Press Releases

    22 April 2004

    Obstacles Faced by Developing Countries in Meeting Water, Sanitation Needs Highlighted in Sustainable Development Commission

    NEW YORK, 21 April (UN Headquarters) -- Developing countries remained the weakest link in the global chain of sustainable development, as poverty, hunger, deteriorating environments and infectious diseases exerted unprecedented pressure on them, China’s delegate told the Commission on Sustainable Development today, as it concluded its general debate.

    Stressing the severe imbalance in sustainable development worldwide, he urged all players to implement their commitments with firm political will, action-oriented programmes and innovative measures.  Developed countries must fulfil their financial commitments and technology transfer, change unsustainable production and consumption patterns and reduce waste discharge, and developing countries must reverse the pattern of pollution first and control second, he said.

    The Commission’s twelfth session, which opened Monday, is focusing on three priority areas -- safe water, sanitation and human settlements -- in measuring progress towards sustainable development goals laid down in Rio in 1992, as well as targets set out in the Millennium Declaration and the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development.

    Other speakers highlighted obstacles to water and sanitation needs in developing nations, and the desperate need for international assistance.  Lesotho’s delegate said his country was struggling to reach agreed Millennium and Johannesburg goals, but water coverage lagged behind targeted levels in urban areas, and increased urbanization was putting pressure on water systems.  Weak infrastructure, lack of finances, poor water policies and inadequate sanitation had exacerbated those problems, and Lesotho hoped for further international assistance.

    Similarly, Nigeria’s representative said his country faced serious problems in providing adequate irrigation, as water competed with other needs for domestic resources, and the country had to make do with what was available.  Brazil’s representative noted that coordinated activities to achieve international development targets on freshwater and sanitation had been estimated to cost some $20 billion annually, and international cooperation, especially through additional resources on a grant or concessional basis and technology transfer, was vital.

    Highlighting the water needs of small islands, Tonga’s delegate said that rainwater collection was their main source of freshwater.  To make further strides forward in providing safe water and adequate sanitation, his Government must monitor climate variability and enhance its ability to identify trends.  To that end, it would need international assistance in technology development, equipment maintenance to ensure the building and maintenance of water desalination and waste disposal facilities.

    Switzerland’s representative noted that the Johannesburg Summit had failed to create the expected momentum for sustainable development.  Both internationally and nationally, economic and political environments had kept sustainable development low on the agenda, as other events took precedence in the eyes of policy makers, the media and people at large.

    Key among the remaining challenges to sustainable development, he continued, were the need for even more resources, a lack of political will, and little policy coherence.  In addition, corporate social responsibility had yet to take firm root, remaining an add-on activity in the majority of companies that had embraced it.

    Concerns raised during the general debate were amplified in two panel discussions on water and sanitation, with speakers highlighting the lack of water infrastructure in developing and transitional countries, and the need for integrated water resources management, river-basin management, more efficient use of water, anti-pollution measures, and better consumption policies.  Several speakers also noted that considerable sums of money were being spent on developing water resources purely for profit that were accessible only to the rich -- out of reach of the poor.

    Participants also expressed grave concern over scanty progress in sanitation, noting that meeting the Millennium Goals would require an approximate doubling of sanitation investments over the past decade, to some $7 billion a year in infrastructure alone.  Major hindrances included low educational levels, limited financial resources, poor management and lack of access to technological advances.  Money from national and local tax revenues and user fees, cross-subsidies from users who could afford to pay, and investments from the private sector and commercial lenders, as well as multinational financial institutions were needed to expand access to sanitation.

    In other business today, JoAnne Disano, Director, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on progress in implementing decisions adopted at the Commission’s session last year and partnerships for sustainable development, as well as reports on inter-agency coordination, national reporting and indicators.

    Also participating in the discussions today were the representatives of Ireland (speaking on behalf of the European Union), Iran, Canada, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Russian Federation, Ecuador, Pakistan, New Zealand, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, Cuba, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Malaysia, Czech Republic, Colombia, Mexico, Republic of Korea, India, Uganda, Sweden, Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Costa Rica, Qatar (speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), United Kingdom, Slovenia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

    A representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) addressed the Commission, as did a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).  The representatives of the Basel Convention and the European Community also spoke.

    Experts heading up the Commissions parallel panel on water were:  Thierry Chambolle, Advisor to the President of Suez for Sustainable Development and Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce Contact Group, France; Ravi Narayanan, Director, Water Aid, United Kingdom; John Wasielewski, Director of the Office of Development Credit, United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Marie-Elise Gbedo, Advocate à la Cour, l’Association des Femmes Juristes du Benin; and Linette Vassell, Community Development and Gender Specialist, Ministry of Water and Housing, Jamaica.  One of the segments was introduced by Kerstin Mueller, Minister for State, Germany’s Foreign Office.

    Members of the Commission’s parallel panel discussion on sanitation were:  Gourisankar Ghosh, Executive Director of Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC); Jamie Batram, Coordinator, Water, Sanitation and Health, World Health Organization (WHO); Albert Wright, Co-Chair of the Millennium Development Goals Task Force on Water and Sanitation; Vanessa Tobin, Chief, Water, Environment and Sanitation Section, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Patrick Kahangire, Director of Uganda’s Department of Water; and Bernardo Monge Urena, Director of Direccion Proteccion Ambiente Humano, Costa Rica.

    Anne Kerr, Chief of the National Information, Strategies and Institutions Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, also participated in that discussion.

    Participating major groups included local authorities, trade unions, women, indigenous people, and non-governmental organizations.

    The Commission will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m., to consider matters related to sanitation.


    The Commission on Sustainable Development met today to continue its general debate of the chosen thematic issues for the 2004-2005 session -- water, sanitation and human settlements -- and to continue its consideration of issues related to the overall implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.  [For background, see Press Release ENV/DEV/762.]


    Mr. HAYES (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said the Secretary-General’s overview would serve not only to guide the Commission’s work during this session, but would also point the way towards sustainable development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals for the wider international community.  The Union considered the report to be well-balanced and appreciated that it linked sustainable development trends with the progress being made towards achieving international development goals.

    Moreover, he said the report detailed, in an easily understandable fashion, concepts which were often debated in too abstract a way, such as the relationship between economic growth, the environment and sustainable development.  The European Union also appreciated the report’s comprehensive account of the efforts under way by developed countries in the field.  It said that those countries were showing some global leadership towards sustainable development, chiefly through rising levels of official development assistance (ODA) and providing more technological assistance.  But, at the same time, the report noted that developing countries had more work to do in areas such as improving fisheries management, waste disposal and reducing greenhouse gasses.

    ZHANG YISHAN (China) noted that realizing global sustainable development remained a long-term and arduous task.  Undoubtably, in the chain of global sustainable development, developing countries remained the weakest link, as poverty, hunger, deteriorating biology and infectious diseases exerted unprecedented pressure on them.  Official development assistance (ODA) had increased, but was still far from agreed objectives.  Trade protectionism had seriously harmed developing countries’ efforts to mobilize domestic resources and capacity-building, and commercial interests had hampered technology transfer.

    To resolve those problems, he said, the international community must understand the long-existing and serious imbalance in sustainable development, and earnestly implement relevant commitments with firm political will, action-oriented programmes and innovative measures.  Developed countries should take the lead in changing unsustainable production and consumption patterns, reduce waste discharge and implement sustainable development with actual deeds.  Developing countries must reverse the pattern of pollution first and control second, and implement sustainable development strategies according to their national conditions.

    Developed countries should fulfil their commitments for financial resources and technology transfer and eliminate trade tariffs to create a favourable external environment, he continued, facilitating sustainable development in developing countries.  International and regional mechanisms should be continuously improved to provide powerful support to all countries in their efforts to achieve sustainable development.  Further, studies should be conducted to explore diversified partnerships and mobilize the general public to turn international consensus into specific actions in each community.

    HOSSEIN MOEINI MEYBODI (Iran) said water was life for his arid country.  The Government was fully aware of water’s strategic importance for the survival of the country, and in that regard, had implemented a series of national multi-year development plans to insure consistent investment in the water sector with the objectives of controlling and harvesting groundwater, enhancing the quality of water and increasing people’s access to safe water.  To achieve those goals, some 80 dams had been constructed with huge capacities in order to handle the large amounts of groundwater that had gone wasted for so many years.  The Government, nevertheless, recognized that growing demand would continue to pressure Iran’s water supplies in the coming years and that increased investment, targeting quantity, quality and management of water would be necessary.

    He went on to say that there was also a need to improve consumption patters through various efforts, including training and awareness-raising programmes.  In addition, increased demands for water supply and sanitation, urbanization and the lack of facilities for recycling wash water and sewage continued to prove challenging.  The Government had taken some practical measures to use all the domestic resources at hand and had made great efforts to mobilize the private sector to help respond to some of those challenges.  Participation at the local level, particularly by women and women’s groups was also being pursued.

    GILBERT PARENT (Canada) noted that bilateral and multilateral organizations were playing a major role in responding to assistance needs in meeting the internationally agreed goals of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.  To meet those goals, the international community needed effective global monitoring systems.  Canada had become part of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) global monitoring system.  He hoped that the newly organized Commission on Sustainable Development would identify a practical and effective agenda for improving water, sanitation and human settlements, and see sustained progress on those pressing issues.

    MARY MUSHI (United Republic of Tanzania) said the greatest development challenge her country faced was widespread and persistent poverty.  The Government had moved to address that challenge by empowering civil society, local authorities, community groups and the private sector as partners in its efforts as main provider of essential public services.

    She said that current water supply coverage was 53 per cent in rural areas and 73 per cent in urban areas.  In order to continue improving delivery of water services, the Government had reviewed the national water policy so as to decentralize that management of water services, and improve water resources management in line with Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg action plan.  But while there had been steady and sustainable improvement in the water sector, sanitation remained a big challenge.  The Government had, therefore, decided to restructure and privatize water supply and sewage management authorities, with the aim of providing reliable, affordable and sustainable water supply services, as well as improving sanitation.

    Major challenges included the mushrooming and expansion of unplanned settlements, as well as inadequate infrastructure and social services, she said.  The Government had adopted a Human Settlements Development Policy, which recognized housing in unplanned areas and committed to facilitating their upgrading through participatory and partnership approaches with the private sector.  The newly developed Tanzania Sustainable Settlements Programme aimed to strengthen the capacity of local authorities to plan and manage the growth and development of settlements, she added.

    OSHA ANAEOU (Nigeria) said his country had undertaken comprehensive reform in the area of integrated water management, and had developed a natural resource policy aimed at fulfilling relevant water-related targets.  It was now planning to introduce a water law to address sanitation and human settlements, which should come into force by the end of 2004.  Nigeria also had a national task force on water, and a comprehensive human settlements programme.

    However, he said, the country still faced problems that hindered its level of irrigation, as water competed with other needs in society.  Current irrigation did not cover a wide area, and the country had to make do with what was available.  Domestic resources were insufficient to cover all needed activities in the area of water management.  Relieving external indebtedness could help in resolving that problem.

    Mr. MARGOLIS (United States) said the Commission’s consideration of implementation of the development goals set at the major international meetings and conferences of the past decade would require a shift in its discussions from a focus on global levels to regional, national and local levels -- the places where action really took place.  Such a shift in focus was surely necessary as the Commission considered its current cluster of issues, since it was the work of local actors, individuals and municipalities that could solve the challenges of implementing goals on water, sanitation and human settlements.

    He went on to say that going forward, the Commission should closely consider the decisions taken at the Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development, where countries had committed to investing in their people and institutions and the donor community had agreed to assist them.  The challenge now was to work country by country to translate commitments in the areas of good governance, economic reform and engaging the private sector into results that expanded the circle of development.

    He said the international community must work to build capacity locally and nationally.  There was also a need to harness the power of public-private partnerships to continue delivering results.  Partnerships provided flexible ways of joining the strengths and capabilities of governments, civil society and the private sector.  Finally, he urged the Commission “to build on what works”.  To achieve internationally agreed goals on water, sanitation and human settlements, the international community must find ways to broaden and enhance its efforts by disseminating best practices and replicating proven approaches, so that local actors could use them to meet growing needs.

    Mr. ROTHENBERGER (Switzerland) said the Johannesburg Summit had not yet created new momentum for sustainable development to the extent that all had been hoping.  Internationally, and in many specific countries, the economic and political environments had not been conducive to keeping sustainable development high on the agenda. At both levels, other developments had taken precedence and caught the attention of policy makers, the media and people at large.

    Another important reason for the delay in reaching Johannesburg goals was the persistence of fundamental challenges to sustainable development, chief among them the need for even more resource commitments, the lack of political will, and little policy coherence.  Current projections on the majority of internationally agreed development goals were disquieting.  In addition, corporate social responsibility had not yet taken firm root on a broad scale and remained an add-on activity in the majority of companies that had embraced it.

    OLEG SHAMANOV (Russian Federation) said this year the Commission’s work should be organized to provide delegations the opportunity to analyse the practical results of the implementation of the outcomes of the Johannesburg Summit in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements.  Delegations should also work to achieve consensus on the problems that remained to be solved.  He added that another aspect was the comprehensive consideration of economic, environmental and social dimensions and their contributions to the achievement of the Millennium Goals.

    He went on to stress the need for promoting practical implementation of those goals, particularly those related to integrated resource management.  On human settlements, he said the solution of housing problems was relevant for Russia, because of the growing necessity to provide adequate shelter.  The focus should not only be on providing housing for the poor, but should also be on broader issues, such as infrastructure enhancement and waste management.

    AMOS MASONDO, of the local authorities major group, said great strides had been made in service delivery, housing, water and sanitation, but structural deficiencies still remained.  It was vital that local authorities be empowered to make crucial decisions in those areas.  Calling for the development of integrated water management strategies, he stressed that local communities needed access to effective and affordable sanitation to create sustainable urban settlements.

    Some local governments were unable to address water and sanitation needs due to the lack of clear mandates.  They also lacked financial instruments for water and sanitation, which should be focused on the creation of infrastructures and education.  Local governments were best positioned to respond to the provision of water, sanitation and human settlements, but they needed adequate support from the international financial institutions.

    Mr. GURLUK, speaking on behalf of International Trade Unions, said too many national actors still did not understand the role of trade unions or the role that they could play in the sustainable development movement.  He believed that trade unions were an untapped resource.  Among other things, trade unions had an international network of dedicated workers from all spheres that was unmatched.  As the groups he represented worked closely with labour forces, he could assure the Commission that every part of the world was in trouble, with water, sanitation and human settlement targets in serious danger of going unmet.

    Trade unions were concerned by the shrinking role of governments and what they saw as a retreat from the government’s traditional role in taking the lead in ensuring the provision of essential public services.  Corporations must also be held more accountable for the decisions that they made.  He urged the Commission to believe in workers and trade unions and use those resources as a way to ensure that all people in all nations were able to achieve the important international development goals.

    LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said his county had made progress in water services and sanitation, but the recycling of waste water was still lacking.  Among other problems, that led to contagious diseases, especially in rural areas and among slum dwellers.  One of the major sources of disease in the rapidly growing urban areas was the lack of safe drinking water and safe sanitation.  The country had made efforts to control the problem and break the vicious cycle of poverty, but additional resources were needed.

    MOHAMED AL-HASSAN (Pakistan) said for his country water was of utmost importance, since much of its gross domestic product depended on agriculture.  So, while irrigation was essential, the Government was aware that urban centres were using almost 70 per cent of the country’s water supplies.  Authorities were, therefore, aiming to ensure equitable distribution through efficient management, with due consideration for the environment.

    Mr. VAUGHAN (New Zealand) noted that small island developing States in the Pacific had made some progress in water, sanitation and human settlements over the past 12 years, especially in improving and developing urban reticulated water supply systems.  However, there had also been a dramatic decline in their ability to monitor and manage water resources.  That came at a time when climate change and urban growth were putting increasing pressure on those resources.  The economic and social well-being of Pacific island countries depended on the quality and quantity of their freshwater, their management of water and sanitation systems, and the consequences of inadequate water resources management on the coastal and marine environment.

    The pattern of human settlements in the Pacific region was rapidly changing, with increasing numbers of people moving to live in towns and cities, he said.  That process was driven by education and life choices, employment opportunities, access to services and increased communications, as well as declining commodity prices, continuing high rates of population growth, lack of rural employment, limited education opportunities in rural areas and the need to financially support the wider extended family.  An effective response to urbanization had been hindered by land shortages, complexities of ownership, inadequate planning, and limited institutional and human capacity.

    MARIA LUIZA VIOTTI (Brazil) said her country had adopted a “National Agenda 21”, closely mirroring the commitments made at Rio.  The action plan focused on actions to be taken in each priority area and was now a central part of the Government’s multi-year development plan.  She said that, while it had been estimated that 12 per cent of the world’s freshwater was located in Brazil, the geographical distribution of those resources was uneven and the most populated areas often lacked adequate provision of water services.  Sanitation was also a matter of concern, particularly for low-income neighbourhoods and major cities.

    Brazil remained firmly committed to the implementation of Agenda 21, she said, but added that in many cases the challenges were overwhelming.  It had been estimated that coordinated activities towards achieving international development targets on freshwater and sanitation alone would cost some $20 billion annually.  Therefore, the importance of international cooperation, particularly through the provision of new and additional resources on a grant or concessional basis and through technology transfer, could not be overemphasized.

    Ms. OZKAYA (Turkey) said water resource development projects, especially storage systems, dams, reservoirs and irrigation networks were indispensable for agriculture and rural development in her region.  In that respect, developing countries had to invest in multi-purpose water infrastructures through public/private partnerships and governance.  The international community, as well as regional and multilateral development banks and financial institutions, were urged to assist in providing financial resources to the countries and regions in need.

    When the amount of water per capita was less than 1,000 cubic metres, it became an important constraint to economic development.  To overcome water scarcity, desalination and waste-water recycling techniques were widely used by water-stressed countries.  If waste-water treatment was ineffective, food crops irrigated by treated waters could be contaminated.  Due to high costs, desalination was not widely used by developing and water-stressed countries.  For those reasons, other alternatives, including water transfer projects should be considered.

    AMED ESOP VARWDA (South Africa) said that his country’s efforts to provide essential public services were closely linked to its ongoing poverty eradication strategies.  Some of the programmes aimed at addressing poverty had resulted in the provision of an additional 1.5 million houses for people without shelter; and electricity, water and sanitation had also been provided for millions of South Africans who had lacked those services.  The growth of the country’s economy during the 10 years of its independence had been an important factor in some of those strides.  He was convinced that South Africa would be able to meet some of the Millennium Goals, or at least get closer to achieving them within the respective prescribed target dates.

    Still, he stressed that key challenges remained, including the need to enhance intergovernmental coordination to achieve greater efficiency and effective targeting of service delivery, and strengthening institutions in order to enhance the implementation of sustainable development, through targeted skills development and education.  He added that creating structured economic frameworks to facilitate the provision of economic activities through job creation or interventions such as microcredit schemes was also a challenge.  Like most developing countries, South Africa also required an international environment conducive to financing for development.  The international community should be more responsive to efforts to create an enabling environment for foreign direct investment.

    ISVIET KOVA, of the women’s major group, said that women were being abused and raped when they were searching for water or a safe place to defecate.  Their daughters could not attend school when they menstruated, due to the lack of safe toilets.  Women bore the heavy burden of HIV/AIDS more than anyone else, carrying loads of water to the sick often at the expense of income-generating activities.

    It was the life-giving resources of women that were destroyed, polluted, impoverished, privatized, unaffordable and inaccessible.  Their voices were not heard, and their perspectives were not yet guiding the water and sanitation agenda.  Women wanted the Johannesburg plan to be implemented, the Millennium Goals to be reached, and above all a peaceful and healthy planet for all.

    Ms. LINI, speaking on behalf of indigenous people, said water was life for indigenous communities.  Their connection to lands, ecosystems and natural environments meant that indigenous populations focused not so much on infrastructures and facilities like urban dwellers, but on designing systems of water management and use that balanced immediate needs with the needs of the world in which they lived. That very connection with the natural environment meant that indigenous communities had an important role to play in setting overall global standards in water sanitation and human settlements, however.

    She went on to urge the Commission to be mindful that indigenous people were continually afflicted by a host of environmental ills, in particular those wrought by humankind, such as mining, logging, conflicts and climate change.  In many instances they were also racially and politically marginalized on their own lands.  Sufficient attention must also be paid to designing integrated land-use strategies to ensure the long-term health of ecosystems and nurture human settlements.

    The international community should also be aware that poor management and exploitation of indigenous lands and natural resources often forced indigenous people to move to large, often poor urban areas where they were cut off from their cultural heritage.  She called on the Commission to give high priority to indigenous issues.

    Mr. ARIAS-ZEBALLOS, representing non-governmental organizations, noted that the number of people living in poverty had rapidly increased, and that the majority were women.  Global war had destroyed human settlements and eroded public will for sustainable development.  Water, sanitation and human settlements must be addressed in a holistic way and the financial resources must be made available.  In addition, sustainable production and consumption patterns must always be respected.  A fraction of military expenditures should be transferred to sustainable development and poverty reduction projects.  She called for the highest level of responsibility in ensuring the survival of the human species on the planet.

    Ms. PRESCOTT (Tonga) said sustainable water management continued to be a challenge for small islands such as Tonga, where rainwater collection was the main source of freshwater.  Despite geological and financial restraints, the Government had estimated that 90 per cent of Tonga’s population had access to safe water and 93 per cent had adequate sanitation.  Continued strides in those areas required that the Government place a priority on monitoring climate variability and enhancing its ability to identify trends.  That meant it would require international assistance in such areas as technology development and equipment maintenance, and the transfer of knowledge and information, particularly to ensure the building and maintenance of water desalination and waste disposal facilities.

    Mr. DIAZ (Cuba) said that political will was needed to generate economic backing that would help all countries meet international development goals.  Environmental concerns must also be at the heart of all efforts.  Cuba was not among the countries with major difficulties in providing drinkable water and adequate sanitation.  That was in spite of outside pressures to keep Cuba from achieving sustainable development.  Still, the country faced severe and prolonged drought in some regions and advanced hydraulic infrastructure had been created to address that issue.  Cuba was also working to overcome problems with maintaining sewage and waste treatment systems. Cuba was unselfishly prepared to share its expertise in the field with others, he added.

    Mrs. ARUNGA (Kenya) said the internationally agreed goals to reduce poverty and hunger by 2015 would remain unfulfilled unless deliberate actions to do so were taken now.  Some of those goals could be addressed through increased political will and partnerships to promote sustainable development in Africa.

    Kenya had undertaken policy, legal and institutional reform, and had identified poverty as its biggest challenge, she said.  It intended to improve the access of the poor to productive resources, improve their social status, and create an enabling environment for investment and social development. Such problems as land degradation and deforestation had continued to negate development, and much remained to be done to fulfil the Johannesburg plan and the Millennium Declaration.  Additional resources were sorely needed, as were partnerships encouraging technology transfer.

    ALMABEK DEMISSINOV (Kazakhstan) said his country was working with many international organizations and partners to help maintain its water reservoirs and to address problems such as those that had arisen in the wake of the discovery of mercury in the groundwater supplies in certain regions of the country.  The Government had adopted a 10-year water management plan in order to ensure access to drinkable water for rural areas and to establish and maintain desalination facilities.  The Government was also actively seeking the support of civil society in order to raise awareness of water and sanitation concerns among the wider population.  His country and others in the region were working together and hoped that their efforts to promote the rational use of freshwater would serve as a model for others.

    Ms. JARAYABHAND (Thailand) said her Government had introduced measures to improve public services, such as access to health care, education and housing, and was also promoting the use of clean technology. In 1997, it had adopted an integrated water management policy, and many initiatives for water management were in an advanced stage of development.  It was currently encouraging local governments to develop guidelines for the construction of livable towns and cities. The country had made progress in implementing Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg plan, but still faced some challenges, including a lack of resources at the local level for law enforcement and some sustainable development projects. However, Thailand was determined to continue its efforts to achieve international goals for sustainable development.

    RADZI RAHMAN (Malaysia) said his country had put in place plans and programmes to address water, sanitation and human settlement issues.  As a result, 97 per cent of the country’s urban populations and 86 per cent of rural population had access to safe drinking water.  Water tariff structures were devised to include a “lifeline rate”, so that the poor could afford the minimum quantities for basic sustenance and health care.  Malaysia expected to achieve 100 per cent coverage by 2015.  Regarding sanitation, Malaysia currently had almost 100 per cent coverage in cities and 80 per cent coverage in rural areas.

    He went on to say that provision of safe and adequate housing to all Malaysians -- particularly low-income populations -- had always been a priority.  The Government had earmarked several funds for the construction of low-cost homes, and the prices and rental fees for housing was regulated in order to ensure affordability.  Government loans at low-interest rates were also made available to the very poor to promote the building or purchase of homes.

    Mr. PUNCOCHAR (Czech Republic) said water management plans in his country that had been developed in the 1960s and 1970s had established an essential system based on watersheds.  Those plans had provided the needed background for more recent planning.  Large floods over the past six years had led to improved water management, and protectionist measures were added to the plans.  The country’s water management plans were now in agreement with integrated water management.

    Ms. ALBAN (Colombia) said major institutional, educational, health and environmental strides had been made by her country to ensure that sustainable development was possible, particularly in the areas of water, sanitation and communities.  The Government had also made strides in addressing maternal and infant mortality and HIV/AIDS. Strategies were in place to reduce inequalities, she added.  But, she said, Colombia still faced some difficulties as it pressed forward with its effort to meet the goals and targets set at Johannesburg and the Millennium Summit.

    Ms. HANNA, of the European Community, said the European Union’s sustainable development strategy was its main tool for implementing Johannesburg commitments and for providing coherence in European Union decisions. The need to integrate economic and social development and environmental protection had been laid down in key actions.  Actions on health, land use and mobility were linked to the improvement of human settlements, and water and sanitation were also crucial to the European Union strategy.  The sustainable development strategy would be thoroughly reviewed this year, and efforts made to strengthen the coherence of its external commitments.

    Ms. MURILLO (Mexico) said that, in the wake of the Johannesburg Summit, Mexico had moved to strengthen its educational networks and to make its citizens even more aware of what was at stake in the areas of sustainable development.  It also brought into play the broadest numbers of local actors and civic groups possible in order to assist in those efforts.  Tangible results were being monitored closely, so that short-term measures did not lead to short-term errors, she said.

    Mr. SUHO SEONG (Republic of Korea) said that his country had achieved some progress in water management over the past few years, including the construction of installations for water purification and hydraulic services.  It was currently attempting to address inequalities in access to water and sanitation.

    Mr. TEWARI (India) said his country’s commitment to eliminating poverty had been a primary objective.  India was acutely mindful that it could be a country part affluent and part poor.  The Government was aware of the need to build on the diversity of approaches and experiences to handle the complex tasks of sustainable development.  On water, he said the need was to focus on implementation, rather than on elaborating new approaches.  India supported a holistic, ecosystem-based approach.  On habitat, India hoped that the focus would be on providing resources for vulnerable and poor communities.

    Ms. IBINDA (Uganda) said his country’s urbanization rate of 4.6 per cent was a serious concern for planning.  Among other problems, it had led to the mushrooming of new unplanned and unserviced centres; inadequate capacity in planning and providing basic infrastructure and services to cater for new and expanding populations; and a proliferation of informal settlements and slums.

    With the support of Slum Dwellers International and Homeless International, the Ugandan Government had entered a partnership with the Jinja Municipal Council and the City Council of Kampala to implement a slum upgrading initiative, beginning with pilot projects in Kampala and Jinja.  In those projects, the communities were also carrying out baseline surveys on existing housing stock and infrastructure, such as water and sanitation.

    Ms. BOHN (Sweden) said the actions taken by her Government represented a coherent policy for national, as well as global sustainable development.  Indeed, the Government was actively contributing to worldwide development at all levels.  The point of departure was and should always be the real needs of poor men, women and children.  Still, each country was charged with taking the overall lead for its progress, but development cooperation, nevertheless, should be more equitable and sustainable.  Sweden was committed to reaching all Millennium Goals and urged the wider international community to adhere to the principles set out in the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions and to focus on eradicating the exploitation of natural resources, and halting ecological and environmental degradation.

    BRYNJULF MUGAAS, of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said his organization ensured that safe water supply and adequate sanitation systems when it supported the reconstruction of schools.  When water projects were implemented, women were properly represented and given the same responsibilities as men.  Water and sanitation, combined with better nutrition and disease control, could have a large impact on child mortality.  The use of environmentally friendly technology was also a key element of Red Cross projects.

    Ms. YAMAMOTO, representative for the Basel Convention, said, in its second decade of implementation, that important instrument was focused on ways to manage waste in an environmentally sound manner.  The Convention was coordinating its capacity-building activities at the regional level through joint ventures with home-grown initiatives, such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  It was also actively promoting partnerships to address such issues as chemical waste disposal and safe waste management.

    Mr. AMAMIYA (Japan) said partnership initiatives were flexible and useful tools in improving water and sanitation facilities.  Japan had been a top donor among bilateral and multilateral institutions in providing ODA from 1997 to 2001.  His country was committed to continuing its efforts through various initiatives, such as partnerships.

    Mr. TAU (Lesotho) said his country was steadily moving towards achieving the Millennium Goals and those of the Johannesburg Summit, but the country still faced serious challenges.  Water coverage lagged behind targeted levels in urban areas and increased urbanization was putting water provision systems under further pressure.  Weak infrastructure, lack of finances, poor water policies and inadequate sanitation were some of the other challenges the country faced.  He said that feasibility studies were under way with the help of non-governmental organization partners to design strategies to address those problems.  Lesotho believed that it had met all the conditionalities for attracting ODA and looked forward to further assistance from the international community, as it struggled to reach agreed goals and targets for water and sanitation.

    Ms. VAN RIJN (Netherlands) said that maintaining environmental integrity required practical means of protecting its ecosystems.  She then provided the details of an international conference on “water for food” and “water for ecosystems”, to be held in the Netherlands in 2005.

    Morning Parallel Meeting

    The event focused on meeting the financial challenge for providing safe water, incentives to promote reforms and leverage resources and means of empowering stakeholders, in particular women, to ensure participation.  Taking part in the debate were representatives of governments, international agencies, women’s organizations, local authorities, trade unions, non-governmental organizations, farmers, indigenous peoples, business and industry.

    The issues were presented by a panel of experts, consisting of Thierry Chambolle, Adviser to the President of Suez for Sustainable Development and Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce Contact Group, France; Ravi Narayanan, Director, Water Aid, United Kingdom; John Wasielewski, Director of the Office of Development Credit, United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Marie-Elise Gbedo, Advocate à la Cour, l’Association des Femmes Juristes du Benin; and Linette Vassell, Community Development and Gender Specialist, Ministry of Water and Housing, Jamaica.

    Opening the meeting, Chairman BRUNO STAGNO UGARTE (Costa Rica) pointed out the costs of water development and water services.  The key question was how to meet the financing needs for water, while ensuring equity and access to services for the poor, he said.  Another important issue involved promotion of needed reforms and leveraging resources to best meet financing requirements of the water sector and ensure sustainability.

    Introducing some 85 recommendations made by the World Panel on Financing Water, Mr. NARAYANAN focused on a major coordinated increase in financial resources for safe water, which was required to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  He said that financing needed to come from all sources, including official development assistance (ODA), private and local investment and tariff reform, particularly in urban areas.  Urgent attention should be paid to the capacity at the sub-sovereign and local government level and, once allocated, funds needed to be made readily available.  The best administrative resources of governments needed to be placed not in capitals, but in the areas most in need.  Attention also needed to be given to evaluation of results and non-governmental organization involvement.

    Mr. CHAMBOLLE presented the views of the private sector in the financing of water and sanitation, saying that all over the world, water infrastructures were being developed by both public and private players.  Listing confidence, sound finance and governance as essential requirements, he said that business could not succeed without trust between public and private partners.  Stressing the need to share risks, he added that private partners could not cover on their own such factors as possible strong devaluation or a unilateral breach of the contract by public partners.

    Mr. WASIELEWSKI presented experiences related to the use of the ODA resources to establish guarantee instruments that would leverage local resources.  All loan guarantees provided by his Agency were now either preceded by or accompanied by technical assistance and training, and early results were encouraging.  In most cases, those loans were not intended to guarantee profit, but to promote local development, providing municipalities with the means to pay for services.  The idea of attracting credit-worthy activities was being put into effect.

    Sharing their views and experiences, many participants of the debate agreed that insufficient transparency and lack of trust between the public and private actors were, indeed, an important issue.  A speaker said that even when significant amounts of money were set aside for meeting local communities’ water and sanitation needs, complicated rules and bureaucratic procedures often presented an obstacle.  It was necessary to make those rules and procedures more user-friendly.

    Speakers also agreed that, while most water and sanitation were currently funded from public funds, involvement of all actors, including the private sector, civil society, local groups and industries, was needed.  Financing efforts should be based on building partnerships and capacity-building at all levels.  The needs should be clearly identified and distributed between private and public players.  Other important aspects of the issue involved the increased efficiency of using public funds and the need to raise more resources locally, through progressive use of tariffs, taxation and local capital markets.

    Many delegates pointed out that problems could not be solved through ODA alone, saying that assistance had to be delivered in tandem with general development efforts, including poverty-reduction strategies.  Strong national ownership was an essential precondition.  Proper management of the infrastructure was of utmost importance.  A recommendation was made to promote a “bottom-up” approach, involving municipal-level authorities and grass-roots organizations in the decision-making process.

    A speaker said that much money was being spent on developing water resources that were accessible only to the rich and out of reach for the poor.  In that connection, several speakers insisted that, instead of focusing on profit-making, it was necessary to meet the needs of the disadvantaged.  Protection of consumers was emphasized, and a point was made that it was absolutely essential to avoid impeding local authorities in making decisions as far as particular models of financing and managing the water and sanitation facilities were concerned.

    Another participant of the discussion cautioned against putting in additional funds without corresponding policy reforms.  Another key problem was the lack of infrastructure or their collapse in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.  Also listed among the priorities were integrated water resources management, river-basin management, more efficient use of water, anti-pollution measures, and better consumption policies.

    Introducing the second theme of the morning -- empowering stakeholders -- KERSTIN MUELLER, Minister for State, Germany’s Foreign Office, said that water provision and management required action at the community level, and women, in particular, played an important role in that regard.  A strategy of empowerment was needed to encourage participation at the local level, giving people the right to participate in decision-making, have their voices heard and make their own choices.  Among the aspects that deserved further consideration were integration of gender aspects into policy planning, implementation and evaluation, and development of adequate public sanitation facilities.  Women’s role in the communities needed to be taken into account, as well as their involvement in water use and management.

    Mr. NARANYAN presented some of WaterAid’s experiences, emphasizing the importance of increasing the capacity of women through microcredit development groups led and organized by women themselves.  Also, the ethical and practical aspects of the issue needed to be taken into account.  Women should be trained for such non-traditional skills and occupations as masons and mechanics.  Women’s bargaining power could be increased through measures that developed their ability to organize and demand services.

    Introducing the outcome of a meeting held by the Network of African Women for Development, Ms. GBEDO stressed the importance of “doing the groundwork for investments”.  The most modern technologies were not always the most suitable for local needs, and the views of both men and women at the local level needed to be taken into account.  It was necessary to recognize the specific conditions and sociocultural contexts of communities.  To get the women, particularly in villages, involved, it was important to contact the local leaders, inform the women about the options available and create administrative frameworks, which would allow for their participation.  It was also important to look for compromises, which would satisfy all the groups involved.  Planning for participation was needed.

    Ms. VASSEL addressed the requirements for empowerment for participation from a gender perspective and spoke about the key challenges and lessons emerging from Jamaica’s Rural Water and Sanitation Project.  She said that it was impossible to empower people, but it was possible to create the conditions within which men and women would be able to empower themselves.  Empowerment required the exercise of choice by individuals and access to resources.  Women were the primary beneficiaries and users of potable water, and they needed to have a more prominent leadership role.

    Speakers in the ensuing debate stressed the need to ensure water development and management on the basis of a participatory approach and creation of cross-sector partnerships.  A representative of a women’s group advocated the use of gender-responsive budgeting and said that all major stakeholders, including women, should be treated as equal partners.

    Also promoted in the debate was increased participation by farmers, water-users associations, indigenous peoples and trade unions, which could play an increased role in water resources management and preservation of the environment.  Training, creation of grass-roots level unions, proper regulatory frameworks, promotion of corporate accountability and responsibility, and programmes to raise awareness were emphasized as among the main means of empowerment.

    Status Reports

    JOANNE DISANO, Director, Division for Sustainable Development/Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) introduced the reports of the Secretary-General on progress in implementing decisions adopted “CSD-11” (documents E/2004/12-E/CN.17/2004/3 and E/CN.17/2004/17), as well as the document entitled “Partnerships for Sustainable Development (document E/CN.17/2004/16).

    Explaining that the reports related to action taken by the United Nations system in coordinated follow-up to the Johannesburg Summit, she said they also reflected improvements in national reporting and further work on indicators, and partnerships for sustainable development.  The report on coordinated follow-up to the Summit (document E/CN.17/2004/3) outlined the decisions taken and work under way within the framework of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for coordination.  It focused on collaborative arrangements relating to freshwater, water and sanitation, energy, oceans and coastal areas, and changing unsustainable production and consumption patterns.

    She said the report also emphasized that the key objectives of inter-agency coordination was to enhance system-wide synergies in support of the follow-up to the Johannesburg Summit and the work of the Commission.  The High-Level Committee on Programmes, on behalf of the Chief Executive Board, had taken the lead in such efforts and would keep under review the overall contribution of the United Nations system to the follow-up to the Summit.  The specific texts of the Chief Executive Board decisions were available in the Secretary-General’s report and on the Board Web site.

    Drawing the Commission’s attention to UN Water, she said that, recently, the Chief Executive Board, on the recommendation of the High-Level Committee, had decided to endorse UN Water as the inter-agency mechanism for follow-up of the Summit water-related decisions and the Millennium Development Goal concerning freshwater.  It had asked UN Water to finalize its terms of reference and modalities of work, including arrangements for progressive and effective participation of non-UN actors in the Summit follow-up.

    Providing a quick update on energy, she said that an ad hoc task force comprising United Nations system experts on energy met in Rome last week to elaborate a terms of reference, functioning modalities, and work programme for a system-wide collaborative arrangement on energy.  It was decided that a collaborative mechanism called UN-Energy had been created and the ad hoc task force agreed on its terms of reference.  It was further decided that UN-Energy would be open to all United Nations organizations and would be the principal inter-agency mechanism to undertake to help ensure coherence in the UN system’s multidisciplinary response to the Summit and the collective engagement of non-UN stakeholders.

    She explained that UN-Energy would focus on substance, both in regard to policy development in the energy area and its implementation, as well as maintaining an overview of major ongoing initiatives within the system.  There would be a rotating chairmanship at a high policy level and vice-chair at the expert level, both serving for a period of two years, and DESA would provide secretariat services.

    The report on improvements in national reporting and further work on indicators of sustainable development (document E/CN.17/2004/17) provides a summary of the Secretariat’s efforts to streamline reporting in order to avoid duplication with requests from United Nations agencies, she said.  It also contains information on efforts taken to date to make the guidelines and questionnaires more efficient and focused on implementation, as well as to lessen the burden on countries.  The report also provided an update on national efforts at developing and implementing indicators of sustainable development.

    As indicated in the report, she said consultations had already begun on possible approaches to formulating national reporting guidelines for the Commission’s review of its next thematic cluster of issues in 2006-2007, with a view to allowing at least one year for countries to prepare national reports.  The national focal points for reporting in their respective countries would be requested to share their experiences of the reporting for the present cycle, which would be taken into consideration in planning the next cycle.

    Regarding indicators of sustainable development, she said the analysis had been based on a review of the 2002 Country Profiles series, among others.  The report covered four areas of indicator-related activities, including thematic issues, institutional issues, national programmes/projects for indicators of sustainable development, and information management.  It concluded with challenges.  The report points out that many countries were still in the early stages of establishing programmes on indicators of sustainable development and that those endeavours needed to be encouraged.

    The Secretary-General’s report on partnerships (document E/CN.17/2004/16) provided a general summary of information on the 266 partnerships for sustainable development registered with the Commission’s Secretariat as at 31 January, she said.  The report also provided a more detailed summary of partnerships focusing on water, sanitation and human settlements.  It pointed out that, while the registered partnerships varied considerably in terms of size, scope and duration, there were certain common themes that resonated through all of them.

    She said that those partnerships were collaborative initiatives focused on finding solutions to sustainable development challenges.  By pooling their knowledge, skills and resources, registered partnerships were working to develop comprehensive knowledge management systems to contribute to an environment of informed decision-making.  Seventy-five per cent of the registered partnerships had reported that they had secured funding, while the remainder were awaiting contribution from donors.  While some of them were fully operational, many were in the organizational phase of their development.  It had been anticipated that an increasing number would be reporting progress soon.

    Towards making available information about the partnerships, she reported that the Commission secretariat had launched an interactive, user-friendly, Web-enabled database on Partnerships for Sustainable Development on the Web site on 27 February.  In fact, analysis of partnerships initiatives contained in the Secretary-General’s report had been made possible by that database.

    She concluded by reiterating one of the Commission guidelines on partnerships, which had been adopted last year at CSD-11:  “Partnerships as outlined above are not intended to substitute for commitments by Governments but to supplement the implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.  They should add concrete value to the implementation process”.

    When the floor was opened for comments on the reports, the representative of Belgium said that her delegation had had trouble with gaining access to the Commission’s partnership database and wondered how that tool could be improved in order to help delegations monitor and encourage partnerships?

    The representative of Costa Rica said that despite nearly 15 years experience, the Commission’s work, or perhaps even its existence, was largely unknown to many governments and national authorities.  So, the Commission should work to ensure that cross-cutting sustainable development tools such as indicators and reporting mechanisms were better publicized and easer to use or access.  The Commission should take a more global approach.

    The representative of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the mandates and comparative advantages of United Nations agencies should be taken into account when promoting the implementation of the Commission’s decisions on the overall review of the Johannesburg programme of action.  He was concerned that the reports did not highlight the progress that had been made at the Secretariat-level to that end since the Commission’s last session.

    On partnerships, he said his delegation appreciated the work done at the Secretariat-level in that regard.  The Group of 77 would also like more effort to be given to lightening the burden of reporting on developing countries.  On indicators, he reiterated the Group’s position that indicators were voluntary and that there was no single approach that could be applied to all nations.

    Responding to those comments, Ms. DISANO said that her Division had worked very hard during the intersessional period to create a usable Web site and database to assist the Commission and the wider United Nations community on sustainable development issues.  The Secretariat would welcome any comments or suggestions that could enhance that tool.  She went on to say that the message had been clear that the United Nations had to better coordinate its responses to sustainable development issues.  She said the Secretariat had felt that there should be some outreach to the wider development community to assist efforts to ensure the implementation of the Johannesburg outcomes.

    She said she had also heard concern about partnerships and funding. Partnerships were voluntary.  They were not meant to be only among outside stakeholders, but among all stakeholders, inside and outside the United Nations family of agencies and funds.  On reducing the national reporting burden, her Division had been working very hard to address that issue, while also trying to ensure that any gaps in reporting were covered.

    United Kingdom’s representative welcomed the reports.  He noted that the Johannesburg outcome called for some inter-agency machinery on oceans, and in that regard a modest first step had been taken.  Countries must be geared towards shared objectives and approaches, in order to reach the access and sanitation goals and that must also guide the United Nations system and agencies.  One way to do that was to establish inter-agency cooperation, as that was key to the process.  On the oceans, for example, a certain approach had been established, such as the ecosystem approach and watershed management, around which agencies could cooperate as in interim step.

    The representative of Mexico said that synergies between the institutions should be taken advantage of, to avoid overlap between conventions and various organizations.  That was burdensome, not only for the various bodies, but for the countries themselves.  The UNDP’s exercise to launch a pilot project to have a single report, therefore, was very interesting and could serve as an excellent basis on which to move ahead.  Domestically, the ministers in Mexico had integrated information into a “transverse enterprise” to make further progress in implementing the Johannesburg plan.  They had also asked civil society to make its contribution.  Perhaps that approach could be tried at the regional and global levels.  Also, maybe a database could be created to provide an inventory of the indicators.

    A representative of the trade unions said the group had contacted delegations here to attempt, together, to set up an evaluation process on sustainable development with the participation of the workers represented in the trade unions.  The group had also prepared a profile of each country in the context of sustainable development, emphasizing those indicators that had enabled implementation of sustainable development in all workplaces.  His report described measures taken and not taken by the various countries in the field of health and safety in the workplace, including chemicals, work accidents, counselling on HIV/AIDS prevention, and compensation for illness caused by the workplace.  He had also carried out an evaluation of workplaces.  For its part, the Commission must seek to strengthen health in the workplace and encourage all individuals to become involved in related activities.

    The representative of Slovenia said the partnership events running parallel to the Commission’s current session had proved innovative and informative.  She added that the Commission and the Secretariat should consider ways to raise awareness on various ways to initiate new partnerships.

    Also on partnerships, Pakistan’s representative, welcomed the information presented by Ms. Disano.  He said the reports had revealed a troubling decline in the number of partnerships reported to the Secretariat since Johannesburg and the Commission’s previous session.  He said that one of the issues that had been raised was that partnerships were largely donor-driven.  That was to say that the major donors initiated partnerships wherever and for whatever specific purposes they wanted or felt needed to be addressed, rather than perhaps where the greatest demand for action was required.  That was an issue that the Commission needed to seriously address.

    The representative of Saudi Arabia stressed that inter-agency coordination and cooperation should closely follow the guidelines set at Johannesburg.  The outcome of any such cooperative efforts should be transmitted to the Commission, which was the only forum that had been mandated at Johannesburg to carry out actions towards achieving sustainable development, such as those regarding water, sanitation and human settlements.

    Responding, Ms. DISANO said the comments would certainly go a long way towards helping the Division streamline its work.  She updated the Commission on the number of partnerships -- over 200 -- that had been initiated since the report on partnerships had been completed.  She went on to stress that the United Nations System Chief Executive Board was largely waiting until the Commission completed its current session before beginning to initiate system-wide actions on Johannesburg follow-up, which would focus on what the Commission itself highlighted as most critical in the initial areas of water, sanitation and human settlements.

    The representative of Indonesia commended the United Nations agencies who were following the deliberations.  He also thanked the Secretary-General and the Secretariat for the reports.  Partnerships could play a critical role, as an innovative way to promote implementation in the field by all stakeholders.  Partnerships should not be overemphasized, however, and should not replace the crucial role of government in translating the commitments into action.  On inter-agency cooperation and coordination, he emphasized the critical role of United Nations agencies in ensuring implementation.  At the same time, he reaffirmed that the inter-agency report to the Commission should focus on the thematic issues, as agreed at the previous session.

    India’s representative commended the reports for containing so much valuable information.  She was similarly concerned, however, that the inter-agency report had not touched on the very important subjects of sanitation and settlements, which was precisely the work under way at present.  Also, coordinating the work of non-United Nations actors should be made within the mandate of the inter-governmental process and their work should be aligned to that process.  The report had given the impression somehow that those were two parallel processes -- intergovernmental and inter-agency.

    She said she recognized that partnerships could contribute to attaining the objectives, but given the current trends in numbers and partnerships, she was not sure how much additional funding would be needed in the long run.  At the same time, it was important to respect the Commission’s programme of work, and its primary role in following up the Summit process should be respected.

    The women’s group representative said she shared the observation made that partnership funding had been mainly governmental.  She was concerned that that might take resources away donors in terms of existing commitments.  That certainly was not what had been meant by the Johannesburg partnerships.  Also, those partnerships were not, by definition, public-private partnerships, but far more public-public partnerships, aimed at energizing and promoting outreach.  It had been concluded at the Commission’s last Session that gender was a cross-cutting issue, but there had been no reporting on that.  Once again, gender-disaggregated data was needed, in order for the indicators to be gender sensitive, as well.

    The representative of South Africa wondered if future reports could present more qualitative information on partnership performance as it related to the achievement of targets and goals set at the Johannesburg Summit.

    Belgium’s representative asked for clarification on the Secretariat’s consultations on the Commission’s next cycle of thematic issues.

    On indicators for sustainable development, the representative of Cuba said that several initiatives in that regard had been undertaken in his region through the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), or by the secretariats of other agencies.  That could be seen as somewhat diluting the efforts under way at the Secretariat-level in New York.  He suggested, therefore, that the Commission, through the Secretariat, design a better mechanism to monitor such activities.

    The representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said cost effectiveness and relevance had been the hallmarks of the Chief Executive Board since its inception.  That joint body had consistently sought a coordinated approach towards the implementation of the Summit follow-up.  But the Chief Executive Board, nonetheless, was often required to respond to issues similar to those being considered by the Commission, for example, on water and oceans.  On the participation of non-governmental organizations, he said that, while such groups were not involved in Chief Executive Board decision-making, that body did invite civil society groups for consultations, the results of which might inform its overall decisions.

    The speaker from the United States said that the report on partnerships had prompted some questions, but it was worth recalling that it was only one and one half years since Johannesburg.  As Secretary of State Colin Powell had stated there, sustainable development was a marathon and not a sprint. The United States was taking stock of the more than 20 partnerships launched at Johannesburg and trying to distil some of the lessons learned so far.

    He said that the first lesson was that building successful partnerships required significant patience and time investment, and the building of trust among partners.  They also involved a shared definition and joint ideas about solutions.  A third lesson was that partnerships required comprehensive and clear communications.  His country was finding it increasingly useful to use electronic means to try to enable partnership members to communicate and coordinate with each other and the outside world.  The fourth lesson concerned the vital need for flexibility; there was no “one size fits all” approach.

    In response to some of the comments, the Director explained that those topics were integrated in the Secretary–General’s report; there would never be a topic on gender alone, for example, or on finance.  To the comment that the reports were technical and number-crunching, she said their authors had sought to stay within the mandate given them by the eleventh session, which was not to undertake an analysis, as tempting as that was.  If that was the Commission’s wish, however, that could be done.

    Noting that the inter-agency process had also come under discussion, she said that what was being discussed in the two-year cycle was being dealt with in a holistic way.  For the three themes, the Secretary-General had engaged in a “very collaborative” effort to see input from all parts of the United Nations system.  The reports represented a very wide, collective effort.

    ANNE KERR, Chief, National Information, Strategies and Institutions Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, talked about how consultations were being organized for the next thematic cluster.  The Secretariat was looking for updates on national focal points and also persons specifically involved in the thematic topics, as that might enhance the consultation process with national governments.  She also reviewed the reporting requirements.

    She added that she would provide a new map on status next year, like the one provided last year.  The response rate on the indicators had been low, however, so she encouraged countries to continue to provide the Secretariat with information on national development strategies, so a more complete rundown and analysis could be provided next year.  Some training had been provided in different regions and would continue, resources permitting, she replied to another query.

    Nigeria’s representative said that, while he had understood that the report had followed the mandate given the Secretariat, certain areas, such as cross-cutting issues in general and poverty in particular, had not been dealt with in the report.  In looking towards the thirteenth session, everyone should be very careful in the processes being undertaken and not stray outside the guidelines provided by the Commission.  On partnerships, he said that those were very important, but at no time did they replace the role of government.

    The representative of Burkina Faso said it was clear that partnerships were very important to sustainable development efforts.  Perhaps it was time to consider carrying out long-term studies on the impact and effectiveness of such partnerships on the specific countries in which they were being carried out.

    Also on partnerships, the representative of Iran said that his delegation would like to see a section or table on collaborative initiatives involving United Nations agencies in the next reports on the matter.

    The representative speaking on behalf of women’s groups encouraged delegations to integrate specific information on gender not only in their country reports, but to include women in the actual reporting and information gathering.

    Summing up the discussions, Ms. DISANO said that her division would take all the comments, questions into consideration.  To the extent that it was possible, the Secretariat would adjust its work programmes to include some of those suggestions.

    Afternoon Parallel Meeting

    During its afternoon parallel meeting, the Commission held an interactive dialogue on the status of implementation of the sanitation objectives set by the Millennium Development Goals and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and strategies for improving access to basic sanitation.

    The stage for discussion was set by members of the panel, which consisted of Gourisankar Ghosh, Executive Director of Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC); Jamie Batram, Coordinator, Water, Sanitation and Health, World Health Organization (WHO); Albert Wright, Co-Chair of the Millennium Development Goals Task Force on Water and Sanitation; Vanessa Tobin, Chief, Water, Environment and Sanitation Section, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Patrick Kahangire, Director of Uganda’s Department of Water; and Bernardo Monge Urena, Director of Direccion Proteccion Ambiente Humano, Costa Rica.

    Opening the meeting, its Chairman, Toru Shimizu (Japan) recalled the goal of cutting in half the number of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015 and said that the questions to be addressed today included the main obstacles and constraints to implementation, as well as lessons learned from successes and best practices.

    “How are we doing in terms of meeting the sanitation goals?” asked Mr. BATRAM.  “Not well enough”.  Looking at progress achieved since the 1990s, he noted, taking into account population growth, good news as far as access to water was concerned, but the number of people without access to basic sanitation remained staggering.  When setting the goals, the international community might have underestimated the number of people without access to water and basic sanitation in the first place, and now, even meeting the targets would leave many without access to water and sanitation, with some 1.7 billion individuals still waiting to be reached.  Another point was that other goals like infant mortality and reduction of communicable diseases were related to the sanitation and water targets.  Finally, the overall goal of poverty eradication was a sanitation-related goal.

    Agreeing that the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals was not on track, Mr. GHOSH advocated a people-centred approach.  The goals related to water and sanitation could not be addressed separately, yet the issues of sanitation and hygiene tended to be neglected during the planning, policy-making, budgeting and implementation phases.  To rectify the situation, it was necessary to develop, as a matter of priority, national action plans and strategies for sanitation and hygiene.  He also called for allocation of resources for education, promotion and creation of access to resources and facilities.  There was also a need for adequate donor support for capacity-building.

    Mr. WRIGHT identified the strategies and actions needed to meet the targets, saying that reaching them should not be “business as usual”.  It was necessary to identify and address the constraints facing different regions, countries and communities all over the world.  In that connection, he noted a recent human development report, according to which some 43 per cent of the world’s population had already reached the target or were on track.  However, countries where progress had either stalled or was reversing needed special attention, as did countries facing special challenges.  Even for those countries where the targets were achievable, it was necessary to ensure that they adhered to the practices that worked.  It was possible to achieve the targets through a combination of national action plans, supported, as appropriate, through international efforts.  The key was to focus on the delivery of service, rather than infrastructure. Behaviour-related issues needed to be addressed through education at the community level.

    Speakers in the ensuing debate expressed grave concern over the fact that only one third of the countries would reach the target, unless international actions were significantly increased.  They noted that meeting the Millennium Development Goals in respect to sanitation would require an approximate doubling of sanitation investments from the levels of the past decade, to some $7 billion a year in infrastructure alone.  In 2000, some 2.4 billion people remained without access to basic sanitation.  They were equally distributed between rural and urban areas.  However, it was the existing unserved population that needed to be covered in rural areas, while in the cities the increase was mostly due to the growth of population.

    Sharing their national experiences, participants in the discussion presented several successful projects, which achieved acceleration not only through legislation and political commitment, but also through such measures as the adoption of a demand-driven approach, decentralization and privatization of water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as small-scale and private sector initiatives.  The issue of partnership development figured prominently in the debate, and the importance of finance, good governance, capacity-building and technology transfer were emphasized.

    Stressing the inequalities between rich and poor countries, representatives of several developing countries identified the difficulties they faced and expressed willingness to work with development partners and international organizations in order to realize their goals.  Major challenges and constraints included the low level of education, particularly in the rural areas, limited financial resources, poor management and lack of access to technological advances.  Local institutions were needed for effective service provision.  Expanding access to sanitation required money from national and local tax revenues and user fees, cross-subsidies from users who could afford to pay, and investments from the private sector and commercial lenders, as well as multinational financial institutions.

    It was said that many developing countries were using technologies, system designs and standards that were not well-suited to their conditions, as well as treatment processes that were more complex than necessary.  Low-cost technologies that were simple and cheap to operate could be beneficial, in some cases.  At the same time, in many developed countries, access to basic sanitation was taken for granted, but human activities put a burden on water quality and quantity, thus affecting human health and the environment.

    Several speakers stressed the need to create a political climate that would assign high priority to proper management of municipal waste water.  That was a necessary condition for the development of various initiatives.  Both national and local governments should act as facilitators and initiators of appropriate waste-water management.  Governments had a leading role in ensuring sustainable governance and creating adequate conditions for action.  As profits were more likely to be prominent in such areas as water supply and tourism, a suggestion was made to link waste-water management with them to ensure faster cost-recovery, reduce risks and ensure sustainability of the measures introduced.

    As the meeting moved to the second theme for the afternoon –- strategies for improving access to basic sanitation –- Mr. GHOSH said that there were different models and demands in various areas.  Points for consideration should include the need to focus on clear and targeted national plans, putting sanitation, water and human settlement issues at the centre of development plans and emphasizing links among those issues.  It was also important to clearly identify the target audience and remember that without private participation, sanitation goals would not be achieved. Small-scale entrepreneurship and the role of local capital markets needed to be emphasized.  The issue had to remain the focus of global attention, but plans needed to originate at a local level.

    Mr. KAHANGIRE focused his presentation on Uganda’s experience in developing a national sanitation strategy, stressing the need to develop partnerships with government at the centre.  National, multisectoral, institutional leadership in setting standards and policies should be encouraged, so that projects could be successful at the local level.  By targeting education and access to sanitation at schools, the country was promoting hygiene awareness in future generations and improving school attendance.  With support from its partners, Uganda was promoting equal sanitation, which was useful for the protection of water resources and brought sanitation activities within the framework of water resources management.

    Mr. MONGE URENA presented Costa Rica’s experiences in developing a sanitation strategy, saying that public health needed to be part of the country’s education system.  One way to measure the sanitation strategy’s impact was to evaluate a population’s health after an investment in sanitation facilities.  Costa Rica did not have an army.  Instead of pursuing weapons, his country had invested in an educated population.

    Sanitation could not be measured just by the number of latrines built, Ms. TOBIN said.  It was also necessary to ensure that sanitation and hygiene were among a country’s priorities.  Resources needed to be made available not only in urban areas, but also in poor rural communities.  Among many experiences mentioned today, she recalled the initiatives undertaken in Asia and Africa, which focused on full community coverage in a sustainable way.  It was also necessary to take into account the needs of women and children.  Changing behaviour was really essential for success.

    Participants of the debate agreed that successful strategies should include legal measures, economic incentives, information and education programmes and assignment of rights and responsibilities for providing services.  Also emphasized in the discussion was the need for more cohesion, involving various ministries in sanitation and hygiene promotion; decentralization to the local government level; subsidy policies for construction; enforcement of environmental by-laws; introduction of innovative financial mechanisms; and elaboration of programmes for school sanitation improvement.

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