Third Meeting of the U.S. National Preparatory Committee for Habitat II
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
To generate worldwide action to improve the environments in which people live, the United Nations (UN) will convene the Second Global Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul, Turkey, in June 1996. Also called the City Summit, the conference will focus on two themes: adequate shelter for all people and the development of sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Department of State are working in partnership to coordinate U.S. national preparations for the City Summit. The National Preparatory Committee (NPC), a group appointed by HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros to ensure that the public, private, and nonprofit sectors are fully included in the process, is overseeing domestic preparations.
On October 24, 1995, Secretary Cisneros convened the third meeting of the NPC for Habitat II in Washington, D.C. A highlight of the meeting was a presentation by Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), who led the 40-member U.S. delegation to the fourth U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing, China, held in September 1995.
EXPERIENCE GAINED FROM THE U.N. CONFERENCE ON WOMEN
Secretary Cisneros opened the meeting by introducing Vince Lane of American Community Housing Associates, who served as Chair of the meeting in place of the Secretary. Secretary Cisneros also welcomed six committee members to their first meeting: Robert Curvin of the Ford Foundation; Gary McCaleb, Mayor of Abilene, Texas; Christopher Gates of the National Civic League; Tessa Martinez Pollack of Miami-Dade Community College; Robert Geddes of New York University; and Art Godi of the National Association of Realtors. He then introduced the featured speaker, Secretary Donna Shalala, who offered valuable insight into the United Nations conference experience.
Preparations for the conference on women began a year in advance. Secretary Shalala emphasized the importance of involving the Cabinet departments in international conferences. She stressed that the U.S. delegation was a very carefully balanced group that included government officials and representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The delegation met to discuss substantive issues, identify the outcome they hoped to achieve, and review mechanics. Teambuilding was a key element in the success of the conference.
Secretary Shalala identified three lessons learned:
- Court the press. The U.S. delegation devoted much time to daily press briefings in order to correct misinformation and answer questions. Each day's briefing was focused on a particular theme, and every member of the press was treated with respect. One-on- one press events in which one delegate personally escorted a press member greatly improved media coverage.
- Spend time with NGOs. Nongovernmental organizations were regarded as an integral part of the conference. Prior to the conference NGO representatives attended planning meetings, and in Beijing members of the U.S. delegation went to the NGO conference site every morning and evening to brief NGO representatives.
- Plan Post-Conference Followup. Followup to the women's conference was prepared during preconference planning. Consequently, during the meeting in Beijing, the United States announced that implementation of U.S. actions was already underway.
Secretary Shalala concluded by saying that the Habitat II conference should include all elements of a community, such as housing, education, employment opportunities, transportation, and medical care. She offered to send a representative from HHS to participate in the NPC meetings.
HABITAT II PREPARATIONS
The next speaker was Michael Stegman, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research who introduced the staff working on U.S. preparations for Habitat II and updated the Committee on the status of the Global Plan of Action (GPA). The United States is a member of the committee that will draft the GPA, which is still in preliminary form. Two out of three preparatory conferences have been held, and the third is scheduled to be held in New York City in February 1996. A draft of the GPA will be circulated to members of the NPC prior to the meeting.
Global Plan of Action. Dr. Stegman invited Howard Sumka of USAID to report on the progress of the drafting of the GPA, which has already had several revisions. Mr. Sumka briefly described some of the remaining issues:
- Whether the conference will focus on urban or rural settlements.
- What the relationship between the GPA and the National Report should be.
- Whether the GPA is too statistically oriented.
- Whether the GPA focuses too much on the domestic needs of developed countries.
Mr. Sumka concluded by describing the controversy surrounding several key words and phrases.
The main purpose of the October 24th meeting, Dr. Stegman said, was to ask committee members to begin guiding the content of the National Report. He posed three questions to the group:
- Who should be the audience for the National Report?
- What three things should be emphasized for postconference followup?
- How can our housing experience contribute to the dialog?
He concluded by stating that his goal for the National Report is to make it a useful document that can be widely disseminated in the U.S. To be effective, it must be short (approximately 100 pages), readable, and visually interesting. In addition to the National Preparatory Committee, an interagency group has been formed to discuss recommendations to be included in the National Report.
Update on Preparations. The next speaker, Norman Dong, HUD Coordinator for National Preparations, explained that efforts have concentrated on four key areas: input into the GPA, evaluation of applications for the National Excellence Awards, public outreach concerning Habitat II, and planning for the International Trade Fair. Each topic was discussed by a separate speaker:
National Excellence Awards. Akhtar Badshah, Director of Programs for the Mega-Cities Project, described the selection process for the National Excellence Awards and reported that HUD received 171 applications from 35 States. The applications represent a range of issues, including youth development, job training, crime prevention, transportation, land use, and city agricultural products. Each entry will be reviewed by a diverse panel of experts, and 25 projects will receive the "Best Practices" award.
Public Outreach. Peggy Armstrong, Director of Communications for U.S. preparations for Habitat II, reported on the public outreach activities of the committee. She stated that the Outreach Working Group made three major recommendations:
- The goal of all outreach efforts should be to expand awareness of the issues addressed by Habitat II and to increase involvement in seeking solutions to urban problems.
- The Best Practices award is a powerful tool and should be well publicized.
- Specific audiences for outreach activities should be identified and targeted with an appropriate message.
Ms. Armstrong concluded by saying that the group had identified two primary audiences for publicity campaigns: decisionmakers-- defined as those who could effect change to make cities more livable--and the general public. For decisionmakers, a Habitat II newsletter has been developed, and a print public service campaign is being initiated. For the public, the cable channel CNN had expressed interest in producing a documentary on relevant housing issues, and an essay contest for high school students will be conducted.
International Trade Fair. David Shear, International Management and Development Group, described preparations for the International Trade Fair, which will be held June 3-10, 1996 at the Istanbul World Trade Center. The goals of the Fair will be to make concrete connections between the private and public sectors and to highlight the new technology available for building city infrastructure. Opportunities for small and large companies to become involved in telecommunications, transportation, health, the environment, sewage, and other areas will be emphasized. An 8-minute videotape describing the International Trade Fair is available.
James Carr, Vice President of Housing Research, Fannie Mae, posed several questions concerning the role of the private sector at the conference. He mentioned that some researchers have begun looking at the role of the private sector in revitalizing center cities and wondered whether it would be useful to convene a group of business leaders to examine this possibility. Another participant mentioned that the private sector will have a separate forum, similar to that of the NGOs, which is to be coordinated by a representative of the Netherlands.
REVIEW OF THE NATIONAL REPORT
Mr. Dong described HUD's vision of the National Report. He said the vision is to create a report that will showcase programs, ideas, and methods designed to solve the major problems facing cities. The goals will be to encourage local areas to develop innovative approaches to solving their own problems, to encourage the private sector to get involved, and to encourage the general public to protect the urban environment. The group then divided into four working groups to consider the following questions:
- How does the future of our Nation depend on the future of our cities?
- What are the most important challenges facing urban America?
- What are our reasons to be optimistic about change?
Following the working group sessions, representatives from each group summarized their deliberations for the committee.
Competitive Advantage of the Inner City Working Group. Mr. Carr reported that his group had mixed feelings about the outline for the National Report. He suggested that a "cookbook" approach should be used to look at social attributes, locational attributes, and crime-free areas. Opportunities should be discussed first, then possible impediments. The outline did not mention what is at stake--for example, what happens if investment does not take place. He also suggested that the report should quantify what it costs when people are not fully employed and crime erodes a community, as well as what we stand to gain as a Nation if we invest in our cities. Concrete examples from cities such as Cleveland should be emphasized.
Regionalism Working Group. G. Thomas Kingsley of the Urban Institute identified several themes that needed to be emphasized in the National Report. Specifically, the interconnectedness of the inner city economy and the regional economy needed to be stressed, as well as the relationship between the concentration of poverty and the overall health of the regional economy. Regional solutions should be highlighted, and metropolitan governance--including districts and authorities--should be discussed. Cleveland could be used as an example of a city that built a coalition of civic leaders using the concept of regional stakeholders.
Sustainable Development Working Group. Reporting for the group, Tessa Martinez Pollack of Miami-Dade Community College recommended that sustainable development be defined in terms of the outcomes sought. She used the analogy of a three-legged stool, with one leg being social equity, the second leg being the economy, and the third being the environment. The latter should not be limited to air, water, and brownfields, but should be expanded to include other issues such as recycling and transportation. This group asserted that the text of the National Report should answer two questions: How do we keep urban sprawl from continuing, and what gives optimism for change? The group also maintained that civic engagement was a critical factor in ensuring that issues of sustainable development are addressed.
Building Strong Neighborhoods Working Group. Reporting for the group, Joseph Belden of the Housing Assistance Council asserted that the section on affordable housing needed to be substantially expanded. The issue of decency and quality of housing needed to be addressed, and separate sections on the availability of affordable housing, homelessness, homeownership, and spatial location should be added. The text should also discuss the impact of these issues on women, children, and the elderly, as well as the surrounding economic context.
Another member of this group, Rev. Charles Rawlings of the National Council of Churches, echoed the preceding group's views on civic engagement. Models of civic participation should be highlighted, he said, with an emphasis on connectedness, interdependence, and participation.
Dr. Stegman agreed that there was much work to be done. He noted that many of these same issues are being studied by the group preparing the National Report.
The revised draft of section 3 of the National Report should be completed by the end of November, and the draft of section 4 by December 22, in time for the January 1996 meeting of the NPC. Both sections will be circulated via the Internet. Dr. Stegman asserted that the October meeting was part of an ongoing dialog on these issues and encouraged everyone to continue such discussions in the coming months.
ATTENDEES OF THE HABITAT II NATIONAL PREPARATORY COMMITTEE MEETING
OCTOBER 24, 1995
(In alphabetical order by last name following Secretary Cisneros)
Honorable Henry G. Cisneros, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, DC
Dr. Akhtar Badshah, Mega-Cities Project Incorporated, New York, NY
Mr. Doug Baj, Sister Cities International, Alexandria, VA
Mr. Joseph N. Belden, Housing Assistance Council, Washington, DC
Mr. Don Borut, National League of Cities, Washington, DC
Mr. James H. Carr, Fannie Mae, Washington, DC
Ms. Marcie Cohen, AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, Washington, DC
Mr. Robert Curvin, Ford Foundation, New York, NY
Ms. Cushing Dolbeare, Housing Consultant, Washington, DC
Mr. Norman Dong, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, DC
Mr. Charles Field, National Association of Home Builders, Washington, DC
Ms. Jane Fortson, The Progress and Freedom Foundation, Washington, DC
Dr. Ester Fuchs, Columbia University, New York, NY
Mr. Christopher T. Gates, National Civic League, Denver, CO
Mr. Robert Geddes, New York University, Princeton, NJ
Mr. Kenneth Giunta, International Management and Development Group, Ltd., Alexandria, VA
Mr. Arthur Godi, National Association of Realtors, Washington, DC
Dr. Peter Henderson, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials,
Mr. Wayman Henry, Jr., City of Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Mr. John T. Howley, Advisor-USAID, Alexandria, VA
Reverend Thomas L. Jones, Habitat for Humanity International, Washington, DC
Ms. Elizabeth Kellar, International City/County Management Association, Washington, DC
Mr. Russell V. Keune, American Institute of Architects, Washington, DC
Mr. G. Thomas Kingsley, The Urban Institute, Washington, DC
Mr. Jake Kuitwaard, National Association of Realtors, Washington, DC
Mr. Vince Lane, American Community Housing Associates, Chicago, IL
Mr. George Latimer, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, DC
Ms. Miriam Lowe, National Association of Realtors, Washington, DC
Mr. Walter Manger, U.S. State Department, Washington, DC
Mr. Richard May, American Planning Association, New York, NY
Honorable Gary D. McCaleb, Mayor of Abilene, Abilene, TX
Ms. Carole McCrea, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Pablo, MT
Mr. Hunter Morrison, City of Cleveland, Cleveland, OH
Mr. Richard Nelson, Jr., National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, Washington, DC
Ms. Molly Harriss Olson, President's Council on Sustainable Development, Washington, DC
Ms. Ayse Pamuk, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Mr. Ting C. Pei, Pei Group (Holdings), Ltd., New York, NY
Ms. Tessa Martinez Pollack, Miami-Dade Community College, Miami, FL
Reverend Charles Rawlings, National Council of Churches, New York, NY
Ms. Corinne Rothblum, International City/County Management Association, Washington, DC
Dr. Yvonne Scruggs, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Washington, DC
Mr. David Shear, International Management and Development Group, Alexandria, VA
Ms. Sandra Smithey, USAID, Washington, DC
Dr. Anthony So, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC
Dr. Michael Stegman, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, DC
Mr. Howard Sumka, USAID, Washington, DC
Ms. Sarah Wines, USAID, Washington, DC
Ms. Laurie Wood, National Association of Home Builders, Washington, DC
Ms. Karen E. Young, Habitat for Humanity International, Chicago, IL