen Systems Corporation
Mr. Walter Manger, Department of State
Mr. Michael Maynard, Aspen Systems Corporation
Ms. Perlita Muiruri, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Katherine O'Leary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Marcia Parkes, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Jan Peterson, National Congress of Neighborhood Women
Ms. Annick Salomon, USAID
Mr. Michael R. Sanio, World Engineering Partnership
Mr. Andrew Silver, Aspen Systems Corporation
Mr. William Sims, Together Foundation for Global Unity
Ms. Sandra Smithey, USAID
Ms. Tina R. Trent, Aspen Systems Corporation
Ms. Belinda Trevino, Cooper Liebowitz Royster DeWright
Ms. Tanya Tull, Beyond Shelter
Mr. David Tyler, Department of State
Ms. Stephanie Wayda, Aspen Systems Corporation