Press Releases

    ENV/DEV/841
    18 April 2005

    Sustainable Development Commission Begins Negotiations on Draft Outcome Document

    NEW YORK, 15 April (UN Headquarters) -- Major country groups, youth, farmers, women and trade unions weighed in today as the Commission on Sustainable Development began negotiations on elements for a decision it hopes to reach by the end of its two-week session next Friday on the policy session’s thematic areas -- water, sanitation and human settlements, plus international institutional arrangements for follow-up of the decision.

    Commission Chairman John W. Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) introduced his five-page text containing proposed elements for a decision aimed at advancing implementation of internationally agreed development actions, including “Agenda 21” and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. The draft text also recalled the outcomes of the Commission’s last session in 2004 and the 2005 intergovernmental preparatory meeting, which had identified policy options and practical measures.

    In the area of water and sanitation, the focus was on access to basic water services, integrated water resources management, access to basic sanitation, sanitation and hygiene education, and wastewater collection, treatment and reuse. On human settlements, the text underscored the need for affordable land, housing and services, employment and enterprise promotion, and international institutional arrangements to follow up the current session.

    As he introduced the text, the Chairman said it contained several elements that delegations had identified in the cycle of discussions, and the time had come to negotiate. As an initial reaction, delegations commended the text as worthy of a reformed Commission, while highlighting insufficient attention to certain key points, such as inclusion in the text of a clear link to the “Millennium+5” summit to be held in September, just ahead of the sixtieth General Assembly session. Others cautioned against rewriting the Johannesburg outcome.

    Jamaica’s representative, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, drew attention to three areas in which the text had not drawn fully from the rich discussions. First, when read on its own, the text should be able to motivate the international, regional and national communities. So, the first part of the document had to have a rational summing of where things stood and where they needed to go. Second, the text should delineate responsibilities at national, regional and international levels, so that progress could be measured against those commitments. Third, a clear follow-up process must be elaborated.

    Similarly, Luxembourg’s representative, on behalf of the European Union, agreed that some extremely important elements had not been fully reflected. Those included the mandate given by the Economic and Social Council to the Commission to contribute to the September summit, and the fleshing out of cross-cutting issues. The Union was also thinking about how best to reflect the various actors’ responsibilities. On follow-up and monitoring, the many constructive proposals of delegations had also not been clearly or fully reflected in the text.

    Also contributing initial reactions were the representatives of some major groups, such as the non-governmental organizations (NGOs), trade unions, women, indigenous peoples, local authorities, and farmers. The latter group said that the text had not recognized the role of agriculture in hunger alleviation. The farmers’ role in water resources management, other than as a user, and issues related to specific capacity-building needs for farmers in that role were also absent, as were issues related to safe use of treated wastewater for agriculture.

    The NGOs called for, among other things, a separate section on cross-cutting and interlinked issues. Peace, security and social justice should also be underscored as fundamental to sustainable development, and monitoring should involve all stakeholders, especially indigenous peoples. The Chairman had asked the NGOs to hold the delegations’ feet to fire, but it was not possible to do that until the fire was lit, and that required deadlines. No deadlines, no action.

    The business and industry group’s speaker said the text had captured many important points. He said, however, that the text did not stress adequately the connection between achieving progress in water, sanitation and settlements and the other Millennium Development Goals. The text should also give more emphasis to good governance. The rights-based approach, information sharing, multi-stakeholder partnerships and wider donor harmonization were other elements that needed to be strengthened.

    The representative of youth and children said sustainable solutions should be stressed in the provision of basic services, as should a rights-based approach. A strong regulatory framework was necessary for both purposes. The sustainable practices of indigenous people should be further prioritized, as well as training and partnerships for youth employment. Overall, the document did not provide specific dates and mechanisms for reaching its goals.

    This afternoon, the Commission focused on the preambular section of the text, as well as on the section concerning international institutional arrangements for follow-up of the Commission’s decisions. Chairing the negotiations, which opened very briefly before moving into informal consultations, were Vice-Chairs Dagmara Berbalk (Germany) and Khaled Elbakly (Egypt).

    Representatives of the following countries also participated in the morning’s discussion: United States; Tuvalu; New Zealand; Canada; Uganda; Iceland; Sierra Leone; Norway; and Australia.

    Representatives of the scientific and technological group, the women’s group, the local authorities, and the trade unions also spoke.

    The Commission on Sustainable Development will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday to continue its negotiations on the Chairman’s text.

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