Rome, 13 December 2004
Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Ladies and gentlemen I bid you most cordially welcome to the third UNECE REAG Forum which addresses the topic of ”Property rights for the Poor: A Global Perspective".
As you know, through the Millennium Declaration of 2000 and the associated Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) all members of the United Nations have agreed to cut extreme poverty worldwide by half by the year 2015. Next year at the September Summit 2005 Heads of State and of governments are expected to review the progress achieved in meeting this and other commitments. The United Nations has concentrated efforts in mobilizing governments, the business sector and civil society organisations and other international organisations to formulate pro-poor strategies, policies and projects, and to set up partnerships in order to make this target achievable. The Land for Development Programme is one of the projects initiated by UNECE, based on the idea of making land and real-estate property work for economic development and poverty reduction. Our Land for Development Programme seeks to raise the awareness of governments, the private sector and local communities in a campaign to demonstrate how secure ownership in property can be a mechanism for leveraging finance into economies, and turning assets into usable capital for all. Through this campaign we wish to contribute directly to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Some of our member States thinking along the same lines saw in UNECE’s Real Estate Advisory Group (REAG)’s work and that of the Working Party on Land Administration a rich source of expertise and an opportunity to work with us to reach a wider audience with this vision. They thus approached the UNECE to become the secretariat for a new initiative with a threefold mandate:
- To establish a High Level Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor under the United Nations that would prepare a reform package for policy makers.
- To accompany this with a few significant evidence-based projects “on the ground”.
- To mobilise support for this initiative from our United Nations global partners to ensure that the Commission has a truly global spread and support by the United Nations family.
Let me describe the progress we have made in achieving these goals:
We have elaborated, with the cooperation of our REAG experts, Governments and Professor Hernando de Soto, a concept paper for the project. This paper is now being circulated amongst interested governments who are being asked to become “partner governments” of this initiative. The Nordic Ministers for International Development, comprising Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland will today discuss this project at a meeting in Oslo.
The Norwegian Government has taken a strong lead and we are grateful for its contribution to UNECE of seed funding to prepare for the launch of the Commission.
Within UNECE too we have now begun a dialogue within our various branches dealing with land and property rights from different perspectives to see how we can provide a broad based support for this initiative under a combined programme of work. To this end REAG with the UNECE Working Party on Land Administration (WPLA) are discussing ways to deepen their cooperation to provide joint support for the initiative. In this way the public and private sectors can work together in this project and promote integrated and comprehensive approaches that can transform assets into usable capital.
With regard to projects, I am pleased to announce that the United Kingdom Government has begun a discussion to transfer its Third Party Arbitration Courts (TPAC) programme to UNECE. Under this programme vulnerable groups have received legal support and protection. We are delighted in addition to have in their support a programme manager who as well as providing advisory services for TPAC will help us to establish the Commission and prepare the toolkit. REAG is also discussing projects that will be carried out in the Russian Federation with the support of the EU TACIS programme. This demonstrates a real interest in tackling the problem of informal settlements within our region. In this regard we note with interest the Ministerial Declaration of the Stability Pact of October 1 2004 which has committed signatories to improve the legal and institutional framework and to aim for the compete regional resolution of informal settlements by the year 2015.
With regard to mobilising United Nations support for the Commission, I have written to several heads of United Nations agencies, UN Habitat and FAO as well as to the other United Nations regional commissions, asking them for their cooperation. I am pleased to see that many of them have joined us for this meeting to discuss this initiative in more detail. I welcome the coordinating meeting that will be held on Wednesday morning after the forum.
Thus, while there is still much that needs to be done I am pleased to announce good progress in all these directions. I hope you agree that we are moving in the right direction!
Turning now to the purpose of this year's Forum which is to “Consult” with our colleagues from outside UNECE in order to achieve important insights and inputs, to identify some projects that could support this initiative going forward and to mobilise government partners to join this initiative. We are of the firm view that the more governments that associate with this project the more successful will be the results of the Commission.
Finally I wish to thank all those of you have come to attend our meeting from far and near distance and to thank Tecnoborsa once again for kindly hosting this Forum in Rome. We appreciate your support and I personally am ready to help in any way I can to assist your work in order to make a real contribution to the United Nations and its Millennium Development goals. I wish you a very productive Forum.