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Habitat II Conference                      [ Back to Habitat II ]

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IV Global Plan of Action

C. Sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world

10. Balanced development of settlements in rural regions

163. Urban and rural areas are interdependent economically, socially and environmentally. At the turn of the century, a substantial proportion of the world's population will continue to live in rural settlements, particularly in developing countries. In order to achieve a more sustainable future for the Earth, these rural settlements need to be valued and supported. Insufficient infrastructure and services, lack of environmentally sound technology, and pollution resulting from the adverse impacts of unsustainable industrialization and urbanization contribute significantly to the degradation of the rural environment. Additionally, the lack of employment opportunities in rural areas increases rural-to-urban migration and results in a loss of human capacity in rural communities. Policies and programmes for the sustainable development of rural areas that integrate rural regions into the national economy require strong local and national institutions for the planning and management of human settlements that place emphasis on rural-urban linkages and treat villages and cities as two ends of a human settlements continuum.

164. In many countries, rural populations, including indigenous people, play an important role in ensuring food security and in sustaining the social and ecological balance over large tracts of land and thus contribute significantly to the task of protecting biodiversity and fragile ecosystems and to the sustainable use of biological resources.


165. To promote the sustainable development of rural settlements and to reduce rural-to-urban migration, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, should:

(a) Promote the active participation of all interested parties, including those in isolated and remote communities, in ensuring the integrated consideration of the environmental, social and economic objectives of rural development efforts;

(b) Take appropriate measures to improve the living and working conditions in regional urban centres, small towns and rural service centres;

(c) Foster a sustainable and diversified agricultural system in order to have vibrant rural communities;

(d) Provide infrastructure, services and incentives for investment in rural areas;

(e) Promote education and training in rural areas to facilitate employment and the use of appropriate technology.

166. To promote the utilization of new and improved technologies and appropriate traditional practices in rural settlements development, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, in cooperation with the private sector, should:

(a) Improve access to information on agricultural production, marketing and pricing in rural and remote areas by using, inter alia, advanced and accessible communication technologies;

(b) In cooperation with farmers' organizations, women's groups and other interested parties, promote research and the dissemination of research findings in traditional, new and improved technologies for, inter alia, agriculture, aquaculture, forestry and agro-forestry.

167. In establishing policies for sustainable regional development and management, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, should:

(a) Promote education and training programmes and establish procedures for the full participation of rural and indigenous people in the setting of priorities for balanced and ecologically viable regional development;

(b) Make full use of geographic information systems and environmental assessment methods for the preparation of environmentally sound regional development policies;

(c) Implement regional and rural development plans and programmes based on needs and economic viability;

(d) Establish an efficient and transparent system for the allocation of resources to rural areas based on people's needs.

168. To strengthen sustainable development and employment opportunities in impoverished rural areas, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, should:

(a) Stimulate rural development by enhancing employment opportunities, providing educational and health facilities and services, improving housing, strengthening technical infrastructure and encouraging rural enterprises and sustainable agriculture;

(b) Establish priorities for regional infrastructure investments based on opportunities for economic return, social equity and environmental quality;

(c) Encourage the private sector to develop and strengthen contract-based wholesale markets and marketing intermediaries for rural products so as to improve and/or establish a cash-flow and futures contract economy in rural areas;

(d) Promote equitable and efficient access to markets as well as, where appropriate, pricing and payment systems for rural products, especially of food items consumed in urban areas;

(e) Promote products from rural areas in urban markets and rural service centres by improving access to market information and distribution centres and networks;

(f) Reduce significantly or eliminate environmentally harmful subsidies and other programmes, such as those that stimulate the excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and price control or subsidy systems that perpetuate unsustainable practices and production systems in rural and agricultural economies.

169. An integrated approach is required to promote balanced and mutually supportive urban-rural development. To achieve this objective, Governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, with the support of the relevant international and regional institutions, should:

(a) Provide an appropriate legal, fiscal and organizational framework that is suitable for strengthening the networks of small and medium-sized settlements in rural areas;

(b) Facilitate the development of an efficient communication and distribution infrastructure for the exchange of information, labour, goods, services and capital between urban and rural areas;

(c) Promote broad cooperation among local communities to find integrated solutions for land-use, transport and environmental problems in an urban-rural context;

(d) Pursue a participatory approach to balanced and mutually supportive urban-rural development, based on a continuous dialogue among the interested parties involved in urban-rural development.

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