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Habitat Commitment Index 2016
Aug 30, 2016

The recently released Habitat Commitment Index (HCI), which tracks every country’s performance record as against the commitments made during Habitat II in Istanbaul in1996, shows that India has fared worse than other South Asian countries such as Pakistan and Nepal. Both these countries have gained over two points in the last two decades. India, on the other hand, has slipped marginally by 0.41 points on the HCI scale, way lower than the South Asian average of 1.26. The other countries included in the HCI analysis for South Asia include Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

  • Of all the indicators, India has registered negative scores on urban infrastructure and institutional capacity, two of the areas where it is today far worse-off than it was two decades ago.
  • It has shown improvement on poverty scale and minimal increases on sustainability front.
  • Another area of improvement has been on the goal of formulating and strengthening policies and practices to promote the full and equal participation of women in human settlements planning and decision-making.
  • The report, however, notes that while gender inequality has been on the agenda for the Indian government, traditional patriarchal norms continue to dominate society, where women are relegated to secondary status in the household and workplace.
  • India, with a population of over one billion people, has had virtually no change in the last 20 years in the HCI score. This status quo is despite the fact that six of its largest cities have a population of over 5 million each.
  • In the absence of any monitoring mechanism or binding commitment, the overall global HCI score has increased only 1.49 points. The report states, despite the Habitat Agenda’s 241 paragraphs containing over 600 recommendations, there has been little meaningful change in urban conditions since Habitat II
  • From a global average of 69.68 in 1996 it has now gone up to current average score of 71.17, which means that global performance is at around 70 per cent of what could have been possible given the level of resources available. Of all the six indicators, the worst performance is on the sustainability index where the global average performance is not even at half of what it should be.
  • UN member states will agree on the New Urban Agenda at Habitat III, scheduled to be held in Quito in October this year. In the run-up to the event, the review of each country’s score on the previous urban agenda was released by the New York based Global Urban Futures Project.

The HCI creates an index that tracks the progress made in six broad categories of the Habitat II agenda in 1996, namely Infrastructure, Poverty, Employment, Sustainability, Institutional Capacity, and Gender. Instead of comparing absolute outcomes between countries of varying levels of economic development, the outcomes are adjusted for resource difference, as measured by per capita GDP.

What is Habitat Commitment Index (HCI)?

The Habitat Commitment Index (HCI) is a product of the Global Urban Futures Project (GUFP), a learning network of scholars and activists who are changing the conversation about urban policy in respoonse to the need for evaluation of the fulfillment of commitments made by governments at the 1996 Habitat II Conference.

The Habitat II Conference was the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements. Held in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1996, the objective was to adopt a general statement of principles and commitments and formulate a related global plan of action capable of guiding national and international efforts through the next two decades. An assessment of the fulfillment of the Habitat II commitments is particularly important given the unfounded assertion in the Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda that prior commitments were met and that substantial progress has occurred.

Since the 1996 conference some new issues and challeneges have emerged in cities:

Cities now represent more than half of the world’s population.

Urban expansion in many developing countries has often been characterized by informality and unauthorized settlements. However, the core of this problem is lack of protection of the public space and availability of accessible buildable plots.
While high population growth remains a concern in the least developed countries, countries in many other parts of the world are grappling with slower or declining population growth, with developing regions and countries experiencing a significant increase in the proportion of young people in their populations.

Inequality has become a universal concern. Differences in access to opportunity, income, consumption, location, information and technology are now the norm, not the exception. Developing countries also face the issue of slums, which continue to reinforce the aforementioned inequalities.

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