Market, vulnerable groups and the environment

Publication number H-2122

Market, vulnerable groups and the environment. National Report to Istanbul +5. Progress in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda 1996 – 2000.

Norway – National Report to Istanbul +5
Progress in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda 1996 – 2000

Publication number: H-2122

The Habitat Agenda, which was agreed at the Istanbul Habitat II Conference in 1996, repre-sents a foundation for national and international efforts to achieve sustainable human settlements development and to improve the living conditions of all citizens. In particular it focuses on the living conditions of those citizens living in poverty and those who for different economic, legal and social reasons do not have access to decent housing and local services.

As minister responsible for human settlements issues in the Norwegian Government, I want to underline the responsibility of governments to take active action to improve the living conditions of the underprivileged in society. In Istanbul we reaffirmed our commitments to the full and progressive realisation of the right to housing and recognised an obligation by Governments to enable people to obtain shelter and to protect and improve dwellings and neighbourhoods. Now – five years later – we still have a long way to go. Even in a rich country like Norway, we face important challenges that we are struggling to resolve. We have since the Habitat-conference been actively trying to modernise and improve our legislation in the field of housing and related issues as well as improving economic support. Structural changes in Norwegian society create new needs and we experience that some people still do not have access to decent housing. Especially the trend towards further urbanisation raises new challenges.

Last year I therefore launched a Plan of Action entitled “The Road to a Housing Policy of Solidarity”. The Action Plan challenges the central government as well as local government and summarises actions to be taken aimed at strengthening the efforts to improve the housing situation for the small number of persons in Norwegian society who still have inadequate shelter, suffer from intolerable high housing expenses or are homeless.

In Istanbul we also committed ourselves to the goal of sustainable human settlements in an urbanising world by developing societies that will make efficient use of resources within the carrying capacity of ecosystems. In Norway - as in most industrialised countries – there is an increasing awareness of the importance of environmental protection. There are many examples of “good practices” and environmental sound conduct. On the other hand, economic growth and increasing prosperity are leading to increased production and consumption, and thereby increased use of resources and impacts on nature that more than outweigh the benefits of environmental-friendly practices. If we are to reverse these trends, we must change our consumption and production patterns. As a contribution my ministry submitted a sectoral environmental plan of action in the autumn of 2000, which paves the way towards a more sustainable human settlements development in Norway.

International development cooperation has for many years been an important element in Norwegian foreign policy. In Istanbul we committed ourselves to striving for to fulfil the agreed target of 0.7 per cent of the gross national product for official development assistance (ODA) as soon as possible and to increase the share of funding for adequate shelter and human settlements development programmes. Norway has more than fulfilled this target for many years and has in the later years averaged more than 0.9 per cent.

Access to decent housing and security of tenure has been one priority field for cooperation between Norwegian NGOs and NGOs in developing countries. Projects have concentrated on the application of experiences of the Norwegian housing cooperative movement, strengthening of local governments, and training, education and research in the field of human settlements in developing countries.

The UN Commission for Human Settlements and the related UN Centre for Human Settlements in Nairobi are the principal UN institutions for multilateral cooperation in the human settlements field. The Norwegian Government has after the Istanbul conference given high priority to the functioning of the Habitat Centre and participated actively in the revitalisation process. A strengthened Habitat is crucial for a successful implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

The Istanbul +5 event provides an opportunity to inspire governments and all the Habitat Partners to intensify their efforts to comply with the commitments made in Istanbul and to work even harder for a successful implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

We must seize this opportunity. People living in poverty, the homeless, the living and natural environment – our common future – deserve our full commitment!

Oslo, May, 2001

Sylvia Brustad

Minister of Local Government and Regional development