Press Releases

    ENV/DEV/839
    13 April 2005

    Commission on Sustainable Development Holds Six Interactive Discussions on Water, Sanitation, Human Settlements

    Key Issues Include Access to Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, Housing, Jobs, Wastewater Treatment

    NEW YORK, 12 April (UN Headquarters) -- The Commission on Sustainable Development held six interactive discussions on water, sanitation and human settlements today, as it continued its 2005 session devoted to policies and practical measures to accelerate progress towards achieving the global Millennium Development Goals.

    On the topic of human settlements, a morning discussion focussed on access to housing and public services, while the afternoon session took up job creation and enterprise promotion.

    Husniyya Mammadova (Azerbaijan) chaired the first housing discussion, which was introduced by Dinesh Mehta and Nefise Bazoglu of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). The panellists emphasized the growing importance of alleviating the plight of the urban poor as well as the market conditions that kept the poor from owning housing. They advocated integrated planning that included specially serviced land set aside for the low-income housing, as well as innovation in credit schemes and the expansion of a pilot slum upgrading program.

    In the discussion that followed, representatives of countries, as well as non-governmental groups, expressed interest in the slum upgrading programme and urged the development of a participatory approach to planning, with a particular emphasis on women and youth. Integrating disaster management, as well as water, sanitation and other infrastructure into urban planning and development was also considered crucial. Tenant security and the promotion of innovative microfinance schemes were other common concerns.  Finally, there was much concern that the Millennium Goal target for slum alleviation -- aimed at 100 million people -- was too low, and some speakers asked how that Goal could be harmonized with the others.

    The topic of job creation and enterprise promotion, chaired by Shin Boo-nam (Republic of Korea), was introduced this afternoon by Kees van der Ree from the International Labour Organization (ILO). He noted that most jobs held by poor people were not in formal wage employment or in the public sector. The challenge was, therefore, helping people and enterprises create good jobs, while bringing them into an appropriate legal and regulatory framework.  Other speakers in that discussion stressed that job creation should be integrated into all sectors; that labour-intensive working methods should be encouraged; and that innovative financing for small enterprises should be developed.

    On the subject of water, the first discussion this morning focussed on Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), chaired by Roberto Lenton of the Technical Committee of the Global Water Partnership.  Joakim Harlin, Water Resources Specialist of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bureau for Development Policy of the Energy and Environment Group, stressed the importance of developing comprehensive water information systems and decentralized management of monitoring networks. 

    Later this morning, Jamal Saghir, of the World Bank, and Ravi Narayan, of WaterAid, introduced the discussion on access to basic water services. Mr. Saghir said that, around the world, governments and other stakeholders were implementing solutions to this problem, but the only way to reach the Millennium Development Goals was to charge those that could pay and fully subsidize those that could not, i.e., the poor.

    In discussions on water, speakers agreed that international financing was essential, and also they stressed the importance of integrating water resource management plans into national development strategies, including into poverty reduction strategies. The representative of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that all such strategies should be based on an ecosystem approach.

    The first session on sanitation, this afternoon, focused on access to basic sanitation.  Addressing that topic were Ede Ijjasz, Water and Sanitation Programme, World Bank; Goui Ghosh, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council; and Vanessa Tobin, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Ms. Tobin said that without a sharp increase in the rate of progress, there would be 3 billion people without sanitation by 2015.  Although major progress had been made in Asia, little more than one third of its population had access to adequate sanitation facilities, and coverage in sub-Saharan Africa was only at 36 per cent.  Every country must scale up efforts by focusing on successful initiatives, she urged.

    A further session on sanitation discussed wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse, with panellists Veerle Vanderwerd of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Jamie Bertram of the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Mr. Bertram said that three decades of international wastewater efforts showed the persistence of a real technology gap, along with substantive adverse economic impacts of wastewater mismanagement. The adverse impacts could be reduced significantly and at a low cost, but the wastewater policy was often inconsistent with health policy.

    In discussions on sanitation this afternoon, speakers again stressed that an integrated approach was needed, along with international assistance for developing countries. On behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, Jamaica’s representative had said that the effects of lack of sanitation and sanitation facilities went well beyond individuals, and even individual countries. Clearly, he said, capital was a requirement, as was the need to subsidize those in need.  Without sufficient official development assistance (ODA) for that purpose, the sustainable development targets would not be met.

    The Commission on Sustainable Development will meet again tomorrow, 13 April, to hold further interactive discussions on monitoring and follow up of progress in water, sanitation and human settlement issues.

    Interactive Discussions on Water (AM)

    Meeting on the second day of its two-week session, the Commission on Sustainable Development convened a daylong series of interactive discussions, focusing on water, sanitation and human settlements -- the three interrelated themes on which it aims to decide policy options and practical measures.

    The panellists for the discussion on integrated water resources management included:  Roberto Lenton, Chair, Technical Committee, Global Water Partnership; and Joakim Harlin, Water Resources Specialist, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Bureau for Development Policy, Energy and Environment Group.

    Mr. Lenton wished to situate the subject of integrated water resources management (IWRM) in the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Clearly, water development and management were vital to the Millennium Development Goals, especially to the goals on poverty, hunger, environmental sustainability, health and gender. All of those depended, to a large extent, on good water management.  There were clearly synergies in many cases, but also trade-offs -- the use of water for one goal sometimes interfered with the use of water for another.  Managing those trade-offs most effectively required an integrated water resources management approach.

    He said it was a vital first step to catalyze action to moving towards a more integrated approach. In the “water box”, he wanted to use the action targets of Johannesburg as a way of developing strategies that spurred action towards more coherent approaches and outlined the way a country wanted to move towards a more coherent water resources development and management. But, beyond the water box, he wanted to think of ways in which water resources considerations could be taken into account in the broader development planning, particularly in “MDG-based” poverty reduction plans.

    Clearly, what was being discussed had to happen at the community basin and national levels, but the United Nations played a vital support role. The Millennium Project task force, of which he was a part, had pinpointed two current weaknesses: that the responsibility for water resources was shared among various United Nations agencies; and that the declining funds and staffing of those agencies on water in the last 50 years had occurred at precisely that time when the water resources priority had taken on paramount importance. Thus, the task force had concluded that the United Nations system and its Member States must ensure that it and its international partners provided strong and effective support for achieving water supply and management. That meant a stronger ability to act, which involved issues of budgeting, staffing and capacity.

    Mr. Harlin, of UNDP, stressed, in his opening remarks, that data on water resources was needed -- how they vary in time and space, water use, and water quality. How could we talk about integrated management if we don’t know what we are managing? he asked.  Noting that the Chair’s summary of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting, which had been held in New York from 28 February to 4 March, stressed the importance of developing comprehensive information systems and to implement decentralized management of monitoring networks, he suggested that decentralized monitoring should also include water use and pollution.

    He suggested that ways to overcome the difficulties of decentralizing and working in a participatory way would include: targeted capacity-building of institutions and individuals to raise awareness, knowledge, competence and skills -- giving special attention to strengthening women’s role; focus on local problems and create incentives at an early stage -- small-scale investments or other immediately felt benefits; let water user associations influence tariffs and retain a portion of the revenues; secure land tenure and legal rights; and, as suggested in the Chairman’s text, empower local water authorities by giving them the decision-making power and develop alternative ways of generating investment resources.  He also emphasized the need to develop a set of sustainable investment projects.  Once policy options were agreed, practical measures could be included in a practitioners’ guide to help make them operational for implementation.

    A speaker from the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) said he had been pleased with the focus of yesterday and the Chairman’s text on an integrated approach to water resources management, in a rights-based scheme that included small-scale water schemes, decentralization, development of capabilities, and so forth.  He had some concerns, however, about the text and yesterday’s discussion, namely that those had not focused on the rural sector, where most of the world’s poor lived.  A focus on the rural sector required an emphasis on developing institutions and the provision of support.

    United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s representative said that the Programme continuously underscored the need to protect every drop of freshwater and put it to optimal use to overcome the global water management challenges. UNEP had been developing and implementing national and regional strategies, plans and programmes in pursuit of that goal.  It was also working with governments to identify methods of integrating environmentally sustainable approaches to water management. It had adopted the Bali strategic plan, which foresaw additional assistance to developing countries in the integration of environmental sustainability issues.

    On behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Jamaica’s representative said that the preparatory meeting had recognized that water was critical to life and development, and that people had a right to at least a certain amount of water. Policies were important, but they were not the only important factor. The Group would circulate a document later today in which it would lay out how it saw some of those things being done.  Care must be taken to approach the specific context of the specific requirements and constraints of individual countries. There were three big constraints: financial resources; technical capacity and resources; and time.

    Luxembourg’s representative, on behalf of the European Union (EU), urged national governments to urgently step up efforts to develop national water and sustainability strategies based on an ecosystem approach. He supported Dr. Lenton’s point about the contribution of integrated water resource management “outside the water box”, by saying that there should be a clear link between water resources and national development strategies, including anti-poverty strategies. The ecosystem approach stressed the crucial need to improve ecosystem management. Greater efforts should be made to rehabilitate degraded ecosystems and protect the wetlands.

    A speaker from a Uganda-based non-governmental organization said that water was a human right, and a starting point for many non-governmental organizations’ work. That point, therefore, should be at the top of any outcome paper, and not in paragraph 29 of page 7 of the Chairman’s text. The right to water meant that water should be affordable to all. In addition, women had the right to participate in all related decision-making processes.

    Switzerland’s speaker advocated the integration of water resource management plans into national development strategies, including into poverty reduction strategies. She advocated the creation of an organized link between sustainable development strategies and the outcome of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, held earlier this year in Japan.  It should also be realized that multilateral environmental agreements all addressed water management and should, therefore, be seen as an essential part of all tools that were development. She also stressed the importance of preserving ecosystems, as their loss would hurt the poorest people the most. She called for government support of ecosystems.

    Iran’s speaker called for an emphasis on strategic monitoring mechanisms, particularly for developing countries. Those nations needed support in the areas of setting up regulations, finance, expertise and technological assistance, and capacity-building, without which integrated water resource management was not possible. Water management should be accomplished at the community level, but within the framework of national management plans. He similarly agreed with a decentralized approach, but again, that should be done within national policies. Water management was also critical to managing natural disasters, he said.

    Water management was indeed complex and multidimensional, Bangladesh’s speaker said.  Integrated management, therefore, should be tailored to the specific circumstances of each country. Bangladesh’s economy was primarily dependent on natural resources, but of its 54 rivers, 53 flowed beyond its natural territory. Scarce surface water had resulted in a scaling down of groundwater levels, which had greatly affected access to water, fishing, irrigation and the whole ecosystem.  Sometimes, the population had been afflicted by catastrophic droughts. And, traces of arsenic in the surface water had affected 40 million people.  Water desalination and purification had been very costly for his Government.

    Norway’s representative said that the implementation of water management targets required more and better coordinated donor support and strength efforts from the international organizations. Those, both at the United Nations and outside, should cooperate to ensure that their activities were as coordinated and effective as possible. Plans and strategies should be developed according to each country’s circumstances and priorities. As always, no one size fits all. Good governance, coherence and the inclusion of women in the process were also vital.

    The representative of Japan said that each country should make a policy decision to initiate integrated water resource management planning as a first step, especially the rainy and rice cropping countries of Asia.  He also called for better coordinated capacity-building in countries.

    The panellists for the discussion on access to safe drinking water in urban an rural areas were: Jamal Saghir, World Bank; and Ravi Narayan, WaterAid.

    Mr. SAGHIR said that action in water supply and sanitation was ongoing, but still slow.  Around the world, governments and other stakeholders were implementing solutions, but the only way to reach the Millennium Development Goals was to charge those that could pay and fully subsidize those that could not -- the poor. Generating cash for water payment was essential; a water bill was a sign of ownership, of citizenship. Tariff setting should include arrangements for truly serving and subsidizing the poor. The takeaway message was that connection subsidies better targeted the poor than consumption subsidies. The poor were often willing to pay consumption costs, but they could not afford the connections.

    He said that the World Bank was supporting countries to overcome that problem. For example, it had helped some 30,000 people recently in Lima, Peru. A combination of innovative connection subsidies and engagement of the stakeholders would benefit poor households. Investment worldwide in water needs should increase dramatically to meet the Millennium Development Goals. The water supply authorities in Cambodia, for instance, had managed to become financially autonomous through that approach.  Now that the utility was “out of the red”, it was better positioned to expand its service to poorer communities.

    Finances must also be mobilized, he said.  Everything available was needed to tackle the crucial water issue.  Ninety per cent of all water investment came from the developing countries themselves, and, of that, 60 to 70 per cent came from the public sector.  The share of the private sector was less than 10 per cent.  The issue of governance included a clear division of responsibility and a clear line of authority and accountability.  There was “no one size fits all”.

    Mr. NARAYAN, WaterAid, agreed that any strategy to reach the objective would depend on national contexts, but there were some general principles to be applied, although those varied among situations.  The first principle was more and better financing.  The allocation of the past decade for water and sanitation had been “hopelessly inadequate”.  Spending needed to at least double in the next 10 years, in order to reach the Millennium Development Goals.  Time was pressing.  That meant a greater allocation for water from national budgets, since national governments had the first responsibility to demonstrate their commitments.  A greater allocation of official development assistance (ODA) was also needed for water and sanitation projects.

    There had been some very encouraging recent signs, he said.  For example, the United Kingdom and France had decided to double their allocations in that regard.  Other governments should do the same.  Also official development assistance should be aimed at the poorest and lowest-income countries.  “If we are serious about reaching the ‘MDG’ targets, then that had to be done by 2008”, he stressed.  There should also be improved coordination among aid donors and the relevant national government departments, including education and health.  All should work together around specific themes to deliver harmonized and integrated results.

    He also called for effective governance, as well as the targeting by national governments of poor communities and regions within their countries.  The degree of neglect was proportionate to the distance travelled from the national capital.  Ensuring local capacity to use funds should also be enhanced, or waste, corruption and poor performance would continue.  Effective governance also meant the genuine participation of all stakeholders, which did not often come naturally to bureaucrats and politicians.  Accountability was also important.  It was a sad fact that most coverage figures were inflated.  Without authentic information, “we would be paddling up the wrong creek”, he said.

    Similarly, Finland’s representative stressed the need to develop capacity planning at the local level, and for the international community to support countries in preparing those plans, through experiences, best practices and monitoring.  The Commission should agree on concrete milestones and on monitoring of that planning.  Water, as cross-cutting issue, should properly address the actions of related sectors.  Enabling intersectoral cooperation of land and water management issues should be set in place.  The poor were most vulnerable to the consequences of unsustainable water management and environmental degradation, of which natural disasters and water scarcity caused by climate change were among the most critical causes.

    The representative of the Russian Federation said that when elaborating water management strategies, it was important to take account of all factors, particularly ecological ones.  Such strategies should emphasize social factors as well, and take into account the specific characteristics of each State.  More attention should be paid to information about problems related to rational use of water resources.  He supported the ecosystem approach, as generated by Switzerland.  On the issue of decentralization, he said he did not dispute its positive aspects, but account should be taken of existing management systems in various countries, as those differed from country to country.  As Norway had said, one size did not fit all.

    A trade unions representative stressed that water was a fundamental human right, and he would like to see government support of that concept.  The issue of investment also demanded more attention, including the fact that sometimes investments promoted unsustainable practices.  In terms of basing water management plans on market-based solutions, he was concerned that individuals might, therefore, be denied access to water.  Also, the private sector’s role should be researched.  Off-book activities and long-term concessions, public guarantees for profit, and public debt burden should also be examined.

    Indonesia’s speaker said he supported the policy proposal to complete preparation of integrated water resource management plans in lines with a country’s objectives.  He sought a more equitable allocation of water for production, and assurance of the integrity of ecosystems through all water management plans.  He also recommended promoting synergies between the different water usages at local levels, as well as providing security from droughts and other water-related disasters.  Good governance and the promotion of water management through sound economic and social values were other important themes.  Improving access to safe drinking water could be achieved by bringing about priority changes at all levels of government and civil society.

    The representative of the indigenous peoples Treaty Council said that the customary water uses of indigenous peoples must be recognized by governments, which must ensure that those peoples’ rights were enshrined in national legislation and policy.  The effective use of existing resources and the active participation of indigenous peoples should also be ensured. 

    South Africa’s speaker highlighted the challenges of meeting the needs of poor developing countries, which still required technical assistance and financial support.  He was concerned that the Chairman’s text had not adequately reflected the need for such specific support.  Achievement of water use efficiency required market access and trade reforms since developing countries, particularly in Africa, could only invest in efficient water use if they received fair returns for their production, which was not currently the case. official development assistance support should be provided in a more streamline manner, and donor efforts should be better harmonized.

    The United States’ speaker cited some examples of a few mechanisms that interested countries could use to advance implementation of some policy options on the IWRM.  One was the UNDP’s shared waters programme, which brought together multiple donors and developing countries to build the latter’s capacity to address shared water issues.  The UNDP had developed a mechanism by which expertise could be provided.  The programme had filled a special niche, providing flexibility and timely support to countries at critical points in shared waters management.

    The representative of the Republic of Korea urged the decentralization of decision-making and monitoring.  The ecosystem approach should be taken into account as an integral part of integrated water resource management.  Water resource management plans should incorporate a basin-wide approach, by taking into account the geographical characteristics of each water basin.  His country had introduced a water management system on a river basin combining four major rivers, with tangible results.

    Iceland’s representative said people were helped in one place and their ecosystems were harmed elsewhere.  Coastal zones were the most productive ecosystems on Earth and, therefore, particularly vulnerable against land-based pollution.  One in five people depended on fish as a primary protein source, and fishing provided direct or indirect livelihood for 400 million people.  Thus, the Chair’s summary should mention that a global programme of action for the protection of marine environments was a very important instrument for ensuring a holistic approach to integrated water management.

    Canada’s speaker stressed that the global effort towards integrated water resource management should be oriented towards achieving of four main strategies, including designing governance mechanisms across all areas of jurisdiction.  It was the role of governments to create the institutional and policy framework for water management, by designing and implementing appropriate mechanisms tailored to their own national circumstances.  But, with governments working together, progress was much more achievable.  It would take a global effort to apply a wider spectrum of instruments and tools; a one-size-fits-all approach was not effective.  He called for policy-makers’ use of science, and for a reliable information base.

    Kenya’s speaker said that integrated water resource management was not an end in itself, but a framework of ensuring resource management against a backdrop of water demand.  As a water scarce country, Kenya had embarked on a new policy and legislation, known as the Water Act, in 2002.  Both the policy and the Water Act had created a conducive environment for preparing a management plan.  But, its preparation and implementation required technical and financial support from the international community, in line with the Johannesburg Plan of Action.  Capacity-building across the board was also vital.

    The representative of Mexico stressed the urgent need to develop an integrated international policy, given the fragmentation and large number of agencies dealing with the different aspects of water management.  Education was also crucial, and Mexico had distributed 100 pieces of advice to households on how to manage water.  That must be agreed by and between the various water users.

    The Youth and Children non-governmental organization’s representative called for greater transparency within the consultative and decision-making processes.  The full involvement of local communities, civil society, women’s and youth’s groups were also important.  Hopefully, all governments would live up to the commitment of appointing a youth representative as part of their delegations.

    Other speakers participating in the discussion were:  Philippines; International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance; Business and Industry Group; Australia; European Commission; Lesotho; France; and the Women’s Caucus.

    Chairperson’s Summary

    The Chairperson said that very few speakers had provided specific guidance on points to be included in the outcome text, and their points were still “rather vague and not concrete enough”.  A few points came up repeatedly however, including:  adding integrated water resource management to national plans and poverty reduction strategies, linked hopefully to attention to ecosystems; the role of knowledge in the broadest sense; that there should be training in integrated water resource management; that water should be included in educational curriculums; decentralization; cost recovery systems; and increased investment.  A central point had been the need to involve local levels in all areas of water management, particularly at all levels of society, including women.  She was concerned that delegations might want to consider “getting the messages right” through more concrete substance for the draft chair’s text.

    Interactive Discussions on Human Settlements (AM)

    The panellists for the topic of access to housing and public services were:  Dinesh Mehta and Nefise Bazoglu of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).

    Mr. MEHTA, of UN-HABITAT, said that it was critical to recognize the urban context to meet MDGs.  Ninety-five per cent of growth in the coming years would occur in urban areas.  There was economic growth, but also growing poverty in those urban areas, mainly in the slums or the urban housing settlements.

    A house, he continued, was both a consumption good and an investment good.  However, the urban poor did not have access to such luxuries and the marketplace did not cater to the poor.  All the elements that went into the production of housing helped exclude them.  Buying land, for example, was not open to them.  Special planning zones should, therefore, be set aside for low-income housing.

    A new planning approach was needed, he said, to ensure “serviced land” for the urban poor.  That planning process must involve poor tenants, at the local level.  The capacity of local authorities must be built to allow that.  In the area of financing, innovative methods must also be found to counteract the myth that the poor were not credit-worthy.  For that purpose, new mechanisms to replace traditional collateral must be developed, among others.

    Ms. BAZOGLU, also of UN-HABITAT, said that it was important to have special goals in the area of human settlement because slum upgraded programs addressed a multitude of aspects of human life.  It was important to target urban slums because -- even though cities seemed more prosperous than the countryside -- there was severe inequality in urban areas.  At the beginning of the century, over one billion slum-dwellers existed.  In sub-Saharan Africa, three out of four urban dwellers lived in slums.

    In the Middle East, she said, national programmes to counteract slum conditions were having some success.  In some successful programmes, however, one or two services were missing and were able to be enhanced.  In sub-Saharan Africa, all basic services were lacking at the same time.

    She said that it was often thought that improving slum conditions would have a negative effect through drawing people to the urban areas.  Urbanization, though, occurred because of many factors.  Often rural areas become towns.  In addition, there is natural increase among urban-dwellers, who have high fertility rates.  Urban migration would also continue for a variety of economic reasons.  Finally, she said, slums should be seen in a positive way, by transforming them into lower middle class settlements which were less hazardous to the environment.

    As a point of order, the representative of Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union, said that it was unconscionable that certain important groups were not admitted to yesterday’s plenary session.  Continuing, she stressed the need to expand the goals for slum relief and recommended the promotion of integrated planning at the local level, along with a range of other mechanisms to promote sustainability of urban and rural settlement structures.  Sustainable land-use, transportation, energy use and waste reduction were among the issues to be discussed in that context.  She also discussed a range of topics related to the relation of poverty eradication, sanitation, gender equality and human settlements.

    HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA (Azerbaijan) chaired the discussion.

    The representative of Sweden then expanded on mechanisms to allow participation of women and other groups in matters of urban planning. 

    Finland’s representative recommended that UN-HABITAT be recognized as the focal point for monitoring and follow-up on human settlement issues.  He said the agency also had a role in such issues as transportation and energy that effected settlements.

    Indonesia’s representative recommended that best practices be developed for urban planning, for the benefit of countries that did not have the capacity to develop such policies on their own.  Referring to the tsunami disaster, he said that disaster mitigation should be taken into account in those policies.  Microfinance should also be included.

    A representative of the local authorities group said that local authorities had an essential role to play in promoting sustainable and liveable urban settlements.  Innovative financing was also crucial.

    South Africa’s representative stressed that international support was needed to meet the challenges posed by urbanization.  Existing global targets were not ambitious enough because of the growth of slum populations.  He then proposed a range of land-use and financial mechanisms.

    The representative of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the capacity for meeting targets was as important as the targets themselves.  Among the constraints to be overcome was financing, both governmental and individual.  That issue must be tackled.  Housing technology also had to become a focus.

    A representative of indigenous peoples said there must be equitable attention paid to rural areas.  Security of tenure, access to water, maintenance of biodiversity and other issues were particular important to indigenous people.  Those people and their traditional knowledge had to be incorporated into settlement planning.

    Brazil’s representative spoke of the challenge of access to housing, mentioning microfinance as an important policy option in that area.  International support for such finance should be strengthened.

    The representative of Mexico urged an integrated approach to urban planning that incorporated transportation, education, sanitation and many other elements.  She proposed a range of measures to further the Millennium Development Goals through housing and urban services.  Security and poverty alleviation were particularly important.  She described Mexico’s programme called “Tu Casa”.

    A representative of trade unions said that workers should be involved in the planning of urban infrastructure.  Workers know how to create healthier, safer “green jobs”.

    The representative of the Russian Federation said it was key for governments to work out long-term strategies for sustainable human settlements.  Those strategies should take into account particular conditions in each country.  A range of regulations and mechanisms should be developed at local and national levels.

    France’s representative endorsed the positions of Luxembourg on behalf of the European Union.  He also recommended a comprehensive approach for key services.  All stakeholders must be involved in developing such an approach.  He supported an international statement that would endorse HABITAT’s policy positions.

    Egypt’s representative, endorsing the statement of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77, stressed the importance of small-scale projects that were divided into phases.  Developing countries needed assistance in designing financing mechanisms and seed money for microfinance.

    The representative of Nigeria said many proposals from delegates and in the Secretary-General’s report were laudable.  However, the capacity of many countries was an obstacle, including economic and structural problems.  In addition, rural development must be addressed so that the urban populations don’t continue to increase at such a rapid rate.

    A representative of non-governmental organizations said that proposals on human settlement issues must turn into actions.  He called for a revision of the slum improvement goal towards the HABITAT proposal for halving slum condition by 2015.  He also called for a right to housing and sanitation, along with concrete measures to improve housing and basic services.  He also called for more involvement of civil society in housing issues and regulations that allow for housing opportunities outside of the market system.

    The representative of the Republic of Korea said that housing policies should be tailored to each income group.  He described his country’s policies in that regard, which included financing for low- and middle-income housing.

    The representative of Norway said that slums were associated with various kinds of discrimination and inequality.  Security of tenure was a priority for improving the situation of slum-dwellers.  In addition, poor people must be included in the legal system in order to secure rights to housing and services.  Civil society must also be strengthened to secure those rights.

    The representative of the United Kingdom, supporting Luxembourg’s statement on behalf of the European Union, said it was most important to assist the poorest to get credit.  He asked for more information on the “Slum Upgrading Facility”, as it concerned the day’s agenda.

    The representative of the United States said that solutions to urban problems must be increasing local, with best practices shared internationally.  He encouraged the sharing of specific case studies, particularly through United Nations-HABITAT.

    Australia’s representative said agencies and donor countries should develop more microfinance mechanisms, and that solutions should be found to persistent problems of urban and peri-urban areas.  Small programmes, she noted, could leverage larger investments, especially in water and sanitation projects.  She said that rather than changing internationally agreed targets, it would be better to mobilize the international community to action that would ameliorate the plight of all slum-dwellers.

    Ghana’s representative spoke of the chaotic development of human settlements in many countries.  He asked if UN-HABITAT had taken that real situation into account.

    The representative of Cuba said that a just economic order would encourage accessible housing for vulnerable groups.  Inequitable globalization had been the cause of much urban poverty, as had the blockade against his country.  He described some measures that his country had taken towards a positive evolution of the housing situation, particular in security of tenure.

    Kenya’s representative said that proactive policies were needed for the creation of low-income housing, as well as the improvement of rural areas.  Local materials and labour should be used more effectively to build more cost-effective housing.  Resources should be mobilized both nationally and internationally to make microfinance available.

    Belgium’s representative described his country’s “Local Agenda 21” programme that was implemented directly with local governments of medium-sized cities in developing countries, and creating a network of information-sharing among such cities, both in developed and developing countries.  He said that experiences in that programme would be detailed in a side event.

    The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said that poverty, capacity, urban land scarcity and governmental policies related to human settlements.  External support should also be provided to those countries that faced an influx of refugees.

    Jamaica’s representative said, in regard to meeting targets, said that there were always large gaps between international targets and actual worldwide needs.

    Uganda’s representative said that provision of urban services was extremely difficult for developing countries.  For that reason, she welcomed increases in official development assistance and support to the Slum Upgrading Facility.

    Mr. MEHTA, of United Nations-HABITAT, replying to representatives’ comments, said that the target of 100 million related to the “Cities without Slums Initiative” in the Millennium Declaration.  The Declaration should be reread to clarify the issue.

    He said the Slum Ugrading Facility was initiating pilot projects in four countries.  Seed capital would be used to leverage domestic capital. The Blair report was advocating a $250 million capitalization for the facility itself, which would allow not only slum upgrading, but also prevention.

    Ms. BAZOGLU, of United Nations-HABITAT, said that the setting of a target was the technical reflection of international resolve.  In regard to the target of alleviating slum-dwellers, that target was particularly hard to monitor in comparison with the provision of services and other kinds of improvement.

    It had been found, she said, that employment programmes had to be provided in slum upgrading programmes, along with credit programmes, so that debtors could pay back their loans.  Best practices had also determined, from a survey of Addis Ababa, that gender was a major factor in homelessness.  She had also noted concern that spreading slums would cover all peri-urban land and parkland.  New settlements, she said, had to be planned, with credit and service mechanisms besides.

    Ms. MAMMADOVA, chairperson, summed up the concerns of participants.  She said of most concern was the development of a participatory approach to planning with a particular emphasis on women and youth.  Integrating disaster management, as well as water, sanitation and other infrastructure into urban planning and development was also considered important.  She said that tenure security, transparent planning practices and the promotion of microfinance schemes had also been common concerns.  There was a convergence on the view that innovative financing had to be developed and given sufficient attention.

    Many delegates, she said, had advocated strengthening UN-HABITAT in the area of slum upgrading and other areas.  In addition, many had asked that mechanisms be created to make best practices, technical information and case studies more available.  Finally, there was a concern that the target for slum alleviation of the Millennium Development Goals, that was 100 million people, was too low, and some had asked how that goal could be harmonized with other Millennium Development Goals.

    Human Settlements -- Job Creation and Enterprise Promotion (PM)

    KEES VAN DER REE, of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that most of the jobs of the poor were not in formal wage employment or in the public sector.  So the issue was helping people and enterprise create and improve jobs, while bringing them into an appropriate legal and regulatory framework.  In that context, he suggested a number of practical proposals that built on the preparatory meeting’s advocacy of infrastructure investment, local enterprise development and opportunity enhancement for women and youth.

    He suggested a partnership strategy for the informal economy to be implemented through municipalities, and said that employment issues should be mainstreamed and articulated in national and local programmes for slum upgrading.  In addition, a comprehensive capacity-building effort at the local and national level should help governments promote enterprise development among youth and women.  That effort should include education, training, knowledge-sharing and study tours.  Mentorship programmes were also helpful in that context.

    Market access at regional and global levels should be improved in order to enhance growth opportunities for women and youth, he continued.  Regional and international trade agreements should also reflect those concerns.  Microfinance services, including microleasing and venture capital facilities, were an indispensable element in those approaches.

    The representative of Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union, said that the EU would like to promote local enterprise development and job opportunities through appropriate local infrastructure projects.  International funds should be used to leverage national and private investment in that regard.

    A representative of the International Habitat Coalition said that it was possible to stimulate values in society that increased employment.  People-centred habitats should be created with employment in mind.

    A representative of the Youth Caucus on Human Settlements said that youth were especially vulnerable in slum areas.  He proposed peer-to-peer capacity-building efforts such as those utilized in HIV prevention programmes, as well as credit programmes and other programmes targeted at youth.

    A representative of the Scientific and Technological Community proposed that research and capacity-building, as well as behavioural and social scientists, should be involved and adequately funded in habitat and employment projects.

    A representative of the Women’s Caucus said that if there was no job creation, women could not purchase homes or land. Therefore, a gender-conscious approach to job creation and credit distribution was necessary.

    A representative of United Nations-HABITAT said that decent jobs and decent habitats were closely linked.  Employment was also integral for preventing future slums.

    The representative of Iran said that job creation for slum-dwellers should be part of all national policies and poverty-reduction strategies.

    A representative of business and industry said that housing often doubled as a venue for business, and should be supported as such.  A stable national regulatory and legal environment was also important, as well as policies that encouraged trade and private enterprise.

    The representative of the United States said that employment should be increased and improved under a variety of local initiatives, with a variety of actors that worked towards a common goal through networking.  Innovative partnerships should be encouraged.

    The representative of the Republic of Korea said that employment and enterprise promotion was crucial.  For those purposes, education and training was important, especially for women and youth.  Financial incentives should be granted to countries that used labour-intensive technologies, which increased employment.

    A representative of trade unions said his group had created employment profiles of nations and multinational corporations to encourage creation of good jobs.  He encouraged others to help ensure that employment efforts resulted in the creation of stable, safe, sustainable and decent-paying jobs.

    Ghana’s representative said that African countries needed financial and technical assistance to support policies that would lead to greater employment and slum eradication.

    Australia’s representative said that a suitable economic framework was essential for the growth of employment and enterprise.

    A representative of youth and children said that access to markets in developing countries would only assist the poorest in conjunction with fair trade and labour regulations.

    South Africa’s representative said that Africa needed to increase its growth rate to create adequate employment and end poverty.  International investment must be made in infrastructure; labour-intensive building methods could further link such infrastructure and employment in a positive way.

    The representative of Kenya recommended a range of methods to increase employment in developing countries, including training, labour-intensive strategies and international investment.

    A representative of local authorities welcomed the work of United Nations-HABITAT on decentralization, since it was only within municipalities that targets on slum alleviation would be met.  Resources should, therefore, flow directly to local governments, bypassing the national level.  Local governments were also encouraging labour-intensive methods for slum upgrading.

    Mr. VAN DER REE, replying to participants’ comments, said he was pleased that job creation had been related to many other issues in the cluster.  Turning to labour-intensive strategies, he said that the issue had to be addressed within sectors and also at the contracting level.  Municipalities needed to cultivate contractors that developed such labour-intensive activities.  Unions and non-organized groups, he said, were also important to strengthen, as were networks of actors working at both the national and international levels.

    SHIN BOO-HAM (Republic of Korea), Chairman, summing up the afternoon session, said that many speakers had voiced the common concern that job creation should be integrated into all sectors; that labour-intensive working methods should be encouraged; and that innovative financing for small enterprises should be developed.

    Access to Safe Drinking Water (PM)

    The following speakers from the morning’s discussion, “Access to Safe Drinking Water in Urban and Rural Areas”, made brief interventions at the opening of the meeting this afternoon:  Tuvalu, Algeria, the Scientific and Technological Community, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Switzerland, Luxembourg on behalf of the European Union, and Colombia. 

    Sanitation -- Access to Basic Sanitation and Hygiene (PM)

    The panellists for the first of the afternoon’s interactive discussions were:  EDE IJJASZ, Water and Sanitation Programme, World Bank; GOUI GHOSH, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council; and VANESSA TOBIN, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

    Mr. IJJASZ said that access to sanitation was a main challenge on the list of the Millennium Development Goals.  That was not only an infrastructure issue:  that was hygiene/sanitation as a package, integral to achieving the Goals.  There were three main issues:  institutional challenges and opportunities; the role of non-governmental and entrepreneurial stakeholders in the process; and the question of sustainability.  One main difficulty in designing and implementing such a strategy was the number of ministries and agencies with unclear mandates.  With so many institutional actors came the challenge of coordination.  At the same time, the multiplicity of factors was an opportunity to draw on the strengths of each agency.

    He said that local governments had very clear responsibility in the context of decentralizing environments.  The sanitation/hygiene challenge could not be solved without skills and knowledge, as the challenge was less about infrastructure and more about behavioural change.  For example, people relied on soap for baking and laundry, but did not necessarily for hand washing.  The profile of the sanitation/hygiene issue should be raised in the poverty reduction strategy papers and as priority issues for action in the finance ministries.  Sanitation and hygiene were considered by governments to be a household issue.  Thus, efforts should be scaled up by all stakeholders to rapidly expand coverage to meet the Millennium target on sanitation.

    The local private sector and non-governmental stakeholders offered a wide range of solutions for all households, he said.  It was important to move away from single technical options requiring high subsidies.  A scaling-up of efforts required a minimum of red tape.  He also advocated close interaction between entrepreneurs and governmental stakeholders, and households, since the latter were in the best position to understand the triggers for behaviour change.  Sustainability of sanitation services went beyond the very important environmental dimension.  There was also a need to maintain healthy environments from the household and beyond.  There also needed to be technical sustainability, resource sustainability, and a sustainable behavioural change in hygiene practices.

    Ms. TOBIN, of UNICEF, said that without a sharp increase in the rate of progress, there would be 3 billion people without sanitation by 2015.  Although major progress had been made in Asia, little more than one third of its population used sanitation, and coverage in sub-Saharan Africa was only at 36 per cent.  More than 1 billion people gained improved sanitation between 1990 and 2002, but the population without coverage still declined by only about 100 million people.  That was because certain agencies had revised the way such data was evaluated, and that had resulted in lower coverage than what had originally been counted.  For example, certain unhygienic latrines had been eliminated.

    She said that in response to the huge challenge facing many Asian countries in halving the number of people without sanitation by 2015, a high-level regional initiative had been launched in 2003.  It had been pioneered by the governments of the South Asian countries and supported by the Water and Sanitation Collaborative Council, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and UNICEF.  It called for community-led demand-driven and gender-sensitive action.  Many countries were now focusing far more on sanitation and hygiene initiatives, but there was still a long way to go to ensure that the number of people without access to sanitation would decline significantly.  Particular emphasis in that regard should be on South Asia, South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

    Every country must scale up efforts by focusing on successful initiatives, she urged.  There was no time left for experimentation or supporting small disbursed initiatives.  The focus should also be on ensuring that schools and health institution had sanitation facilities.  The rational and economic reasons for that were more effective learning, better enrolment, reduced disease burden and the prospect of such behaviour reaching the home and communities.  Long ago, UNICEF had recognized the power of partnerships in reaching the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.  It would continue to press for safe household water and sanitation, as those were the basis for enjoyment of human rights and human dignity. 

    Mr. GHOSH said that the Millennium Goal was not negotiable; it must be achieved, and at the very least, a serious effort must be made at the country level, which was people-centred.  The real problem with sanitation was that it was not a global issue, but a global challenge.  Rather, that was a very local, household-specific and behavioural issue.  A road map had been prepared for the Dakar Water Forum, held last November, which said that countries should define sanitation and that that definition should find its way into the Commission on Sustainable Development’s (CSD) own platforms.  An African minister initiative had been launched in Dakar, Senegal, and in collaboration with all United Nations agencies, a book was being launched at the Commission session tomorrow promoting guidelines on sanitation and hygiene.

    Sanitation -- Wastewater Treatment, Recycling and Reuse

    The panellists were:  Veerle Vanderwerd, United Nations Environment Programme; and Jamie Bertram, World Health Organization.

    Ms. VANDERWERD said that wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse were critical to meeting the Millennium target on sanitation.  If that was not provided, there might well be a situation that was not sustainable with serious repercussions for human beings and ecosystems, alike.  She sought a focus on international measures in the first draft of the decision document emerging from the current session, with an emphasis on:  capacity-building and technology transfers at the international level; and the development of guidelines, checklists and key principles for the sustainable management of wastewater.  She also sought a strengthened Water Sanitation Collaborative Council, and United Nations agencies and others were invited to join the partnership.

    She drew attention to the White Water/Blue Water partnership, which focused on the Caribbean region and specifically addressed the management of municipal wastewater, from the hilltops to the oceans.  That working partnership, launched in Johannesburg, could also be expanded to other regions.  Those two initiatives had shown a great need to strengthen regional forums to exchange best practices and experiences.  The Commission might wish to consider those when drafting its decisions.  In fact, the Commission on Sustainable Development’s annual meetings could be organized in conjunction with existing water meetings, or organized within the framework of existing programmes, such as the White Water/Blue Water initiative.

    Mr. BERTRAM said that three decades had already been devoted to supporting countries’ efforts to encourage the safe and productive use of wastewater.  Summarizing the achievements and the lessons learned, he said that that practical experience had led to the development of international consensus-based guidelines and norms to facilitate and regulate wastewater use in a way that supported health, well-being, and the economy.  The goal had also been to help countries adapt those norms to their specific circumstances, and to implement them.  Those guidelines were advisory to governments and were meant to be adapted to social, economic and environmental factors.  They were aimed at maximum overall public health benefits and maximum use of scarce resources.

    He said that some 10 per cent of the world’s population was thought to consume wastewater-irrigated foodstuffs, which was irrigated with raw or partially treated wastewater.  And, at least half of the countries of the world used wastewater for one purpose or another.  The guidelines had been used as basis for national and subnational situations, and meant to be applied to countries with different climates, among their other differences.  So, there was quite extensive experience to draw on.  A recent review involving some 200 people from more than 50 countries had been undertaken in preparation to update those guidelines. 

    There were some key lessons, he said, including the persistence of a real technology gap and the substantive adverse economic impacts of wastewater mismanagement, which was often transferred between sectors and populations.  The adverse impacts could be reduced significantly and at a low cost, but the policies towards wastewater were often inconsistent with the health policy and the integrated water resource management.  The role of monitoring was clear to informing evidence-based policy-making and decision-making.  For example, the WHO and UNICEF had a joint monitoring programme on sewage use.  Monitoring could also be stepped up at the country level.

    France’s representative drew attention to a key concern:  important technologies in the field of sanitation led to a paradox of an average per capita cost of providing services in the developing countries that was higher than in developed countries.  

    On behalf of the Group of 77 and China, Jamaica’s representative had said that the effects of lack of sanitation and sanitation facilities went well beyond individuals, and even individual countries.  The Group had looked at the proposals on the table and would circulate this evening its full set of proposals and recommendations on how convert ideas into real action. 

    Still, real constraints persisted, he said, including financial capacity constraints of governments, municipalities and individuals.  Clearly, capital was a requirement, as was the need to subsidize those in need.  Without sufficient official development assistance for that purpose, the targets would not be met.  Also, effective technical solutions were not easily available or available on the kinds of terms appropriate for a number of countries, especially the poorest.  Thus, access to technology on preferential terms should be a key recommendation.  Given the sanitation deficiencies described by both the panellists and delegations, and the situations in the poorest countries, sustainable long-term programmes must be formulated.  The Group of 77 had proposed a 10-year program on wastewater management.  Clearly, that needed to be funded at a level that would make a difference.

    The representative of Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union, said that governments and other stakeholders must move the sanitation crisis to the top of the agenda.  Also essential was to be “joined up” in policy-making.  It must be ensured that actions in the fields of water, sanitation and human settlements were mutually supportive and did not undercut each other.  Priorities for water, sanitation and human settlements could be integrated into national poverty reduction and sustainable development plans.  Those priorities must also be reflected in national and decentralized budgets. 

    He said that achievement of the Millennium targets for water, sanitation and human settlements depended on targeting assistance to the poorest people in the poorest countries and improving the poverty focus of projects and programmes by governments and donors.  The importance of sanitation for the poor must be reflected in policies and budgets at the national and local levels.  Awareness raising, hygiene education and promotion were also essential components of sanitation planning.  National policies should include hygiene promotion, and sanitation and hygiene should be introduced into school curriculums.  The supply of sanitation facilities in schools should be prioritized, targeting schoolchildren and young people, especially adolescent girls. 

    Wastewater treatment was an important part of sanitation, as untreated wastewater might promote the spread of waterborne diseases and pollute rivers and groundwater tables, he said.  If adequately treated, however, wastewater could be used as a valuable resource for fertilizer and energy production.  National governments should urgently set up efforts to develop a national sanitation strategy, including wastewater management, as part of an integrated water resource management and ecosystem approach.  Such a strategy should also have a clear link to other nationally owned strategies, such as the poverty reduction strategies. 

    On behalf of the African Group, Ghana’s speaker said that the Johannesburg summit had made sanitation an important development priority in its own right.  To maintain that recognition as policy decisions were taken, it was important, therefore, to integrate sanitation in integrated water resource management plans.  Sanitation coverage in Africa was still very low, especially in informal and rural areas.  The Secretary-General had called for a dramatic escalation of efforts in that regard, coupled by the increased participation of donors.  The African water initiative, which aimed to expand coverage in sub-Saharan Africa, had been welcome.  Most countries could not achieve the sanitation targets without the support of the international community, increased official development assistance directly targeted to sanitation, and relief of the external debt burden. 

    Senegal’s representative said that wastewater reuse was of fundamental importance for a country such as Senegal -- a Saharan country with water problems.  But, that mission was coming up against many difficulties in some countries.  In Senegal, the Ministry of Hygiene and Sanitation had a certain commercial and industrial structure for sanitation in urban areas, and its mission was to develop the reuse of wastewater and other types of waste.  So, there was a tertiary chain of treatment for 20 million cubic meters, which would then be put into a gulf where there were marshes.  But, major obstacles to that goal had included the cost of purifying that amount and finding people to reuse that treated water. 

    The representative of Israel said that lack of sanitation was intimately linked to contamination of freshwater resources and spread of epidemics, making supply of safe water even more difficult.  Besides preventing water pollution, wastewater reuse could alleviate pressure on depleted freshwater resources.  Reclaimed wastewater is a far more stable water source than freshwater resources, so farmers should be persuaded to switch to reclaimed water.  Wide scale use of treated wastewater, mainly for irrigation of crops, should be done responsibly, in order to prevent contamination of edible crops, adequate treatment, control of the plots to be irrigated, and ongoing monitoring should be established and practiced.

    Botswana’s speaker stressed that access to sanitation was critical to hygiene.  Botswana was a dry country, with desert comprising three fourths of its territory.  Thus, there was a very high dependence on ground water.  Protecting groundwater from pollution and waste, therefore, was critical.  Four government agencies were involved in sanitation and wastewater management.  HIV/AIDS was a huge problem in the context of the discussion:  it was taking away a large share of the national budget; and causing many more problems in terms of pollution and disposal of pollutants. 

    He explained that HIV/AIDS patients were sent home for care, due to the pressure on the medical facilities.  That had caused a big problem of disposal of health care waste by community members.  Botswana was in definite need of support in the development and implementation of on-site technologies that were non-polluting, especially to groundwater, as well as a need for viable technologies for wastewater treatment plants.  He also called for support for the promotion in schools of the sanitation issue, as well as for the establishment of appropriate sanitation in schools to ensure good sanitation practices at an early age. 

    Speakers in the discussion also included representatives of the indigenous peoples group, Bangladesh, NGOs, Kenya, the business and industry group, Canada, youth group, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, trade unions; women’s group, Colombia, Mexico, Iran, United Republic of Tanzania, and the Scientific and Technological Community.

    Summing up the discussion, the panellists said that scaling up sanitation efforts required that countries look at financial policies, with a view to mobilizing financial resources, from household credit to official development assistance.  Further efforts should be taken to provide subsidies to the very poor for sanitation solutions in a way that used resources in the best possible way.  It was unclear how the Chair would distil the elements for a targeted and very short decision text, but governments had made some good recommendations.  Many ideas coined some years ago as innovative were now common, such as wastewater reuse. There had been several recommendations about what governments should do, but listing them all would be impossible and overwhelm government, as well as dilute the impact of the policy session.  The challenge was to distil from the rich discussion the few operational mechanisms that would enable change.  Many countries had raised the issue of wastewater reuse, and their words had tended to imply its importance, as well as its persistent difficulty in the real world.

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