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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. F. Institutions and management


1. Policies, strategies, plans and programmes cannot be elaborated or implemented without appropriate instruments. In the field of human settlements, these take the form of political, administrative or technical institutions, enabling legislation and regulatory instruments, and formal procedures for the harnessing of resources, in particular human capacities.

2. New institutions on human settlements must be designed to play a variety of roles in development: important among these is that of promoting new concepts and providing leadership in unfamiliar areas. Institutions must also be responsive to change, capable of changing themselves and suitable for promoting change by others.

3. Because of their territorial coverage, complexity and relative permanence, human settlements require a very diversified system of institutions. Some operations are better managed on a very small scale, to benefit from the full participation and involvement of residents; others draw unquestionable benefits from the economy and efficiency of scale. Especially in large and complex metropolitan areas, the search for more appropriate institutions must be a continuous one, with a view to achieving a satisfactory balance between effective government and accountability to the governed.

4. In political systems where responsibilities and resources are shared amongst different levels of government and governmental agencies, joint consultation on matters of common concern is essential to achieve national settlement goals and objectives.

5. Institutions are ineffectual unless they are given access to and control over the resources necessary for operation. The increasing gap between the mandate of many human settlement institutions and the resources effectively placed at their disposal is one of the principal causes for the widespread crisis in urban management, in industrialized and developing countries alike.

6. This is particularly true of institutions catering to the capital and recurrent budget needs of human settlements which have very special requirements such as long-term investment and low yield, and which, if inappropriately or insufficiently funded, become the main obstacle to implementing otherwise well intended policies.

7. The implementation of new programmes may require new enabling legislation; but legislative changes are a laborious process, which follows the expressed needs of society often only with long delay. The same applies to regulations and by-laws - for instance in planning, building and safety -many of which are outdated or altogether irrelevant to the basic present-day needs of the population.

8. Similarly the training and practices of the professions involved in human settlements planning need continual review. In the third world, the problems of the professions are aggravated in so far as they may be unduly influenced by the concepts and practices in industrialized countries, and fail to adequately reflect the realities and needs of their own societies.

9. In the last resort, the most valuable resource of all is human beings; the channelling of human initiative and the management of human skills for the achievement of the goals or national planning is a task which has received insufficient attention so far, both at national and local levels.

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Recommendation F.1 Settlement institutions

  1. The formulation of effective human settlement policies and strategies requires policies and strategies requires consultation, negotiation and decision at all levels. This will facilitate their implementation, nation-wide focus and authority.

  2. There must be institutions at national, ministerial, and other appropriate levels of government responsible for the formulation and implementation of settlement policies and strategies for national, regional and local development.

  3. The principal features or such institutions are:

    1. A distinct identity relating to the priority assigned to human settlements in development plans;

    2. Leadership or other institutions and the public at large on settlements matters;

    3. Executive responsibility for settlement programmes;

    4. Formal consultation with other settlement institutions;

    5. Develop and use spatial budgeting techniques to guide co-ordination and approval of government investment programmes;

    6. Responsibility for evaluation, monitoring and feed-back on settlement policies, strategies and programmes;

    7. Obtain an adequate share of budgetary and other resources to perform its mandate effectively.

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Recommendation F.2 Co-ordination of physical and economic planning institutions

  1. Even when economic development planning covers the principal sectors of the economy, it frequently neglects the spatial dimension implicit in human settlement issues. This is partly the result of conceptual difficulties and partly the inertia of existing institutions.

  2. Institutions for human settlements should be co-ordinated with those responsible for national economic and social development and environmental plans and policies, and interrelated on a multidisciplinary basis.

  3. This can be achieved by:

    1. Establishing appropriate co-ordination between national government departments as well as between the different levels of government where appropriate;

    2. Ensuring adequate representation of the needs and aspirations of inhabitants in human settlements on the principal policy-making bodies;

    3. Introducing orientation, refresher and in-service training courses for officials whose decisions bear on settlements.

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Recommendation F.3 Institutional change

  1. Many settlement institutions have outlived their original purpose and are often not relevant to community needs and changing social patterns. Legislation, administrative procedures and fiscal arrangements are often outmoded; functions and territorial boundaries have changed; jurisdictions are fragmented; and institutional structures are excessively cumbersome. Such deficiencies are a major obstacle to effective settlement policies and their implementation.

  2. Institutions dealing with human settlements should adapt to changing circumstances.

  3. In particular:

    1. Means should be established to provide for the continuous review of settlement institutions to ensure that they are responsive to community needs and opportunities;

    2. Institutions dealing with basic infrastructure and public services should be reorganized as necessary to fulfil their function;

    3. Institutions should be assigned a geographical coverage commensurate with the nature of the service provided, the technology of that service, and the changing nature of relationships and interactions between different parts of the national territory;

    4. Institutions should receive appropriate resources reflecting the nature of the service provided and its wider implications;

    5. Institutions should evolve and adapt to new organizational and procedural forms, enter into co-operative and collaborative arrangements with other organizations, public and private, and explore innovative approaches.

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Recommendation F.4 The role of special institutions

  1. New institutions are sometimes necessary when those existing are incapable of handling special settlement problems. The tendency of institutions to perpetuate themselves, or for unwarranted new ones, can lead over the long term to a redundant cumbersome and self-perpetuating bureaucracy.

  2. Institutions especially established to solve short-term settlement problems should not outlive their original purpose.

  3. This may be achieved by:

    1. Transferring functions to permanent institutions in preplanned stages;

    2. Establishing the life span of the institutions concerned in initial organizational and budgetary instruments;

    3. Appropriation of additional funds only after careful review of functions:

    4. Establishing special training programmes to enable participating communities to assume gradually organizational responsibility.

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Recommendation F.5 Institutional incentives to participation

  1. Human settlement institutions will be more effective if means are provided for maximum public participation in the decision-making process in all policies and programmes.

  2. Institutions should be designed to encourage and facilitate public participation in the decision-making process at all levels.

  3. This may be achieved by:

    1. Decentralizing administration and management at the national, regional and local levels, consistent with effective policy formulation and planning and the efficient use of available professional human resources;

    2. Providing for built-in machinery for consultation between various types or institutions at different levels:

    3. Requiring public accountability of institutions;

    4. Facilitating dialogue between elected officials, administrative bodies and professionals.

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Recommendation F.6 Management of settlements

  1. Too often, conditions in human settlements deteriorate rapidly. Among other things, this results from poor management, and under-utilization of existing resources, facilities and infrastructure. Such deficiencies are avoidable.

  2. Settlements must be improved by responsive and imaginative management of all resources.

  3. This should be done by:

    1. Establishing clearly the management responsibilities of national, regional and local government;

    2. Management within a framework of social goals;

    3. Preventing speculation on people's basic needs and aspirations;

    4. Preserving unique cultural and social heritages;

    5. Government efforts to maintain or restore settlements and their facilities for general public welfare;

    6. Providing information and incentives for inhabitants to maintain and improve their dwellings and surroundings.

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Recommendation F.7 Human resources

  1. In most countries, the lack of adequate knowledge, skills and professional resources is a serious constraint on the implementation of human settlement policies and programmes.

  2. The development of research capabilities, and the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge and information on settlements, should receive high priority as an integral part of the settlement development process.

    (c} Special emphasis must be placed on:

    1. National research and development institutions that are specifically geared to finding better solutions to settlement problems, within regional and international networks;

    2. Projects that demonstrate the innovative use or indigenous human resources, materials and technology;

    3. Training national personnel at all levels, with emphasis on managers and middle level personnel, especially by practical on-the-Job training;

    4. Exchange of relevant information expressed in terms meaningful to those likely to need it.

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Recommendation F.8 Financial arrangements

  1. The development of human settlements demand special financial requirements. These are not always met due to speculation, rapid inflation and lack of appropriate means and institutions.

  2. Separate financial institutions and adequate means are necessary to meet the requirements of human settlements.

  3. Special attention should be directed to:

    1. Ensuring that public and private investors and purchasers, especially the least advantaged, are protected from the damaging effects of monetary inflation through monetary and other means;

    2. Encouraging joint ventures between public and private capital, with adequate safeguards for the public interest;

    3. Selectively using public funds, to give priority to areas where private investment is unlikely;

    4. Utilizing fully the multiplying effect of public loan and mortgage guarantees;

    5. Removing institutional obstacles to financing the needs of the poor;

    6. Encouraging community schemes, and other cooperative financial arrangements;

    7. Adopting fiscal measures and pricing policies to reduce disparities between high and low income groups;

    8. Ensuring that systems for financing financial community infrastructure result in an equitable distribution of costs within and between communities;

    9. Encouraging special national savings institutions to support mortgage financing for low income groups;

    10. Innovative fiscal measures to make development self-financing.

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Recommendation F.9 Reaching the people

  1. Programmes designed to assist less developed regions and less privileged groups often fail to achieve their intended objectives for various reasons: cumbersome administrative procedures; inadequate information, lack of awareness of intended beneficiaries or unrealistic requirements.

  2. Institutions and procedures should be streamlined to ensure that intended beneficiaries receive the largest possible share of resources end benefits.

  3. Special emphasis should be placed on:

    1. Adopting open decision-making and public accountability for use of funds;

    2. Instituting greater local control in the management and administration of settlements:

    3. Minimizing bureaucracies and overhead costs;

    4. Removing the role of intermediaries in citizen involvement.

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Recommendation F.10 Settlement laws and regulations

  1. Existing laws and regulations for human settlements are often complex, rigid and dominated by vested interests. They thus tend to obstruct reform and hinder progress.

  2. Any framework for settlements legislation must establish clear and realistic direction and means for implementation of policies.

  3. Special attention should be placed on:

    1. Promulgation of special legislation for the implementation of settlement policies;

    2. Laws and regulations to achieve specific settlement objectives, service community interest and safeguard individual rights against arbitrary decisions;

    3. Laws and regulations that are realistic and easily understood, efficiently applied, adapted and revised periodically to correspond to changing needs of society.