Chengdu International Conference on Learning from Best Practices

Chengdu, China, 16-18 October 2000


The Chengdu International Conference was the highlight of a very intensive year of Best Practices activities. Starting with over 770 new submissions for the 2000 Dubai International Awards for Best Practices, the year also witnessed the organisation of four international events centred on best practices and lessons learned. The Conference came at a most opportune time as elements of its principal outcome - the Chengdu Declaration - have been incorporated in the substantive documentation for the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the assessment of progress made in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

Of equal importance, however, is the living testimony provided by 14 cities and communities from around the world in their quest for more sustainable forms of development. Despite different social, economic and cultural contexts and entry points, these cases demonstrate the universality of certain principles and processes. They underscore the importance of gender equality, social justice and non-discriminatory approaches to providing access to land, finance and shelter; the need for participation, transparency and accountability in managing public resources and in urban governance. They confirm the critical contribution of the strategic objectives of the Habitat Agenda to more sustainable human settlement development, namely: participation in decision-making; public-private-community partnerships; decentralisation and the empowerment of local authorities; capacity-building and the use of information in decision-making. They provide insights to meaningful and effective planning as an instrument for comprehensive approaches to meeting basic needs, stimulating economic growth, preserving our heritage and protecting the environment. Last but not least, a key lesson that emerges is the pivotal role of participatory democracy in making representative democracy more responsive to needs of the poor and disadvantaged. These and other lessons learned from the Chengdu Conference will no doubt enrich the debate on the concepts, policies and strategies required to make the world's cities and communities safer, healthier, more equitable and sustainable.

The next steps will be to apply lessons learned from best practices to new and improved forms of cooperation at the national, regional and international levels. Several of the cases presented in this Conference included ideas, working methods, policies and strategies adapted from other practices. These transfers have, to our knowledge, occurred spontaneously and without external assistance. Imagine the state of the world's cities, communities and environment if a concerted effort was to be made by international organisations, national and local governments, the private, professional and community sectors in learning from each others' success stories. The challenge will be to capture and disseminate the knowledge, expertise and lessons learned from these and other successful transfers as a first step in furthering such a vision. We invite you all to join us in this endeavour.

Nicholas You

Convenor, Chengdu International Conference

Coordinator, Best Practices and Local Leadership Programme



By Mr. Nirmal Andrews, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Environment Programme

On behalf of Dr. Klaus Toepfer, Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme, I congratulate all of the cities and communities presenting their experiences at the Conference for the results achieved in their efforts towards implementing the Habitat Agenda and Local Agendas 21. With the Conference coming after the call of the Millennium Summit to reduce poverty, I challenge all participants to take bold steps towards reducing the poverty gap by encouraging the active participation of marginalised people to address issues affecting their wellbeing.

The theme of the conference, "Urban Construction and the Environment", is of vital importance to human endeavour. As centres of production and consumption, care must be taken to ensure that the management of cities is environmentally sound while their full potential is realised. Cities are the so-called "melting pots" of society. The wealth of cities lies in their people - the ethnic, cultural and spiritual diversity they represent. The Conference provides an opportunity for UNEP and Habitat to better inform governments, cities and communities around the world of promising policy options as well as viable solutions to common challenges.


By Ye Rutang ,Vice- Minister of the Minister of Construction ,P.R.China
Dear friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning!

The International Conference on Urban Construction and the Environment for the 21st Century takes place in Chengdu as we are entering a new century and a new millennium. Retrospecting the past and looking into the future, representatives from all over the world are gathering together to exchange ideas and opinions on problems concerning urban construction and living conditions for the 21st century. This is a significant great event in reconciling the processes of economic and social development and environmental protection. On behalf of the Ministry of Construction of People's Republic of China, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all friends present.

History tells us that industrialisation and urbanisation in the past century provided people with unprecedented materialistic and cultural achievements. At the same time, great pressures on the natural environment were also brought about, and many serious problems have occurred, such as ecological deterioration, an increasing population, and a decreasing supply of natural resources. The economic and social development has led to an increasing demand for natural resources, which intensifies the contradictions between the long-term regeneration of natural resources and the limited ability of ecological system, and even endangers the existence and development of mankind itself.

At this vital moment in time, mankind should consider calmly and carefully about what should be done. It is a common task facing mankind to achieve economic and social sustainable development on the basis of solving the environmental problems by dealing with the relationship between mankind and nature properly according to the objective laws.

China is one of the four countries with an ancient civilisation. If one has a comfortable home it is easier for him to concentrate on work, an ideal mentioned by Lao Zi, a Chinese philosopher over 2000 years ago, is still the common objective of all people. However, in China, modern industry has been initially slow to develop, therefore many cities are now facing ecological and environmental problems in the course of industrialisation and urbanisation. Consequently the Chinese government has placed environment protection as one of its top priorities when developing the economy. Importance has always been attached to the improvement of urban ecological environments whilst accelerating urbanisation. For many years we have made great efforts to control city air pollution, garbage pollution, noise pollution and the population explosion. We have tried to reduce the problems of city water supplies, energy, housing, traffic, and to increase green areas and improve the quality of the environment. Our achievements have been amazing. Chengdu, the central city in Southwest China is a city with a long history of over 2300 years and has made particularly noticeable achievements regarding improvement of the city's environment. Chengdu's Fu-Nan River Renovation Project is a good lesson that can be studied by ancient cultural cities as how to preserve the old and create the new. Furthermore, the project serves as an example of how to carry out sustained growth in a developing country. Chengdu's Fu-Nan River Project won the ‘98 Habitat Scroll of Honour Awards and Dubai International Award for Best Practices in 2000. The project is not only the pride of Chengdu, but also China's glory, and furthermore it encourages the Chinese government to continue supporting ecological environmental improvements.

Nature is generous, it provides suitable conditions for human beings to survive and develop. Nature is also merciless, it takes revenge on endless exploitation. Today, the problems of the world-wide ecological environment are of great concern to everyone. All those with a sense of responsibility should act and devote themselves to the noble undertaking of raising environmental awareness and protecting the environment. This is how a more civilised and rational world should develop. Civilisation can benefit not destroy mankind that created it. Today, the Chengdu International Conference on Urban Construction and the Environment for the 21st Century, co-sponsored by the United Nations Center for Human Settlements (Habitat), the Ministry of Construction of People’s Republic of China and the Chengdu Municipality, provides us a chance for learning from each other, exchange ideas, and co-operate. We are ready to take this opportunity to learn from each other's strong points. With more in common, we will make constant efforts to improve human living environments and to create a better future for human beings.

We wish the Conference much success.

Thank you all very much.


Speech made by the Governor of Sichuan Zhang Zhongwei
At the Opening Ceremony (16th October, 2000)

Representatives, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen:

The International Conference on Urban Construction and the Environment for the 21st Century, undertaken by the People's Municipal Government of Chengdu, opens today. On behalf of the people and the Government of Sichuan, I would like to express my warmest congratulations to the Conference and extend a warm welcome out to all the honourable guests present here today!

Sichuan is a large province in Western China, covering an area of 485 thousand square kilometres, with a population of 85 million and 500 thousand. The province is rich in natural resources, possesses great technological abilities and offers a huge potential market and is therefore in a vitally strategic position. Since the establishment of the People's Republic of China, and in particular after the Opening Up and Reforms, great changes have been taking place in Sichuan's economy and society, as well as city construction. Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, has a long history and rich culture and has always been an important city in the Southwest. Today, it has been determined by the state as centres of commerce, finance, technology, transport and telecommunication in southwest China. Over recent years, much work has been done to improve city construction and environmental protection. In particular, the implementation of the Funan River Comprehensive Revitalization Project that has greatly improved the human living environment in Chengdu, with noticeable results recognised around the world. Currently, by taking up on the chances offered by the state Western Development policies, we are focusing on the promotion of industrialisation and urbanisation of Sichuan. The general goal for Sichuan's accelerated development over the first 10 years of the 21st Century is to establish an economically strong province and build an ecological protection barrier in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. The aim of this is to achieve a coordinated economic and social development and make the next big step forward. Every year, urbanisation increases by more than 1%, and will reach 30% by the year 2018. In order to form a city system, Chengdu serves as the central city with Mianyang and another 7 big cities, 16 medium-sized cities, 33 smaller cities, and 1000 small towns working and developing together.

The International Conference on Urban Construction and the Environment for the 21st Century, held in Chengdu, Sichuan, China, shows that people respect and have much affection for the city. I would like to take this chance to express my sincere thanks to the officials of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, to the leaders of the Ministry of Construction, and to all the leaders and friends who have shown their interest in Sichuan and Chengdu! Sichuan is a land with a promising future and great business potential as well as natural, ecological landscapes, and a rich, historic and cultural background of endless charm. We warmly welcome friends from all over the world to come to visit and travel in Sichuan, and we welcome entrepreneurs from home and abroad, to come and invest in Sichuan.

I hope the Conference is very successful!

Thank you very much everybody.


Speech made by the Mayor of Chengdu at the Opening Ceremony
Honourable guests and friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The beautiful city of Chengdu is very lucky to be able to host the International Conference on Urban Construction and the Environment for the 21st Century during this golden month of October. On behalf of the 10 million and 30 thousand people of Chengdu, I would firstly like to extend my warmest congratulations to the Conference. At the same time, I would also like to express my sincere thanks to the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements and the Ministry of Construction of the People's Republic of China for choosing Chengdu, China's Western city, to host the Conference. We also thank the many honourable guests and friends who have traveled so far to come to this conference.

As we know, cities are a product of the progress of human civilisation, and political, economic and cultural centres. In modern society, cities play a very important role as cohesive, pioneering centres. Most people want to live in the city, while on the other hand we can say that the city is also the root of many social problems. For example, environmental pollution and the appalling living conditions of low quality housing areas are particularly noticeable which puts added pressure on us. We will not be daunted when faced with this pressure, rather we should actively try to solve this problem. From 1993 to 1997 Chengdu was involved in the carrying out of the Funan River Comprehensive Revitalization Project. 30 thousand families, of more than 100 thousand people were moved from their low quality slums to new apartment blocks. This project has been the preliminary step in solving the environmental pollution problems of Chengdu. Undoubtedly, this is in response to the advocacy from the United Nations calling for improvements in living environmental standards. This has been a successful practice in cutting down on the ever-increasing pressures put on the city environment and caring for the weak and poor families. All of this will be discussed in this conference.

The city of Chengdu has more than 2300 years of construction experience. As early as 5th century BC the Emperor Kaiming was able to manipulate the flow of water and in the 3rd Century Li Bing built the Dujiangyan Irrigation System to achieve effective control of the water. Since then all Governments and people have tried to improve the work of their ancestors, right up to the present day, when Chengdu has undertaken the comprehensive project to renovate the Funan River. All of this is a continuation of the human race's efforts to improve human living environments. We are without doubt that this international conference for human settlements will provide us with more experience and examples to learn from. As hosts of the Conference, we feel proud and honoured, and we will do our utmost to provide a good service.

I believe that the Chengdu Declaration, which is to be drawn out at this conference, will be the next big milestone after the Habitat Agenda from the Istanbul International Conference. It will further help to promote the progress of human civilisation, enhance the co-operation and exchange between human beings, and improve the quality of human living conditions.

I wish the conference a great success and I hope that you all have a pleasant stay here in Chengdu.

Thank you!


The Chengdu International Conference on Learning from Best Practices was part of the preparatory process for Istanbul+5. The objective of the Conference was to promote the exchange of lessons learned from outstanding experiences in improving the living environment and the implementation of the Habitat Agenda. The Conference resulted in, inter alia, the Chengdu Declaration focusing on how the international community, cities and their associations can further the implementation of the Habitat Agenda through the systematic exchange and transfer of best practice expertise and experience. The conference was well attended with 80 participants from the international community coming from 26 different countries and 138 from China. This report provides a summary of the presentations made, an analysis of lessons learned and the final outcome of the conference, the Chengdu Declaration. More detailed case studies of the presentations made are available on

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