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Effective urban management is the key to sustainable development, says head of HABITAT, the UN city agency

Singapore, 20 April 1999 - Klaus Toepfer, the Acting Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), told a Conference in Singapore that sustainable development in today's urbanizing world was increasingly dependent on the effective management of urban areas. Mr Toepfer was addressing the World Conference on Model Cities, where best practices in urban development from around the world are currently being showcased.

"Progress towards development requires a better understanding of the relationship between urbanization and global trends which, not coincidentally, find their fullest expression in cities," added Toepfer. "As the ecological footprint of cities grows in scope and influence, the city and its urban region will increasingly become the testing ground for the adequacy of political institutions, the performance of Governments and the effectiveness of efforts to combat social exclusion, conserve natural resources and promote economic development."

The Head of Habitat, the City Agency of the United Nations, said that his organization had in the past four years documented over 700 good and best practices from over 100 countries, which are featured in a database accessible via the Internet and on CD-Rom.

"An analysis of these best practices has led us to conclude that urban development policies need to be inclusive, cooperative and people-centred to be effective," said Toepfer. "The empowerment of people by governments is the key to mobilizing latent resources, strengthening the effectiveness of local authorities and fostering a more cooperative atmosphere among all urban residents."

"The vast majority of these initiatives involve local authorities as major partners," said Toepfer, adding that a regional analysis of the database indicated that innovative practices and policy responses were most prevalent in those sectors where governments and local authorities have played an enabling role.

To support mayors and local authorities in their tasks, Habitat, in partnership with major international and regional associations of local authorities, has started to work on a World Charter of Local Self-Government. This Charter will provide an internationally agreed framework for a democratic local government system.

The World Charter was initiated by Mayors and representatives of Local Authorities at the World Assembly of Cities during the Habitat II Conference in Istanbul in 1996. The Conference itself highlighted the Mayors' call for "the development of national laws and regulations that clearly specify the role and responsibilities of local authorities vis-à-vis national governments and to provide for effective de-centralization and local democracy, taking into account the principles of autonomy". After a series of consultations, it is expected that the draft Charter will be passed through the inter-governmental machinery of the United Nations, for ultimate adoption by the UN General Assembly in 2001.

For further information, please contact:
Christina Engfeldt, Chief
Information & External Relations
UNCHS (Habitat)
P.O. Box 30030
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254 2 623067
Fax: 254 2 624067

Thursday 29 Apr 1999
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