Press Releases

                                                    ENV/DEV/769
                                                                                        26 April 2004

    Even Doubling Development Assistance Will Not Meet Global Anti-Poverty Targets for Slum Dwellers, Commission on Sustainable Development Told

    Financing Settlements, Urban Governance, Eco-Technologies, Africa’s Development among Issues Addressed in Several Sessions

    NEW YORK, 23 April (UN Headquarters) -- Even if official development assistance (ODA) was doubled -- now at about  $5 billion per year and declining -- it would not be enough to meet the internationally agreed targets on slum dwellers, the Commission on Sustainable Development was told today, as it continued its consideration of sanitation, water and human settlement themes.

    As the Commission proceeded, in two plenary meetings and two parallel discussions, to measure progress towards achieving the agreed goals of sustainable development, Dinesh Metha of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) explained this morning that the bulk of housing investment was being met by national governments, local authorities and households themselves.  Even a doubling of ODA would not meet the targets; that assistance must be used as a catalyst to mobilize more domestic resources for housing, he stressed.

    Among the other experts prompting discussion on financing human settlements development was Mark Hildebrand, Executive Director of Cities Alliance, who agreed that increased ODA would not prevent new slums from emerging and urged development partners and urban centres to move beyond pilot projects and develop long-term financing strategies.  Over the years, governments had committed themselves to cities without slums, and some, including Tunisia and Chile, were close to achieving that goal.  Much could be learned from them and others, including that stable policy environments and fiscal systems, along with the promotion of local partnerships, were key to success. 

    In the interactive dialogue, speakers stressed the need for financial resources and low-cost building materials in efforts to provide housing for the poor and improve slums.  Indonesia’s delegate said his country provided financial assistance to assist the poor with housing, which was also intended to subsidize water supplies and basic sanitation facilities.  He urged the international community to step up its efforts to provide assistance for housing, particularly by opening its markets to developing country products.

    The plight of women and girls in poor settlements was also underscored, with Sweden’s representative warning that, unless the international community took urgent action to promote the human rights of women and girls in such situations, it would lose the battle against poverty.  She requested the Commission to involve women in efforts to improve slums, promote their education and empowerment, and support them in their efforts to raise community awareness about the need for clean water and sanitation.

    Gauging regional progress at the afternoon session, the Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa, Ibrahim A. Gambari, said that vigorous and effective implementation of the recommendations of the Regional Implementation Review Meeting in Addis Ababa held the key to translating the commitments on water, sanitation and human settlements in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and Johannesburg into reality. He recognized, however, that implementing the recommendations on the three thematic clusters was particularly difficult in the African context, because of a variety of challenges and constraints, including institutional, financial and partnerships for actions.

    Presenting the mixed review that had emerged at that meeting in preparation for the current session, the Minister of State for Works, Housing and Communication of Uganda, Francis Babu, highlighted some of the many recommendations:  implementation of catchment conservation and water demand management to mitigate degradation of water and related land resources; optimized available resources and infrastructure in both rural and urban settings; increasing the efficient use of urban indicators and national and local urban observations in human settlements development and management; and mainstreaming gender and youth in providing water, sanitation and human settlements.

    The Director of the Sustainable Development Division of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Josue Dione, recalled the review process at the Pan-African Conference on Partnership on Water, and said that the meeting had gone beyond review to policy, later endorsed by the African Union Extraordinary Summit on Agriculture and Water, held in February.  One of the lessons learned was that by bundling respective resources, the whole could be made bigger than the sum of the parts.  Another lesson was that the procedure followed should be used in other areas, such as energy and science and technology.  The ECA’s Committee on Sustainable Development would serve as the framework for the continuous review of the Commission.

    Participating in the wide-ranging country review this afternoon, Qatar’s representative noted, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, that inadequate financial resources and lack of technology were just two of the major obstacles to implementation of the agreed goals.  The commitment to provide additional financial resources to developing countries had not been honoured, and ODA had actually decreased.  Partnerships were stagnating, having failed to attract either government or private funding.  Innovative technologies were needed to provide drinking water, but such technology had not been provided.

    In the first of two parallel panels today, experts sparked discussion of several critical sanitation issues:  hygiene, sanitation and water management at the household and community levels; and ways to use innovative technologies to provide basic sanitation.  A consultant on water, environment and sanitation for the East Asia and Pacific Regional Office of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), T.V. Luong, urged the Commission to move beyond programme statistics and look at what was not covered -- what fell outside of tightly conceived strategies, which was often more revealing.

    At the second parallel meeting this afternoon on human settlements, experts discussed sustainable city planning and development.  Opening the dialogue was Pietro Garau, Professor and Co-Chair of the Millennium Development Goal Task Force on Slum Dwellers.  His “recipe” for sustainable cities was to restore and maintain the health of urban municipalities, while finding the right combination of “ingredients”, in this case, environment, economics and equity through effective citizen participation.  Small thinking in those matters would lead to failure.  Relying solely on external support was equally risky, since sustainable city planning had to be largely homegrown, he said. 

    Also participating in today’s discussions were the representatives of Swaziland, Sweden, Iran, Indonesia, Kenya, India, Czech Republic, Canada, Nigeria, Benin, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Pakistan, Morocco, United States, Saudi Arabia, China, New Zealand, Finland, Cuba, United Kingdom, Colombia, Belgium, Philippines, United Republic of Tanzania, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Algeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Australia, Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt, Venezuela, Ethiopia, and Fiji. The Observer for the Holy See also spoke.

    Also leading the discussions on human settlements were:  Amos Masondo, President, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, South Africa; Arputham Jockin, President of National Slum Dwellers Federation, India; and Joel Bolnick, Coordinator of the Urban Resources Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, speaking on behalf of Shack Dwellers International.

    The parallel panel on sanitation included:  Edgar Quiroga, Sanitation Engineer, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), and Regional Coordinator, Latin America, Director CINARA, Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia; Yasumoto Magara, Professor at the Hokkaido University, Department of Urban Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Japan; Christine Werner, Project Team Leader, Environment and Infrastructure, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Germany; Mi Hua, Project Officer, Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme Office of Guangxi Province, China/Harvard University.

    Also speaking about the review of progress in implementation in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) region were:  Francis Babu, Minister of State for Works, Housing and Communication, Uganda; Shehu Yahaya, Principal Industrial Economist, African Development Bank; and Thomas Fofung Tata, Chairman, Interim Executive Committee, Forum of African Civil Society for Sustainable Development (FACS-SD).

    The parallel panel on human settlements also included:  Krishnaswamy Rajivan, Chief Executive Officer, Tamil Nadu Urban Development Fund, India; Adepoju Onibokun, Secretary-General, Centre for African Settlement Studies and Development (CASSAD); Teodor Antic, former Assistant Justice Minister, Administration and Local Government, Croatia; and Nabeel Hamdi, Professor, Director, Centre for Development and Emergency Planning (CENDEP), Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom.

    A representative of the European Community also spoke, as did representatives of the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

    Representatives of major groups included:  trade unions, non-governmental organizations, youth, and science and technology.

    The Commission on Sustainable Development will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, 26 April, to review regional progress in implementation.

    Background

    The Commission on Sustainable Development met today to continue its consideration of sanitation and human settlement questions, which, along with water, are among the chosen thematic issues the panel is discussing during its 2004-2005 session.  The Commission was also expected to review overall progress, as well as that in the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) region in implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan.  [For background, see Press Release ENV/DEV/762 of 13 April 2004.]

    Financing Human Settlements Development

    MARK HILDEBRAND, Executive Director, Cities Alliance, said an overriding issue for financing was that all partners, cities, governments and development partners and the urban cores themselves needed to move beyond projects and pilot interventions in order to develop long-term financing strategies.  Much could be learned from governments that had achieved the Millennium Development Goals, as well as from those governments that were leading the way.  A number of governments had committed themselves over the years to cities without slums.  Tunisia and Chile had come close to achieve the goal of cities without slums.  More recently, countries such as Morocco and Thailand had adopted a coherent approach towards cities without slums.  Progress was also made by the Governments of Mauritania, Mexico, South Africa and Viet Nam, among others.

    He said there were lessons to be learned from those efforts.  Creating a stable policy environment was the first priority.  A stable policy environment needed to promote a focus on tenure, access to credit for the poor, and provide rational, stable and predictable government transfers.  A stable governmental fiscal system was also necessary.  Those three areas of a sustainable financing strategy could only be carried out by national governments.

    Underlying those issues was the promotion of local partnerships, including city government, the private sector and the organized urban poor.  That also meant recognizing the role of the informal sectors.  The vast majority of new housing was, after all, produced by the urban poor themselves.  In Brazil, for instance, 80 per cent of housing was produced informally.  Also necessary for sustainable financing strategies was promoting responsible deficit financing for infrastructures at the subnational level.  Cities’ ability to borrow needed to be encouraged.  Preventing the growth of new slums would not be achieved by increases in official development assistance (ODA), he said.

    DINESH METHA, Programme Coordinator, Urban Management Programme, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), drew attention to the huge financing gap for housing and infrastructure.  Meeting the internationally   agreed targets on slum-dwellers would be difficult with the current ODA of about $5 billion per year, which was declining.  The bulk of investments in housing were being met by national governments, local authorities and households themselves.  Even if ODA were doubled, it would not be enough to meet the targets.  Official development assistance must, therefore, be used as a catalyst to mobilize more domestic resources for housing.

    He then outlined such prerequisites for housing projects as secure tenure, good governance at the local level, and the elimination of negative perceptions of the poor and their ability to borrow.  The poor were bankable and able to pay high interest rates, which were actually being recognized by several large banks.  It was also necessary that formal mortgaging institutions become involved, which some were reluctant to do for clients lacking clear titles to property or a continuous stream of earnings.  Another prerequisite was that the financial, technical and managerial capacities of local authorities must be strengthened.

    JOEL BOLNICK, Coordinator of the Urban Resources Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, and speaking on behalf of Shack Dwellers International, said the organization currently operated in 23 countries in the South and covered more than 500 cities.  What brought those community organizations together was a set of practices or rituals emanating from, local community-driven finance facilities.  Those facilities and rituals enabled slum-dwellers to be the principal actors in facilitating change at several levels.

    The first level of change, he said, was at the level of the community.  Community organizations had developed a set of rituals around savings as instruments to create community relationships and shared responsibilities.  Those rituals created transparency and levels of trust and were mobilized primarily by female-headed households.

    The second level of change was at the level of the network society, he continued.  The community groups had started to create networks of community-based organizations resulting in “urban poor funds”.  Those finance facilities, ranging from a capital base of $3 million to $20,000, created the framework for change in relationships between communities and formal institutions, such as financial institutions and governments.  Situations were created where risks were shared equally with actors.

    In conclusion, he said the model he had described had changed the way poor communities related to governments and had established the basis for slum upgrading.

    In the dialogue that followed, several speakers stressed the need for financial resources and low-cost building materials in efforts to provide housing for the poor and improve slums.  Indonesia’s delegate said his country provided financial assistance to assist the poor with housing, which was also intended to subsidize water supply and basic sanitation facilities. He urged the international community to step up its efforts to provide assistance for housing, particularly by opening its markets to developing country products.

    Speakers also addressed the plight of women and girls in poor settlements.  Unless the international community took urgent action to promote the human rights of women and girls in such situations, Sweden’s representative said, it would lose the battle against poverty.  She requested the Commission to involve women in any efforts to improve slums, promote their education and empowerment, and support them in their efforts to raise community awareness about the need for clean water and sanitation.

    Participants also related their national efforts to address the problem of slums and outdated or non-existent housing laws.  India said its efforts to improve housing had become decentralized, people-centred and demand-driven over the past few years, with the Government gradually shifting from the role of direct service provider to facilitator, switching from slum clearance to slum improvements.

    The representative of the Czech Republic said that housing in his country, which was emerging from a centralized economy, was still in a transformation period.  Almost one third of all dwellings were still in a regulated sector, preventing the housing and rental markets from working properly.

    Many country representatives described national experiences and strategies in providing affordable housing, stressing that the public sector alone could not meet the requirements needed and emphasizing the need for public/private and public/public partnerships.

    The representative of Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, underlined the importance of the link between good governance and finance, which must receive priority together with technology transfer.  He said improved access for those with low incomes to credit could be provided through innovative schemes, including community-based and micro-financing.  However, ODA would remain a big part of financing.

    Pakistan’s representative stressed the need for long-term financing for micro-credit.  He took issue with the European Union’s stance of limiting ODA to particular segments of a society, saying that was a new issue that had not been agreed upon in the Johannesburg Implementation Plan.

    The Permanent Observer for the Holy See, while welcoming the input of civil society representation in the Commission, noted that in discussions over the last week, three groups had not participated:  families; the disabled; and the elderly.

    The representative of the World Bank drew attention to the fact that financing for infrastructure had been declining in all sectors, including the private sector.  Municipal financing in that regard had to be supported.  In the past, not enough attention had been paid to bringing together private and public capacity to improve lending criteria.

    Urban Governance

    AMOS MASONDO, President, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, South Africa, quoted the Secretary-General as saying that good governance was perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty.  Municipalities, he said, required good governance.  Implementation of good governance must have as a goal the improvement of the quality of life of people in settlements.

    To that end, he said without proper decentralization there could not be an effective urban governance.  Also, sufficient human and financing resources were required.  Cooperation between the different spheres of government was also important in order to maximize benefits for communities.

    Among the principles to adhere to for good municipal governance, he mentioned:  sustainability; equity; efficiency; transparency; civil engagement of citizens; and security.  He emphasized the need to ensure that social, environmental and economic implications were taken into account in all planning done at the local government level.  It was also very important that the role of civil society was clearly defined.

    ARPUTHAM JOCKING, President of National Slum Dwellers Federation, India, said half of the population in Mumbai was living in slums.  A lot had been said about community participation, but governments had done little about it.  “Why continue to listen to that kind of crap”, he said, and went on to describe how the slum dwellers of Mumbai had taken things in their own hands.  They had started to combine savings for slum-dwellers, in whatever amount, in a federation at the slum level.

    When the World Bank offered loans to Bombay, he continued, the Government talked about it for 10 years.  However, the slum-dwellers did the required mapping surveys, showing the World Bank they had the capacity to carry out projects.  Within six months, 800 families in slums had been rehabilitated.  During last year, 15,000 families had been rehabilitated, and the goal for 2005 was rehabilitation of 25,000 slum-dwellers. 

    Mr. Jocking also described a project for sanitation it had carried out, providing access to toilets for everybody in the slum within two years.  His organization had also moved to other countries, exporting slum improvement to such countries as South Africa and Cambodia.  The international organization was now working in 23 countries.  As the slum-dwellers had the information and the capacity to design programmes, he invited delegates to join them, instead of the other way around.  “We are the ones who are going to deliver”, he said.

    In the following dialogue, participants emphasized the severe lack of financing for housing, particularly in Africa, and urged development partners to honour their commitments for increased ODA and technology transfer.  Other speakers agreed that resources were insufficient to deal with slums, but that donor funding alone would not solve the problem.  Governments must set up appropriate conditions for the financial sector to become involved, and actions must be taken to address failed housing policies.  It was also vital to change legislation regarding land tenure, encourage capital markets to give financial services to the poor, adjust inappropriate and costly standards to reduce land costs, and improve the bankability and credit-worthiness of local authorities.

    Several speakers recounted how their countries had tackled the problem of scanty funding for housing.  India’s representative said her country was attempting to mobilize local and private resources, increase government budgetary allocations, and encourage foreign private sector investment in housing.  Morocco, the delegate from that country said, was aiming to double its 100,000 public housing units in the next few years.  Through a programme called “towns without slums”, priority was given to slums, institutional assistance was given to rural areas, a programme of governance was set up, and a credit fund had been established.

    The representative of the United States emphasized the need to address innovative financing mechanisms and lending to municipalities, which would act as a catalyst to the housing sector, promote economic growth and increase jobs.  Local officials must work effectively and communicate with their constituents, and collectively develop a response to the needs of the urban poor.

    Several participants emphasized the value of sharing information on best practices in housing and slum upgrading, including lessons learned through failed sustainability in developed countries.  A delegate of the European Community described research the Community had completed on the contribution of science and technology to human settlements, particularly with regard to land use and transport planning.  The research group had compiled simple, easy-to-read guidebooks, which did not require a high-level of expertise.

    The representative of trade unions noted that, because of emergencies like HIV/AIDS, housing sometimes was not one of the priorities.  She warned that, if slum-dwellers were categorized into the poor who were bankable and the poor who were barely surviving, children and people who were too sick to work, such as AIDS-infected people, were going to suffer.  Addressing the needs for education for the children and young in slums was important, in order to give them a chance to leave the slums at a later age.

    The representative of indigenous peoples said it was important to remember that when developing nations dealt with human settlements, it had an impact on indigenous people, as they were often forced to relocate, which impacted their culture.  The culture of indigenous people was often based on their lands.  They were one with their lands.  Most indigenous peoples still lived outside modern cities.  Historical relationships with lands were adapted to ecosystems.  Urbanization was destructive to original habitats.  Colonization often came with war and disease and did not recognize the rights of indigenous people.  In some forests of the Amazon basin, indigenous people continued to suffer from forcible displacement.

    The representative of Cuba noted that private investments often went to the most attractive countries and not to, for instance, small island developing States.  Slums would never disappear while poverty existed, he said. 

    Ireland’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that, together with adequate financial resources, partnership and inclusion were vital for change.  Decentralization to the lowest appropriate levels was important, as was enhancing local capabilities for education and information.  In the development of housing policy, the European Union supported measures to facilitate greater participation by civil society and enhancing the role of women.

    The representative of the women’s group drew attention to the responsibility of international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, for the increasing homelessness and poverty in the former communist countries of eastern Europe.

    Parallel Meeting

    In the first of its two parallel panels today, the Commission took an in-depth look at several critical sanitation issues:  hygiene, sanitation and water management at the household and community levels; and ways to use innovative technologies to provide basic sanitation.

    Global health studies had shown that human waste remained among the most serious contaminants of drinking water.  And with the lack of sanitation and poor hygiene responsible for diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid and many parasitic infections, the Commission today gathered a host of experts to consider, among other things, how good hygiene could be promoted and practised in the home, and how the problems in promoting eco-sanitation technology could be overcome.

    T.V. LUONG, a consultant on water, environment and sanitation for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), East Asia and Pacific Regional Office, told the Commission it was time to move beyond programme statistics.  Although such data was vitally important, it was often more revealing to look for what was not covered -- what fell outside of tightly conceived strategies.

    That was the best way to find out if people had enough water for basic hygiene, or whether they practised good hygiene in the first place, she continued.  Something as simple as washing hands with soap could severely curtail the spread of disease, but without interaction with families and individuals in their homes, there was no way to gauge whether sanitation was sustained or properly used.

    The challenge was how to scale up projects that sustained good hygiene at the home level.  By example, she said that Thailand had achieved universal sanitation in 1999.  In large part, that had been due to intensive government planning, which placed sanitation at the heart of Thailand’s development plans.  But most importantly, relevant agencies had provided enough manpower on the ground not only to monitor implementation, but for follow-up at the community level.

    That meant providing enough technicians, nurses and social workers to carry out such diverse tasks as water testing, elder care, and monitoring hygiene in schools.  Learning by doing, and making the people themselves the most important partners in the process, along with non-governmental organizations and private sector actors, had been the keys to Thailand’s success, she said.

    On the same theme, EDGAR QUIROGA, Sanitation Engineer, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, and Regional Coordinator, Latin America, Director CINARA, Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia, said that there was a need to create or generate demand as a crucial strategy to promote sanitation.  But that demand must be rational and accompanied by “agents for change” acting as community facilitators to help people identify sanitation problems and then adopt behaviours to overcome them.

    Agents must promote changes in behaviours that put health at risk, he said.  The question, though, was whether there were enough of those agents.  Non-governmental organizations and private-sector partners must realize that it was not enough to set up schemes.  Stakeholders must put experts and qualified workers inside communities to work with people.  That would require, among other things, agency cooperation, training and familiarity with cultural or “home space” practices.  He also stressed the important role the media could play in promoting hygiene and sanitation.

    YASUMOTO MAGARA, a professor at Hokkaido University in the Department of Urban Environmental Engineering, Japan, kicked off the discussion focusing on his country’s experience with water-borne diseases and the development of sanitary treatment for human waste and ensuring safe drinking water.  He also touched on the important role of on-site washwater treatment tanks in rural areas in ensuring adequate sanitation.

    When the Commission turned to the role “eco-san” technologies and how they could be used to provide basic sanitation, Mr. QUIROGA said that that was a very new topic, but it was important in terms of resource management because “waste was too valuable to waste”.  But, in his country, and a few others he knew of, there appeared to be major resistance to both at the technical and household levels to putting new technologies into practice.

    The belief seemed to be that sticking with traditional waste disposal technologies was better than adopting what were often untested concepts and practices.  Again, he said that community-level teamwork -- demonstrations or awareness-raising seminars -- might be necessary to counter the “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude most people assumed when confronted with new technology.

    CHRISTINE WERNER, project team leader, Environment and Infrastructure, Deuysche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Germany, said that our “flush and forget” mentality was turning the world’s oceans and aquifers into sinks for untreated waste.  Tons of nutrient-rich waste was dumped each year, while many farmers around the world were in dire need of inexpensive fertilizer for their crops.

    “In nature, there is no waste”, she said stressing that it was time for a revolutionary rethinking of waste disposal management and recycling practices.  Cost-efficient options abounded, which could help close the loop between discarded wastewater -- “greywater” -- and agricultural and industrial production needs.

    She described several “eco-san” innovations that managed wastewater flows in communities by separating feces, urine and washwater underground, and diverted those flows to appropriate recycling plants. She said that innovative and eco-friendly investors were needed, because, after more than 100 years of experience and trillions of dollars spent, traditional systems had failed.  “We cannot continue to waste non-renewable resources”, she said.

    MI HUA, Project Officer, Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme, Office of the Guangxi Province, China, said that her country, which was home to 22 per cent of the world’s population but had only 6 per cent of the world’s water, had been very proactive in adopting new technologies for ecological waste disposal and management.  She said that China’s initial success had led to the scaling-up of “eco-san” projects, which protected scarce groundwater supplies, as well as streams and lakes from waste contamination.

    Regional Progress:  Economic Commission for Africa

    JOSUE DIONE, Director, Sustainable Development Division, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said during the Commission’s eleventh session a decision had been made to invite regional commissions to have a review process at the regional level.  A review process had taken place during the Pan-African Conference on Partnership on Water, organized by the African Minister’s Council on Water, which brought together ministers, government officials and civil society representatives concerned with human settlements matters.

    Two days had been dedicated to review challenges and opportunities in water and sanitation, human settlements, and the linkages between the two, he said.  The outcomes on water, which went beyond review to policy, had been endorsed by the African Union Extraordinary Summit on Agriculture and Water, held in February.

    Concluding, he said that one of the lessons learned was that by bundling respective resources, the whole could be made bigger than the sum of the parts.  Another lesson was that the procedure followed should be used in other areas such as energy and science and technology.  The ECA’s Committee on Sustainable Development would serve as the framework for the continuous review of the Commission.

    FRANCIS BABU, Minister of State for Works, Housing and Communication of Uganda, presented the outcome of the African Regional Implementation Meeting in Addis-Ababa in December 2003, which focused on water, sanitation and human settlements in preparation for the Commission’s twelfth session.  The review showed implementation progress, but also highlighted the inability of some African countries to meet their goals.

    Recommendations arising from the meeting included:  using integrated water resource management as the framework for implementation and preparing integrated water resources strategies by 2005; implementing catchment conservation and water demand management to mitigate degradation of water and related land resources, and optimize available resources and infrastructure in both rural and urban settings; and devolving power and resources to local governments and enhance their capacity to plan, manage, monitor and evaluate water, sanitation and human settlements.

    Other recommendations were to increase the efficient use of urban indicators and national and local urban observations in human settlements development and management; mainstream gender and youth in providing water, sanitation and human settlements; and call upon the international community to fully implement debt swaps to support in-country programmes in water, sanitation and housing.

    The meeting also encouraged African countries to promote policies integrating the sectors of water, sanitation and human settlements.  Links between those sectors were most pronounced in infrastructure development associated with water, sanitation and human settlements; decentralization and devolution of responsibility in providing basic services; capacity-building to support decentralization for effective implementation of programmes and projects; and the need for integrated country teams involving key ministries for finance, budge and economic planning, housing, local government, water and sanitation and human settlements.

    SHEHU YAHAYA, Principal Industrial Economist, African Development Bank, said the Bank was associated with several initiatives regarding water and sanitation.  One of them was the Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative, developed by the Bank, which was to accelerate sustained access to water and sanitation, so that by 2015, 80 per cent of the African population would have access.

    A second initiative that the Bank was involved in was led and owned by the African Minister’s Council on Water:  the African Water Facility.  The initiative was aimed at raising awareness for the critical importance of water for poverty reduction and economic development, at mobilizing investment resources for water and at improving efficiency of resource management.  The hope was to mobilize  $615 million between 2005 and 2009.  The Facility had already received substantial support from Canada and the Netherlands.  The Bank was also involved in assisting the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in implementing its water programme.

    THOMAS FOFUNG TATA, Chairman, Interim Executive Committee, Forum of African Civil Society for Sustainable Development, noted several obstacles to development and growth in the African region.  Those included bureaucratic and other processes retarding socio-economic progress; the negative effects of globalization; continued degradation of the environment, plundering of natural resources, and the lack of social responsibility and corporate accountability; and human rights violations, civil wars and conflicts, which displaced and divided families, and led to deteriorating health and poverty.

    In promoting sustainable development in the water, sanitation and human settlements sectors, he urged governments to:  appreciate the vital role of water in food production and security; protect watersheds and forests; acknowledge the role of science and technology in integrated water resources management, sanitation and human settlements; and enhance the role of women in water, sanitation and human settlements.  Governments should also introduce innovative incentives to promote corporate social responsibility and good practices in production/business, and set up enforcement mechanisms in water supply, sanitation and human settlements; recognize minority rights to water; and promote enhanced urban governance through land use planning and mechanisms to deal with informal urban settlements in a manner that would lead to improvements in the quantity and quality of urban water supply.

    IBRAHIM A. GAMBARI, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa, said this year’s topic contained thematic clusters that underlined most of the Millennium Development Goals and were also priorities of NEPAD.  Vigorous and effective implementation of the recommendations of the Regional Implementation Review Meeting in Addis Ababa held the key to translating the commitments on water, sanitation and human settlements in NEPAD and Johannesburg into reality.  Implementation of recommendations on the three thematic clusters was particularly difficult in the African context, because of a variety of challenges and constraints, including institutional, financial and partnerships for actions.

    In many African countries there was a lack of institutional arrangements to develop an integrated response, he said.  A critical mass of technical and managerial capacity was also absent.  Another challenge was how to secure, promote and protect property rights.  One dimension of property rights in water related to transboundary water resources.  Providing adequate funding for programmes in the three clusters was vital to successful implementation.  There was a need for significant international support in order to complement domestic resources.  Yet, it was projected that aid flows would fall far short of what was needed to achieve the goals in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements.

    He said partnerships among the public, private sector and civil society were essential to implementation of a range of development programmes.  The thematic clusters lent themselves to many creative forms of partnerships.  A particular innovative form of partnership was the one involving community associations, the public sector and private sector agents.  Enabling communal associations to take part in the implementation would play to the strength of the traditional communal spirit in Africa.  Communal actions, however, could not, and should not, substitute for effective public policy.  Governments must take the lead role in achieving the commitments that they solemnly pledged to undertake.

    In the ensuing dialogue, several speakers noted that Africa was seriously lagging behind in efforts to improve water, sanitation and human settlements, and may not achieve international goals and targets.  Some countries were taking steps to empower communities and the private sector to address challenges in those sectors, but were hindered by various obstacles.  Those included the more that   20 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) they spent on external debt, the negative effects of globalization, the lack of infrastructure and insufficient financial outlay.

    South Africa’s delegate joined other participants in urging the international community to play its role in meeting internationally agreed commitments.  Developed countries should recognize that broad economic policies were having a negative impact on African countries.  He emphasized that increased developed country assistance in capacity-building and technology transfer was vital in efforts to improve water, sanitation and human settlements, as well as in the broader fight against fight poverty and marginalization.

    The representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) stressed the need to examine practical approaches to water, sanitation and human settlements.  Targets had been set at the global level, but every country must decide who would receive access to water and sanitation in meeting the target of reducing by half the number of people lacking access to those services by 2015.  The Commission should encourage governments to prepare and approve budgets to meet overall targets, to monitor implementation, and issue public reports on what was needed to meet annual targets.

    Several speakers from African countries described actions taken and challenges faced in their nations.  The representative of Senegal expressed, among other things, a concern about financing.  As ministers of finance often had the final say in appropriation, he said it was regrettable that those ministers often were not involved in the exchange of ideas.

    Sierra Leone’s representative drew attention to the particular difficulties her country had in the post-conflict situation.  That country was still struggling to attain pre-war water and sanitation levels.  The representative of Ghana explained how his country had become a “pocket of hope” in the “gloomy picture” of the Johannesburg implementation in Africa, as it had adopted water policies through efficient management to ensure that development of Ghana was not constrained by limited water resources at any time.

    The representative of Algeria, recalling that NEPAD had for two years worked for sustainable development of Africa, said that a more effective commitment of the international community in favour of NEPAD would strengthen the capacity of Africa to integrate into the international economic community.  Apart from constraints already mentioned, he said Africa was also burdened by drought and desertification.

    Sweden’s representative highlighted a long-term relationship it had entered into with the East African community for projects around the Lake Victoria region.

    Country Implementation Review

    Mr. HAYES (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, encouraged United Nations agencies to find new collaborative arrangements and strengthen inter-agency involvement, enhancing system-wide synergy and shared approaches to help countries achieve internationally agreed goals.  Such shared themes could revolve around watershed management and poverty, enabling agencies to help in improving the capacity of developing countries to develop integrated water resource management and efficiency planning.  A more cooperative approach by United Nations agencies could also assist countries in building capacity to develop effective national strategies.

    He also stressed the importance of providing national reports and indicators on national progress in sustainable development.  Lack of basic data and/or statistics was the most fundamental challenge countries throughout the world faced in their efforts to develop indicators.

    Mr. ALATHBA (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted the uneven success in some regions in achieving international goals in water, sanitation and human settlements.  Inadequate financial resources and lack of technology were but two of the major obstacles some countries faced.  The commitment to provide additional financial resources to developing countries had not been honoured, and ODA had actually decreased.  Partnerships were stagnating, having failed to attract either government or private funding.  Innovative technologies were needed in many cases to provide drinking water, but such technology had not been provided.  Developed countries had not sufficiently addressed such issues as poverty reduction, and production and consumption patterns.

    Mr. O’CONNELL (Australia) said there was a need to build capacity at national and local levels to take advantage of lessons learned.  Water, sanitation and human settlements were interlinked.  The governance framework of Australia took into account the environmental dimension and the right to access for water.  An integrated approach to water and human settlements was vital.  Persistent poverty in rural areas drove migration, an area to be addressed in the next Commission session.

    He said developing countries were looking at marketing-based approaches, but some of those approaches might not work in some countries, and ODA would still be necessary.  However, marketing approaches were best to respond to local demands. 

    Ms. WIDVEY, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, said real, measurable outcomes of the Millennium Development Goals on sustainable development had been mixed.  Her Government supported four important preconditions for progress:  approaches needed to be comprehensive and include all relevant sectors of government; efforts should be integrated into national budgetary and parliamentary processes; there should be a clear commitment to promoting coordination and coherence in the ways nations and international organizations addressed the challenges; and there should be timetables and provisions for monitoring progress. 

    Her country’s National Agenda 21 took as its point of departure that efforts to promote sustainable development must have a global perspective and be based on the premise that world poverty and the state of the world’s environment were the most important challenges.  The national plan focused on:  international cooperation to promote sustainable development and combat poverty; climate change, the ozone layer and long-range pollution; biological diversity and cultural heritage; natural resources; hazardous substances; sustainable economic development; and environmental and natural resource management.

    In its work on the National Agenda 21, she said her Government had included the private sector, trade unions, non-governmental organizations and local government.  The Agenda had been put forward as a part of the 2004 budget.  An important aim of the action plan was to improve the general level of knowledge in Norway about global and national development trends.

    Ms. OZKAYA (Turkey) said his country had been identifying housing issues in the framework of the UN-Habitat programme, and related institutions had been trying to solve major housing problems, and improve the living standards of rural settlements.  She noted that one of the main constraints to implementation in the sectors of water, sanitation and rural settlements was the financial problems of developing countries, which were trying to strengthen their economies by using resources in a sustainable manner.  Countries whose economies were based on hydroelectric power were building damns, which should cover basic services such as drinking water and power.  In that respect, water storage facilities were desperately needed to ensure an adequate supply of drinking water.

    Mr. CHEAH (Malaysia) said lack of progress in implementation of agreed goals in water, sanitation and human settlements were due to insufficient resources, and the lack of promised assistance from the international community.  Those sectors must be approached within a development context, maintaining the economic, social and environment balance.  He stressed, however, that new elements must not be introduced that had not been agreed in Johannesburg.  Several delegations had voiced such concerns, and it was vital that they be respected.

    Mr. TAYEB (Saudi Arabia), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that in reviewing progress it was essential to stick to the themes of water, sanitation and human settlements.  No other topics should be mentioned.  It was also essential to stay within the context of Johannesburg Implementation Plan without opening up any other issues, as that would set precedents for other review years.  The Chairman’s summary should include all views expressed.

    Mr. SINHA (India), also aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said poverty eradication had been an important objective for India for several decades, and water and sanitation had a crucial bearing on poverty.  Experience had taught that one needed to build on a diversity of approaches.  There was no perfect solution that fit all.

    He said participation of all stakeholders had become an integral part of the Government of India.  A major challenge to the country was the growth of slums.  The Government had changed its approach from slum clearance to slum improvement, giving access to basic facilities and improving employment.  One of the main problems regarding water was the management of transboundary water supplies.  Bilateral arrangements in that regard could be very successful, as India’s experience had taught.

    Sustainable water coverage could be achieved by involving the communities in water resource management, planning and maintenance.  However, regarding sanitation, it had turned out that regional sanitation facilities had not been adequate, but considerable progress had been made in recent year through innovative approaches, such as demand-driven approaches and school sanitation.

    Mr. MOOTAZ (Egypt) said the main barriers the internationally agreed goals in sustainable development were the means of implementation -- namely, the lack of increased financing, stagnation of ODA, lack of technology transfer and capacity-building.  He stressed that United Nations agencies must be in conformity with agreed goals, and should not exceed agreed mandates with new concepts and ideas.

    LEE YEE-CHEONG, of the scientific and technological community, noted that water demands were rapidly rising, mainly due to climate change and the rising population.  Even for least developed countries, technology could assist with poverty reduction, but global political will and funding was lacking.  Providing gainful employment was vital to address current security concerns, requiring the development of indigenous and resource-based sectors.  Such development also required the availability of infrastructure services, such as water, sanitation, and electricity.  Science and technology was essential in resolving development problems, but funding for related programmes was pitifully small.

    Mr. DAVILA, representing the youth major groups, highlighted some projects carried out by youth and governments, including a water and sanitation campaign in Lesotho and the South-West Anatolia project in Turkey.  Among obstacles encountered, he mentioned lack of financial resources to maintain youth participation and lack on information on sources of financing; a lack of transfer of knowledge between generations; and a lack of youth voices at local and national level in decision making processes.

    Among lessons learned, he mentioned the need to evaluate lack of education in communities.  Youth groups also needed to link up with other young people around the world.  Youth councils were effective when they had support of governments and communities.

    Ms. MABHONGO (South Africa), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said advances in science were crucial in achieving long-term goals of development, particularly in the sectors of water, sanitation and human settlements.  She referred in that regard to a side event at the current Commission session that South Africa had sponsored.  She stressed that developing countries should build their research agenda around the key development themes.

    Mr. SWAJAYA (Indonesia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the deliberations of the past few days had provided useful information.  It was encouraging to note the commitment of many countries to translate international commitments into concrete actions at the national level.  He noted that the challenges for developing countries were common in nature:  lack of financial resources, technologies and capacities.  It was important in deliberations to stick to the Johannesburg plan and step up collective efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals.

    Mr. LATIMER (United States) suggested supporting government efforts in a country-by-country approach to integrated water resources management. He also noted that the means of implementation had not been officially defined as ODA, and that creating an enabling environment was a huge part of it.  Unleashing democratic and economic freedoms was also vital to successful development, and efforts must be made to find ways of drawing capital from domestic sources, which was the primary source for spending on water and sanitation.

    Mr. HATHAWAY (United Kingdom) said countries were not yet reaching agreed goals in water, sanitation and human settlements, but they could be if they shared experiences to develop sound policies.  It was necessary to identify obstacles, decide how they could be resolved, and to learn from successes and failures.  It was too early to conclude that partnerships were not succeeding, although efforts could be made to discover what constituted a successful one.

    Ms. VILLALOBOS (Venezuela), aligning herself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said in order to achieve progress in international targets of water, sanitation and human settlements, the challenges posed by globalization had to be taken into account.  Multilateralism must be supported and mechanisms for development cooperation must be strengthened.  The current session had developed in an excellent fashion.

    Johannesburg had been a big step forward, in that it had adopted the Millennium Development Goals.  The implementation mechanism, however, must be strengthened.  Without cooperation, political will and adequate financing, nothing will be achieved.  It was also vital to strengthen national capacities and to coordinate at all levels in order to execute Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg plan.

    Mr. ABREHA (Ethiopia), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said he was struck by the understanding the international community had in the linkage between the Millennium Goals currently under discussion and the other goals.  He stressed that his country was depending on a single commodity for export.  Therefore, its economy was dependent on global price fluctuations on which it had no influence.

    Mr. DRAUNMASI (Fiji) said small island States would like to implement internationally agreed goals related to water, sanitation and human settlements holistically.  The need to treat all three areas with equal importance was vital. Policy guidelines must be developed that were enforceable.  However, international support was needed to reach those goals within the time lines required by the international community.

    Parallel Meeting

    The Commission’s second parallel dialogue today focused on human settlements, specifically planning the sustainable city -- including partnerships and city development strategies -- and reconstruction and recovery following conflicts and natural disasters.

    A recurring theme that has emerged during the Commission’s discussions thus far has been that rapid growth and urban poverty were putting serious pressure on global efforts to ensure sustainable development.  And with migration to urban areas expected to continue apace, the Commission called on a group of experts today to discuss sustainable city planning and development, focusing on lessons learned and possible ways to replicate best practices in metropolitan areas with heavy concentrations of urban poor.

    PIETRO GARAU, Professor, Co-Chair of the Millennium Development Goal Task Force on Slum Dwellers, opened the discussions with his “recipe” for sustainable cities:  restoring and maintaining the health of urban municipalities, while finding the right combination of “ingredients”, in this case, environment, economics and equity through effective citizen participation.  Small thinking in those matters would lead to failure, and relying solely on external support was equally risky, since sustainable city planning had to be largely homegrown.

    It was obvious that sustainable development required political commitment and adequate resources, he continued, but sustainable cities needed much more:  imagination, leadership and the ability to think beyond the short term, or planning.  Moreover, citizens must participate on a sustained basis and the capacities of the urban poor must be tapped, because they were the main active ingredient and the measure of success of sustained urban planning.

    KRISHNASWAMY RAJIVAN, Chief Executive Officer, Tamil Nadu Urban Development Fund, India, said that, in general, city-planning efforts fell victim to, among other things, woefully inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure, decentralization of services and service provision, and failure of city leaders to take advantage of available commercial financing.

    To overcome those challenges, he said city investment plans must be based on the consent of the peoples, so that tariffs for services received broad acceptance.  Also, the infrastructure needs of the urban poor must be mainstreamed into planning policies, and partnerships should be built with the private sector where revenue streams for assets were sufficient to service debt.

    For cities, “poverty was a time bomb that could go off at any time”, said ADEPOJU G. ONIBOKUN, Secretary-General, Centre for African Settlement Studies and Development (CASSAD).  Focusing on participation as an instrument for achieving urban sustainability, he said that, in Africa, 300 million people lived in urban centres and that number was expected to jump to some 500 million by 2015.

    Likewise, the explosion of large towns and cities throughout the developing world had become a major concern because the demands of heavily populated metropolitan communities were far beyond the management capacities and resources of the nations.  So, sustainable cities could only emerge if all the major players -- individuals and communities, experts and professionals, governments and bilateral agencies -- joined in partnership to design holistic and integrated strategies.

    Among the many delegations to share their national experiences, the representative of Greece, which was racing against the clock to prepare its main city, Athens, for the Millennium Olympics Games this summer, said that the Government was working hard to overcome a host of challenges in Athens, chiefly years of environmental degradation, weak infrastructure and sluggish city bureaucracies.

    She said the goal was to first promote behavioural change among the citizenry as the Games approached and to ensure planning of Olympic sites that respected natural resources and scenery and promoted and reinforced sustainable use of the city’s meagre water resources.  Greece saw preparations for the Olympics as a creative opportunity to put workable infrastructure in place, initiate lasting partnerships and promote best practices, which would lead to a more sustainable Athens now and in the future.

    When the discussions turned to reconstruction and recovery following conflicts or natural disasters, the panel noted that in 2002 alone some 500 natural disasters had been reported, which took over 25,000 lives, affected some 600 million people overall and costing about $27 billion, all told.

    TEODOR ANTIC, former Assistant Justice Minister, Administration and Local Government, Croatia, and member of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) Experts Group on Decentralization (AGRID), said during the period of conflict, when more than one third of Croatia was either occupied or otherwise affected, massive amounts of infrastructure was destroyed and countless numbers of people were displaced.

    After the war, problems of a material or physical nature, as well as a psychological nature, emerged.  He said the Government had set on the path towards recovery and had achieved success, but it had also learned that it took strong partnerships at all levels to spur economic and social growth in local communities and to create conditions for longer-term development.

    NABEEL HAMDI, Professor, Director, Centre for Development and Emergency Planning (CENDEP), Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom, warned about the tendency to think that recovery from natural disasters and conflicts would be totally different things.  While war might be preventable, the devastation wrought by war and its effects on populations, particularly the poorest of the poor, could be quite similar to what befell people in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

    In the wake of either tragedy, it could be necessary to address population displacement, refugee flows, rebuilding of infrastructure, reinvigorating the business sector and empowering local communities, he said.  Sadly, it was often those very institutions that were relied on for reconstruction that were destroyed in wars or disasters.  He stressed the need to take an integral, relief-to-development approach, as the best way to achieve effective and sustainable results.

    * *** *