THE EARTH TIMES
FEBRUARY 12, 1996
A CONVERSATION WITH RUUD J. TREFFERS
By Ashali Varma
United Nations, New York—“It is important that we define in a proper way the right to adequate housing, said Ambassador Ruud J. Treffers of the, Netherlands. “We would like to strengthen this.” As the head of his country’s delegation to PrepCom3, Treffers—who is also the Netherlands Permanent Representative to Habitat and Unep in Nairobi–has been very involved with the preparatory process. “The priorities for us are sustainability of human settlements and the participation of people with a gender approach,” he told The Earth Times.
“We like the Global Plan of Action because it gives a menu of options that countries can use according to their needs, keeping the basic principles in mind,” Treffers said.
In addition, “the Best Practices approach is excellent,” he said, “it gives a practical advantage to people at the local level–gives them a tool to follow–so one does not have to reinvent the wheel.”
Treffers thinks it is important for the Agenda to focus on urbanization but that does not mean that rural habitats will be neglected. He was quick to point out that in “our policy toward Africa, rural issues are of utmost important for Dutch Development Cooperation.”
“It is also imperative to consult the people of an area, to see their needs and tailor solutions to the problems,” said Treffers. He thinks that the Agenda covers this well as it not only identifies the role of governments but also NGOs; local authorities and the private sector. “For us it is very important that we work with the people to decide the future course of action,” he said.
Treffers feels that for implementation goals to succeed it is important also to look at the role of the important actors and strengthen them. He said that it was better for the Habitat Agenda not to have a price tag attached to it, as in past conferences, because it invariably leads to disappointments. “One has to be realistic and not have ambitious targets. We should focus on the strategies that emerge from the Agenda. This will be more concrete and attract better funding,” Treffers said.
His country has traditionally one of the biggest bilateral donors to the third world, providing more than $1 billion in foreign aid annually.