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Frames No Frame

by Joan M. Veon of the Women's International Media Group, Inc.

QUESTION on Public private partnerships - what it is and significance as we move towards and through agenda 21.

Dr. N Dow:

In the field of human settlements, it is particularly crucial today taht the solutions we seek and apply include the contribution of the private sector. Today, more than ever before in the past, this contribution is indespensible becaue goverments are no longer in a position to prive the means, they are no longer able to claim that they alone hold the vision for the future of human society, and they are no longer able to continue the advocacy all on their own in support of improving living conditions of people. The private sector has more than just a role to provide resources--that's importatnt but not all. Think of a working city, a town, a neighborhood in a big city, the townships. It is the private sector that provides the industries, the jobs and livelihood to the people and therefore an important component to human development. When jobs disappear, when the private sector isn't active, you immediately see a breakdown in social relationships. the social peace is broken because people don't have livelihoods, there is social exclusion and tension so that human settlement will not work.

That's one. The private sector does most of the research and development work whether it is in the field of energy, transportation, the enviromenet, they build the roads and infrastructure. They build the housing as well in many parts of the world so how can you discuss the future of the cities of towns and mega-cities and say the private sector does not have a contribbution to make....a contribution in ideas now, this time, not just a contribution in resources. So we have arrived that this point where in terms of seeking sustainable human features, the human settlements dimension--howe we live, how we are going to live in this organized 21st century. We have got to a point where we cannot not partner with the private sector and as governments, as the civil society, as NGO's, but also as people active in international development such as the UN. That is what Istanbul tried to convey.

Q. Overivew with regard to the first conference in 1972 and HII--what was layed out in the framework in 1972 and what did 1996 accomplish and what will be set up when we are through?

.A. One singular differenece, 1976 sought to achieve more shelter provision for the poor. The rallying call was "Shelter for All" it was a one theme conference. It primarily provoked by the rejection of civil society everywhere of the galloping homelessness. The tremendous problems homelessness was beginning to pose to everyone all over the world. Istanbul, in addition, to still focusing on housing and human shelter, was not just a housing conference, it was imprtantly a debate of the cities, urban challenge that was the main difference.. In 1976, there were subjects

that were taboo in the United Nations. One could not discuss subjects such as the role fo the private sector because we were still in the grips of the Cold War with ideologies contenting over what was capitalist, socialist, what was acceptable int he UN fora and what could not be discussed so prigvate sector and land--who owns it, how it is managed-- these were things that could not be discussed.

In Istanbul we were able to go beyond those and the barriers came down and the debate included not only government but local authorities, mayors were there in a big way in Istanbul. This was not the case 20 years. Governments still felt at that time that UN confrences only had to do with their vision, their deas their resoruces, and their political will so this is what has changed in the past 20 years.

JV: That is a very large change--a large philosophical shift in where we see the world going. The U.S. Goverment, has been, in my opinion, extremely supportive of the United Nations and the United Nations agenda. Do you think that they could do more or given at this point, do you think it is sufficient?

ND: We think they could do more in terms of material support for the UN and in certain spheres in the U.S., poliitcal support it could give. They are the most important player in the world and certainly the most important in the UN, its advocacy in support of this world body is indespensible, and its resoruces in support are also indespensible to the functioning of the world organization so we are of the opinion that more can be done on both fronts.

JB: With regard tot he Habitats and cities, Habitat I from my understanding was instrumental in setting up the initial framework and the zoning for communities which will bring us, through HII bring us into a biosphere community. Is that pretty correct thinking?

ND: tHE IDEA OF community has come center stange in action and thinking and across the broad in our work at Habitat. Communitiies are the most important and primary agents of change in their own self-management. it us to be that alot of this was top down--the conception of the process and application was determined from above. Today we are seeing a bottoms up approach in terms of philosophy and in terms of effort, vision. So the community is the single most important unit that we have to deal with. It dos not only have to do with housing and home but in all areas of human development today, in all agencies of the UN today, this idea of community. It has another spect. it has a non physical perhaps aspect. What is community in the end--it is a sense of belonging, a sense of spirit. Its a sense of being able to do things together for one's own self- improvement. It may even have a dimension of human solidarity to tackle the problems that affect all the problems in the community. If the community dosen't work the neighborhoods don't work. The communities have to deal with more than whether or not you have transport, bricks and mortar and houses. Community spirit goes beyond those physical and tangible things. They address what keeps the socieities to gether. They try to avoid, and they must if they plan to work as a sustainable and surviving community they have to address what issues divide and disunite communities as well. So here you are moving beyond the physical to the area of human spirit and human solidarity and very important to the human family and this new Habitat of man, this new city which seems to be the future for all of us.

JV: The solidarity that we will see in the communities, I believe the UN in their effort to expand sustainable development calls that social capital.

ND: Yes, indeed you cannot envisage achieving much in terms of all these plans of action--whether national or global, when societies remain dis-united, when the social contract fractures, when there is no sense of community and only a sense of people consiering themselves inhabitatnts of a place as opposed to citizens and members of a community or group so that social capital or resources, has more impact in the way things are done by the community that we work with than perhaps the money. You can have all the money in the world, if there is discort and dis-unity and tearing apart, then certainly you will not succeed in the projects that you are helping to shape.

Dr. Noel Brown

DR Brown:

Currently special rep. for the Group of 77 at the UN in NY. The number is a misnomer because it is 122 states plus China. The group is approximately 32 years and and I attempting to create a special mechanism for tri-continental cooperation among the states of Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is a varied gorup ranging from China to small island states. I beleive that it has a powerful potential within the UN. In a body of 182 members, if you have a community of 132, that should be a group that must matter and certainly should accellerate reform and the revitalization of the UN. My specific role is concerned with problems which I call corporate and environmental affaris. I believe that the future of the UN with rest on effective partnering with the private sector--with business and industry. But I also believe that the environment and the enviromental community must also rethilnk its mission and re-define its role as we enter the phase of globalization and as we are on the threshold of the 21st Century. You must forgive me if I seem excited but I think I am in a rather exciting place at the UN at this time.

JV: There is no doubt Dr. Brown that you are and you have already introduced this program with public-private partnerships , role of ppp..

NB: For much of our existence, the human story, this had been a very fragmented world. For the first time we are developing. an integrated economic system where it is almost a misnomer because it is a democratic system. Access is open to all but not everyone can buy in so there certainly are people who are marginalized by globalization and there are some who are threatened and many are challenged by it but there is no way we can turn it off. This is part of the energy of the future. We have become a global specie and our conduct is entering a new global phase. Whether or not those who are being left behind can be encourged to be part of the system is part of the challenge that the UN is facing at this time.

As far as the partnerships are concerned, for a very long time business had been seen as an enemy of the enviornment. Business had been seen as something separate from society. The UN itself is an intergovernmental organization and government has the kind of primacy in the activities. Without business there is no jobs, no tax, you don't have the creative explosion of technology. so we need to realize that this is not the kind of entity that can be either sidelined, sidestepped oor sideshowed. The UN is now coming around to encouraging, inviting and involving business more fully. The Earth Summit five years ago had a specific provision, Chapter 30 of Agenda 21 called upon busiess to become partners witht he UN. In the reporting five years later, we have discovered that business and local communities have moved faster and more consistently to implement the provisions of Agenda 21 so I think the time is right and business is ready. Governments are now beginning to accep the fact that a new world is in the making. The industrial community is a very important component that must work in tandem with us.

JV: A new world is in the making. You are absolutely correct because that is what globalization is bringing about. A new world. The businesses have money that govenrment does not have so they are a necessary component in public-private partnerships. If I understand corretly, public-private partnerships as a phrase was first used in Istanbul at Habitat II. Since then, partnershps, parntering with the local levl, NGO's with governments and with business appears to be that this New World order is going to come about.

NB: That is partially correct. I think it would be a little exaggerated to say that public-private partnerships was first used at Istanbul. Whart happened at Istanbul is that public-private partnershps were realized. For years, we in the UN, paid lip-service to public-private partnership by the way we treated the private sector. They were guests of the system, they made a few pronouncements and went home. Now for the first time they are integrated into the system and we are talking about hte city and enterprise. So I think the partnership component was given a level of reality. I think you have to give a lot of credit to Wally N'Dow, S-G of the Habitat II Conference. he took it seriously and he kept his word that business must become partners with the UN and his portfolio made that a reality because after all the city is ususally the platform for industrial and economic operations. Most of our stockmarkets--do you of any stockmarket in the rural area? Most of of the money flows flow through the urban environment and so the fact that he recognized and made provisions for this was unique. Also I have to give UNEP credit as well beause in 1974 we created the first industry and environment office in paris and in 1984 we had the first conference of business and environment called the World Industry Conference on the Enviroment and Development-WICING>? in Versailles France. So we have been inching away. But it was only when Dr. N'Dow took charge of Habitat that this public-private partnerships was given a new reality within the UN and there is no turning back.

JV: Can you explain for me the evolution of where publc-rivate partnerships will lead and the role that they will play as we continue?

NB: Yes, because I think quite seriously we are entering a phase which is a trade driven phase. Isn't it interesting that the only institution created after the Earth Summit was the World Trade Organization. So trade is becoming a major component. Everyone seems to be engaged now in the gobal trading system. So that is one reality that trade is part of the driving global energy. I think secondly as we look at the evolution, as far as the UN is concerneed that the future revitalization and perhaps the success of the United Nations will depend on the success by which it brings in new powerholders of the world. The UN has been obsessed with the officer-holders--that is the government, the diplomats and your excellencies. But real power is now being exercised by the people who manage the world's wealth--the wealth generators are the keyhodlers of power, not of office and if the UN wants to talk sustainable development eradicate power---how are you going to eradicate power unless you are going to create jobs, unless you are going to bring more capital investment within the system? I, in my moments of lucity or insanity, see the UN with a new chamber for the Industrial community. I would advise the S-G tomorrow to create a cooperative advisory counsil . He must have around him the top business leaders because when he is talking development, he hs a few bureaucrats who know bnothing but textbooks. The top business leaders must be available to the S-G and we need to reate a second chamber for the UN. You listen to the pontification which goes on and on but now the real powerholders must be parters in shaping the future if it is to sustainable, equitable and humane.

JB: Let us build on that because in Istanbul, for the first time, the mayors, governors who were there and local level who are now able to directly put their 2 cents into the preparation of the UN document through the rule change done by the General Assembly in December, of 1995.

NB: I LIke your phrase evolution because I think it demonstrates that things are constantly changing. The UN can accept change at only a certain speed and so many thing aare happening but i think that we are beginning to establish some priorities in your local communities. It seems ironic that the UN made provisions for governments, NGOs but never local governments and now for the first time, municipal leaders are beignning to have access, greater acess to the UN system and to help shape decisions which will affect municipalites and communitiies. The cities are where people are--the first line of action are to the mayors and community leaders. I am very encouraged by the fact that hte UN is acknowledging this and is making provision for this. I would like to see much more attention being paid to the local agendas because the local and global are a matter of interface. They are no longer contradictory and no longer that distant. My hope is that we will make provision for this.

JV: We have about a minute left in this segment. If I understand you correctly, we now have the local and the community plugged into the United Nations, we have government through the ambassadors of the various nations into the UN and now you are saying we need a chamber--a second chamber to facilitate corproate positions and pwoer and their place in this new world and then of course, there is a call for a special people's chamber. Is that correct?

NB: Yes. I think remember that for a long time international relations was a conduct of government, now in the age of globalization, people are transacting across national boundaries. The UN is the main frame. We are in all these things. We have come to the place--we will interplace in an orderly and i think it is good platform on which all these actors will find their place and to gain access. I think this will make for a much more exciting United Nations.

JV: This is Joan Veon, I am in Rio, my guest is Dr. Noel Brown. You stayed tuned. This will be your wake up call.