Second Meeting of the U.S. National Preparatory Committee for Habitat II
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Sustainable urban development will be one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. To meet this challenge, the United Nations (UN) will convene Habitat II -- the Second Global Conference on Human Settlements -- in June 1996. Also known as the City Summit, this international conference will inspire worldwide action to improve shelter and living environments for all people.
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 the U.S. national preparations for the City Summit. In addition, HUD Secretary Henry G. Cisneros has named a National Preparatory Committee (NPC), with broad representation from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, to oversee the domestic preparations for the conference.
On July 12, 1995, Secretary Cisneros convened the second meeting of the NPC for Habitat II at the HUD building in Washington, D.C. The meeting focused on the vital role that this global conference can play in developing new solutions to the challenges facing our urban communities. Participants also discussed the need to generate popular and political support for the City Summit and the goals of the conference.
UPDATE ON HABITAT PREPARATIONS
Michael Stegman, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at HUD, updated the group on Habitat II preparations and the role the Committee will play in them. He identified three broad areas for Committee activity:
- Developing the U.S. National Report. The U.N. has requested that each participating country prepare a national report that evaluates shelter and urban conditions, reviews the effectiveness of existing policies in dealing with urban problems, and articulates specific actions for resolving these problems. In its April meeting, the Committee agreed to emphasize the importance of reconnecting residents of distressed urban communities to America's economic and social mainstream. Important aspects of this broad vision include developing more urban solutions that:
- are regional in scope;
- build on the inherent strengths of cities; and
- focus on environmentally sustainable development.
- Raising awareness. A second role of the Committee is to promote innovative approaches to increasing the importance and prominence of cities in the minds of both the general public and policymakers. Members can identify messages the Habitat II process should promote and ways of getting these messages out to chosen target audiences.
- Identifying best practices. The Committee will serve as the final panel for selecting the "best practices" in providing shelter and urban development services that will be featured at the Istanbul conference. The NPC also will help develop creative approaches to disseminate this information and replicate these innovations across the country.
A primary issue discussed at the meeting was the need to create popular support for the City Summit and the Habitat II agenda. The group discussed this challenge in light of anti-U.N. sentiment within the media and among the general public, and offered suggestions for overcoming the stigma attached to this international event. Given this sentiment, the Committee agreed to relate the global conference to the needs and realities of the housing and urban conditions in the United States. Some members mentioned the need to find a "parallel track" on which communities and Habitat II proponents can formulate new solutions to urban problems.
Members also discussed new frameworks for urban problem-solving. Refocusing on the importance of shared economies and social systems will help link the future of cities to a shared rather than a disparate future, said some members. One Committee member mentioned the importance of "scaling up and reaching out" from the neighborhood level to connect innovative grassroots leadership across the country. Through connecting innovative grassroots efforts, the Committee can provide models of success and hands-on practical solutions for other communities, and reconnect urban communities to the political as well as the economic mainstream.
Adding to this discussion, David Hales, Deputy Assistant Director at USAID, emphasized the importance of sustainable urban development in the next century. He asserted that sustainable development requires an integrated approach that focuses on
- the development of human capacity and the building of democratic, participatory, open, transparent forms of government;
- providing meaningful jobs and a workable economic system; and
- the resource base on which all of this depends. This integrated approach must also pay attention to the population forces that will drive so much of the policy in the future, and none of these things can be dealt with in isolation.
Jean Nolan, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at HUD, discussed HUD's draft domestic outreach plan for the City Summit with members of the Committee. The overarching message of the draft communication plan is as follows:
- Although cities are the economic, social, and cultural centers of our Nation, many urban communities are in trouble;
- The destinies of our cities and our suburbs are inextricably linked, and the problems of our cities affect us all;
- Although urban problems are serious, they are not insurmountable if we all work together.
The draft plan has two broad objectives. The first is to inform the public about the significance of the City Summit and to encourage participation in both the national preparations as well as the Istanbul Conference. The second is to encourage greater involvement in revitalizing our cities by encouraging local leaders to adopt innovative approaches to urban governance, promoting greater private sector investment in the inner-cities, and fostering a greater sense of civic engagement among the general population.
The outreach plan lists a variety of vehicles for reaching specific audiences. To inform the U.S. audience of the City Summit, the plan called for a general brochure on the national preparations, a City Summit newsletter, a clearinghouse and electronic bulletin board, and use of the print media. To generate greater public awareness about urban issues, the proposed outreach mechanisms include quality-of-life surveys to be run in major newspapers, public service announcements, an in-flight video to promote ecologically and socially responsible tourism, and a national student essay contest on the challenges facing our urban areas.
The primary concern of the Committee was to ensure a positive tone for the outreach effort. Members felt that the current message was far too negative, and also should focus on the potential of our urban areas. One member suggested an international perspective for focusing on the positive side of cities -- that urbanization generates wealth and has improved the lives of millions of people around the world. Others suggested that the outreach plan include a vision statement that conveys a positive stance without sounding defensive or timid. It can present the message that cities are "engines of opportunity" for the economy, for the country, and for U.S. citizens as a whole.
Janice Perlman, Executive Director of the Mega-Cities Project, presented a proposal for identifying best practices for the City Summit. The Committee, which will select 25 winners from across the country to be showcased at the City Summit in Istanbul, is also responsible for helping devise a selection process that is neutral, fair, and devoid of self-serving interests. The presentation covered several key areas:
- Eligibility. The competition is open to any public, private, and/or non-profit program that improves housing or urban conditions and has been in operation for at least 2 years.
- Scope and sectors. Nominated projects may focus on any level of geography, from the neighborhood level to the entire metropolitan area. The competition will encourage partnerships between the public, private, and non-profit sectors, but these alliances are not essential.
- Selection criteria. The selection criteria cover three primary areas: extent of impact, program operation characteristics, and social objectives. Nominations with a global impact will receive special consideration.
- Urban policy areas. Dr. Perlman identified ten urban policy areas best practices could address:
- Poverty alleviation and economic development.
- Social infrastructure and municipal services.
- Environmental regeneration.
- Physical infrastructure.
- Housing and land use.
- Urban governance.
- Social and cultural vitality.
- Special needs.
- Disaster preparedness, mitigation, and reconstruction.
Members of the Committee were eager to share their input on the proposed selection process. Some suggested less restrictive language for the selection criteria. Others expressed concern about the role of rural areas in this process, and called for the competition to recognize rural examples of best practices. And others suggested that best practices may not be new, but could be older projects finally coming to fruition, and that the selection process should recognize "tweaking" in cases where non-groundbreaking changes have had a profound impact.
Assistant Secretary Stegman closed the meeting by asking the Committee to submit suggested revisions for the draft domestic outreach strategy and best practices selection and submission guidelines to HUD. He also announced the operation of the Habitat II electronic bulletin board, which provides a quick and easy means of communication between Committee members and HUD.
Dr. Stegman announced that the next meeting would take place in October, when the Committee will engage in a more detailed discussion of the major issues to address in the U.S. national report for the City Summit.
HABITAT II NATIONAL PREPARATORY COMMITTEE MEETING ATTENDEES JULY 12, 1995
Honorable Henry G. Cisneros, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Assistant Secretary Michael A. Stegman, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Aurie A. Pennick, Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities
Mr. Michael B. Barker, AICP, American Planning Association
Dr. Camille Cates Barnett, Research Triangle Institute
Mr. Harvey Bernstein, Civil Engineering Research Foundation
Mr. Don Borut, National League of Cities
Ms. Joan Baggett Calambokidis, International Masonry Institute
Ms. Juanita Crabb, Sister Cities International
Ms. Cushing Dolbeare, Housing Consultant
Mr. Don Edwards, Citizen's Network for Sustainable Development
Ms. Jane Fortson, The Progress and Freedom Foundation
Dr. Ester Fuchs, Columbia University
Mr. Arthur Godi, National Association of Realtors
Dr. Eugene Grigsby, University of California-Los Angeles
Mr. David Hales, Agency for International Development
Mr. Warren Lasko, Mortgage Bankers Association of America
Ms. Carole McCrea, Confederate Salish & Kootenai Tribe
Mr. Richard Nelson, Jr., National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials
Ms. Molly Harriss Olson, President's Council on Sustainable Development
Dr. Janice Perlman, Mega-Cities Project, Inc.
Ms. Yolanda Rivera, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association
COMMITTEE MEMBER ALTERNATES
Mr. Doug Baj, Sister Cities International
Mr. Gordon Binder, World Wildlife Fund
Dr. James H. Carr, Fannie Mae
Ms. Marcie Cohen, AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust
Mr. Charles Field, National Association of Home Builders
Ms. Helen Santiago Fink, The Enterprise Foundation
Rev. Thomas L. Jones, Habitat for Humanity International
Mr. G. Thomas Kingsley, Urban Institute
Mr. Gary Lawrence, University of Washington
Mr. Richard May, Institute of Public Administration
Rev. Charles Rawlings National Council of Churches
Mr. James Scheeler, FAIA, American Institute of Architects
Dr. Yvonne Scruggs, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
Mr. Steve Tuminaro, Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation
Mr. Philip Walsh, Partners for Livable Communities
Ms. Laurie Wood National Association of Home Builders
Mr. Joseph Belden, Housing Assistance Council
Ms. Ahshun Chiang, Aspen Systems Corporation
Ms. Linda DeFilippo, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Mr. Norman S. Dong, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Sally Dorfmann, Aspen Systems Corporation
Ms. Clare L. Doyle, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Mr. John Geraghty, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Mr. William F. Heenan, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Lindan L. Johnson, Aspen Systems Corporation
Mr. Jake Kuitwaard, National Association of Realtors
Ms. Nancy Larson, American Airlines
Ms. Donni LeBoeuf, Department of Justice
Ms. Miriam Lowe, National Association of Realtors
Ms. Sharon McHale, Mortgage Bankers Association of America
Ms. Sondra Myers, National Endowment for the Humanities
Ms. Jean Nolan, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Katherine L. O'Leary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Sarah D. Petrin, Sister Cities International
Mr. Charles B. Pitcher, U.S. Department of Commerce
Ms. Janette Sadik-Khan, Department of Transportation
Ms. Sandra Smithey, Agency for International Development
Ms. Maggie Super, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ms. Ann R. Weeks, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Mr. Marc A. Weiss, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Mr. David Williams, Department of Interior