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The UN Special Session was opened by Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the UN, who reaffirmed the pledge made at the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000 to 'make a significant improvement to the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020'.

Harri Holkeri, president of the 55th session of the General Assembly, announced that 96 reports had been received on national and local implementation of the Habitat Agenda, reflecting the views of the government and of its partners.

An innovation for the General Assembly was the establishment of Thematic Groups, which met in alternative sessions. Habitat II had been the first UN summit where NGOs had played an active part - Habitat II + 5 officially delegated NGOs to convene discussion forums.

The summit declared its commitment to Habitat principles, reaffirming that 'the family is the basic unit of society' and renewing its commitment to eradicating poverty. It also encouraged volunteerism and proposed 'strengthening existing financial mechanisms' and 'popularising the use of adequate low-cost and sustainable building materials and appropriate technology for the construction of low-cost houses and services within the reach of the poor'.

The declaration concluded that 'those living in poverty are in fact rich in innovative faculties'.

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