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United Nations Conference on Human Settlements

11 June 1976

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[Recommendations from the Vancouver Plan of Action, June 1976]

The Vancouver Action Plan. A. Settlement policies and strategies


1. The goals and objectives of human settlement policies and strategies are recalled in the Declaration of Principles of the Habitat Conference.

2. To achieve these goals and objectives, national settlement policies must be formulated and the means for implementation must be selected and combined into national development strategies. These strategies must then be incorporated in the general planning framework, and the specific goals must become an integral part of national development objectives.

3. The ideologies of States are reflected in their human settlement policies. These being powerful instruments for change, they must not be used to dispossess people from their homes and their land, or to entrench privilege and exploitation. The human settlement policies must be in conformity with the declaration of principles/1 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

4. Human settlements of today embody the outcome of generations of ideas, decisions and physical investments; it is not possible, therefore, to achieve radical modifications overnight. But population growth and rapid changes in the location of human activities proceed at such a pace that, by the end of the century we shall have to build "another world on top of the present one". If properly directed, this formidable task could mobilize untapped resources and be turned into a unique opportunity for changing our man-made environment: this is the challenge of human settlement strategies.

5. In fact, the very construction of the physical components of human settlements - be they rural or urban, in the form of dwellings or roads, with traditional or modern technologies - in sufficient volume to meet the needs of society, could become a leading sector of the economy and a major generator of meaningful employment, instead of being treated as a residual of so-called "productive" activities.

6. It must be remembered also that, throughout the world, the present role of human activities was determined by economic, social and political relationships, many of which are by now obsolete. In the early industrialized countries of the northern hemisphere, the pattern of settlements still bears the marks of the ruthless urbanization of the last century; in the third world, both the hierarchy of settlements and, very often, their internal structures are the physical manifestation of the dual society inherited-from a situation of dependence and exploitation. To change these complex and evolving relationships, settlement policies and strategies must be conceived on a scale appropriate to the task and as part of a single concerted effort for the improvement of the quality of life of all people, wherever they live and work.

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Recommendation A.1 A national settlement policy

  1. Every aspect of human settlements: social, environmental, cultural and psychological is profoundly affected by the level of economic development, population growth and movements, as well as social relationships. The task of dealing with the consequential and rapid changes in the range and location of human activities, within the constraints of limited resources presents both a new challenge and a unique opportunity to achieve more balanced development in every nation.

  2. All countries should establish as a matter of urgency a national policy on human settlements, embodying the distribution of population, and related economic and social activities, over the national territory.

  3. Such a policy should:

    1. Be based on the goals and objectives stated in the Declaration of Principles;

    2. Recognize that difficult choices must be made between conflicting requirements;

    3. Embody both a firm political commitment and public understanding of its implications;

    4. Be based on a critical assessment of the present situation of human settlements, the emerging trends, and the impact of past policies;

    5. Be devised to facilitate population redistribution to accord with the availability of resources:

    6. Focus on the central role of human resources as an agent for development;

    7. Take into account the World Population Plan of Action.

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Recommendation A.2 Human settlements and development

  1. There are fundamental relationships among the distribution of population, environment, economic activities, and the pattern of yhuman settlements. National policies for economic and social development can no longer afford to neglect or minimize the role of human settlements

  2. A national policy for human settlements and the environment should be an integral part of any national economic and social development policy.

  3. An integrated human settlement policy should:

    1. Be formulated through a truly interdisciplinary approach, concurrently with policies relating to other aspects of social and economic development;

    2. Be formulated at the highest political level, in co-operation and co-ordination with regional and local levels as appropriate;

    3. Be consistent with the preservation, restoration and improvement of the natural and man-made environment, cognizant of the positive role of environment in national economic and social development;

    4. Be directed at all settlements, rural and urban, dispersed and concentrated, old and new;

    5. Be considered in all efforts to implement the New International Economic Order;

    6. Take into account the changing roles and responsibilities of women and the impact of developments and programmes on women, both as participants and beneficiaries.

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Recommendation A.3 Content of national human settlement policy

  1. Institutions responsible for planning and programmes at all levels, should receive clear guidelines from an explicit policy statement on human settlement issues.

  2. A national human settlements policy should concentrate on key issues and provide basic directions for action.

  3. Such a policy should:

    1. Promote the goals and objectives of national development and translate these into spatial terms;

    2. Outline strategies appropriate to different time perspectives and different scales;

    3. Establish priorities among regions and areas, especially in relation to the location of investment and infrastructure and the satisfaction of the needs of various social groups;

    4. Be led by public sector action, and aim at the welfare of the people, with priority to the most deprived;

    5. Set minimum and maximum standards which should be expressed in qualitative and quantitative terms, based on indigenous values, related to local resources and abilities, capable of evolving over time and developed with the full participation of all those concerned.

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Recommendation A.4 More equitable distribution

  1. Human settlements in most countries are characterized by wide disparities in living standards from one region to another, between urban and rural areas, within individual settlements and among various social and ethnic groups. Such discrepancies exacerbate many human settlement problems, and, in some instances, reflect inadequate planning. Human settlement policies can be powerful tools for the more equitable distribution of income and opportunities.

  2. Human settlements policies should aim to improve the condition of human settlements particularly by promoting a more equitable distribution of the benefits of development among regions; and by making such benefits and public services equally accessible to all groups.

  3. This can be done through:

    1. The location of public sector investments;

    2. The allocation of direct subsidies and priority of investment, to selected disadvantaged regions and groups;

    3. The use of incentives and disincentives - fiscal, legal or other - to favour or discourage selected activities or areas;

    4. The creation of special employment, training and social services opportunities in favour of the most deprived;

    5. The deliberate improvement of conditions in the most disadvantaged settlements, so as to enhance attraction of such areas in relation to others;

    6. Measures to improve the quality of life of vulnerable groups which have special needs - such as children, the elderly, the handicapped and the disabled. Such measures include provision of basic social services, adequate shelter and social and physical access to facilities.

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Recommendation A.5 Settlement development strategies:

  1. An effective human settlements policy concerned with progress requires a strategy which confronts all the relevant issues, makes the necessary choice of means and options and indicates trade-offs in resource and time dimensions. That strategy should also reflect the hierarchy of human settlements and allow for future changes.

  2. National human settlements strategies must be explicit, comprehensive and flexible.

  3. Such a strategy requires:

    1. Definition of socio-economic variables and physical development patterns, and of guidelines for staging and degree of concentration of development programmes;

    2. Designation of the body responsible for policy formulation;

    3. Active participation of all governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations concerned in policy formulation and strategy development;

    4. Active co-operation and participation of all sectors of the population must be obtained:

    5. A means for periodic review to take into account new important developments;

    6. Particular reference to the major infrastructure networks - transport, energy and communication- and the essential administrative and financial systems.

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Recommendation A.6 Allocation of resources

  1. The resources available for improving the quality of life in human settlements are limited when compared with people's needs and expectations. Those resources are also too often misallocated; where resources are especially scarce the human potential is often ignored.

  2. The improvement of quality of life in human settlements must receive higher priority in the allocation of conventional resources, which ought to be carefully distributed between the various components of human settlements; it also requires the planned use of scarce resources and the mobilization of new resources, in particular human capacities.

  3. Particular attention should be given to:

    1. Making true social costs and benefits the basis for policy decision and evaluation, and not only material product;

    2. Allocating resources on a spatial as well as sectoral basis, with a view to improving efficiency and accountability;

    3. Encouraging self-help, self-reliance and the organization of interregional solidarity;

    4. Research priority for critical factors in the development of human settlements, especially energy and technologies;

    5. Development of new sources of finance, with suitable terms and conditions.

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Recommendation A.7 Constant review

  1. Because of their complexity, dynamism and persistence, human settlement problems require sustained national attention and continual reassessment.

  2. Governments should report publicly on a continuous evaluation of human settlements conditions.

  3. This may involve:

    1. A permanent national body reviewing human settlement problems and issues;

    2. A national or regional periodic review of settlement development proposals to assess potentials, social and environmental costs and benefits of alternate systems of development;

    3. A periodic report by the Head of State or Government on the achievements and failures of the past period, and goals for the future;

    4. Independent monitoring and evaluation components in all major human settlement programmes, projects and institutions.


1/ In the report of Committee II (A/CONF.70/10) submitted to Plenary the following footnote appeared: "Subject to the action to be taken by the Conference on the Declaration of Principles".