The following detailed report on the Habitat II conference is thanks to Walter Hook of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. His contact details are at the end of the article.

Thanks to cooperation from the government delegations from the U.S. and the European Union, with support from key developing country government delegations, some very progressive language promoting sustainable transport policies was passed as part of the Habitat II Agenda, or the Habitat II Global Plan of Action. From the U.S. Delegation, Gary Lawrence and Tim Honey were particularly helpful, and deserve the thanks of the sustainable transport community.


The mandate of the Habitat II Conference, or the "City Summit" was to promote basic shelter for all and environmentally sustainable human settlements. In terms of transport, at the conference, all signatory governments made the commitment, in par. 27d, to:

"Improving access to work, goods, services, and amenities inter alia, by promoting effective and environmentally sound, accessible, quieter and more energy efficient transport systems and by promoting spatial development patterns and communications policies that reduce transport demand, promoting fiscal and economic measures as appropriate, so that the polluter bears the cost of pollution to discourage polluting modes of transport."

The full text on how to implement the commitment laid out in Paragraph 27d above is outlined in paragraphs 102-104. The full text adopted by the conference reads as follows:

"6. Sustainable transport and communication systems

102. Transport and communication systems are the key to the movement of goods, people, information, and ideas, and to access to markets, employment, schools and other facilities and land use, both within cities and between cities, and in rural and other remote areas. The transportation sector is a major consumer of non-renewable energy and of land and is a major contributor to pollution, congestion and accidents. Integrated transport and land-use policy and planning can reduce the ill effects of current transport systems. People living in poverty, women, children, youth, older persons, and people with disabilities are particularly disadvantaged by the lack of accessible, affordable, safe, and efficient public transport systems.

102 bis. Developments in communications technologies can have a significant impact on economic activity and human settlement patterns. It is important for the potential impacts to be addressed so as to ensure that maximum benefits accrue to the community and to reduce any adverse outcomes in relation to access to services. Managing transport in human settlements should be done in a way as that promotes good access for all to places of work, social interaction and leisure facilitates important economic activities, including obtaining food and other necessities of life. This should be done while reducing the negative effects of transport on the environment.

Transport-system priorities should be given to reducing unnecessary travel through appropriate land-use and communication policies, developing transport policies that emphasise mobility alternatives other than the automobile, developing alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles, improving the environmental performance of existing modes, and through appropriate pricing and other policies and regulations.

103 bis. Non-motorised transport is a major mode of mobility, particularly for low-income, vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. One structural measure to counteract the socio-economic marginalisation of these groups is to foster their mobility by promoting affordable, efficient and energy-saving modes of transport.


104. In order to achieve sustainable transport in human settlements, Governments at the appropriate levels, in partnership with the private sector, the community sector, and other relevant stakeholders should:

(a) Support an integrated transport policy approach which explores the full array of technical and management options and pays due attention to the needs of all population groups, especially those whose mobility is constrained because of disability, age, poverty or any other reason;

(b) Coordinate land use and transport planning in order to encourage spatial settlement patterns that facilitate access to basic needs such as workplaces, schools, health care, places of worship, goods and services and leisure, thereby reducing the need to travel;

(c) Encourage the use of optimal modal composition of transport including walking, cycling, and private and public means of transportation, through appropriate pricing, spatial settlements policies and regulatory measures;

(d) Promote and implement distinctive measures that discourage the increasing growth of private motorised traffic and reduce congestion which is damaging environmentally, economically, socially and to human health and safety, through pricing, traffic regulation, parking, and land-use planning traffic calming methods, and by providing or encouraging effective alternative transport methods, particularly to the most congested areas;

e. Provide or promote an effective, affordable, physically accessible and environmentally sound public transport and communication system giving priority to collective means of transport, with adequate carrying capacity and frequency that supports basic needs and the main traffic flows;

Promote, regulate, and enforce quiet, use-efficient and low-polluting technologies, including fuel-efficient engine and emissions controls and fuel with a low level of polluting emissions and impact on the atmosphere and other alternative forms of energy;

(g) Encourage and promote public access electronic information services."


This language, whatever its strengths and weaknesses, is as good as it is thanks in part to the concerted efforts of NGOs. During the Preparatory Committee Meeting in New York this past February, groups interested in influencing the contents of the Habitat II Global Plan of Action organised themselves into a 'Transportation Caucus.' The Caucus was jointly coordinated by Andy Anderson from London Transport, who was representing the International Union (Association) of Public Transport (UITP), and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), but included members from the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium, the Children's' Road Safety Institute, UNED-UK, and many concerned individuals. At that time many of our recommendations were incorporated into the above government text.

Between the Prep-Com in February and Habitat II in June, the Transport Caucus was not entirely satisfied with some of the above language, and we made several recommendations to strengthen it. We wanted explicit language recognising the rights of non-motorised transport to have access to the street network, and we wanted language requiring cars to pay the fully internalised social cost of their trip. The paragraph on non-motorised transportation puts these modes in the context of poverty, and does not explicitly call for promoting these modes. However, because the conference was so far behind, the Chairman of Habitat II asked that all language formally or informally agreed upon in February not be re-opened for discussion, so we were unable to make any further changes in Par. 102-104.

Par. 27d, however, we knew was still open for debate. Once in Istanbul, the Transport Caucus decided to focus on getting language stressing that car users should pay the fully internalised social cost of their trip. Critical support for the Transport Caucus came from members of the Sustainable Transport Coalition for Asia and the Pacific (SUSTRAN), the Hungarian Traffic Club, members of the Women's Supercoalition, and Friends of the Earth Australia. We were told by the delegates from the European Union that they would not accept language on internalising the full social costs of car use, but they were willing to accept language requiring the polluter to pay, which was accepted already in Agenda 21, so the Transport Caucus focused on lobbying to get this language included.

We convinced the EU to propose this language, and the U.S., Australian, and G77 delegations to accept this proposal. This lobbying effort was successful. Only the Saudi's objected, watering the language down somewhat, adding 'where appropriate' to fiscal measures, which does not really hurt the text.


There were several other important transport events at Habitat II. The major event was one of the 'Dialogues for the 21st Century.' The Dialogues were full day meetings of 'experts' which then submitted two pages of summary recommendations to be included in the Global Plan of Action as an annex. Some 500 people attended the Transport Dialogue. There was considerable nervousness among the NGOs, as the major funding for the Transport Dialogue was coming from the Daimler Benz Corporation which owns Mercedes. NGOs were ready to criticise the event to the media in case of problems. However, responsibility for organising the event was ultimately delegated to the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements' Transport Staff. Because former ITDP-employee Brian Williams had been hired in January by UNCHS specifically to fulfil this role, we had a strong ally in Nairobi. After long discussions, UNCHS agreed to ask the World Bank and the International Union (Association) of Public Transport (UITP) to be Co-Sponsors to this event. As the World Bank had recently published a fairly progressive new transport policy called "Sustainable Transport", and UITP is very progressive in promoting public transport and non-motorised transport, and as both have enormous influence and credibility with both national and local governments, having them lend a progressive message to the Transport Dialogue we felt would send a very powerful signal to governments. Ken Gwilliam from the World Bank and Brian Williams from UNCHS were ultimately responsible for inviting the speakers and preparing the two pages of comments. They both did an excellent job. They invited top notch sustainable transport advocates as speakers, such as Michael Replogle of EDF, Jeff Kenworthy of Murdoch University, Walter Hook of ITDP, Wojciech Suchorzewsky of Warsaw, Jonas Rabinowitz from Curitiba, as well as Pierre Laconte of the UITP and Ken Gwilliam of the World Bank. While the organisers regretted a failed attempt and bringing more gender and race diversity to the panel, nonetheless, as Brian Williams said to the Transport Caucus, "Basically, Mercedes Benz has paid the bill for a party thrown by their ideological enemies."

The spokesman for Daimler Benz was quite forward thinking, recognising that automobiles will have to be kept in their appropriate place, made more environmentally sustainable, lighter, more fuel efficient, etc. Apparently Daimler Benz, which also has investments in light rail, intelligent vehicle highway systems, ultra-light community vehicles, and other investments, has decided that their market is in high end luxury vehicles and in a wide range of more sustainable transport technologies. They made no effort to influence the contents of the report summarising the Dialogue's main points, which were prepared with thoroughness and fairness by the World Bank's Ken Gwilliam with oversight by Brian Williams.

Because of our nervousness about Mercedes sponsorship, UNCHS, ITDP, and the Conference Chairman Martii Lujanen also made a big effort to finance another technical meeting on transport issues. This event called "Infrastructure Essential for Life - Special Event on Transport" was financed by the Government of Finland. This meeting was attended by some 50 transport specialists, members of government delegations, and the press. Ultimately, most of the speakers were the same as those at the Dialogue, but they were able to go into greater detail on some key issues.

A final event was hosted by Kalyan Ray of UNCHS on June 10 on how to implement meaningfully the transport sections of the Global Plan of Action. Walter Hook of ITDP stressed the importance of NGOs in holding governments accountable to the promises they made in the GPA. The text recognising the importance of non-motorised transportation should help NGOs representing bicyclists, pedicab drivers, and rickshaws who in many countries are facing increasing restrictions to their access to city streets. He also stressed that UN Agencies need to get more involved in promoting non-motorised transport for environmental and poverty reduction reasons. Ken Gwilliam of the World Bank called for a global moratorium on leaded gasoline, and outlined the importance of introducing commercial principals into the management of public transport systems. Jeff Kenworthy called for an international fund financed from gasoline taxes to promote public and non-motorised transport in developing countries. Deike Peters of ITDP called for more attention to transport for meeting women's mobility needs.


Ultimately, whether Habitat II will actually lead to any major improvement in the sustainability and fairness of transport systems around the world will depend on whether and if NGOs and supportive government officials use the language agreed to in the Global Plan of Action to change government policies, and whether major international funding agencies such as the Multilateral Development Banks and the U.N. Agencies will provide the necessary funds to make the Habitat II Sustainable Transport vision a reality.

For more information, Contact Walter Hook, The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, 611 Broadway, Rm. 616, New York, New York, 10012, USA.


SUSTRAN is an informal network of organisations and individuals, dedicated to promoting transportation policies which foster societies and human settlements that are: Socially Just, Ecologically Sustainable, Politically Participatory, Economically Productive and Culturally Vibrant. SUSTRAN welcomes participation by any organisation or individual who supports this general mission. Please contact us for details.

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