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Simonsen from Denmark on HabitatII 12 Feb 1996

THE EARTH TIMES

FEBRUARY 12, 1996

Denmark rooting for civil society

(At Habitat II PrepCom In New York)

By Ashali Varma

United Nations New York: As the Minister of Housing and Construction in Denmark, Ole Lovig Simonsen brings a unique experience to his work.  He was an NGO for 20 years.  “Why are countries objecting to this meeting?” he asked in a slightly bewildered voice. “One of our first priorities is people participation at this Conference,” he said. “Democracy is vital not only in political life but people must be able to participate in concerns of their daily life–in housing, in their surroundings, their environment.”

“What we are trying to do here is open doors for neighbors not close it,” Simonsen pointed out Friday at the UN.

As President of the World Assembly of Youth, from 1976 to 1993, he said he had visited many countries not as a minister but as an NGO. “I went behind the scenes, to hear what people have to say, their hopes, their visions and I was very encouraged,” he said.

He said that at the grassroots level people are working very hard for change.

“It was the same wherever I went; Sri Lanka, Malaysia and in countries in Africa, people had the same aspirations,” Simonsen said.

Simonsen feels that the problems that face cities today, drugs, .the homeless, street children, rootless youth are problems that are universal and cut across developed and developing countries.

“These are global problems and must be given the highest priority in Istanbul. To overcome these problems we have to work together.