Press Releases

    ENV/DEV/837
                12 April 2005

    Immense Challenges Remain in Meeting Water, Sanitation, Human Settlement Goals, Sustainable Development Commission Told

    Two-Week Session Aims at Policies, Practical Measures to Accelerate Progress Towards Global Targets

    NEW YORK, 11 April (UN Headquarters) -- Global efforts to address increased water scarcity had been fragmented, and insufficient attention had been given to sanitation, hygiene and wastewater treatment, the Commission on Sustainable Development was told today, as it opened its 2005 session entrusted with deciding policies and practical measures to accelerate progress towards achieving the global development goals. 

    Opening the two-week session, which had been billed as the first policy-setting session since the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, Commission Chairman, John William Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda), said that progress was still far below what was needed to implement the Johannesburg outcome and the relevant development goals for water, sanitation and human settlements.  The challenges were still immense, with persistent poverty and insufficient resources and technological capacity among the major obstacles.  The task now was to decide on measures that would have a measurable impact. 

    Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, agreed that the task at hand was to hasten progress towards targets on safe drinking water, basic sanitation, improving the lives of slum-dwellers and sound management of the Earth’s freshwater resources.  All those goals were closely linked to the other Millennium Development Goals, and the outcome of the current session would be a litmus test of international political will to tackle global poverty and the broader United Nations development agenda. 

    As the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Anwarul K. Chowdhury said, he had often harped on the fact that, without addressing the needs of those three disadvantaged groups, achieving the Millennium Development Goals by the target dates would be impossible.  A third of the world’s rural population remained unserved by improved drinking water sources, yet expanding rural water supply, together with sanitation, was integral to reducing poverty.  And, scientists were warning that the number of people in the 34 least developed countries in Africa without access to clean water could double, in little more than 20 years, to more than 600 million, forcing an ever greater reliance on food aid. 

    The deliberations that followed the opening statements used as its basis the Chairman’s summary of the interactive discussions of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for the current session, held in New York from 28 February to 4 March (document E/CN.17/2005/6).  It states that, while the emphasis was on policy options and possible actions applicable to as wide a range as possible, developing countries, especially in Africa, the least developed countries, the landlocked countries and small-island developing States, faced the greatest challenges in achieving sustainable development and meeting the agreed targets. 

    Representatives of regional bodies and regional representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) addressed the Commission this afternoon, prompting an interactive discussion with delegations, aimed at advancing the formulation of policy options and possible actions concerning water-related issues most applicable to their regions. 

    In other business today, the Commission elected the following members, by acclamation, to serve as Vice-Chairpersons:  Husniyya Mammadova (Azerbaijan); and Shin Boo-nam (Republic of Korea).  It was also decided that Ms. Mammadova would serve as Rapporteur.  Two Vice-Chairpersons had already been elected: Khaled Aly Elbakly (Egypt); and Dagmara Berbalk (Germany).  The Commission also adopted its agenda and approved its organization of work.  It also approved accreditation as an observer of an intergovernmental organization, Global Water Partnership.

    Opening statements were also made this morning by Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), and Klaus Toepfer, the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Executive Director.

    Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of Japan, South Africa, Tuvalu, Morocco, Jamaica on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union, and the United States.  And, this afternoon, in the interactive discussion:  Argentina on behalf of the Rio Group; Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77; Luxembourg on behalf of the European Union; Belgium; United Republic of Tanzania; Mexico; Canada; Cuba; and Australia.  A representative from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) also spoke.

    Panellists this afternoon were:  Josue Dione, the Economic Commission for Africa; Metsi Makhetha, UNDP; Shehu Yahaya, the African Development Bank; Kazi A. Rahman, New York Office of Regional Commissions; Rae Kown Chung, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Razina Bilgrami, Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, UNDP; Hosni Khordagui, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA); Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, UNDP; José Luis Samaniego, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Maribel Rodriguez-Rios, UNDP; Kaj Barlund,  Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); and Gulden Turkoz-Cosslett, UNDP.

    The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 12 April, to convene a series of interactive discussions. 

    Background

    The Commission on Sustainable Development met today to open its thirteenth session (CSD-13), due to conclude on 22 April.  The session, billed as the first policy-setting session since the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, is expected to decide on policies and practical measures to accelerate progress towards achieving the internationally agreed goals and targets related to water, sanitation and human settlements.  (For additional details, see Background Press Release ENV/DEV/836 of 8 April.)

    Chairman’s Opening Statement

    JOHN WILLIAM ASHE (Antigua and Barbuda), reviewing recent meetings, said that, at the Commission’s last session, delegations had supported many impressive initiatives, often involving cooperation between governments and other stakeholders.  The “CSD-12” review session had also concluded, however, that effectiveness, to date, was still far below what was needed to implement the Johannesburg action plan and the relevant development goals for water, sanitation and human settlements.  The challenges were still immense, particularly in the developing countries.  The persistence of poverty and the lack of financial resources, technology and capacity had been cited as major obstacles.  The CSD-12 review session had also noted that the delivery of water and sanitation services, as well as the development of infrastructure, were largely the responsibility of the local authorities, but the lack of financial and technical capacity at the local level was a major constraint. 

    He said that improving cooperation and partnerships among stakeholders, and enhancing women’s role in managing water and sanitation systems, and urban development in general, were persistent challenges.  Improved cooperation for rural development was critical to expanding services to poor people.  At the intergovernmental preparatory meeting in March, delegations considered policy actions for overcoming those key constraints.  That meeting had identified a range of policies and activities that had proven effective.  The outcome had provided a valuable resource from which countries could draw, as they developed specific plans.  The charge now, at “CSD-13”, was to decide on measures that would further advance the situation and have a measurable impact.  It had been agreed that the policy session of the two-year action-oriented implementation cycle would take policy decisions on practical measures to expedite implementation.

    Recalling that the Johannesburg goals and targets had included reducing by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water or basic sanitation, developing integrated water resource management and improving the lives of 100 million slum-dwellers, he said he hoped that the current session would take decisions on substantial practical measures, accompanied by a real commitment of resources to implement them.  Not only would that be a major contribution to the September Millennium Development Goals summit, but that would set a strong precedent for the Commission’s future work, as well as serve as an example for other functional commissions of the United Nations.  Delegations might also look at how the United Nations system could be more effective in supporting the efforts of Member States, particularly developing countries, to make the most effective use of resources.

    Meanwhile, he noted that international efforts to address increased water scarcity had been fragmented, and insufficient attention had been given to sanitation, hygiene and wastewater treatment.  In addition, the urgent problems of cities in the developing world were not being adequately addressed.  He invited delegations to consider what recommendations and decisions they might make to ensure that the United Nations system better served the Member States in that regard.  There was a daunting challenge ahead, but there was also an opportunity to make a real difference in expediting implementation of sustainable development.

    JOSÉ ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, welcomed participants to the session and said that the task at hand was to accelerate progress towards targets on safe drinking water, basic sanitation, improving the lives of slum-dwellers, and sound management of the Earth’s freshwater resources.  All those goals were closely linked to the other Millennium Development Goals.  Water problems, for example, were associated with poverty, disease and lack of education for girls.  The outcome of the current meeting would provide a litmus test of international political will to tackle global poverty and the broader United Nations development agenda.

    Meeting the water and sanitation targets, he said, meant assuring, in the next decade, that safe drinking water reached an additional 1.5 billion people.  In addition, basic sanitation must be made available to 1.9 billion more people.  Those targets would require strong political resolve, translated into sizable additional resource mobilization.  The estimated cost of meeting water sanitation and slum targets was in the range of $30 to $40 billion per year.

    Outlining the challenges of slum amelioration, he said that housing, basic infrastructure and basic services were priorities.  Governments needed to take explicit measures to ensure that growth was inclusive through such measures as progressive real estate taxation to finance low-cost housing.  Local authorities bore much of the responsibility for liveable human settlements, but they often lacked financial and human resources, as well as institutional capacity.  In addition to assistance from the international community, such authorities would do well to enlist the efforts of civil society.

    ANWARUL K. CHOWDHURY, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said the tone for actions had rightly been to underscore that developing countries, especially in Africa, the least developed countries and landlocked and small island developing States faced the greatest challenges in achieving sustainable development.  So, there was a particular focus on policy options and possible actions to address the needs.  The right approach was to pay special attention to the most vulnerable countries.  As the United Nations’ advocate for those countries, he had often harped on the fact that, without addressing the needs of those three disadvantaged groups, achieving the Millennium Development Goals by the target dates would not be possible.  Hence, those groups of States must be given priority attention.

    Thus, he strongly urged delegates to address the specific needs of the least developed countries, the landlocked countries and small island developing States in the areas of water, sanitation, and human settlements.  Those three groups were now well recognized by the United Nations as the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups among Member States, and those that needed special and focused international attention.  The lack of resources, capacity and technology in those countries had highlighted the need for the increased support and cooperation of the international community in their national efforts.  Hence, their concerns must be kept high on the global agenda, if they were to be sustainable in their development efforts.  It would have been appropriate to incorporate in the documentation before the session some worthwhile references to those countries’ concerns. 

    Also disappointing had been the fact that the matrix of the Commission’s Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting summary made by the Chairman had not included a special profile on the needs of those most disadvantaged countries, he said.  One third of the world’s rural population remained unserved by improved drinking water sources.  Expanding rural water supply, together with sanitation, was integral to broader poverty-reduction efforts.  In March 2003, at the Kyoto Water Forum, his office had presented a research paper on the critical importance of water issues for the least developed countries.  Water issues contributed to the major portion of the more than 2 million people in developing countries, mostly children, who died each year from diseases associated with unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.  Those countries were water stressed or water scarce.  In addition, climate change would account for about 20 per cent of the increase in global water scarcity, and that would affect all of those most disadvantaged countries.

    He said that scientists were warning of the growing threat of water shortage across Africa, home to 34 least developed countries.  They said that, in little more than 20 years, the number of people in those countries without access to clean water could double to more than 600 million.  That would force an ever-greater reliance on food aid.  Nearly one in two in Africa could live in countries facing water scarcity, or water stress.  In sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest concentration of least developed countries, that problem was even worse.  The region could suffer more widespread shortages and, as the populations grew, the shortfall in crops yields owing to insufficient water would also worsen.  He advocated, among other things, shifting gears from a needs-based to a rights-based approach, which put the interests of the poor first.  Donors should make greater efforts to meet with official development assistance (ODA) commitments.  That would go a long way towards meeting the water and sanitation goals.  The international financial institutions could also increase their overall commitments to water and sanitation. 

    ANNA KAJUMULO TIBAIJUKA, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), made an introductory statement and spoke on the outcome of the twentieth session of her organization’s Governing Council meeting, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4 to 8 April, 2005.  She expressed satisfaction that water, sanitation and human settlements were now seen as integrated issues for development.

    The Governing Council meeting, she said, boasted of comprehensive participation, including broad representation of mayors.  She said she would circulate the resolutions passed in Nairobi.  Issues not resolved in Nairobi, included the adequacy of the slum target, i.e. improving the conditions of 100 million slum-dwellers by 2020.  The number was not adequate in the context of the 1 billion slum-dwellers in the world.  The slum target should be to halve the proportion of slum-dwellers by 2020, harmonizing that figure with those of sanitation and water improvement.  Water and sanitation could not be provided without urban planning.  The issue was particularly urgent for Africa, with over 72 per cent of people living in urban slums.  She charged the assembled to consider those important issues.

    KLAUS TOEPFER, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said that the session was a unique opportunity to identify urgent policy actions to implement the agreed goals, particularly relating to water, sanitation and human settlements.  He hoped implementation could be accelerated in those areas.  Water was the key to a viable and sustainable ecosystem.  Hopefully, the current session would contribute to meeting the time bound targets for water and sanitation and improving the lives of slum-dwellers.  Those were noble goals.  Implementation constraints had already been identified; the current session should consider what had happened since then, and what were the constraints -- whether lack of resources or of political will.  It should also showcase best practices. 

    He said that at the recent environmental forum, ministers had discussed the environmental underpinnings of the Millennium Development Goals.  They had unanimously identified one key issue, namely accelerating implementation of agreed action.  That was not about identifying what needed to be done, but about getting it done, at the current session.  The ministers had adopted UNEP’s updated water and policy strategies, the Bali intergovernmental strategic plan on support and capacity-building, and had agreed on greater investment in human settlements, among other things.  At its ninth special session next year, the Governing Council would incorporate the outcomes of the present Commission session and the General Assembly’s September summit.  Additional policy actions would include a revised global programme on sanitation to incorporate the environmental dimension in urban rules and sanitation actions programmes. 

    The Global Environment Facility-funded, UNEP-implemented global international waters assessment had issued several reports on transboundary seas, rivers, lakes and ecosystems in terms of their environmental, social and economic impacts, and recommended measures to sound policy responses, he said.  As an input to the current Commission policy cycle, the environmental forum had made recommendations for consideration by the international community.  Those had included:  prior attention to consideration of environmental sustainability in development assistance frameworks, national develop plans and poverty-reduction strategy papers; urgent action to fully finance the Bali strategic plan for technological support; and priority support to implementing the Memorandum of Understanding between UNEP and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in order to enable the provision of targeted and technical advice to governments. 

    Presentation of Thematic Activities

    YOSHITAKA MURATA (Japan) reported on the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction, held from January 18 to 22 in Kobe, Japan.  He said the conference aimed to construct a guiding framework for disaster reduction and facilitated preparations of various countries towards that end.  The passion for overcoming the Indian Ocean disaster was at the heart of the event’s success.

    He described the outcome of the conference, known as “The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015:  Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities in Disasters”.  He said the key points included the incorporation of disaster reduction perspectives in all policies relevant to sustainable development, the cultivation of disaster prevention and resilience and the strengthening of disaster reduction awareness at the community level.

    In addition, he said, the framework promotes international cooperation on disaster reduction.  After the conference, a variety of initiatives were developed by nations affected by the Indian Ocean disaster along with donor nations, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and others.

    DUMISANI SHADRACK KUMALO (South Africa) said that, over the years, collective efforts had ensured that the plight of the poor and of the slum-dwellers had found its rightful place in the global agenda.  Hopefully, the establishment of the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD) and the adoption of the African common position, as spelled out in the Enhanced Framework of Implementation (circulated in the Conference Room), would ensure that Africa would no longer be forced to progress in the margins of the rest of the world. 

    He said that through the Enhanced Framework, ministers had articulated a programme to promote consistent and collective approaches to urban development in Africa.  The Framework highlighted issues such as land access, the mobilization of domestic resources to fund human settlements development, and the importance of external assistance, including debt-burden elimination.  It also called for the creation of capacity-building measures and a fund dedicated to facilitating the establishment of human settlements in Africa, including establishment of a financial sector that supported the development of human settlements in each country and that was responsive to national needs and priorities. 

    The African Ministerial Conference was committed to ensuring that markets also contributed to urban development in Africa, he said.  The ministers had committed themselves to ensuring sustainable development and self-sufficiency in the long term in Africa.  Those were the goals to which Africa had committed its political will.  It had also been agreed that the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Development would serve as the focal point in Africa for all issues concerning urban development and human settlements.  At the same time, he urged the international community to support the implementation of the programmes identified by that African Ministerial Conference.

    ENELE SOSENE SOPOAGA (Tuvalu), on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, described the outcomes of the Mauritius International meeting on the subject.  The Mauritius Strategy of Implementation, he said, clearly captured the vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States in the area of water resources, including such problems as saline intrusion.  Solutions proposed included capacity-building and the promotion of integrated water resources management through various international programmes.

    Sanitation, he said, was linked to water.  In addition, innovative forms of financing for waste management infrastructure were proposed, as well as the promotion of waste reduction and the use of waste products as resources. 

    In regard to human settlements, he highlighted the need to develop capacity for sustainable land management and self-generating agroecosystems through building on communal and traditional practices.  In that context, increasing competition for land resources for tourism, urbanization and other phenomena must be taken into account.  He stressed the importance of an integrated approach to all sectors for sustainable development of the small island developing States, as well as the importance of financing.

    ABDELLAH BENMELLOUK (Morocco) reviewed the work of the second international forum on partnerships for sustainable development, held in Marrakech, Morocco from 21 to 23 March.  The forum had been organized by his Government in cooperation with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  It debated in further details the question of partnerships and their role in sustainable development, for which water and energy issues were extensively underscored.  It was agreed that governments, local authorities and industrialists should convene an in-depth meeting to strengthen those partnerships in those two areas.  The need for innovative approaches to partnerships and their financing had also emerged.  Discussions on water had made it possible to come up with some global partnerships with common targets, particularly regarding improving access to water and sanitation services, and promoting transparency and participation in the decision-making process, particularly at the local levels.  Discussions had also identified the challenges and the ways and means of meeting them.

    On energy, he said that the debates had revealed that the purpose of partnerships and initiatives in that field would promote renewable energy and the use of efficient technologies and sustainable transportation systems.  Debates had also focused on the following matters:  the interests of the user and end consumer, particularly the access of poor populations to energy services, and the commitment of the local communities; the political and regulatory framework governing energy questions at the local, national and international levels; and challenges in implementing partnerships in the energy area, particularly with regard to financing and the use of adaptable technologies, accounting and monitoring.  The life cycle of partnerships had also been discussed, as well as internal government structures, marketing and financing.  It was felt that communication was an essential pat of the process of setting up partnerships.  The question of financing was another mainstreaming aspect of discussion, and resource mobilization was regarded as the mainstreaming tool for establishing partnerships.

    Also highlighted had been the direct correlation between the degree of commitment of resources and the degree of mobilization of partnerships, he said.  Even if a partnership was voluntary, there was a growing need for evaluating and supervising its function and programmes, for which a variety of tools and methods were discussed.  It was agreed that partnerships provided concrete results and helped to effect change.  One fundamental finding had been that each partnership was unique, and that flexibility was fundamentally important to guaranteeing its effectiveness.  In water and energy, much diversity in concepts and memberships had been noted.  The involvement of the private sector had also been deemed essential, as that involved the consumer and the end user. 

    The Chairman then introduced report of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting held from 28 February to 4 March (document E/CN.17/2005/6).  He called attention to the Chairman’s summary of the interactive discussions, which were organized into three main sections corresponding to the themes of water, sanitation and human settlements.  He invited delegations to review the policy options and practical measures contained in the summary, and also invited brief comments on them.

    STAFFORD O. NEIL (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the current policy session must be specific and action-oriented.  The Group expected to make detailed statements and other specific recommendations on each of the thematic areas in the next few days.

    He emphasized the need to address the issues of water, sanitation and human settlements in an integrated manner.  In addition, he drew attention to the inadequacy of financial resource, the lack of integrated planning and the inconsistency between project financing and the long-term programmatic needs of sectors.

    He also stressed the need for research and access to environmentally friendly technology on preferential terms, the need to redress limited institutional and technical capacity and the lack of coherence in international policies and within national policies.  It was also important to address the persistently unfavourable terms of trade between developed and developing countries and between urban and urban areas.

    ELISABETH COLOTTE (Luxembourg), on behalf of the European Union, noted that the CSD-13 was called on to make its contribution to “this milestone year” in international development and to the United Nations, as a whole.  That was a welcome expectation, because the Commission should promote the crucial and central importance of the Johannesburg outcome in the general development agenda.  Development could not be lasting if it was not sustainable.  The Johannesburg action plan was a comprehensive one, which incorporated essential development targets, their interlinked social, economic and environmental components and the cross-cutting issues.  Its implementation, therefore, was crucial to meeting the Millennium Development Goals.  The need to tackle environment, poverty and infectious diseases in an integrated way was strongly underlined by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Chance.  The Commission needed to highlight that clearly in the September summit and ensure that sustainable development remained on the agenda.

    She said that, in the context of the Secretary-General’s report “In Larger Freedom:  Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All”, the Commission should make a strong, concrete and action-oriented contribution to the September summit, focused on water, sanitation and human settlements goals, which underpinned achievement of the Millennium Development Goals -- notably on health, education, gender and poverty.  The same was true for the themes of the upcoming Commission cycles:  energy, climate change, biodiversity, and agriculture.  Indeed, the Commission should clearly highlight that all developed countries should undertake substantial efforts to prevent the threats arising from the systematic undermining of the carrying capacity of ecosystems.  Effectively tackling the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, therefore, was paramount.

    The Union believed that the actions concerning interlinkages and cross-cutting issues were key to enhancing synergies and managing jointly water, sanitation and human settlements, she said.  Any isolated action on one theme, although beneficial, was likely to have only short-term and less efficient or sustainable effects.  The cross-sectoral aspects of development were the basis of sustainable development, per se.  Implementation of the cross-cutting issues of the Johannesburg action plan should be addressed and should appear in the negotiated outcome of the current Commission.  To overcome the obstacles identified during the last session, delegates needed to address, in depth, the fact that water, sanitation and human settlements were interdependent themes, and to actively take action to overcome the cross-cutting obstacles linking those themes to other important policy sectors.  Those, in fact, created some of the major constraints to implementation and represented the basis for achieving any other thematic target.  Thus, the Union strongly recommended that a special dedicated section addressing key cross-cutting issues be introduced in the session’s negotiated outcome. 

    She explained that those cross-cutting aspects of sustainable development included poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, sustainable management and protection of the natural resource base of economic and social development, as well as capacity-building and technology support, good governance and finance, but also education for sustainable development and gender equality.  Adopting a “pro-poor” approach in all policies and actions was essential to addressing the close links between water, sanitation and human settlements and poverty eradication by prioritizing policies and actions that guaranteed improved service delivery to the poorest.  It was equally important to respond to the commitment made by developed countries at Johannesburg to take the lead in promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns, with all countries benefiting from their effort to accelerate the shift towards a social and economic development within the carrying capacities of ecosystems.

    Noting that the Union had published a brochure “From commitments to actions”, which could be found in the back of the room, she said that had provided a detailed presentation of the Union’s general views and ambitions for the session.  Among the principles and policies common to the three sectors and crucial to allowing for economically, socially, and environmentally sound solutions, were:  mainstreaming economic sustainability; enhancing donor coordination; improving interagency coordination; promoting the development of urban planning and management to provide sustainable urban structure; promoting multilevel and multiactor governance; coherently addressing the differences and interlinkages between rural and urban setting; and increasing investments and socially acceptable cost recovering mechanisms, including using official development assistance as a lever for attracting private investments.

    JONATHAN MARGOLIS (United States) said he was encouraged by the accomplishments of the current two-year implementation cycle.  There was political momentum for addressing water and sanitation goals.  In addition, partnerships had been operationalized, and other improvements had been made to working methods.

    He said there were still complex challenges to be met, however.  Financing, capacity of the developing world, and integration of sectors must be addressed.  Efforts would become increasing complex.  Instead of seeking centralized control over them, the challenge was to find a way to help all efforts work toward the same goals.  The Commission could play a critical role in coordination and knowledge-exchange through making better use of web-based technologies.

    The network of actors, he said, would contain a range of governments, international organizations and non-governmental actors.  Any one of those entities might take the lead at various times, with various kinds of focus.  It was useful to take stock regularly of progress through a variety of mechanisms.  The best message that the Commission could deliver was to show how a reformed United Nations process -- integrating the efforts of a range of actors -- could deliver concrete results.

    Regional Perspectives

    Africa

    At the afternoon session, picking up on the discussion of policy options and possible actions towards achieving the goals in the areas of water, sanitation and housing, JOSUE DIONE, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), drew attention to the innovative partnerships and initiatives already under way.  For example, in April 2002, the African ministers in charge of water had established the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), to provide strategic oversight of water resource management.  They also later established a technical advisory committee consisting of water directors from all 53 African countries, representing the combined scientific and technical strength in the field on the continent.  An inter-agency group, UN Water for Africa, was providing institutional and technical support to the AMCOW.  That cooperation had elicited an enthusiastic donor response. 

    He said that under AMCOW’s auspices, the pan-African implementation and partnership conference on water had been convened in December 2003.  It had examined implementation constraints, as well as the policy options needed to overcome them.  The conference had also confirmed eight key challenges and priorities for the region, including:  ensuring a knowledge base for water resources management; meeting basic needs; protecting ecosystems; securing water for food supply; managing risk; and sharing resources.  In terms of practical measures, a triennial work programme for the AMCOW was operationalizing the African water facility, hosted by the African Development Bank, for which donors had undertaken to provide an initial $600 million.  The European Union had agreed to consider an AMCOW proposal for programmatic action, which required funding from the European Union water facility.  In addition, the Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) had endorsed a “water for cities” programme under the auspices of UN-HABITAT. 

    On human settlements, he said that the Economic Commission for Africa had identified some policy options and actions, including the need to adopt an integrated approach to human settlement planning involving land use planning, housing, development, water, sanitation, health and education, and other infrastructure.  There was a need to assist Member States to establish and strengthen national coordinating institutions for sustainable development and build capacity for decision-making at all levels of the State.  The African Ministers’ Conference on Housing and Urban Development should also be strengthened.  Globally, there was a need to follow up and maintain the momentum.  In that regard, progress in implementing the decisions taken in the previous cycle should be an agenda item in subsequent reviews. 

    METSI MAKHETHA, of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that Africa had the lowest water supply and sanitation levels in the world, compounded by other severe problems.  The UNDP had been working with governments, civil society and international organizations to redress the situation.  In particular, it was supporting river and water initiatives.  The Nile Basin initiative had been particularly successful.  The countries involved had come along way in protecting their water supply and had shared their experience with other basin areas.

    She said that UNDP was also involved in working with countries to build local capacity for water sector reforms.  Community water initiatives would develop the most efficient water supply solutions for the most isolated areas, providing assistance in the most direct manner possible.  Partnerships remained essential for the work to progress.  All partners must combine their efforts, so the huge demand could be met.

    SHEHU YAHAYA, of the Africa Development Bank, said that water supply was essential for progress in all the Millennium Development Goals.  The Bank was focusing on rural areas in Africa, which had the least access to water and sanitation, and $1.2 billion was required between now and 2015 to cover 80 per cent of the African population.  The initiative had already started with developing partnerships.

    In addition, he said that a major conference for the water initiative had been held in Paris on 1 April.  In the resulting declaration, all partners agreed that water was essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and that a common framework approach for interventions was needed.  It was also agreed that investments should be scaled up in the sector.  Those agreements paved the way for working together within a common approach and set the stage for a more rapid implementation of the initiative.

    Asia-Pacific Region

    KAZI A. RAHMAN, of the New York Office of Regional Commissions, said that the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development, held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, from 24 to 29 March 2005, adopted a Regional Implementation Plan for Sustainable Development for the period 2006-2010 that emphasizes “green growth”.  It follows from the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.  The modalities of the Plan include stakeholders’ participation, regional cooperation, technology transfer and follow-up mechanisms.

    He pointed to a relative scarcity of water in the region, compared to population size.  Urbanization, agriculture and industrialization were all contributing to the reduction of water available for human health and livelihood.  Thus, meeting future demands would require huge amounts of capital investment, along with efficiency measures and improvements in wastewater treatment processes.

    He said that sanitation needs must urgently be integrated into water strategies.  Governments and stakeholders must move the sanitation crisis to the top of the agenda and make more resources available to carry out priority activities, including the development of national frameworks.  With respect to human settlements, ESCAP had been promoting the exchange of experience, regional cooperation and an integrated approach to planning.  International support was needed in those efforts.

    RAE KOWN CHUNG, ESCAP, reviewed the outcomes of a recent conference hosted by the Republic of Korea under the theme of achieving environmentally sustainable economic growth.  The more than 340 participants had produced the following outcomes:  a ministerial declaration on the environment and development in Asia and the Pacific 2005; a regional implementation plan for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific 2006-2010; and the Seoul initiative on environmentally sustainable economic growth.  The conference was the first of its kind in the region that focused on the synergy between environmental sustainability and economic growth. 

    He said that the increase in economic growth was putting pressure on the environment.  Thus, the region was seeking to shift from an approach of “growth first-clean up later”, to environmentally sound economic growth from the outset.  iThe Seoul initiative was aimed at addressing some of the major policy issues of the ministerial declaration and regional implementation plan.  It presented the target policy areas and follow-up activities.  It also sought to improve the environmental sustainability of economic growth and enhance pollution control and ecosystem management. 

    RAZINA BILGRAMI, Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), recalled that the United Nations Millennium Project Task Force report had spoken about a young woman from Delhi who hoped she could marry into a family that had a toilet and clean drinking water.  The majority of the world’s population living without access to safe drinking water and sanitation was in the Asia-Pacific region.  The region, home to two thirds of the world’s poor, faced many additional challenges.  Rapid population growth, for example, had intensified pressure on the environment and resource base, along with the demands for water and the need for an effective policy response.

    She said the pressure was huge on the availability and quality of service and groundwater resources.  The disappearance of lakes in several areas was evidence of that strain.  The region was also one of the worst affected by water-related natural disasters, including floods.  The tsunami had “brought home” the issue of preparedness and brought to life the vulnerability of small island States, such as the Maldives. 

    The UNDP was working with its country partners to find workable, integrated solutions to those challenges, she said.  The Chairman’s summary text had included policy options and practical measures that were highly relevant to the region, among them decentralizing the delivery of water services and enhancing the role of small-scale providers.  Local management and provision of water were essential to substantially increase access to water supply.  Local authorities must be empowered and a support policy and regulatory environment created. 

    Western Asia

    HOSNI KHORDAGUI, of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said that it was well known that water resources were scarce in that region.  Governments needed to be supported in their efforts to reform their frameworks for use and conservation of water resources, especially for the benefit of disadvantaged urban and rural areas.  Secure financing for capacity-building was required for that purpose.

    Changes in the management of competing sectors were necessary to maximize efficiency of water use, along with other measures, he said.  It was also necessary to expedite technologies, such as desalinization.  Shared water was a particularly important issue and trust had to be built, in addition to the creation of mechanisms.

    Sanitation, he said, had to be provided along with all new water supply strategies.  In regard to human settlements, he said integration of sectors, along with the provision of low-cost housing, was essential.  Partnerships between governments and slum communities must be promoted for those purposes.  In all those areas, new financial mechanisms, with new partnerships, were needed.

    OSCAR FERNANDEZ-TARANCO, of UNDP, added that the Arab world was indeed one of the most water-stressed regions.  A more integrated approach for water management was needed and had been articulated by UNDP.  Some countries in the region, such as Egypt, were already mainstreaming water planning through all development planning.  Some countries had already approved full water policies and others were just beginning water policy formulation. 

    In addition to those programmes, he said there have been programs to ensure involvement of all stakeholders in decision-making.  He described successful programmes in Jordan and Yemen towards gender mainstreaming in regard to water problems, as well as an initiative in Morocco which also utilized a participatory approach.

    Latin America and Caribbean

    JOSÉ LUIS SAMANIEGO, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that contrary to the events of the past decade, the region was experiencing a positive economic situation.  In macroeconomic terms, that meant that the bodies in charge of allocating budgets would have much more flexibility than in past years.  So, sectoral activities, such as water, sanitation and human settlements should receive more attention.  There was a very high level of drinking water in the region, which was the most urban in the world.  When considering where to find global opportunities to strengthen the instruments emerging in Latin America, he said one method would be to protect the baseline for methane catch.  Today, the norm was that methane should not be caught, but many intermediate and large cities would be able to make spectacular strides in that field.

    He said he was also seeing a revolution in transportation, with mass transportation being implemented in many cities of the region.  There again, the baseline should be protected by reducing carbon dioxide emissions in transport systems.  Another area of opportunity was the creation of new financial systems.  It would be interesting, at the global level, to discuss the relationship between governments and urban property.  Colombia had taken a pioneering role in the region with regard to urban lands and government control. 

    At the regional level, much work remained to be done to assess the economic losses arising from the fact that water systems were not sufficient in terms of drainage, water treatment and losses from pollution, he said.  An attempt should also be made regionally to construct standards in urban areas for the upgrading of slums.  In addition, present water contracts should be reviewed, and treatment systems should be chosen that were more in keeping with the region and, therefore, less technologically sophisticated. 

    MARIBEL RODRIGUEZ-RIOS, UNDP, said that the level of drinking water dropped when the rural figures were factored in.  Then, some 204 million people were without any coverage.  In terms of rural sanitation, only 49 per cent were covered, meaning that 257 million people lived with no access to sanitation.  In terms of the likelihood of the region being able to halve by 2015 those living without basic drinking water and sanitation, only a “scarce minority” of countries would be able to reach that goal. 

    She said that the UNDP had emphasized support for local communities’ access to water and related services, and had empowered local authorities in the area of water management.  The partnership with the Global Environment Facility had been key to ensuring preservation of the natural environment needed to supply good quality water.  The UNDP had also prioritized a risk management approach for the region, seeking to enable it to face the increasing effects of climate change, which was putting increasing pressure on countries’ ability to manage their water resources.

    Europe and Other Regions

    KAJ BARLUND, of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), said that the responsible and equitable use of water resources in Eastern and Southern Europe, as well as Central Asia, was essential.  Planning, cooperation and technical capacity-building was all necessary for those purposes.  Although most countries were fairly advanced in planning, further development of strategies for cross-border resources was needed.

    Governments needed to assume responsibility for setting up frameworks for poverty reduction through water and sanitation access, with meaningful incentives and disincentives, he said.  He also outlined factors needed for improved sanitation.  Sustainable housing required decentralized planning.  A reduction in financial support for housing had been experienced in countries in transition, where there was a serious deterioration in existing housing stock.  That must be reversed, with private sector and tenant involvement, among other conditions.

    GULDEN TURKOZ-COSSLET, of UNDP, said that country offices were at the heart of the agency’s work in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Within the region, subregional differences had grown over the years, especially between those countries that had joined the European Union and those who had not.  European Union accession had been a driving force for reform in water management, in contrast with the five former Soviet States of Central Asia.  Strategies against the evaporation of the Aral Sea, for example, had not progressed adequately to deal with the problem.

    She described transboundary work in various river basins, as well as a myriad of regional partnerships that had been developed.  Water and national development strategies were being integrated in various projects.  She described some of those projects in Tajikistan.  The objective was to mainstream water programmes into UNDP’s overall work.

    Questions and Comments

    The representative of Argentina, on behalf of the Rio Group, said that implementation of the approach adopted by the Commission in 2003, including its regional component, should be assessed.  The use of mechanisms should be reinforced so that regional consideration of sustainable development-related issues could be established in the documents produced through the debates and negotiations, leading to intergovernmental approval at the regional level.

    He said the Group acknowledged the contribution received so far from the various regional groups, whose impact would increase in line with the support those received.  Any resolution of the regional component should flow from intergovernmental agreements at the regional level, in support of building a qualitative consensus in implementation-related matters.  The similarities among the different regions would enable a deeper debate of the commitments assumed in Johannesburg.  From a systemic point of view, regional contributions could enrich the debate at the global level.

    Poverty eradication was an indispensable requirement of sustainable development, he said.  Thus, the goals of sustainable development were being elaborated in his region as part of the national poverty reduction strategy papers.  The mobilization of additional financial resources in his region was challenging, requiring significant investments that competed with the resources assigned to other key areas, such as education and transportation.

    On behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, Jamaica’s representative asked for a sharing of experiences in the different regions. 

    Luxembourg’s representative, on behalf of the European Union, said that, in terms of the strategy for sustainable development, the European Council had decided that, before end of the year, it would revise the 2001 strategy, as that had already been implemented.

    The representative of Belgium added that the European Union had a particular shared responsibility at the global level to pursue policies of global sustainable development, and to deliver on its commitments to increase official development assistance.  The Union should also, among other things:  intensify efforts to lead the drive for sustainable consumption and production; focus on developing indicators to improve the efficiency of water resource management; and monitor such initiatives.  She underscored the Union’s preference for a four-year cycle of open-ended expert dialogue during the Commission sessions.

    The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, associating herself with statements made by Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that practical technologies had to be emphasized, catchment areas had to be addressed, and least developed countries assisted.  In sanitation, public-private partnerships were essential.

    The representative of Mexico, associating herself with the statement made by Argentina on behalf of the Rio Group, agreed that more efficient technologies had to be applied to the problems at hand.

    The representative of Canada described various priorities of his Government in improving water resource management and sanitation in Africa.  Canada was also assisting countries in addressing housing policy and finance, in addition to housing technology, in many parts of the developing world.

    Cuba’s representative asked the representative of ECLAC whether it was possible to implement the Millennium Development Goals through existing programmes, according to ECLAC studies.  She also asked for ideas for actions and policies that would further assist Millennium Development Goals aid, since many actions discussed related to national action.

    The representative of Australia said it was important to further enhance the so-called matrix to include such things as successful experiences.  He urged the focus to remain, this week, on water, sanitation and human settlements.  He stressed that good governance was fundamental to sustainable development, according to his country’s experience.  Without such governance, assistance would have less impact.

    A representative of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) then asked the assembled to consider all the examples that had been brought into discussion during the day.  He expressed appreciation for the European Union’s efforts in Africa.  He asked how the progress from such efforts could be sustained.

    Replies

    ECLAC’s representative said that certain countries of his region would achieve the Millennium Development Goals, while others would not.  In terms of sanitation, there had been progress across the board from the 1990s through 2002, but there had been a decline in coverage since then.  That did not mean that the region would automatically not achieve the Millennium Development Goals, however.  In terms of water, there was broad coverage in the region, although in some areas that was lower than in others.  In terms of human settlements, there had been some tangible improvements.  In Latin America, policies had led to improvements beyond those absolute numbers, but it was still too early to say whether Latin America would achieve the Millennium Development Goals. 

    He said, in response to other questions, that official development assistance would gradually decline in Latin America once it was deemed that it was achieving a certain level of development, although there were still vast disparities in the region.  For example, the mechanisms for technology transfers were still inadequate.  Cuba had seen progress on essentially all fronts, but that was not the case for all other Latin American countries.  In addition, coordination of regional consultations was still insufficient and, consensus, therefore, was still elusive. 

    ECA’s representative said that Tanzania’s intervention had highlighted some key elements, which should be added to an outcome text, particularly regarding rainwater harvesting, protection of water catchment areas, and increased financial support.  In his own statement, he had not provided detail of the difference actions by area, but he had summarized actions around the understanding that under the leadership of AMCOW, subregional initiatives and priority lists of interventions had already been agreed in his region, including policy options for each of the five subregions of the continent.  On sanitation, Tanzania was appealing for greater attention to solid waste management, in addition to water-related sanitation issues, so those were not specific questions per se, but a proposal for an addition to the document.

    UNDP’s representative said that it had established an internal water task force to bring together representatives from the regional bureaus to exchange experiences.  The main point had been that the poor and marginalized populations in all of the countries were the last to benefit from programmes, in general.  The UNDP was trying to deal with that situation in a number of ways.  For example, it was identifying low-cost solutions under a community initiatives programmes and seeing how local government could support those initiatives.  It was also making macro- and microlinkages between the poorest populations and policymakers at the level of local government. 

    Decentralization, she said was another area to be addressed.  Integration was another major area.  Water supply and sanitation were seen from so many diverse viewpoints, and there were so many users, which contributed to competing demand among the different sectors.  The question was how to bring those sectors together and establish national priorities to solve the conflicts arising from that competition.  At the transboundary level, the UNDP was working with governments to establish a multi-stakeholder dialogue, in order to contribute solutions.  Capacity-building was common to all quests under consideration, and should be built at all levels.  Exchange of experience between countries and regions was also crucial.

    * *** *