Press Releases

    ENV/DEV/847
    22 April 2005

    Solving Global Water Crisis ‘Moral Imperative’, Access to Water Human Right, Mikhail Gorbachev Tells Sustainable Development Commission

    On Second Day of Commission’s High-Level Segment, Focus Remains on Turning Past Political Commitments Into Action

    NEW YORK, 21 April (UN Headquarters) --   As the Commission on Sustainable Development convened the second day of its high-level segment today, the founder of Green Cross International, Mikhail Gorbachev, told the assembled ministers that solving the global water crisis was a moral imperative and that access to water resources was a fundamental human right.

    Mr. Gorbachev, a former President of the then Soviet Union and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spoke today in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of the Geneva-based environmental organization, said “there are decisions that we make and there are decisions that time and circumstances make for us”, and that was now precisely the situation for humankind -- a situation of no choice. One fourth of the world’s population was living in extreme poverty, 800 million were suffering from malnutrition, the parents of 6.2 million young orphans had died of AIDS, and one third of the world’s population had no real access to drinking water. A paralysis of political will was the main cause of that “disastrous state of affairs”.

    According to United Nations’ estimates, if governments allocated an amount equivalent to $20 per capita every year towards solving the water crisis, it would take only 10 years to solve the problem, he said. How could anyone claim that was unattainable? Meanwhile, privatization was a stumbling block. Green Cross International was “totally against” the deregulation of water resources and services management. It was impossible, he said, to look at water supply as a commodity. Water was indispensable for life -– and he called on all Commission participants to support the idea of a convention on the right to water.

    Prompting debate this morning on the second day of the high-level segment were heads of United Nations organizations, regional commissions and specialized agencies. Among them, Assistant Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), Kerstin Leitner, pointed out that water sanitation goals and targets did not aim at full global coverage by 2015. In fact, the WHO’s best estimate was that that coverage would only be achieved by 2025 at the earliest. Time and again, improving water quality and access had proven to be one of the best investments in public health, with a potential return as high as 200 per cent.

    The Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Kul Gautam, said that the Fund, which had been involved in water and sanitation for more than 40 years, looked at that not just as an essential utility to meet basic human needs, but as a powerful means to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Active in more than 90 countries, he highlighted UNICEF’s leading role in coordinating water and sanitation activities in emergencies and humanitarian crises. For example, in the Darfur region of the Sudan last year, it coordinated a major emergency hygiene campaign, covering all aspects of the problem from hand-washing to environmental sanitation and safe water storage.

    During an interactive discussion this afternoon on the same theme –- turning political commitments into action –- representatives of the major groups, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local authorities and trade unions, business and industry, and farmers -- weighed in with some stimulating concerns and proposals.

    Reminding delegates, “no water – no life; no sanitation – no dignity; no housing – no security”, a non-governmental organizations group representative warned that without immediate scaled-up assistance, some African countries would only achieve water targets in 50 years, and the sanitation benchmarks in 85. Debt cancellation was urgent, and poverty-reduction strategies should take the environmental dimension into account. She stressed that fair trade would free up to $700 billion for development. “What countries give in aid, they should not rob in trade”, she said.

    Farmers were not just spectators, but the custodians of natural resources, its representative asserted. And, they were willing to share the responsibility of managing water resources, while being considered on an equal footing with other actors, such as governments. Yet, without capacity-building, farmers would be unable to manage water in a more rational way and the Millennium Development Goals would remain elusive. As for the draft outcome text of the Commission’s session, he appreciated that attention had been given to agriculture, but regretted that there was no mention of agriculture’s human face, or the need to support farmers.

    Also speaking this morning were: Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); Kunio Waki, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Brigita Schmognerova, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO); Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); and Kiyo Akasaka, Deputy Secretary General, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

    Also: Peter Bridgewater, Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands; Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); and Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT); Margaret Cately-Carson, Chairperson, Global Water Partnership; and Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for the Environment of the European Commission.

    Other speakers included the representatives of: United States; Guyana; Pakistan; France; Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union; Brazil; Netherlands; Australia; Barbados; Finland; Hungary; Norway; Belgium; China; Serbia and Montenegro; Israel; Estonia; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Portugal; Russian Federation; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Trinidad and Tobago; Lesotho; South Africa; Zambia; Morocco; Canada; Armenia; Dominican Republic; Tuvalu, on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group; Japan; Mexico; Central African Republic; Egypt; Cape Verde; Sweden; Senegal; Azerbaijan; Costa Rica; Zambia; and Nigeria.

    Representatives of the following additional major groups also spoke: women; children and youth; indigenous people; local authorities; trade unions; business and industry; and the scientific and technological community.

    The Commission on Sustainable Development will meet again tomorrow to conclude its high-level segment, as well as its session for 2005.

    Background

    The Commission on Sustainable Development, on its second day of high-level ministerial meetings, conducted interactive discussions with heads of specialized agencies and United Nations organizations on development issues related to the session’s three thematic areas of water, sanitation and human settlements.

    Statements by Heads of Specialized Agencies and UN Organizations

    JACQUES DIOUF, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), highlighted the urgent need to mobilize financial and technical resources to increase access to water resources for agricultural uses. Noting that 75 per cent of water consumed around the world was used for agriculture, he said an integrated approach to water management was critical. In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, investments were urgently needed.

    In responding to the challenge of fulfilling the Millennium Goals, the FAO had focused on advocacy, preparation of programmes, and the implementation of projects. Recognizing that 70 per cent of the world’s poor people lived in rural areas, with agriculture being the dominant source of employment and income, the FAO prioritized water management for agricultural uses in its poverty-reduction programmes. He said private investments would not come unless there was an environment for competitive investment. Without basic infrastructure for water, rural roads, fishing ports, and slaughterhouses, there would be no serious increase in foreign direct investments on the part of the private sector. He emphasized the need for urgent attention to the key problem of resources, saying that if the commitments made at Monterrey were met, and if sufficient resources were mobilized, there was still time to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

    KERSTIN LEITNER, Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that improving water had proven time and again to be one of the best investments in public health. The return on such investment, as was noted yesterday, could be as high as 200 per cent. Everyone should collectively address the dual challenge to extend the reach of improved facilities to those billions of people who were still excluded and to do so in a way that did not exhaust or pollute the ecosystems that sustained us. The recently published ecosystems assessment had shown that, over the last 50 years, the world system had extracted ever more resources to house an ever growing population, but, at current rates, “we are threatening sustainability of those resources” -- not only the health of the ecosystems, but human health, as well.

    She said that the sustainable development of water and sanitation facilities was more than extending existing facilities. Controlling pollution and scarce natural resources was a matter of finding innovative solutions. She welcomed the renewed demands for UN-Water to be the pivotal point in the United Nations system to give meaning to the Commission’s policy decisions. She hoped and trusted that similar multi-sector and multi-alliances would be formed at national levels, as well. Water sanitation goals and targets did not aim at full global coverage by 2015. In fact, the WHO’s best estimate was that that coverage would only be achieved by 2025 at the earliest. Strong community, national, regional and global leadership, therefore, was needed to bring public and private efforts together.

    KUNIO WAKI, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that given the alarming rate of urban population growth in developing countries, and with already more than 1 million people in the developing world lacking access to safe drinking water, urgent attention was needed to tackle population issues. Unless greater attention was paid to reproductive health, women’s empowerment and gender equality -- all of which directly affected population growth -- the problem of growing slums and rising demand for water could not be overcome.

    He stressed the importance of promoting the participation of women and poor people in development strategies and decision-making processes. In order for developing countries to tackle the challenge of achieving development targets, it was critical to adopt community-based integrated strategies that engaged women and the poor. Measures must be taken to improve women’s access to education, property rights and reproductive health resources. The UNFPA had found over and over again that ensuring the participation of women in policy-making strategies increased the effectiveness and sustainability of development initiatives.

    Noting that half of the world’s population was below the age of 25, he said it was also critical for development strategies to incorporate the interests and needs of young people, as that would provide long-term benefits to development.

    KUL GAUTAM, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that the Fund had been pursuing a goal-oriented and target-oriented approach for the whole decade. The UNICEF had brought much to the table as an active player in water and sanitation for more than 40 years. It supported “low-cost and low-technical” water and sanitation programmes in rural areas and urban slums in more than 90 countries, and it employed several hundred highly skilled technicians. The Fund spent some $150 million each year on those programmes, which was one of the largest contributions of the United Nations family. Indeed, UNICEF had been playing a leading role in promoting water, sanitation and hygiene in schools and in combating water-borne diseases.

    He said that UNICEF was also playing a leading role in coordinating water and sanitation activities in emergencies and humanitarian crises. For example, in the Darfur region of the Sudan last year, it coordinated a major emergency hygiene campaign, covering all aspects of the problem from hand-washing to environmental sanitation and safe water storage. In Iraq, in the middle of the war in Basra, UNICEF trucked in 2 million litres of water daily. Today, it provided some 4.5 million Iraqis with water. During the tsunami disaster, the Fund played a major role in both providing support for water and sanitation and coordinating the activities of other actors in that regard.

    The UNICEF looked at water and sanitation not just as an essential utility to meet basic human needs, but as a powerful means to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, he said. Lack of water, sanitation and hygiene was harmful to children’s health and nutrition, which perpetuated poverty. Lack of those facilities impacted school attendance, especially among girls, retarding education and development. Proper hygiene was key to improving sanitation. Teaching and inculcating good hygiene behaviour to children at a young age was the most effective way to promote sanitation. The UNICEF, as a strong supporter of water, sanitation and hygiene for many years, intended to expand that role, with its United Nations partners, in the more than 90 countries where it was active.

    BRIGITA SCHMOGNEROVA, Executive Secretary General of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), stressed the important role of regional commissions and regional policies in the implementation of the Johannesburg development objectives, and especially in addressing water resource management as a transboundary issue. Regional commissions were uniquely positioned to carry out the aims of regional policy initiatives with regard to the management of shared water resources.

    She said it was impossible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals without recognizing the regional dimension of development strategies. Regional commissions played a critical role in the formulation of regional policies and legal instruments for dealing with transboundary issues. Regional initiatives had brought together various stakeholders at the regional and subregional levels, both within the United Nations system and among international financial institutions and civil society organizations. She urged the Commission to recognize the importance of fully utilizing the regional dimension in the formulation of development strategies.

    MICHEL JARRAUD, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that a network to deal with natural hazards should be established and appropriate resources should be ensured for the long-term to maintain it. The United Nations system had been speaking with one voice with respect to major global initiatives in that regard. For sustainable development, it was important that natural hazards were not allowed to turn into natural disasters. That could be achieved through a multi-hazard approach, which included risk management in the planning. It was also important to create resilient infrastructure based on comprehensive multi-hazard risk assessment, and to focus on warning for all hydro-meteorological hazards, followed by appropriate emergency response systems.

    In terms of disaster management, he said that hydro-meteorological data was the backbone of all phases of disaster management -- prevention, mitigation, response and recovery. The WMO’s system provided an excellent opportunity for countries to develop a comprehensive information system addressing various development needs, including disaster management. There was also a need to reinforce national and regional cooperation. As suggested during the recent Kobe conference, a fraction of disaster relief should be set aside for preventive measures. It had been shown that each dollar spent on prevention was worth $7 on recovery and rehabilitation. That was a 700 per cent return on that investment. Policies must also be transferred into action and much stronger capacity-building efforts were needed at all levels. In addition, monitoring must be effective.

    HAMA ARBA DIALLO, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), addressing the direct linkage between desertification and water management issues, said broadening water access was a precondition for combating desertification. Countries affected by recurrent drought cycles were gravely concerned not only by issues relating to water supply, but also on the integrated management of water resources.

    The UNCCD had undertaken actions to promote integrated water management. Effective water resource management was at the heart of all efforts to combat desertification. Countries affected by desertification had developed national and regional programmes to address the alarming scarcity of water resources and the critical issue of transboundary cooperation among regional and subregional bodies.

    There was a need to increase efforts to disseminate information on the availability and use of water resources, to strengthen capacity-building, and to initiate institutional and legislative reform to improve water management in arid and semi-arid areas. Developing countries had done their best to tackle the challenge of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by preparing national, regional and subregional water management programmes, but there was an urgent need to provide them with the necessary financial and technical resources to enable them to carry out their water development initiatives.

    KIYO AKASAKA, Deputy Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said there was no single magic bullet. All financing sources should be carefully combined. Official development assistance (ODA) should be targeted to regions and countries where it could be used effectively and have the greatest impact on poverty reduction. To enhance poverty reduction strategies, consideration could be given to building on the recent Paris declaration on aid effectiveness.

    He said, however, that external financing, be it ODA or foreign direct investment, was unlikely to be a major source of financing in all but the poorest developing countries. The bulk of financial resources had to come from domestic sources. User charges were essential for ensuring the financial sustainability of the water and sanitation sector, particularly to cover operational and maintenance costs. User charges in the former Soviet Union had accounted for 50 to 90 per cent of the financing for water and wastewater utilities. There were opportunities in many cases to raise user charges and improve billing and collection to raise revenues, while mitigating the effects of tariff increases on the poorest segments of the population.

    PETER BRIDGEWATER, Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, said the framework of the Ramsar Convention had made an important contribution to water resource management, especially on the issue of preserving biological diversity in wetlands. He expected new agreements would be reached on the management of wetlands at this year’s upcoming meeting in Uganda.

    JOSE ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the water, sanitation and human settlements issues cut across the activities of many, if not most, of the United Nations agencies, both the specialized agencies and the funds and programmes. So, a major issue was how to strengthen collaboration around the major goals set by the intergovernmental process, particularly by the Commission. It should be possible to work as a system to implement the Commission’s decisions flowing from the current session, as part of the follow-up to attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, as well as the Johannesburg implementation plan. Collaboration at the country level was of particular concern to the Secretary-General, who had stressed that in his “In Larger Freedom” report.

    Interactive Discussion

    JOHN F. TURNER, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, raised his delegation’s concern with the issue of financing for the development and management of water infrastructure. Since it was widely recognized that revenues needed for water and sanitation infrastructure were overwhelming, there was a need to address the question of how to use ODA as a leverage mechanism to bring in private sector money to build and manage water and sanitation infrastructure.

    NAVIN CHANDARPAL (Guyana) said that poor developing countries had accepted the principle of public-private partnerships as part of developing infrastructure and maintenance in the areas of water and sanitation. But, there was one difficulty when a country had a relatively low level of gross domestic product (GDP) and available capital and, in some communities, extreme poverty. What complicated that was the fact that countries’ ability to generate domestic capital was increasingly being reduced. In other global forums, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), measures were being taken which undermined the efforts of countries dependent on the sale of agricultural products to generate domestic capital. “It was not that our countries were just looking for ODA, but our ability to generate capital is severely limited”, he said.

    A representative of Pakistan addressed his delegation’s concerns about how to attract private entrepreneurs for water and sanitation projects to developing countries with insufficient resources for them to get returns on their investments. Would private entrepreneurs not prefer to invest their projects in developed countries where they were sure to get returns? That issue underscored the urgent need for poverty-eradication measures in order to attract private investment in the world’s poorest countries.

    SERGE LEPELTIER, Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development of France, said that many countries were seeking practical solutions for implementing sustainable development, particularly the Johannesburg plan, but the way to do so still needed to be defined. In order to contribute to the search for solutions, France had developed a national sustainable development strategy, which it quickly subjected to peer review. The results of that review had been presented to the current session on 14 April. The peers had suggested, in particular, a more effective hierarchy of objectives and the notion of combining the national strategy with other reforms in progress, such as that of public accountability.

    He said that the scope of that experiment should be broadened. France was ready to share its experience by taking an active role in the peer reviews of other countries and, as a priority, of countries having volunteered for such reviews. He was convinced of the benefits of those peer reviews and would propose their wider application.

    CLAUDE WISELER, Minister of Public Works of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the United Nations had adopted sustainable development as a key element in the framework for United Nations activities, and in particular for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. United Nations agencies should, therefore, jointly promote an integrated follow-up to the Doha, Monterrey, and Johannesburg summits. Stronger attention was needed on the sustainability aspects of the Millennium Development Goals and on the contribution of respective agencies in that regard. Deciding on specific policy actions in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements were critical in achieving the Millennium Goals and broader sustainable development objectives.

    He said the outcome of Commission sessions should be closely linked to the global debate on achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It was crucial for United Nations agencies and international financial institutions to play a greater role in implementing policy decisions resulting from Commission sessions. United Nations development groups should work with a strengthened United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) towards the attainment of all Millennium Development Goals and Johannesburg goals. It was essential to reach clear agreements on specific actions for the various agencies. Developing countries, too, must integrate Commission policy decisions in their development strategies and programmes.

    KLAUS TOEPFER, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said that the current water initiatives around the globe were a very good basis for optimizing available resources. The African Ministers Conference on Water, for example, was a very important instrument. Concentration should be on capacity-building and technological support, as mentioned by the Minister from Pakistan. That was the best step-by-step plan. In addition, private business should be integrated into the whole programming scheme. He underlined, once more, that the environment and environmental services were not a luxury. The world was losing ecosystem services. Clearly, the provision of water was not a luxury, but a precondition for the correct delivery of services. He also urged the integration of chemical and waste treatment and disposal into the Commission’s outcomes.

    RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) affirmed his delegation’s firm commitment to remain actively engaged in the Commission on Sustainable Development. His delegation was encouraged that sustainability issues were being increasingly discussed in the global agenda. For sustainable development to succeed as practical concept, it should be viewed as an asset and never as a liability. There was a need for inclusion of Bretton Woods institutions in the global debate on sustainable development.

    His delegation recognized that bringing together actors from various sectors was a challenging task. It was difficult to unite views and issues. United Nations agencies and Bretton Woods institutions could play a critical role in that regard. Brazil believed it was not enough to highlight the value of reaffirming commitments to implement development targets. There was a critical need to identify the financing mechanisms to fulfil commitments made and to turn commitment into action. That demanded a concerted effort and United Nations agencies needed to be part of these efforts and to place sustainable development on top of their agenda.

    Mr. OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the financing issue had been raised this morning from several sides. Guyana’s delegation had said that that issue had to be understood in a broad way, including in the context of trade. That was the framework adopted by the Monterrey Consensus. In relation to public-private ownership and investment, a panel on Monday had addressed that very interesting issue. The strongest idea that had emerged was that that was a national decision. So, it was up to each country to decide what role it wanted to give to the private versus the public sector in water, sanitation and human settlements.

    He said that the second issue, on which he had heard much discussion, was the question of providing water and sanitation services to the very poor. The Minister of Pakistan was correct in saying that the money for that purpose would essentially have to come from the public sector, and in the cases of the poorest countries, from ODA. The OECD representative had been correct to emphasize the importance of domestic sources, particularly cost recovery. The private sector could also help finance the public sector. Development of domestic markets, bond markets for instance, would allow local authorities access to resources for those very important activities. It was possible to have private sector operations. For example, the private sector was often the mainstream actor in housing. There, it was clear that the private sector had a leading role, and some water and sanitation services associated with housing were also involved with that sector.

    MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, Chairman of the Board of Green Cross International (GCI), highlighting the moral imperative of resolving the global water crisis, stressed the need to consider access to water resources as a fundamental human right. With a quarter of the world’s people living in extreme poverty, and one third lacking access to safe drinking water, urgent measures were needed to prevent that situation from deteriorating further. The lack of political will to reverse that course was the main cause for such a disastrous state of affairs.

    Green Cross International was convinced that only a rights-based approach to water-management initiatives would increase access to water resources in developing countries. It was impossible to look at water simply as a commodity. Water was indispensable for life and what needed to be addressed was the right of every person to water. There was no international instrument that guaranteed every person the right to water as a basic human right.

    Turning to the issue of privatization in water management, he said Green Cross International was strongly opposed to the deregulation of water resources and services. While companies could certainly contribute to overcoming the water crisis, they should do it only at a time when it was deemed the most reasonable option ecologically, socially and economically. The GCI believed involving the private sector in water management was not the most important, and was not the only means, of providing water to those who need it. The issue of privatization should not be allowed to become an insurmountable obstacle in the elaboration of a universally acceptable strategy for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

    The key issue in tackling the global water crisis was the moral aspect of the problem. The GCI called upon all participants at the meeting to support the idea of drafting a convention on the right to water. If the General Assembly were to support such an initiative in its September session, that would be a concrete step towards the resolution of the water crisis.

    DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands), on behalf of the Prince of Orange, said that in international conference rooms the focus was usually on the big promises: to feed 2 billion more people; to give 2.6 billion people access to sanitation; to connect 1.2 billion people to drinking water networks; and to give 100 million slum-dwellers a roof over their heads. Perhaps, it was those big figures that made it difficult to turn commitments into action. But, the basis for success lay in simply keeping promises. Of course, the Millennium Development Goals would never be achieved with only regular development funds. But, the international community would be on the right track if every donor country met the 0.7 per cent commitment. The same applied to developing countries in terms of good governance. Countries that had their social structures in order got far greater returns from both people and money.

    He said that the next step was to choose the right method. Genuinely sustainable long-term solutions started and ended at the local level, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had to play a leading part. That approach dovetailed seamlessly with the main message being delivered in this year of microcredit: that a lot could be achieved with very few resources, provided that local people were given very specific opportunities, for instance, by focusing on the important role of women. In addition, private players could and must play a much more prominent role. The need to focus on the local level had also been one of the most important conclusions of the FAO-Netherlands conference on water for food and ecosystems, which was held recently in The Hague. Another message of that conference was that only an integrated, sustainable strategy would work.

    IAN CAMPBELL, Minister for the Environment and Heritage of Australia, highlighting the role of private investment in fostering economic growth, said the route to achieving the Millennium Development Goals was the route of economic growth. It was through economic growth that all countries would be able to provide their citizens with sustainable access to water resources.

    National governments had the responsibility to ensure that legal and regulatory frameworks were in place to support the operation of markets that would deliver the efficient allocation of resources to meet individual and community needs. Official development assistance, directed in a way to support emerging democracies, could help developing countries meet these responsibilities. But economic growth would be driven primarily by private investments.

    In order to ensure returns for private investment, developing countries needed to provide enabling environments to attract investment. Those efforts should include securing property rights, establishing markets, promoting democratic decision-making and adopting anti-corruption safeguards. By enabling an environment for private investment, developing countries could create domestic markets for water. For developed countries, the most effective action they could take was to liberalize world trading markets to improve market access for developing country products, especially in agriculture.

    ELIZABETH THOMPSON-MCDOWALD, Minister of Housing, Lands and the Environment of Barbados, supporting the statement made by Jamaica on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the road to sustainable development was now littered with failures, despite the many commitments made over the past 13 years. A commitment to action was needed.

    She said that Barbados was making progress. From its experience, she said that good governance was crucial. In addition, technical exchange, training and sharing of best practices were also important among developing countries. Local authorities needed to be empowered, along with national populations, NGOs and community-based organizations. National strategic action plans were necessary in each of the three sectors of the thematic cluster. Developing countries needed partners in the developed world for appropriate technology transfer and the collection and use of data. Regarding United Nations institutional arrangements, she said that agencies responsible for water issues must be enhanced. In addition, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) must increase global monitoring to achieve the human settlements targets.

    PAULA LEHTOMAKI (Finland) said that eliminating extreme poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals were the mainstreaming goals in Finland’s development scheme. The Government’s intention included a reaffirmation of its intention to reach 0.7 per cent ODA and a pledge to promote coherence of all policies in support of the global poverty eradication target. The September summit was an opportunity to step up efforts towards meeting the Millennium Goals. It was important to recognize the complementarity between the Goals and the Johannesburg Implementation Plan. Millennium Development Goal 7, on environmental sustainability, set obligations for both developed and developing countries. Water, sanitation and human settlements were key areas for achieving the other Millennium Goals. Everyone was aware that a major breakthrough was needed.

    She said that, on the one hand, developing countries must fulfil their commitments and adopt effective economic, political and social policies. They must also fulfil their commitments to democracy, human rights and good governance. On the other hand, developed countries must increase and improve development assistance, promote technology transfers, embrace wider and deeper debt relief programmes, and commit to accelerating the completion of the Doha trade talks. The Secretary-General had underlined in his “In Larger Freedom” report that humanity’s very existence and development depended on environmental sustainability. Desertification, biodiversity and climate change must be addressed as part of a wider security. The report called for a more inclusive international framework beyond 2012 to mitigate climate change.

    The September summit must be more than a stock-taking exercise, she said. It must be an opportunity to accelerate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and strengthen the United Nations in the process. The Secretary-General’s report was bold, but his recommendations were achievable. The commitments could not be achieved without the support of the multilateral system. Finland supported the proposal to strengthen international financial governance. The time for action was now, if the world was to forge a new security consensus based on the recognition that all threats today were interlinked.

    ANNA KAJUMULO TIBAIJUKA, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), said the slum target outlined in Millennium Development Goal 7 was limited to making significant improvements in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers, without linking it to the “cities without slums initiative”, as was the case in the actual goal set forth in the Millennium Declaration. The target was very restrictive and far too modest. It covered only 10 per cent of the 1 billion slum-dwellers already in existence by 2000. It was a global figure and lacked country-level benchmarks, making it impossible for countries to determine their share of the 100 million people targeted. Without preventive measures, by 2020, the number of slum-dwellers would reach an estimated 1.6 billion. A much broader and ambitious approach was needed, she said, calling on the Commission to address that need to the heads of State summit in September.

    UN-HABITAT’s shelter, urban development, research and finance programmes, and its two global campaigns on secure tenure and urban development, had been retooled to respond to the plight of the urban poor, she continued. That included creating a definition of a slum household in order to use existing household-level surveys and censuses and identify urban slum-dwellers, as well as working with other United Nations organizations and national statistical offices to improve household surveys and censuses and thus improve slum monitoring. The Programme had also set up a technical advisory facility to assist governments and community organization with slum upgrading, low-cost housing and urban development. The Blair Commission was proposing capitalizing the facility with $250 million annually over five years to provide a basis for leveraging private-sector resources for affordable housing and urban services infrastructure. The UN-HABITAT had also set up a water and sanitation fund.

    MIKLOS PERSANYI, Minister for Environment and Water of Hungary, addressing the transboundary aspects of water resources, stressed the need for improved coordination and more coherent approaches to water management plans. The formulation of sustainable development programmes and the sharing natural resources, especially of international lakes and river basins, should be the joint endeavour of affected countries.

    He said Hungary had a special interest in that issue since 96 per cent of its freshwater sources originated abroad. While there were various water-related regional conventions and intergovernmental commissions dealing with the transboundary aspects of water resources, he said there was a need to strengthen monitoring mechanisms. Especial attention must be paid to water management in the practical implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

    SYLVI GRAHAM, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, said the poor lacked effective legal protection of their economic assets and transactions in the form of secure, recognized property or user rights. That lack of formal legal protection had meant exclusion and missed opportunities for growth and poverty reduction. Competing claims over land and other resources often led to violence and conflict. Creating secure legal rights with a focus on the poor could enhance security and foster economic and social development. The formation of enforceable private rights in emerging markets in Eastern Europe and Latin America was critical to their development in the last decade. For example, after the inception of property rights in Peru, mortgage loans to the private sector multiplied. In many economies in transition, such loans now substantially exceeded the amount of development assistance they received.

    Similarly, she continued, in societies where women exercised their right to own and inherit property, poor households were able to spend more money on children’s clothing and education. Girls’ health improved and domestic violence against women decreased. Norway supported extending the rule of law to cover the informal economy as a means of poverty reduction and development. The time was ripe for the international community to develop a results-oriented agenda for legal empowerment of the poor. She called for launching a high-level independent, intergovernmental international commission for that purpose, which would meet about four times between 2005 and 2007.

    ELS VAN WEERT, State Secretary for Sustainable Development and Social Economy of Belgium, said that the regions across the country worked together with other subnational regions towards sustainable development, with a view to achieving it through cooperation and exchange of experiences and best practices. She was deeply convinced that a sustainable development policy framework was essential. Also vital was to optimize the coordination of actions by federal and regional levels of government in an effective and ambitious way, thereby using the federal multilateral system to its full potential. Her Government was striving to keep its national strategies and actions in line with those of the current Commission session and other international forums. It was also aware of the importance of the social and North-South dimension in “self-determination policy making”. With the September summit just months away, the Commission must address that issue in a strong manner.

    She noted that the federal Parliament last week had agreed that access to water was a fundamental right. Belgium strongly believed in the mobilizing role of cross-cutting themes as a contribution to all partnerships among governments, stakeholders, and individual citizens to safeguard the planet’s future.

    WANG GUANGTAO, Minister of Construction of China, outlining his country’s position on sustainable development, said that governments should draw up development strategies and adopt an integrated approach combining economic, legislative and administrative means to implement them. The international community must create a good external environment for sustainable development in developing countries and alleviate their difficulties in debt, trade and funding. Developed countries, in particular, should fulfil commitments to assist developing countries in the areas of funding, technology and capacity-building. All countries had the right to choose their own paths of economic development and environmental protection, but should guard against causing damage to the environment of other countries. Due priority should be given to regional environmental issues, such as the shortage of water resources, urban air pollution, soil erosion, desertification, natural disasters and ecological damage.

    The Chinese Government had put forth a people-centred scientific concept of development that advocated comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development, he said. It had taken action to improve policy measures, ensure conservation and the rational development and use of resources, promote clean production, raise public awareness in resource conservation, popularize a pattern of production and consumption conducive to energy conservation and pollution reduction, and imbue society with a heightened consciousness of resource conservation and ecological protection. With regard to water, the Government had increased its input in rural water supply infrastructure aimed at improving water access for the rural poor, expanding region-based water supply, and providing an urban and rural water supply network system. As for sanitation, it had continued to improve sanitation systems, including administration, market operation, social participation and contingency planning against unforeseen incidents. In the area of human settlements, China had introduced a reform programme to commercialize the housing sector, set up a socialized housing security scheme to protect the housing rights and interests of lower-middle income families, improved the functions and quality of building, and promoted construction of energy efficient green buildings.

    ERMINIA MARICATO, Deputy Minister for the Cities of Brazil, affirmed her Government’s commitment to fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, especially with regard to improving living conditions in human settlements. With 84 per cent of Brazil’s population living in cities, she said her government had devoted special attention to urban housing conditions. It had adopted housing policies to expand access to housing for low-income and middle-income families. It had constructed and upgraded housing units for 800,000 families. Housing programmes aimed at rural and indigenous populations were also being developed, with priority given to women as property owners. A national land tenure programme would benefit more than half a million families with property titles this year.

    Despite progress achieved on these initiatives, Brazil still faced enormous challenges in housing and sanitation. Solutions were needed to increase investments in urban infrastructure. While the private sector had an important role to play in that regard, it would not attend to the needs of the poorest sectors of the population. It was necessary to develop financing mechanisms to enable developing countries to overcome obstacles to achieve the Millennium Goals.

    SINISA STANKOVIC, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Environmental Protection and Physical Planning of the Republic of Montenegro, Serbia and Montenegro, said that, in line with the plan adopted at Johannesburg, the Governments of Serbia and Montenegro had established their respective councils for sustainable development and started drafting the relevant strategy. Serbia and Montenegro was strongly committed to the goals and plans set forth in the Millennium Declaration. Both republics had adopted a series of strategic documents; some of them were pending adoption, and for others the preparations for their implementation were under way. The Republic of Serbia had adopted national strategic documents related to waste management, employment, an action plan for children, an action plan for the Roma population, and the development of agriculture.

    He said that the drafting of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development was under way, along with texts on housing policies, housing and permanent integration of refugees in Serbia, local sustainable development and other documents and laws. With the support of several organizations, including the United Nations, Serbia and Montenegro had evolved its poverty-reduction strategies. In addition, Montenegro adopted its ecological declaration in 1991, which was why it devoted particular attention to environmental protection programmes, despite the numerous problems it faced. Strategic plans for the management of waste and wastewater disposal had been elaborated, and the master plan for water supply and spatial plan had been reviewed for adoption. In addition, Montenegro had adopted a national action plan for young people, as well as a programme to reduce unemployment and develop organic agriculture. Serbia and Montenegro would soon have to address a more difficult task: implementation.

    SHIMON TAL, Commissioner for Water of Israel, said that water sector management in Israel was based on the physical scarcity of water in the region. Israel, like most of its neighbours, was located at the edge of the desert and part of the country was itself desert. Accordingly, natural resources could not meet all of the country’s water needs. The competition between various consumers for natural resources had often led to a deterioration and depletion of resources, as measured in both quantity and quality. Despite the physical and legal infrastructures that sought to provide an efficient use of natural resources, Israel’s ability to supply water for essential needs had sometimes been endangered. Thus, it had not always been able to assure a reliable water supply.

    He said that, today, the Middle East, including Israel, was one of the areas of the world that faced intense water scarcity. In 2025, existing natural resources in the region would not be able to meet domestic demands, and neither food production nor the creation of new places of employment would be possible. In that situation, there would be no water for public needs or for the promotion of national and international interests, and life quality would decline. For that reason, in 2000, Israel adopted a new approach for water sector management, which could secure the use of natural water resources for coming generations. Now, with the creation of new manufactured water resources within reach, the picture was changing. Water recycling, reuse of sewage effluents, and production of fresh water resources through desalination were now possible at reasonable costs.

    In some cases, however, physical scarcity had become only a question of financial scarcity. The quality of desalinated waters, which was almost pure, would help to deal with the problem of salt accumulation in groundwater. Water had changed from being a source of conflict into a catalyst for regional cooperation and the promotion of peaceful decisions. Mutual developments of new water resources would make the water sector much more efficient. Wiser water sector management should be more economically oriented and enable the promotion of public needs in all the countries of the region.

    ANNIKA VELTHUT, Secretary-General of the Ministry of the Environment of Estonia, said her Government had prioritized water management in its political agenda and recognized cross-sector integration as a critical factor in promoting sustainable development. National coordinating mechanisms had been established and policies adopted to produce better cross-sector integration in the management of water resources. Integration was especially critical in energy and agricultural sectors as these were the most intensive water consumers.

    She said her Government shared concerns expressed by other delegations about the scarcity of financial resources and the expense of water and sanitation investments. Estonia had made considerable efforts to guarantee domestic funding for improved water resource management. There were also plans to introduce initiatives for environmental tax reform. Through strong political commitments, effective implementation schemes were possible to pave the way for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

    CHANSY PHOSIKHAM, Minister of Finance of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said his Government was making every effort to implement its national growth and poverty-eradication strategy. That included the development of necessary infrastructure to ensure greater access to clean water and sanitation. From 1990 to 2002, the proportion of the population with access to safe water increased from 28 to 58 per cent, and the population with access to improved sanitation, from 11 to 42 per cent. In 2004, clean water-supply coverage had improved to nearly 65 per cent. With international assistance, the Government had developed sound water and sanitation policies, investment plans and regulations.

    He said that, in an effort to meet the objective of providing 80 per cent of the population with access to safe water by 2015, attention had been paid to increasing coverage, with priority given to the poorest, least accessible and most vulnerable regions. That involved the delivery of sustainable service through community participation, cost-sharing and the decentralization of planning and implementation processes. Although human settlement had not been a major problem in the country, the Government had started to formulate a long-term strategy and policies on land use, housing, urban services, infrastructure development and environmental protection in order to accommodate the future expansion of urban areas.

    STAVROS DIMAS, Commissioner for the Environment of the European Commission, said this session needed to deliver a strong message to the Millennium Review Summit in September highlighting the imperative issues of water, sanitation and human settlements in development strategies. He hoped the outcome would provide a clear blueprint for cutting in half the number of people living in extreme poverty without access to safe drinking water.

    He said the European Union was taking seriously its commitments and had taken concrete actions to implement the Johannesburg objectives. Measures had been adopted to better incorporate development goals into the policy-making framework. To date, 22 of the 25 European Union member States had established national sustainable development strategies. Efforts had been made to improve coherence between internal policies and international commitments to reform the European Union’s agricultural and fishery policies towards more sustainable models.

    Addressing concerns that sustainable development might be detrimental to competitiveness and growth, he said competitiveness and growth were based on the sustainable use of natural resources. That was why an integrated approach to policy-making was necessary in all policy areas. Sustainability requirements must be incorporated in national development and poverty-reduction strategies. Through the concerted efforts of all key actors, development targets could be achieved.

    FRANCISCO NUNES CORREIA, Minister of Environment, Spatial Planning and Regional Development of Portugal, said that the measure of success of the current session would be the identification of “real” actions that governments and the international community could finance and implement, in order to make a quantifiable contribution to development. In Portugal, the National Water Plan and 15 river basins plans established a set of goals and measures, a timetable for their enforcement, and mechanisms for their implementation and assessment. The main aspects of that methodology had been incorporated and expanded in the process of implementing the European Union Water Framework Directive.

    He added that the management of water resources of four transboundary water basins was coordinated with neighbouring Spain, under a 1998 state-of-the-art agreement. Regarding sanitation, Portugal had drawn up a strategic plan covering the period 2000 to 2006, under which it would increase and improve the quality of water services and the percentage of the population with access to water. It also focused on wastewater treatment. Taking into account the difficulties facing developing countries, investment in water supply and basic sanitation services, both in urban and rural area, was only feasible through the significant allocation of international funds for cooperation. Public and private sectors definitely played a role in turning political commitments into action, and strong public leadership was also crucial. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals, more than national budgetary allocations and ODA were needed: governance systems should be strengthened and capacity-building should be promoted. Private partners should also be involved.

    VLADIMIR AVERCHENKO, Head of the Federal Agency on Construction, Housing and Public Utilities of the Russian Federation, said there was a need to enhance joint efforts of governments, public and private organizations, as well as other stakeholders, to advance the implementation of development goals within the framework of national programmes of action. Turning political commitments of the Johannesburg summit into practical actions was high on Russia’s national agenda. New legislation had been adopted and budgetary allocations increased to implement programmes for providing basic water and sanitation and services.

    Sustainable development in the area of human settlements was also a priority of core policy issues of the Russian Federation. Last year was a milestone in the process of legislative reform in housing and urban development. This year, national programmes would be launched to upgrade public utilities infrastructure and to promote the market for affordable housing.

    Russia shared the view that governments should be the driving force in the mobilization of financial resources and development of credit systems. There was a need to enhance the effectiveness of financial institutions to play a role in the promotion of an affordable housing market. His delegation hoped this session would provide renewed impetus to prioritize the issue of adequate housing for the most disadvantaged segments of the population.

    MARGARET CATELY-CARSON, of the Global Water Partnership, said that several speakers had mentioned that the Partnership was an effective and helpful network in sustainable water management. Having such a network was essential, because there simply was not enough sustainable water. The primary task now was to integrate the development goals, food security needs, environmental protection, transport and energy goals, and water supply needs together, and consider how to achieve as many of those as possible within existing water resources. There were new and interesting solutions, such as wastewater as a resource and new forms of mapping.

    She stressed the importance of integrated strategies, while acknowledging that that was not an easy task. The Johannesburg Conference had recognized the paramount importance of integration, and it had called on countries -- rich and poor, water-rich and water-poor, north and south -- to make their management of water resources more efficient and equitable. The initial target was for 2005, and a good number of countries had gone a good part of the distance. But, probably the most important task for the ministers was to set a framework for intergovernmental involvement to ensure that monitoring and gathering of experience actually happened. Parts of the negotiated text called for reviews in 2008 and 2009, but those should be supplemented by intensive work at regional and subregional levels, and, as many delegations had said, it should be clear about who did what and when. There really were enough good papers around -- resources now should be applied to the issues at hand.

    EARL ASIM MARTIN, Minister of Public Works, Utilities, Transport and Posts of Saint Kitts and Nevis, said that his Government had implemented a multi-million dollar water drilling project to ensure that the already safe and accessible water supply remained available for the population well beyond 2015. Over the past

    10 years, his Government implemented a programme of building affordable houses for its people, which had been very successful. It was now involved in an urban planning initiative to ensure the further development of the country, while taking human settlements well into consideration. In the area of sanitation, it had embarked on the construction of a multi-million dollar landfill project, and already that initiative had considerably improved the sanitation situation.

    However, the country had its share of problems, he said, including ensuring that the water supply was adequately managed, and that the sanitation system remained on pace with expansion. He emphasized that the programmes he outlined had been implemented through loans. As a result, the national debt had increased. Thus, he called for strategies to address the debt concerns of developing countries as they further implemented the Millennium Development Goals. He cautioned that, while developing countries continued in their quest of achieving the Millennium Goals, the local, regional and international community needed to ensure that other equally important areas did not suffer as a result.

    PENNELOPE BECKLES, Minister of Public Utilities and the Environment of Trinidad and Tobago, said her country had made some progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals in water conservation, sanitation services and human settlements development thanks to several initiatives. They included an integrated water-resource management policy, a national reforestation and watershed rehabilitation programme, commissioning of the Caribbean’s largest environmentally friendly wastewater treatment plant and a water, wastewater and integrated solid-waste management plan. In addition, rural communities were now equipped with a pipe-borne water supply and a squatter upgrade programme had improved living condition for some 5,400 families.

    Still, Trinidad and Tobago, like other small island developing States in the Caribbean, still lacked sufficient financing, strong institutions and environmentally friendly technologies to meet growing demand for water and waste-water services. Trinidad and Tobago was committed to: building capacity; educating the public on water conservation, waste generation reduction and recycling; rehabilitating infrastructure; and examining fiscal incentives.

    MAMPHONO KHAKETLA, Minister of Natural Resources of Lesotho, said his country’s challenge was to harness its relative abundance of water to meet the domestic and other needs of 2.2 million people. The Government was exploring various options, including rainwater harvesting, by advising and providing targeted subsidies to the poorest of the poor to build a water-harvesting infrastructure. Lesotho had made considerable progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals on water and human settlements, as well as the Johannesburg target on sanitation. The Government had been addressing institutional capacity and water governance, putting in place sound policies and strategies and reviewing legislative framework. It had increased its budgetary allocation in those sectors, but resources were still insufficient, and it was appealing for external support from its development partners.

    The Water Resources Management Policy of 1999 and related legislative framework were being reviewed to align them with the latest developments in Integrated Water Resources Management and the ecosystem approach to water development. The policy separated roles and responsibilities of sector players under the guidance of six policy statements, 19 strategies and 42 actions. Sanitation had not been as well developed as water, mainly because it currently fell under the Ministry of Health, but efforts were being made to redress that anomaly and ensure that sanitation was integral to water resources management policy.

    BUYELWA SONJICA, Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry of South Africa, said that several delegates had reiterated the vital role of water and sanitation in human settlements to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication. In order to achieve such global solutions, the lagging behind in certain areas, such as in Africa, must be recognized. Africa was a special case with special needs. It suffered the tragic effects of extreme poverty and endemic disease, which was a major obstacle to development. Africa was addressing those problems now with new energy and new mechanisms, such as the African Ministers Council on Water. It was also seeking to ensure political commitments by all governments in Africa. The establishment of the first water facility also provided a great opportunity for accelerated implementation, and she welcomed support for such initiatives.

    She stressed that firm action should be taken to achieve the internationally agreed development targets in the area of water and sanitation, which developing countries, and particularly Africa, would be unable to achieve on their own. Developed countries should make progress towards turning the Monterrey commitments into a reality and targeting an increased amount of funding towards water and sanitation. In cases where development assistance was available, disbursement procedures could be a huge constraint to effective deployment. Debt relief, debt swaps and debt cancellation were also important means for mobilizing resources.

    The experience of the last 15 years in Africa had been that the emphasis on capacity-building and institutional development and policy reform had been accompanied by a serious reduction in expenditures on water and sanitation infrastructure. As a result, service coverage levels in sub-Saharan Africa had stayed the same or deteriorated. Implementation of water supply and sanitation programmes should not have to wait completion of capacity-building and institutional development programmes, but should be implemented in parallel.

    SYLVIA MASEBO, Minister of Local Government and Housing of Zambia and outgoing Chairperson of the Commonwealth Consultative Group on Human Settlements, reported on the Group’s meeting held on 6 April in the wings of the twentieth session of the Governing Council of UN-HABITAT in Nairobi. The Group was a Commonwealth initiative to assist member countries to implement the Habitat Agenda and to attain the Millennium Goals. At its last meeting, it discussed the priorities it would like to see addressed by the current session of the Commission and the forthcoming review of the implementation of the Millennium Goals.

    Among the key points of the deliberations was that there could be no sustainable development without sustainable urbanization. Adequate shelter, with secure tenure and access to essential services, was deeply connected to the achievement of the Millennium Goals. Also, financing was an important concern in implementing international goals. In that context, debt was a significant issue, and a major burden, for least developed countries, since the servicing of debt took a great deal of resources. It was important that all Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) received up to 100 per cent multilateral debt relief after they reached completion point, and for the relief to entail additional and predictable long-term financing for the Millennium Goals.

    MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said that sustainable development in the countries of the South, particularly in Africa, involved the struggle against poverty and strengthening local capacity in the sector of water, which was the engine of development. That important sector, as well as human settlements and sanitation, was necessary for the protection of the health and living standards of the population. Morocco had carried out a policy to mobilize water resources, with the building of more than 100 dams and several waterworks for irrigation. That had helped the development of agriculture and food security, the provision of potable water to towns, and the struggle against flooding. It had also made it possible to deal with successive droughts through the rational mobilization of water resources.

    Nonetheless, he said, delays and gaps had occurred, particularly in access of the rural population to potable water and the lack of sanitation and waste water installations, prompting the Government to launch large-scale programmes in those areas. If the demand for water continued at the current rate, Morocco would face water shortages by 2025. That could arise earlier unless effective solutions were found in the meantime. Morocco had the honour to host the Second International Forum on Partnerships for Development last March in Marrakech, which focused on water and energy and whose results had been submitted to the Commission. That meeting had been an important milestone in the area of partnerships for development. It was a timely occasion for practitioners in that area to present their results to an international audience.

    KAREN KRAFT SLOAN (Canada), describing the country’s new International Policy Statement, said its development assistance would focus on five sectors -– good governance, health, basic education, private sector development and environmental sustainability. It would systematically integrate environmental sustainability into decision-making across its programming, assisting nations to create, maintain and enhance environmental sustainability, especially in the areas of climate change, freshwater, sanitation, urbanization and land management.

    She said Canada was committed to doubling its international assistance to more than $5 billion per year by 2010, with an increasing focus on Africa. Regionally, the country would focus on implementation of international targets and goals through regional actions and strong people-to-people ties. Through the Canadian International Development Agency, it would continue to support water-related capacity-building in Africa. The Agency was a key supporter of the Nile Basin Initiative and had committed $26 million over five years to support the Nile Environment Project and the Nile Basin Initiative Support Project. It was also continuing to financially support the African Water Facility and the UN-HABITAT Water and Sanitation Trust Fund.

    VARDAN AYVAZYAN, Minister of Nature Protection of Armenia, said that the absence of an integrated approach to the management and utilization of water resources in a period of acute economic crisis, such as that of the 1990s, had negative consequences, such as decreased access to water supply and a decrease in water quality, as well as a gradual collapse of related infrastructure. Without regional cooperation, it would be impossible to resolve the economic problems and ensure sustainable development of societies in individual countries.

    He, therefore, called for sustained efforts by the countries of the region in the area of water resource management. Differing political contexts and opinions should not negatively affect acute economic problems. Joint work towards solving ecological problems was the road to broader cooperation among regions, because, given the difference of opinions, joint action in defence of the environment would stimulate the search for problems as a whole. The comprehensive management of water resources would make it possible to ensure the sustainable economic development of the countries of the region.

    MAX PUIG, Secretary of State for the Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic, said that the major challenge faced by mankind was ensuring the durability of the environment, the achievement of which required a paradigm shift. The necessary investment in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements was so huge that it was impossible to achieve with the limited budgets of developing countries. He asked the international community to give thought to the situation of those countries. Among the questions he asked were how to be economical with water, how to prevent pollution and how to have women involved in the process. It was high time to think about strategies for sustainable development that made it possible for countries to build more equitable, prosperous societies through the intelligent management of resources.

    SAUFATU SOPOANGA, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Energy of Tuvalu, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said the Pacific Regional Action Plan on Sustainable Water Resources Management, the Pacific Wastewater Policy Statement and Framework for Action and the Framework for Action on Drinking Water Quality and Health constituted the region’s strategic framework on water. Pacific island countries had also worked together to develop new partnerships, which would hopefully speed up implementation of programmes in water, sanitation and human settlements. One initiative called Partnership on Sustainable Water Management had brought together more than 650 water stakeholders in the region, including government departments, international and regional organizations, NGOs, universities and United Nations agencies.

    Compared to activities on freshwater, progress to implement the 2001 Pacific Wastewater Framework for Action had been lagging behind, but the region was hopeful that renewed interest in the sector would occur, he said. As for human settlements, increasing numbers of people had been moving to live in urban areas. Land shortages and disputes over ownership, inadequate planning and legislative frameworks, and lack of institutional and human capacity had hindered countries of the region in responding to the challenges of rapidly increasing urbanization, which were placing stress on the environment. Providing adequate services in urban areas, especially access to water and sanitation, was now a key challenge. Designing and developing planning systems must be carried out within the traditional systems and cultural practices of each county, while noting each country’s unique circumstances and needs.

    HIROSHI TAKANO, Senior Vice-Minister of the Environment of Japan, said that his country used to be rich in clean water resources. However, its rapid industrialization resulted in environmental destruction and health hazards caused by severe water pollution. As a result, Japan had implemented a number of measures, including the launch of the most stringent pollution control regulations in the world.

    In addition, it had been taking a variety of actions to prevent water pollution, protect water resources, and conserve the ecosystem in order to bring about a sound water cycle in which the entirety of the river system was recognized as inseparable pieces of the whole. Currently, the Government had been promoting measures for domestic effluent, as well as highly effective restrictions on factory effluent, in which specific regional standards were integrated with a uniform minimum national standard.

    His Government placed significant focus on the area of water in its administration of ODA, he said. According to statistics for fiscal years 1999 through 2001, Japan’s contributions comprised approximately one third of the entirety of the world’s ODA in the area of drinking water and sanitation. Japan was committed to proactively advancing efforts towards the construction of plumbing and sewage facilities, which contributed to the realization of safe drinking water and basic hygiene practices. It was also committed to the enhancement of planning capability for water management and the sustainable use of agricultural water for enabling food security.

    FERNANDO TUDELA, Vice-Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico, called for the adoption of innovative strategies. For its part, Mexico last year had concluded a series of profound legal reforms on the domestic water supply. Its fundamental elements related to the management of water resources on a regional basis, and by river basins. Today, a community-based programme was in place which benefited the populations at the local and country level. Some $30 million was invested each year to improve the environment and protect biodiversity and “carbon fixing”. A habitat programme had been set up in urban areas, particularly in the most marginalized areas, in which $400 million was being invested. Cross-cutting actions in various sectors were ensuring progress towards attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

    He said his delegation was prepared to consult with other countries on its promising experiences and policies. The Commission was the most appropriate place in which to do that. Monitoring the results was fundamental and would make it possible to transcend difficulties. Mexico was determined to contribute to following up policies adopted in March 2006 at the Fourth World Water Forum.

    A representative of the Central African Republic said that the proportion of people in his country living below $1 a day was 62 per cent, most of whom lived in rural areas, and 10 per cent of the population had access to potable water. There was a trend towards decreased water potential due to drying up of waterways. Only 20 per cent of the people in urban areas had access to electricity, and the capacity of sewers was limited. The problem of human settlements in his country must be a concern for the entire international community and the international financial institutions. In the current century, the inequalities between urban and rural areas could not be accepted. He added that additional financial resources was needed, and stressed that ODA must be increased.

    Reporting on the ministers’ luncheon of yesterday, Egypt’s representative said that the ministers across a broad geographical spectrum had recognized the multitude of interlinkages between poverty eradication, environmental sustainability, human rights, and peace and security in an increasingly urban world. They emphasized the need for appropriate attention to sustainable development during the September summit. They also stressed that achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which was a core issue of the Commission, underpinned simultaneous progress on other goals, and poverty eradication was a prerequisite for environmental sustainability. It was also acknowledged that meeting the Goals was a formidable -– but achievable -– challenge, and the focus should be on anti-poverty strategies. Those, in turn, should be part of national planning and the budgetary process and developed through democratic procedures.

    He said that the ministers had also stressed the need to maintain environmental concerns in national development frameworks; that was key to achieving Millennium Development Goal 7, on environmental sustainability. The investments needed in developing countries were also considered. It might be difficult to coincide decision-making to funding allocations for the environment, but it had been shown that, in the long and short term, investment in water and sanitation gave good economic return to society, as well as to a sustainable environment. Such investments were also an opportunity to “get it right from the start”. Economic growth should not be “decoupled” from environmental degradation -- the environment was not a luxury.

    Increasing ODA to 0.7 per cent and more efficient development cooperation, together with trade liberalization, were seen by the ministers as the best ways of increasing external resource flows to developing countries, he said. Sound institutions and management were key elements in an enabling framework to reach the Millennium Development Goals, as was coherence in national policies and the avoidance of national fractures. Women should be part of planning, implementation and monitoring. A strong message had emerged on the interlinks between all aspects of environmental protection and management and attainment of the Millennium Goals.

    Interactive Discussion with Major Groups

    A representative of women said that there was no dignity without safe water and adequate sanitation. Water was a basic human right, which was not negotiable. If the outcome document of the Commission did not reflect a rights-based approach, conflicting messages were coming out of the United Nations. Successful sanitation was a combination of infrastructure, behavioural change and social empowerment. Governments must provide adequate support to women’s organizations, with resources, affordable technologies, as well as recognition for their achievements.

    The representative of children and youth said basic services by themselves did not constitute sustainable development. It was necessary to change unsustainable consumption and production patterns. Trade liberalization without the removal of unfair subsidies increased inequalities and impeded sustainable development for all. The international financial institutions and governments must provide youth with job creation and housing subsidies programmes. It was through investing in youth that unsustainable lifestyles could be changed. Youth organizations were innovative, resourceful and cost-efficient means of reaching communities.

    A representative of indigenous people said that it was necessary to recognize, honour and respect water as sacred. In the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, government had reaffirmed the vital role of indigenous peoples in sustainable development, who had a critical role in managing the environment and implementing development strategies. Water, sanitation and human settlements brought up the issues of equity, self-determination and the human rights of indigenous peoples. Governments, corporations and intergovernmental organizations must give indigenous people free, prior and informed consent and consultation in all decision-making activities. The lack of recognition of indigenous peoples within the negotiated text could represent the biggest obstacle to realizing the fullest contribution of indigenous peoples in addressing water, sanitation and human settlements challenges.

    Mr. WISELER, Minister of Public Works of Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union, shared many of the views expressed by the business and industry group, the NGOs major group, trade unions, the women’s major group, indigenous people, and the scientific community. The latter had recognized there was a major need to bridge the North-South gap in scientific and technological capacity, and that developed countries and international organizations should support measures in those countries that were lacking in such capacities. The need for capacity-building was particularly evident in sectors like agriculture, which used 70 per cent of water resources. Facing the “more crop per drop” challenge of doubling production capacity over the next 25 years, using essentially the same water base in order to feed an additional 1.5 billion by 2025, was daunting. Decentralized governance for development was crucial to attaining the development goals.

    Mr. SARDENBERG (Brazil) said that solving issues of water supply, sanitation and human settlements was based on the concept that all stakeholders should participate in decision-making. The Commission was the ideal forum for discussion. There had been some positive experiences worth noting in Brazil, including the transformation of slums into living collectives. There had been an overall improvement in the standard of living in the past 10 years, and a decentralized water management system had been set up. That was a new direction in the management of water resources, which had taken into account the pillars of sustainable development. The water resources management plan, to be completed in 2006, would define water needs for the next 15 years. Brazil was also sharing water management with its neighbours. Despite those measures, however, concerns emanating from consumption practices and imbalances remained.

    AASHILD MATHISEN (Norway) said there was a lot to do and very little time. Sustainable development was clearly the responsibility of governments in the North and South, but governments could not do it alone. They needed the active participation of all of civil society. The full integration of major groups in the Commission’s work had been very valuable and had ensured that its themes were addressed broadly and from major viewpoints. Their participation had also been vital, because the major groups were very important as a channel to the world outside the conference rooms. She supported a role for civil society at the September summit. A rights-based approach to water access and the decentralized role of local authorities and local communities was key to adequate integrated water resources management.

    A representative of non-governmental organizations said that the Millennium Ecosystem Report had highlighted dangerous trends in water supply due to ecosystem degradation. Effective integrated water resources management was needed to eradicate poverty. She believed in a rights-based, people-centred approach to sustainable development. The rights to safe water, clean sanitation and adequate housing were fundamental rights, which States had the obligation to fulfil. Equitable access to essential services could not be delivered by involving transnational corporations.

    Without immediate scaled-up assistance, some African countries would only achieve water targets in 50 years and the sanitation ones in 85 years, she noted. Debt cancellation was urgent in that regard. Also, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers should take the environmental dimension into account. Fair trade would free up to $700 billion for development. “What countries give in aid, they should not rob in trade”, she said. A sense of urgency had been lacking in the current meeting. She reminded delegates, “no water -- no life; no sanitation -- no dignity; no housing -- no security”. To that, she added, “no deadlines -- no difference; no will -- no action”.

    A representative of local authorities said that most governments did recognize the critical role of local governments in the provision of water and sanitation. At a meeting in Paris in May 2004, local governments had established a new body, United Cities and Local Governments. Without effective decentralization and adequate resources, local governments would find it difficult to achieve the Millennium Goals and the Johannesburg targets. He asked Member States to be responsible to the voices of local governments, which were committed to working with all governments and stakeholders to achieve international goals and targets.

    A representative of trade unions said it was clear that the best way out of poverty was decent employment, which had been recognized in Johannesburg. All communities needed decent jobs and workplaces. He encouraged further integration of the social dimension of sustainable development. He also encouraged States to take advantage of the International Labour Organization’s technical assistance programmes. Worker participation was fundamental for sustainable development. Workplace safety was not a luxury, he stressed. He also suggested labour intensive and clean technologies, including energy efficient construction strategies.

    It was known, he said, that the private sector created most jobs, but they depended on solid public infrastructure, such as water and sanitation. He encouraged a more clear definition of government responsibility. It was important to get governance right, because there was no justification for bad management. He drew particular attention to HIV/AIDS, and its impact on vulnerable groups.

    MARIA MADALENA BRITO NEVES, Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries of Cape Verde, said that in terms of improving water supply, her country had already attained a coverage level of 78 per cent in potable water, but there were still major gaps among islands and regions. Much remained to be done in that field, particularly with regard to sanitation and human settlements. But, the country had already worked out strategic instruments, as well as a strategy document for economic growth and poverty reduction. It was also evolving a strategic plan for integrated water resources management. All of that experience had actively involved local communities, women’s groups and NGOs, especially in the transfer and development of water resources to rural areas. Towards decentralization, it had set up autonomous water and sanitation services. He agreed with the “Group of 77” developing countries on the need for more and flexible resources.

    LENA SOMMESTAD, Minister for the Environment of Sweden, stressed that more should be done to include stakeholders in the processes under way. The low level of women in environment-related decision-making institutions was undemocratic. Women’s collaborative power had been evident in Nairobi last year at a global women’s assembly on the environment, which was a fruitful example of how governments and civil society could join forces and work together. Young people were also a tremendous asset. Never before had there been as many youngsters in the world; they now comprised 45 per cent of the global population.  But, many went uneducated, unheard and unemployed. That was a terrible waste of resources for individuals and society, and that was not socially sustainable. In her region, a strategy on education for sustainable development had been adopted. Hopefully, other regions could share practices and learn from each other.

    MAMADOU SIDIBE, Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development of Senegal, said that Senegal had national and regional commissions and a local sustainable development commission. It also had an active national assembly, with the participation of NGOs and civil society, women and youth working towards sustainable development solutions. Senegal had an action plan for implementation of national policies in accordance with the Government’s commitments. His Ministry had a mission to help other ministries in formulating sectoral policies and action plans to implement the agreed targets. Senegal had signed and ratified nearly all of the relevant international conventions and protocols, and it had very expansive regulation regarding consumption patterns.

    He said his country also had a national strategy and policy for sustainable development, managed by a technical secretariat, which coordinated the various sectors and institutions responsible for implementing that strategy and following up on related decisions. That was also responsible for drawing up rural development plans. Concrete action was needed now and the capacity to implement it. After more than 30 years, the international community was well aware of the dangers of underdevelopment, but it had not gone very far along the road to sustainable development. There had been some progress, but that was meagre compared to what needed to be done, he said.

    Business and industry, its representative said, as users of water resources and services, as providers of water related technology, and as a driving force for economic development, had considerable skills and resources to bring to the table. To achieve progress, global commitments must be converted into local targets at national levels, and carried forward in project implementation. Thus, they would become tangible and progress towards meeting them would be measurable.

    Business, he continued, looked to governments to provide the necessary enabling frameworks, as business could only operate effectively in a strong and stable legal, regulatory and economic context. Business did not support the privatization of water resources. Public versus private delivery of services was not the issue. The provision of water and sanitation services was recognized as a public service, whether operated by public or private entities. Governments, donors and civil society should ensure that they supported solutions that were both efficient and acceptable to the local community.

    A representative of the scientific and technological community said that scientific and technological data and knowledge was essential to improving water and sanitation, as well as to meet relevant Millennium Goals. Policy outcomes must include recommendations aimed at ensuring better use and strengthening science and technology for implementation of the Johannesburg Plan. The latest draft of the chair’s elements recommended some policy measures concerning science and technology, while other areas were still inadequately addressed, such as infrastructure. Infrastructure development, both physical and social, had been a common element propelling developed countries to their current state. Another issue was integrated planning in the themes, in which more interdisciplinary knowledge was required. Also, specific attention needed to be given to capacity-building in science and technology, as well as better transfer of technological and scientific information.

    A representative of farmers said that the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, at its recent second annual policy gathering in Belgium, had urged the Commission to integrate in the final document key elements for farmers for the management of water resources. He appreciated the attention given to agriculture in the text, but was surprised that there was no mention of the human face of agriculture. Farming was not just practices and technology. It involved human knowledge and imagination. Farmers were custodians of natural resources. There was no mention of the need to support farmers and their organizations in dealing with management issues. Without capacity-building, farmers would not be able to manage water in a more rational way, and the Millennium Goals would not be reached. Farmers were not just spectators. They were willing to share the responsibility of managing water resources, while being considered on equal footing with other actors, such as governments.

    Ms. SONJICA, Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry of South Africa, said that Member States should ask themselves what role the major groups played, and what space Governments had created for them and how were they used in pursuit of the millennium vision. Their role at the United Nations was engagement and discussion, but that role should be different at the regional, national and other levels of government where there was an urgent need to “deliver daily”. The major groups should be included in water governance structures and they should be allowed to supply meaningful inputs to crafting plans and even monitoring governments’ performance.

    She also stressed the need to define and strengthen the meaningful role of community-based organizations, women’s groups and youth structures, among others. Those groups were governments’ “live link” between those who sought habitable and healthy environments. They, therefore, were critical partners, including for implementation of various community-based strategies and programmes. She highlighted women’s role in water, sanitation and human settlements initiatives, and stressed that proper sanitation facilities were top priorities for women and girls. Without them, in schools, girls dropped out, and that compromised every country’s ability to meet the Millennium Development Goals. So that must be ensured, along with gender disaggregated data and other gender-sensitive programmes.

    HUSEYUGULU BAGHIRON, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan, said that the business group and the Minister of Luxembourg had correctly stated that countries needed to attract investment, especially for water and sanitation projects. But, that endeavour was not as simple as it sounded. There had been problems partnering with the private sector and certain negative experiences had occurred with some companies from some developed countries with respect to the application of high environmental standards.

    Sometimes, he said, instead of complying with internationally agreed standards, the private sector and transnational companies representing business in newly independent States conformed to local conditions, which resulted in damage to the environment. Those businesses should honour their mission in gaining new markets and bring the highest values and standards in those countries.

    Mr. LEPELTIER, Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development of France, said that what was at stake at the current session was defining political intentions in a way that made it possible to improve living standards around the world. Improving living conditions could not be disassociated from improving access to essential services. He commended the work of UN-HABITAT and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). In particular, UN-HABITAT should respond to the many requests to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all involved in the human settlements targets. It must set up a negotiating framework, leading to a political declaration on policies for essential services. That declaration should then be submitted to governments for adoption. The Commission should support that initiative at the current session.

    Ms. KRAFT SLOAN (Canada) said that she supported the concerns of indigenous peoples in that they needed to be recognized in the text resulting from the Commission, particularly in the areas of water and sanitation. Indigenous peoples were of concern to all Canadians. She also commended the major groups for their statements. In addition, she noted that there was a youth delegate on her delegation. She was proud of the contribution of youth in the Commission’s work.

    Statements on Turning Political Commitment into Action

    CARLOS MANUEL RODRIGUEZ, Minister of Environment of Costa Rica, said that his country, like other developing countries, had created various programmes, such as one for the funding of environmental services, which allowed the country, along with its national policies, to recover its forest coverage, improve its tourism potential, protect biodiversity and contribute to preventing fires and natural disasters. Although not one of the original objectives of the programme, it had proved to be an effective mechanism for the redistribution of wealth, particularly in poor areas. Thus, it had resulted in becoming an adequate tool in the fight against poverty. Costa Rica had realized that only through a real increase in international cooperation would it be possible to make more rapid progress on sustainable development, and improve the participation of all actors and sectors in contributing to a better quality of life.

    PATRICK KALIFUNGWA, Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources of Zambia, supported the call for strengthened government and donor commitment in implementing the Commission’s resolutions, which must be backed by adequate budgetary allocation and strategies to raise additional low-cost financing. Each government must be duty-bound to create a strong enabling environment through policy interventions and financial means for meeting water, sanitation and human settlement challenges. Mobilizing the full potential of domestic capital and attracting financial means from external sources to speed up implementation of goals and targets required a coherent macroeconomic policy framework and laws conducive to sound financial management.

    The task at hand was enormous, he said, and could only be accomplished if the international community rededicated its energies towards winning the fight against poverty. Zambia, for example, was unlikely to halve extreme poverty and reduce maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015 with the current effort. However, it had the potential to achieve some of the Millennium Development Goals in the areas of universal primary education; the child mortality rate; HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases; sustainable access to safe drinking water; and hunger reduction. But success in those areas would depend on a stronger supportive environment, including the fulfilment of pledges and obligations laid down in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. In addition, development partners must write off the debt burden and provide conducive trading terms, so that developing countries could secure enough savings to provide basic services to their people.

    BALA MANDE, Minister of Environment of Nigeria, said that discussions had reaffirmed the responsibilities of not only developing countries, but also developed countries in meeting the Millennium Goals. It was clear that, unless mutual commitments were followed through on, the Goals might remain an aspiration, particularly in Africa. Nigeria had adopted a comprehensive development blueprint -– a National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy -- the goals and targets of which were aligned with the Millennium Goals and the goals of the Johannesburg and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Regarding the water sector, the Government had undertaken reforms to ensure the provision of safe and affordable water services. It had also adopted a holistic approach to sound environmental sanitation by putting in place a National Environmental Sanitation Policy and Plan of Implementation.

    Mindful of the daunting challenges of rapid urbanization and population growth, Nigeria was pursuing an integrated approach in planning and development of human settlements, he said. The Government had created an enabling environment to foster private sector participation in housing delivery. The objectives of the Habitat Agenda could only be met if the human settlements target of the Millennium Goals was aligned with those of water and sanitation. He expected the Commission’s session to provide action-oriented policies to overcome the constraints faced by developing countries in meeting the Millennium Goals.

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