7 Central Themes‎ > ‎

Management of Human Settlements

      Agenda 21 addresses how urban settlements are to be managed in the future since urban centers or metropolitan areas are the fastest growing type of human settlements. Cities offer economies of scale with regard to provision of civic amenities such as energy, clean and fresh water, mobility, sewage and waste handling. However, the high population densities also create problems in public health and governance due to overcrowding and quick growth. Quick growth makes it hard for governments alone to provide solutions. Hence, solving urban problems must be a joint effort between academia, non-governmental organizations, private and social institutions, and governments.

Agenda 21 identifies eight major areas of effort with associated objectives, programs and activities, and financial information. These are: Adequate Shelter, Land Use Planning, Urban Environmental Infrastructure, Energy and Transportation, Disaster Prone Areas, Settlement Management, Construction Industry and Human Resources.

Adequate Shelter is declared as a basic human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Agenda 21's objective is to achieve adequate shelter for rapidly growing populations of urban and rural poor particularly by supporting the efforts in developing countries. Programs and Activities for all countries include building homeless shelters, protecting people from unfair evictions from their homes (in urban slum areas, e.g.), adopting and adapting existing regulations to make land accessible to the poor, taking the help of private, public and community organizations, reducing migration from rural areas, developing resettlement programs for displaced populations, monitoring the implementation based on guidelines from the UN and the World Bank. Industrialized countries are expected to help by providing training for government officials while being monitored by Human Rights Advocates. The estimated annual cost is $187.5 billion.


Settlement Management is necessary to provide sustainable development in cities, particularly in developing countries. Urban poverty should be reduced, by providing environmental education and by generating employment for the urban poor. Environmentally sound policies should be adopted in land use planning. Involvement of community organizations, private and public entities should be encouraged in research and development in areas such as the environmental impacts of the individual community and ways to improve the quality of urban and rural life. 


Land-Use Planning is key to sustainable development of urban areas since industry, commerce, agriculture, housing and need for open spaces all compete for the same resource-land. Agenda 21's objective is to protect ecologically fragile areas and avoid slums. It advocates up-front environmentally sound planning to provide land required for human settlements. Provide international technical assistance such as GIS, satellite imagery and remote sensing, computers, land survey equipment and know-how to developing countries to help them in attaining the afore mentioned goals. The financial estimate is roughly $7.6 billion, with about 10% of it provided by international sources.


Urban Environmental Infrastructure improvement leads to improved quality of life, hence improved productivity and reduces the burden of poverty alleviation. Environmental infrastructure includes facilities/utilities that provide water, waste disposal, and sanitation services and must be created with conservation and sustainability through core design. Efforts to include training and employment for local residents in the building/maintenance  for such facilities in the their countries/communities. Costs for implementing these activities are included in other chapters/areas of human health. Technical assistance form international  sources should average $125 million per year.


Energy and Transportation must evolve away from use of fossil fuels and other polluting/non-renewable sources.  Shared technology and resources,will provide countries/communities with alternative energy solutions that will encourage preservation of natural resources. Land use and transportation planning should encourage creative approaches for reduced transportation needs. Extensive support for private and community initiatives that promote the use of non-motorized transportation.  Implementation of activities are part the cost estimates in Ch. 4; Protection of Our Global Commons


Disaster Prone Areas should be identified to enable all countries to mitigate the negative impact of natural and man-made disasters in human settlements, national economies, and the environment by developing programs in the development of a “culture of safety”, pre-disaster planning and post-disaster reconstruction. New development/settlements should be redirected to areas that are not prone to hazards. Training and education shall be developed to empower local communities to be prepared for disasters.  Scientists and engineers specializing in this field should collaborate with planners and communities to  minimize potential losses. Estimation for these activities $125 million, which is required from international communities.


Construction Industry is an integral part of providing adequate shelter. They also cause environmental problems. Countries must develop policies and technologies to meet the development goals while avoiding harmful side effects to humans and their environment due to these activities. Building industry must use locally available natural resources, energy-efficient design, and be sensitive to ecologically fragile areas. Developing countries must get international assistance in clean technology. The cost is estimated to be $100 billion/year, with about 10% coming from international sources.


Human Resources are hard to come by in developing countries and in the lower economic regions of developed countries  in the highly specializes areas of housing, settlement management, land management, infrastructure, construction, energy, disaster planning and construction. To overcome this obstacle, Agenda 21 proposes sharing expertise and knowledge by key partnerships between professionals, governmental representatives, and community members, particularly women and youth.


Credits to : Nicole Arevalo, Leticia Malphettes, Neela Srinivasan,  

Renee Good, Mohammad Sulaiman Shansab



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