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From: Gabriele Quinti, Acting Coordinator of FRHS
Category: Category 2
Date: 28 Apr 2000
Remote Name: 188.8.131.52
First of all I wish to thank those of you who gave a contribution to this e-mail conference on the role of the researchers community in preparation of the UN Istanbul+5 Conference.
I think that this electronic tool will allow us to establish a more continuous dialogue on our role and our potentials in the framework of Istanbul+5 preparatory process, both as FRHS members, and, in a broader sense, as researchers on human settlements.
Let me give a brief contribution concerning the follow up of the Habitat II Conference and the role of the researcher community.
I wish to recall that our main goal, as FRHS, is contributing to bridge the gap between research in all its disciplinary branches and decision making at all levels: this is, according to me, one of the main requirements in order to set up an effective and relevant strategy for the sustainability of human settlements.
The need for strengthening a closer dialogue between researchers and decision makers is often acknowledged as a priority. However, this relationship is still hindered by different factors entailing the mentioned gap, mainly in terms of scarce communication and lack of cooperation.
The risk that research paths could increasingly diverge from development programs and action is particularly high in the areas in which the phenomena to be faced are still scarcely known or even unmapped and therefore lacking an appropriate interpretation, as in the case of urban development.
The effects of this gap, despite the best of intentions, could be:
on the one hand, carrying out a self-referring and thus scarcely relevant research;
on the other hand, devising urban policies on the basis of a common-sensical approach or, worse, on a trial and error method (with a sorcerers apprentice effects).
In this framework, the Habitat Agenda represents an important means. It strongly emphasizes the need for a closer collaboration and an actual partnership between the various actors of civil society and the decision-makers, and the fundamental contribution that research could give in this context.
Let me remind only a fact: the term "research" is mentioned in 20 of the 241 paragraphs of the Habitat Agenda, underlying, among others, on the one hand, its linkage with capacity building and the strenghtening of capabilities of developing countries; on the other hand, the specific role of science and scientific community in the follow-up of the Habitat II Conference ("Science and technology have a crucial role in shaping sustainable human settlements and sustaining the ecosystems they depend upon" - §29 HA).
What has happened after Istanbul? Certainly, the interaction between research and decision-making increased (as witnessed by the same establishment of the FRHS) and many international programs in urban development are growingly based on research (see the Han Van Putten contribution in this e-conference on "Monitoring the Habitat Agenda and the use of indicators"; see also the UNCHS GUO Program and the World Bank/UNCHS Cities Alliance Program). Nevertheless, it seems to me that the researchers' community is fragmented and doesn't play its role fully .
Also the last UN General Secretary Report to the General Assembly "We the peoples: the role of United nations in the twenty-first century" underlines the magnitude of the unknown phenomena linked to poverty, deadly conflicts, and environmental problems (climate change, water crisis, etc.). A challenge that only a part of the researchers' community takes into consideration in a quite deep way.
In this framework, I think that questions like "pourquoi et comment restituer la recherche aux populations concernées" (see Michel Guery contribution in this e-conference) can be dealt with in this perspective of interaction between research and policy-making.
I agree, on the other hand, with Ann Schlyter that underlines (see her contribution on "more research on gender issues") the lack of gender perspective in housing research. More specifically I think that, in this perspective, there are some phenomena, such as the "feminization of urban poverty" (see the Social Agenda - World Social Summit, Kopenhagen, 1995) or the "women social action", that are often mentioned in the international debate but not deeply understood.
Overall speaking, I agree with Bernard Drobenko (his contribution in this e-conference "Débat des chercheurs. reflexions"): first of all, researchers must be relevant with the more important social and economic trends, dynamics and phenomena (more specifically those which are unknown) and especially those related to human settlements. This was also one of the main topics of the e-conference background paper prepared by Giancarlo Quaranta and Luciano d'Andrea).
I hope that our e-conference will give a contribution in this direction. Thanks to everybody.
Acting Coordinator, FRHS