Press Releases

                                                                                        29 April 2004

    World Needs Balanced International Agenda, Says Secretary-General as Sustainable Development Commission Begins High-Level Segment

    NEW YORK, 28 April (UN Headquarters) -- Sessions Address Timetables, Policies for Meeting Sustainable Development Goals in Water, Sanitation, Human Settlements.

    High-level political attention had been diverted from sustainable development by the recent focus on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and the war in Iraq, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Commission on Sustainable Development as it continued its twelfth session with a high-level segment on water, sanitation and human settlements.

    The world needed a balanced international agenda, he stressed, and should lose no more time in its struggle for human well-being. Progress had been made, but major challenges remained, including the world’s threatened natural resource base, unsustainable consumption and production patterns, deforestation and biodiversity loss, the growing HIV/AIDS burden, and economically and environmentally harmful trading subsidies.

    Addressing the Commission’s themes on water, sanitation and human settlements, he noted that water was connected to health, with millions of children sickening and dying every year from water-borne diseases and a lack of basic sanitation and hygiene. It was also linked to environmental protection and the urbanization of poverty. Rural impoverishment rooted in water and land-tenure problems drove people to migrate to already crowded cities, most often to growing slums.

    Echoing those concerns, Børge Brende, Minister for the Environment of Norway and Commission Chair, said bad sanitation had as shocking an effect as the AIDS crisis, but was as treatable as polio. An estimated 90 per cent of discharged water went untreated in the developing world, adversely impacting health and livelihoods, and costing nations some $186 billion in the treatment of water-borne illness and disease. Simply reaching the 2015 sanitation targets could garner an economic gain of some $63 billion a year at a cost of only $11 billion.

    Half the world’s hospital beds were occupied by people suffering from water-borne diseases, he continued, many of whom were children from slums. Those children could have been attending school and charting their course out of poverty -- if only safe, clean water and adequate sanitation had been available. The targets had been set and now it was time for implementation. “Let’s make it clear that we have embarked on a decade of kept promises”, he said.

    Furthering that argument, Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that water-borne diseases actually claimed more lives per year -- 3.5 million -- than did HIV/AIDS.  Public investment into the problem, however, had actually shrunk over the last decade, and global partnerships had fluctuated enormously. The AIDS pandemic was fortunate to have a coordination body in the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), as well as the Global Fund, which had mobilized tremendous amounts to fight the disease. Water had failed to catch the same international, political imagination in efforts to achieve the Millennium Goals, as had HIV/AIDS.

    Jeffrey Sachs, Professor at Colombia University, Director of the Millennium Project and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals, said that international goals in sustainable development could still be reached with committed national leadership and promised international support. Africa had developed some astonishingly innovative programmes in water, sanitation and human settlements, but had not been backed by international support.  Urging the international community to act, he said that tens or perhaps hundreds of millions of lives worldwide were hanging in the balance.

    Some $900 billion was spent each year on armaments, he said, while only $50 billion was spent on development assistance. “We must change the balance in the world”. The international community must develop broad-based strategies to back up country-level plans, increase official development assistance (ODA) and expand financing under the International Development Association to around $20 billion a year.

    Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Youssef Kamal, Finance Minister of Qatar, voiced the concern of several speakers by stressing the importance of technology transfer to developing nations in fulfilling sustainable development goals. Partnerships were also vital, but the Commission review so far had shown that they were mainly financed by governments, rather than the private sector. The reliance by partnerships on government resources could mean a diversion of resources from intergovernmental commitments, he warned.

    Focusing on human settlements, other speakers noted that slum dwellers were at the very core of rapid demographic shifts currently under way, and that their needs must be addressed to meet the Millennium Goals. Because that segment of the population was growing so quickly, the international community might have to surpass the pre-set goals in the end to achieve any type of success. It was important to stress, one speaker pointed out, that the solution to rural poverty was not urban migration.

    Several participants highlighted alternative methods in meeting the agreed goals, including the ecosystems approach, enhancing private sector participation with a focus on the needs of the poor, looking at sanitation as a business and elaborating an international system for water governance. They also emphasized the citizen participation in sustainable development was now considered a major part of ensuring its success. Further, they said, the media played a critical role not only in raising awareness, but in policy advocacy and in strengthening the basis of informed decision-making.

    Also participating in the discussions today were the Ministers of Japan, China, Morocco, Germany, Republic of Korea, Iceland, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Kenya, Egypt, Australia, Venezuela, India, South Africa, Iran, France, Uganda (speaking on behalf of African Ministers), Norway, Canada, Sweden Costa Rica, Finland, Tajikistan, Hungary, Cambodia, Slovenia, Israel, Thailand, Ethiopia, Dominica, Estonia, and Mauritius. The representatives of Benin and Lao People’s Democratic Republic also spoke.

    Michel Camdessus, former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and member of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, was on the panel on creating an enabling environment.

    The Vice-President of Honduras was also among the participants, as was the Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic.

    The Vice-President and Head of Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network for the World Bank also spoke, as did the Assistant Director-General, Sustainable Development Department, of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

    Also participating were France’s Minister for Cooperation and Francophonie, the Presidential Adviser on Sustainable Development for Guyana and the Adviser to the Minister of Environment of Jordan.

    The Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for the United Kingdom; Secretary of State for the Environment for Luxembourg; Under-Secretary for Global Affairs of the United States; and the Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs of the United States also made statements.

    The Commission will continue its high-level segment tomorrow at 10 a.m., when it is expected to hear from the heads of United Nations agencies and funds.


    The Commission on Sustainable Development met today to begin its high-level segment on water, sanitation and human settlements.  (For background information, see Press Release ENV/DEV/762 of 13 April.)

    Statement of Secretary-General

    KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, noted that progress towards sustainable development had been, at best, uneven. On the positive side, important agreements had been signed, binding conventions were entering into force, developing country capacities had been strengthened, and official development assistance (ODA) had risen. Partnerships and corporate social responsibility initiatives had expanded, and awareness of what sustainable development meant had deepened.

    However, he said, key challenges remained.  Those included the threatened natural resource base, unsustainable consumption and production patterns, deforestation and biodiversity loss, the growing HIV/AIDS burden, and economically and environmentally harmful trading subsidies. In addition, high-level political attention had been diverted from sustainable development by the recent focus on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and the war in Iraq. The international community should lose no more time in its struggle for human well-being.  Just as the world needed balanced development, it needed a balanced international agenda.

    Addressing the Commission’s themes of water, sanitation and human settlements, he said that water was intimately linked with education and gender equality. Girls who had to spend time gathering water for the family tended to miss school. Attendance was higher at schools with sanitation. Water was connected to health, with millions of children sickening and dying every year from water-borne diseases and a lack of basic sanitation and hygiene. It was also linked to environmental protection and the urbanization of poverty. Rural impoverishment rooted in water and land-tenure problems drove people to migrate to already crowded cities -- most often to growing slums.

    An integrated approach towards those problems could generate a cascade of progress, he said.  However much was done at the international level, though, action on water, sanitation and settlements must ultimately be national and local, drawing on effective public administration and inclusive governance.  The Commission must be a watchdog, alert to threats and fearless in sounding alarms, continuing to give voice to all stakeholders, not just governments. The international community must listen to what science was saying about the planet, and to what ordinary people -- the billions without water or sanitation, or living in slums -- were saying about their lives.

    Statement by Commission Chairman

    BØRGE BRENDE, Minister for the Environment of Norway, and Commission Chair, said that the job of the ministers at the high-level segment was to focus on implementation. That job started the day after the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development ended.  So, after too many years of too little action, “our mandate is clear”, he said. “We are to act as watchdogs.” His was the Commission’s first session devoted entirely to reviewing implementation, and ministers, experts and delegations had gathered to take a hard, honest look at how much had been done to deliver safe water and basic sanitation to the poor, and to improve living conditions for hundreds of millions of people living in slums.

    The task for the next three days was to identify obstacles and constraints, to examine best practices and lessons learned and to conduct a review that will form a solid, factual platform for decision-making. “Our ambitions can be no less than a springboard for action”, he said, because in the long run the cost of not acting would be a further blow to poverty eradication and health-care goals, among others. Touching on each of the Commission’s priority issues, he said the facts spoke for themselves.

    On the sanitation crisis, he said the basic impact of inadequate sanitation, particularly on the poor, was as shocking as the AIDS crisis, but as treatable as polio. Simply reaching the 2015 sanitation targets could garner an economic gain of some $63 billion a year at a cost of only $11 billion. On water, he said that in the developing world it had been estimated that 90 per cent of the discharged water was untreated, adversely impacting heath and livelihoods. Treatment of water-borne illness and disease cost some $186 billion a year. And on human settlements, he said rapid urbanization was putting a severe strain on economies in the developing world. Slums were growing at an alarming rate. In fact, since the Commission had begun its session two weeks ago, the number of slum dwellers had increased by more than 1 million.

    Those were astonishing facts, he continued, adding that not enough was being done to address the challenges.  Water, sanitation and human settlements were crucial elements in daily life. Half the world’s hospital beds were occupied by people suffering from water-borne diseases. Many of those victims lived in slums and most were children. Those children could have been attending school and charting their course out of poverty -- if only safe, clean water and adequate sanitation had been available. So the task was clear. The targets had been set and now it was time for implementation. “Let’s make it clear that we have embarked on a decade of kept promises”, he said.

    Statement by Millennium Project Director

    JEFFREY SACHS, Professor, Colombia University, Director of the Millennium Project and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals, said that, at the Millennium Summit, world leaders had ushered in an era of great hope and commitment to end the horrors of poverty for so many millions of people living in a world that had so much wealth. The agreements made at the Summit had been reaffirmed at the Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development and the Johannesburg Summit. The leaders of the world had pledged to achieve quantified goals on water, sanitation and housing, among others, on time, by 2015.

    “We are not on track”, he said.  But, nevertheless, in the short time remaining, the goals could still be met in every country in the world, if there was committed leadership in those countries and the international support that had been promised was finally delivered. Setting a good example of the way forward was Africa, which over the past few years had developed some astonishingly innovative programmes on water, sanitation and human settlements.  But those had not been backed with requisite -- and promised -- international support. The international community must act, he said:  tens or perhaps hundreds of millions of lives worldwide were hanging in the balance.

    He went on to say that every low-income country, especially those that were far off-track of achieving the Millennium Goals, should prepare an MDG-based Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) in time for the 2005 Millennium Summit review.  Along with a needs assessment, those PRSPs should outline investments needed in all key sectors, including infrastructure, social needs, women’s empowerment, and urban and rural development and productivity. Overall, national governments and local authorities should drive the multi-stakeholder process.

    At the international level, he said that some $900 billion was spent each year on armaments, while only $50 billion was spent on development assistance. “We must change the balance in the world”, he said.  It could be done, everyone’s basic needs could be provided for, but the window of opportunity was closing. The international community needed to develop broad-based strategies to back up country-level plans. There needed to be an immediate increase in official development assistance (ODA) and a major increase in financing under the International Development Association to around $20 billion a year.


    YOUSSEF HUSSEIN KAMAL, Minister for Finance of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the lack of means for implementation was a critical aspect of the international environment, making it difficult for developing countries to fulfil their objectives. The Commission review had shown that only a few developed countries had met the international target of providing 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product for official development assistance (ODA). That situation must be improved to meet the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed targets. In addition, there had been no progress in market access or the removal of agricultural tariffs since Johannesburg. Subsidies in developed countries were also obstacles, since they created price distortions, making it difficult for developing countries to compete in international trade.

    Technology transfer was also needed for developing countries to fulfil goals in sustainable development, he continued.  Developed partners should also take steps to improve consumption and production patterns. Partnerships should be seen as complementary, and not a substitute for intergovernmental efforts. The review showed that, so far, they were only financed by governments, and had not managed to mobilize resources from the private sector. The reliance by partnerships on government resources could see a diversion of resources from intergovernmental commitments.

    MARTIN CULLEN, Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government of (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said the measure of success of the session would be the panel’s ability to identify constraints and challenges to implementing the Millennium Goals and the targets set at Johannesburg, and to point the way forward. The European Union had identified several priority issues that need to be addressed immediately: finance, good governance, capacity-building and technology transfer. Financing sustainable development in the three priority areas the Commission had identified would require, among other things, a combination of public and private fiscal and financial measures, and bringing about more public and private partnerships.

    He said that all must work o promote integrated water management based on the ecosystem approach by 2015. Gender equality dimensions, as well as education, should be highlighted at all times and in all efforts. The issue of the most appropriate route for monitoring progress to the Commission and other bodies should be addressed and adequate resources should be devoted to that process. He said there should be more active United Nations follow-up. Ultimately, the economic and social costs of not investing in integrated water resource management, sanitation and human settlements needed to be articulated in a manner that ministers for financing and planning could understand. “The cost of not investing is much greater than investing”, he concluded.

    PAULA DOBRIANSKY, Under-Secretary for Global Affairs of the United States, said her country had set up the Millennium Challenge account, and was now seeking to scale it up to $5 billion annually. The United States strongly advocated public-private partnerships, and had launched several at the Johannesburg Summit, including those to improve water and sanitation. The United States was also committed to the health component of sustainable development, and to combating HIV/AIDS. The Bush administration had set up an emergency plan for the pandemic -- a five-year $15 billion multifaceted approach to assist the world’s most affected nations.  Her country was also committed to integrating water and sanitation into broader development strategies, and embarking on a true era of implementation.

    KOIKE YURIKO, Minister for the Environment of Japan, said her country had some of the most stringent regulations on pollution in the world. It was currently promoting improvements in sewage systems and the installation of “johkasou” -- on-site treatment systems for domestic waste water. In urban areas where water resources were scarce, water treated via advanced sewage treatment was recycled for use in flush toilets, as water to supplement river volume, or to improve the average quality of river water.

    In the field of water supply, she continued, Japan had a high dissemination rate of water supply facilities, making positive efforts to establish a sound water cycle, as well as measures to address global warming and waste treatment issues. It was also actively involved in various international efforts, including promotion of a water environment standard for drinking water, and implementation of the initiative for Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) on water, which was announced at the Third World Water Forum.

    LIU JIANG, Vice-Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission of China, said that each country should undertake its responsibilities and adopt appropriate sustainable development strategies, in accordance with national specificities. The 10-year implementation of “China’s Agenda 21” had proved that the global development agenda should be promoted through the implementation of each country’s development strategy. Also, the international community should strive to create an enabling international economic environment, by understanding the difficulties faced by the developing countries and their reasonable requirements, and providing them with concrete assistance in priority areas.

    Water, sanitation and human settlements, he said, were issues directly related to the survival and development of grass-roots masses in developing countries, and addressing those issues should be a priority for global sustainable development. In addition, United Nations leadership on sustainable development should be strengthened, so as to further mobilize political will in the international community.

    He noted that, after years of hard work, China had laid the foundation for the achievement of the Millennium Goals. Many difficulties lay ahead and the key to resolving them was to accelerate development. The high-level international conference on the Millennium Development Goals, organized by his Government and the United Nations Country Team in China last month in Beijing, had significantly strengthened cooperation between the two sides, and similar activities would be held in the future.  His delegation would introduce China’s progress in the area of water, sanitation and human settlements during a high-level special event today.

    MOHAMED ELYAZGHI, Minister of Water and Environment of Morocco briefed the Commission on the recent regional meeting in Marrakech, held in preparation for the current session, on progress in implementing the Johannesburg programme of action goals aimed to accelerating attainment of sustainable patterns of consumption and production. He went on to say that Morocco had made water a priority and had adopted policies and strategies that would improve and preserve the country’s water resources.  Still, water supplies had drastically decreased over the past two decades, so the Government had drawn up a national plan to rationalize nationwide use of water. It had also actively promoted the participation of civic actors and communities to help come up with targeted solutions.

    He went on to say that Morocco also supported all international efforts aimed at improving water.  The country, with the support of the private sector, had created a number of projects aimed at improving the lot of slum dwellers, he added. It was high time for the entire international community to work harder to achieve the Johannesburg goals, chiefly by removing the hindrances that developing countries faced.  Global actors should also ensure wider international cooperation, particularly among intergovernmental agencies and the private sector.

    JÜRGEN TRITTIN, Minister for the Environment of Germany said providing safe water went hand in hand with effort to eradicate poverty. The targets for water, sanitation and human settlements could only be achieved if that relationship was acknowledged, and if binding targets were drawn up and if national ownership and good governance were promoted. She called on international financial institutions to revise water sector policies and to make greater use of integrated water resources management. Local-level stakeholders must be more involved in that process.

    He said that rapid and reckless liberalization should not lead to water access and quality being subjected to the laws of the free market. There was no substitute for water, he added. Pressure on freshwater reserves would only increase, and access to water was even becoming a threat to international security. He urged the Commission to consider alternative energy sources, such as wind power, which did not use water. With the outcome of the review session, the Commission would be setting the slate for its policy session next year and beyond. The international community, therefore, needed clear signals for further implementation of the Millennium and Johannesburg goals.

    KYUL-HO KWAK, Minister for Environment of the Republic of Korea, said that the best practices presented at the eighth special session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum, held last month in Jeju, Republic of Korea, would contribute to attaining goals on integrated water resource management; water and sanitation; and water, health and poverty. Between 1999 and 2001, his country, where water scarcity and water contamination were widespread, enacted a series of special acts for each of the four major rivers, in line with the paradigm shift toward a demand-side, ecosystem-based, precautionary approach for integrated water resource management.

    Among other things, the Government had designated riparian buffer zones along the riverbanks, in which land development was strictly limited, he said. To compensate upstream communities for land-use restrictions, a water-use charge was levied on the residents of downstream regions. In developing those measures, the Government spent three years coordinating the divergent interests of affected residents, local governments, non-governmental organizations and experts on over 400 occasions. As a result, stakeholder conflicts had been substantially mitigated, ensuring the effective enforcement of the special acts with the extensive participation of all stakeholders. He hoped his country’s experience would provide useful lessons for other countries as they considered policy options in the field of water resource management.

    SIV FRIDLEIFSDOTTIER, Minister for the Environment of Iceland, said it was difficult for many nations to mobilize resources for water, sanitation and human settlements because profits were measured in better lives, rather than monetary terms. She stressed the importance of involving women in efforts to make improvements in those sectors, since they brought water to households and played a key role in sanitation problems. Iceland was surrounded by water, and needed integrated water resource management to solve its production and supply problems. Freshwater sewage problems became saltwater pollution problems, both of which affected local health and the country’s ecosystem. She announced that Iceland intended to greatly increase official development assistance (ODA) in coming years, with sustainable development as one of its main aims.

    SHAHJAHAN SIRAJ, Minister for Environment and Forest of Bangladesh, said his country had cut population growth by half, curbed the child mortality rate by a third, achieved self-sufficiency in food, improved sanitation standards through indigenous methods, and lifted 30 per cent of the population out of extreme poverty over the past two decades. It had also achieved gender parity in enrolment at primary and lower secondary school levels.

    The Secretary-General’s report had pointed out that little progress had been made in protecting and managing the natural resource base -- namely, oceans, fisheries, atmosphere and climate, biodiversity, forests, mountain areas and desertification.That did not come as a great surprise, because huge investment was needed in each of those areas. A severe lack of financial resources, competing and immediate development priorities, non-transfer of technology, and capacity constraints limited the capabilities of developing countries to address those problems. The international community should be more forthcoming in cooperation, building partnerships, sharing technologies and mobilizing resources to counter those problems.

    PETR MARES, Deputy Prime Minister, Czech Republic, said that during the past 15 years his country had undergone a significant transition and, during that time, the Government had placed emphasis on environmental protection and improving housing. Its Healthy Cities Project had been a direct outflow of Rio’s Agenda 21. The water sector had also undergone extensive and comprehensive restructuring in order to improve the quality of that resource and to provide better access to it. Particular attention had been paid to improving water treatment plants and abolishing subsidies on water prices and sewage services.

    He said it was important to highlight the growing development assistance provided by his country.  The Czech Republic had acquired know-how in water supply and sanitation management and could offer that knowledge to others. Finally, he urged the session to continue its integrated consideration of its priority themes and to include important related issues, such as education for sustainable development as discussions moved forward.

    MARIAN HOBBS, Minister for Environment and Associate Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand, said that all agreed, over a number of years and meetings, on targets and goals. Now was the time to implement those targets. Integration was the key, particularly to ensure that the widest number of the world’s people achieved the goals of sustainable development -- social justice, economic growth and environmental protection.

    With that in mind, it was necessary to integrate water management issues into all government activities, including in budget provisions and policy development. It was also necessary to integrate water issues into local-level activities to deal with such issues as irrigation, urban use and hydraulic power. She called for all government agencies to cooperate at all levels. “We must plan together”, she said, because it was possible both internationally and regionally to make progress. In the Pacific that journey had begun.

    NEWTON KULUNDU, Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife of Kenya, said that meeting targets on water, sanitation and human settlements was a prerequisite for targets in other areas such as poverty eradication and environmental sustainability. Halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water and access to adequate sanitation by 2015, and improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020, was a daunting challenge for Africa. However, with greater cooperation and commitments, the continent could succeed within the set time frames.

    Financing sustainable development in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlement required a combination of public and private resources, he said.  Innovative sources of financing should be explored, such as through fiscal policies and private contributions. The role of partnerships in sustainable development should be recognized, and efforts should be made towards establishing the necessary institutions and legislation, so that an enabling environment that enhanced sustainability could be created.

    FERNANDO TUDELA, Secretary of Planning and Environmental Politics of Mexico, said any increases in stored water or improvements to sanitation were absorbed by population growth. Mexico was currently involved in a costly undertaking, trying to treat 46 per cent of the country’s effluence by 2006. To reach sustainability and meet its goals, the country would need to triple the portion of its budget devoted to water management. It was currently exploring various strategies. For example, federal fees for water were returned to the local authorities, with the requirement that they provided matching funds. This year a new law on national water would be issued, which would emphasize social participation and water management.

    MOHAMED IBRAHIM SOLIMAN, Minister for Housing for Egypt, said lack of financing and adequate technical expertise were among the main obstacles in implementation faced by developing countries, as they strove to provide clean water, sanitation and housing for their citizens. International actors should promote foreign investment, as well as technology transfer, to that end.

    For its part, Egypt was actively encouraging the private sector to join the Government’s efforts to improve housing for the poor. There had also been a harmonization of plans and programmes to help slum dwellers. The Government was also focusing on addressing the major challenges facing urban areas.  As the Commission got down to business, he urged delegations to adopt a balanced and integrated approach, which would lead to practical, implementable actions for all.

    DAVID KEMP, Minister for Environment and Heritage for Australia, said the work done over the past three weeks would set the stage for how the international community would do business for many years to come, so it was important to get it right. Australia supported the idea of promoting public and private partnerships.

    He urged the Commission to focus on how partnerships could generate momentum for sustainable development and release capital towards achievement of the Millennium Goals. While it would be critical to increase international resources for development, that would not be enough. It would also be necessary to invigorate private sector actors to participate in the sustainable development agenda.  He added that there was a critical need to involve local entrepreneurs and women in the process, as well.

    ANAELISA OSORIO, Minister for Environment and Natural Resources of Venezuela, said her country had already met the Johannesburg goal for access to safe drinking water, and 88 per cent of the population now had fresh drinking water in their houses. Regarding waste water management, the country would be able to overcome that goal before 2015, since 74 per cent of the population had access to treated water.  Over the past four years, her country had doubled the volume of treated water, reaching 20 per cent of the nation. Advancements in potable water services and sanitation had led to a significant decrease in mortality rates, as a consequence of the drop in water-related diseases.

    MARGARET BECKETT, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom, said the international community must get on track to reach the Millennium Goals and Johannesburg targets. That effort must involve all stakeholders -- business, the scientific community, civil society and the poor themselves. The aim must be full implementation, based on clear strategies and action plans to deliver on commitments for water, sanitation and human settlements. Integrated implementation was necessary for nations to share experiences and knowledge, and more work should be done through partnerships, although they must not be an excuse for governments to avoid their responsibilities. The international community also needed a range of financial mechanisms to ensure long-term and predictable aid flows.

    PRODIPTO GHOSH, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests of India, said that his country’s efforts to meet the water, housing and sanitation targets set at Johannesburg had been unrelenting.  He went on to describe national plans and programmes in those sectors, emphasizing that two five-year plans had been established for housing, particularly focusing on rural households and improving sanitation in those areas. Partnerships had been stressed as a way of boosting those initiatives, he added.

    One of the major constraints developing countries faced in their effort to achieve international development goals was the availability of necessary technology. It was time, therefore, to look more closely at ways to strengthen technology transfer initiatives. He added that United Nations agencies had a role to play in furthering efforts to implement Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg plan of action. But, those agencies should act within their mandated competencies and overall oversight of implementation efforts should remain with the Commission.

    Mr. OLVER (South Africa) said that yesterday was Freedom Day in his country, celebrating the end of apartheid and the subsequent 10 years of democracy. As the Government looked at the future in 1994, it had focused the country’s development programmes on achieving sustainable water, sanitation and housing. Currently, South Africa was on track to eliminate its backlog in water infrastructure by 2008 and its backlog in sanitation infrastructure by 2010.

    He said that South Africa’s achievements had been proof that time-bound targets and goals could be attained. He added that setting the goals had been important in galvanizing political support and promoting nationwide involvement in the country’s reconstruction following apartheid. The international community had set goals at the Millennium Summit and at Johannesburg. It was now time to make sure those goals were met.

    ALBERTO DIAZ LOBO, Vice-President of Honduras, said that education and training were important to achieving awareness about the importance of sustainable development, as well as achieving the goals agreed on. Through the National Advisory Commission on Sustainable Development (CONADES), Honduras had prepared material on the key themes of sustainable development. To develop local capacity, the Government was preparing a workshop on “Development for Trainers” in the implementation of sustainable development. It also worked closely with private enterprises, which already had their own liaison organization -- the Honduran Business Advisory Council on Sustainable Development -- which sensitized its members on the social responsibility of business, cleaner production and energy efficiency.

    The National Congress, he said, had recently approved the Water and Sanitation Law, delegating responsibility for the operation of water and sanitation systems to local municipalities. The Government hoped to train local government officials in those matters and to transfer the assets, now centralized, within a period of five years. With international cooperation, Honduras had advanced significantly with the placement of planned human settlements and with the allocation of housing to people rendered unprotected by Hurricane Mitch and who have few economic resources. The Government had also created social housing programmes, directed at people with low incomes, as well as financing for lower-middle-class families, who were strongly affected by the natural disaster, to reconstruct or acquire their own homes.

    Although Honduras still did not have an integrated management plan for water resources, it was training personnel in different sectors in the preparation of that plan, he said. With international support, it had distributed technical and financial assistance for the integrated management of the country’s principal watersheds. Through an external “debt-for-nature exchange” arranged with the Canadian Government, using the Honduras-Canada Environmental Management Fund, the country had succeeded in financing the protection of various protected areas and watersheds. He added that soon the National Advisory Commission would organize a meeting in which all the key Government sectors, the private sector and civil society would focus on the commitments undertaken, determine the advances achieved and identify the joint means of advancing toward the fulfilment of the Millennium Declaration and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

    NAROLLAH KAZEMI-KAMYAB (Iran) said that the pace of the demand for the provision of basic needs in the areas of water, sanitation and housing had exceeded the limited financial and technological capacity of his country, despite all the efforts and the tremendous investment of the Government in those sectors.  From the discussions of the last 10 days, it was clear that there was still a huge need for the international community, including United Nations bodies, international financial institutions and the donor community, to further support the efforts of developing countries.

    The discussions also highlighted the severe and destructive impacts of natural disasters, particularly earthquakes, floods and droughts, as well as conflicts, on water, sanitation and housing infrastructures, he said.  Natural disaster management, preparedness, control, mitigation and recovery operations were of crucial importance for meeting the relevant targets. In that context, enhancing cooperation including through the establishment of specialized regional collaborative centres for natural-disaster management should receive particular attention in the Commission’s discussions and find its way to the preparatory process of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction.

    Mr. GNACHDJA (Benin) said his country had tried to improve conditions for the poor, and had a national strategy to implement programmes and strategies for effective sustainable development. It had adopted a new approach based on public-private partnership, and a programme to support sanitation in new areas, both urban and rural.  Benin’s water potential was estimated at 13 billion cubic metres per year.  Despite that abundance, however, distribution was irregular and water access was difficult. The high cost of technology was partly responsible for that. The Government had implemented several projects which allowed for a coverage rate of 70 per cent.  Some 1,300 new water outlets would be available by 2010 as the country strived to achieve Millennium targets. To increase drinking water capacity, the country must evaluate and carefully use that precious resource.

    DENYS GRAUER, Ambassador for the Environment of France, said his country had adopted a strategy for sustainable development last year. Civil society was part of that effort, and would be engaged in the follow-up. One of the missions of the Commission was to ensure follow-up of sustainable development targets, and to encourage countries without strategies to adopt them. It should also promote expertise and encourage shared experiences. France had proposed it be the first to go through a peer review, with the assistance of a country from the North and one from the South. The approach was pragmatic, because it was not aiming for an evaluation of environmental performance, and it was progressive because the results would be available at next session of Commission. Belgium had expertise in the strategy and would also participate in it.

    PIETER VAN GEEL, State Secretary for Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment for the Netherlands, urged the Commission to focus on a comprehensive assessment of the obstacles and challenges as it reviewed effort to achieve the targets set in the priority areas. The Chairman’s summary of the complete session should be concise and point the way ahead.  It was also necessary to draw up a credible response to the identified challenges. That should include, among other things, calling on all international agencies, both inside and outside the United Nations system, as well as financial institutions, to lay out their plans for overcoming challenges and obstacles and, on the basis of those discussions, use the intersessional period ahead of the next Commission session to agree on ways to move forward.

    He said the Commission should also work for integrated solutions, in order to ensure that some problems weren’t solved while other critical issues were overlooked. By example, he said that enhancing sustainable water management at the local level without involving women would be counterproductive, because it denied the crucial role women played in active water management. Finally, he said that efforts should be scaled up so the international community could deliver on its promises. All stakeholders needed to trust in the overall process and to demonstrate a commitment and determination to overcome all obstacles and challenges.

    TURKI BIN NASSR BIN ABDULAZIZ AL-SAUD, Head of Meteorology and Environmental Protection of Saudi Arabia, said, despite the real achievements his country had made in the areas of housing, water networks, sewage treatment and human settlements, there was still a need for wider networks of sanitary drainage, home sewage connections and waste water treatment. That required a search for alternative means of financing and increasing private sector participation, particularly for low-cost housing construction. Saudi Arabia also needed to improve its data and statistical information in those areas.  The Government was in contact with other States in the region and outside stakeholders regarding the transfer of modern technologies for integrated water resource management.

    Saudi Arabia believed that the discussions at the current session should focus on obstacles and challenges, as well as point the way forward. The Commission should identify the best approaches that would help all countries achieve agreed development goals and targets. He hoped that United Nations agencies and programmes would play an important role and would strengthen their programmes of work to address the issues raised by countries during the Commission’s 2004 session.

    Ms. BOHN (Sweden) stressed the importance of spreading the responsibilities for sustainable development between developed and developing countries. Developing countries should promote good governance and human rights, while developed nations should respect their commitments for assistance. Her country currently devoted 0.86 per cent of its gross domestic product to official development assistance (ODA), and that amount was expected to increase. She encouraged industrial countries to fulfil their commitments and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

    IAN JOHNSON, Vice-President and head of the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network, World Bank, said cooperation between the United Nations and the World Bank had increased and the Commission had offered possibilities of increasing it further.  Water and sanitation for all was a moral, economic and social imperative. There had been much discussion on that issue, from pricing to the role of non-governmental organization and the private sector. It should be recognized that investment would need to double to meet internationally agreed water and sanitation targets. As for the World Bank, its water and sanitation projects and programmes were embedded in country-owned strategies, such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers.

    JOHN MONYO, Assistant Director-General, Sustainable Development Department, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that agriculture was inextricably linked to international goals aimed at providing access to clean water. Indeed, it was by far the sector which used the most water. The FAO had calculated that some $24 billion was needed in agriculture and related areas in order to reach the goals set at the Millennium Summit. He said that, at the current rate, those targets would not be met for almost 150 years. So, it was timely that intergovernmental bodies, including the Commission, were assessing what remained to be achieved in the realm of implementation. Identifying challenges and designing real solutions was the best way of ensuring a better future for all.

    Creating an Enabling Environment

    MARK MALLOCH BROWN, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), noted that water-borne diseases claimed more lives per year -- 3.5 million -- than did HIV/AIDS.  Public investment into the problem, however, had actually shrunk over the last decade, and global partnerships had fluctuated enormously. The AIDS pandemic was fortunate to have a coordination body in the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), as well as the Global Fund, which had mobilized tremendous amounts to fight the disease. Water had failed to catch the same international, political imagination in efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, as had HIV/AIDS.

    At a minimum, he continued, meeting the goals of halving those without access to water and sanitation would require some $10 billion per year. For water alone, 275,000 people must be hooked up to water sources every day between now and 2015. The criteria in terms of governance, policies and finance revolved around providing affordable and sustainable services to the poor. When it came to local provision of water, there was a growing number of civil society members who believed that water must be treated as a free right. In conflict with that view were those who looked at the privatization of water as the way forward. The middle way -- public-private partnerships -- was a good compromise, since it would ensure investors a lower risk rate of return, and that water was provided to the poor, as well as the rich.

    MICHEL CAMDESSUS, former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and member of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, who also headed the World Panel on Financing Infrastructure, said that last year he had presented an expert report at the Kyoto ministerial conference on financing infrastructure to achieve the Millennium Goals on water and sanitation. An action plan had subsequently been adopted and international and regional multilateral financial institutions had pledged to adjust their programmes of work to step up their efforts to that end.  He was convinced that governments would soon follow suit.

    Still, he urged the Commission not to be deluded by the number of programmes and plans that had been discussed and initiated in the past couple of years. There was still the risk of “falling back into our old ways”. The task for developing countries and countries in transition was to step up their efforts at the regional level, far from the bureaucracies of big city governments. Decentralization was the key, he added.  For developed countries, it meant strengthening technical assistance and capacity-building, strengthening regional efforts and ensuring the ODA finally reached prescribed levels.

    He said that, if he were allowed to present only three issues that must be urgently addressed, he would propose dealing with rapid urbanization, the spread of tariff policies that negatively affected access to water, and access to water and sanitation by rural populations. Breathing life into private/public partnerships would be a major way to effectively resolve the urbanization issue. He said that all of those measures had been examined and discussed at length, but they needed to be put into practice.  Here the efforts of civil society groups would be critical in order to draw attention to the challenges, as well as innovative solutions to the major sustainable development issues of the day.


    Ireland’s Minister for the Environment, MARTIN CULLEN, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said that in order to create an enabling environment, it was necessary to involve all stakeholders. It also meant addressing finance, governance, education and training, empowerment of women and access to credit. For developing countries it meant enhancing ODA and promoting foreign investment. He said that education could play a huge role in highlighting the links between sanitation, hygiene and health. Empowering local authorities to take ownership of international programmes and plans was also essential.

    Joining Mr. Cullen was MARGOT WALLSTROM, Environment Commissioner for the European Commission, who said there was a need to mobilize governments around a “policy mix” which ensured better ownership of national development plans, improved governance and participatory approaches and generated resources for sustainable development. There was also a need to ensure that important issues concerning water and the environment remained high on the international agenda after the mid-term review of the Millennium Declaration in 2005.

    FRANCIS BABU, Minister of State for Works, Housing and Communication for Uganda, speaking on behalf of African Ministers, said the review of implementation showed Africa lagging behind other regions in implementation, despite the efforts of African countries to improve the provision of services and infrastructure for water, sanitation and human settlements. At he same time, a number of commendable efforts had been highlighted, particularly in the context of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

    Still, Africa was facing significant constraints, including the slow pace of economic growth, weak institutions, natural disasters, the prevalence of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and declining donor support. So there was an urgent need to create an enabling environment that effectively responded to the positive actions taken by African countries to attract foreign investment and private sector participation. Furthermore, the international community needed to reform its trade policies to enable African countries to do more for themselves.

    HILDE FRAFJORD JOHNSON, Minister for International Development of Norway said efforts to meet targets on sanitation water and housing were sadly behind schedule. And while the resources were there, the political will was lacking to jump-start implementation. The answer was to “keep it simple”, by:  empowering people, particularly the poor, to act locally; promoting national ownership of development plans and good governance; ending the “donor circus” of wasteful and time-consuming reporting, rather than just listening to the voices of those who most needed help; and increasing private sector involvement.

    SYLVIA MASEBO, Minister for Local Government and Housing of Zambia, said the absence of financial resource was the biggest obstacle to reaching sustainable development goals. She stressed that ODA should be made available, if only to counterbalance the flight of capital through debt servicing. She hoped the international community would honour their commitments in time for developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

    DAVID ANDERSON, Minister for Environment of Canada, said good information based on sound, scientific data was needed to manage water resources.  Moreover, strong leadership was needed in multilateral systems to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development.  Noting that Canada had been working diligently to advance the international governance agenda, he said there should be enhanced transparency in reporting on international conditions.  He also emphasized that existing conventions and arrangements must be put to their best use before bringing in new ones.

    XAVIER DARCOS (France) said there must be concerted efforts made to ensure that national integrated water management plans were ready by 2005. Mechanisms for managing transporter basins were also important, and financial instruments must be developed for sustainable development projects, including at the local level. Efforts must also be made to promote principles of good governance for access to water and sanitation. Further, private investment must be encouraged through favourable environments and incentives, and developed countries must contribute a significant portion of ODA to water and sanitation.

    CARLOS MANUEL RODRIGUEZ, Minister for Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, said the possibility of reaching the Millennium Development Goals was becoming ever more remote, particularly poverty eradication and access to water and sanitation, especially since rates of economic growth had slackened considerably in recent years. His country faced obstacles in its sustained growth, and was seeking national consensus for environmental protection and sustainable development through a national environment strategy. Costa Rica had one of the highest levels of water supply, but a low level of waste water treatment.

    Taking the floor for a second time today, DAVID KEMP of Australia said creating an enabling environment for sustainable development was critically important. “If we don’t get that right, our other efforts may well fail”, he added. It would be appropriate for the Commission’s next session to consider what enabling governance arrangements were needed for markets and private capital to develop consumer demand for water and sanitation services. He went on to highlight the role global trade liberalization -- especially in the agricultural sphere -- would play as an engine for sustainable development in developing countries.

    JAN-ERIK ENESTAM, Minister for the Environment for Finland, said the main elements for creating an enabling environment were good governance, appropriate legislation, planning and sufficient capacity, and financing. Integrated water resources management plans were also important as they took into account the views of local communities and promoted environmental protection. He said there was a close link between water and sanitation and production and consumption that also must be explored. He echoed the views of others that water and sanitation initiatives must be included in PRSPs.

    ABDUVOKHID KARIMOV, Chair of the Governmental Committee on Environment and Forestry for Tajikistan, and Chair of Commission on the Sustainable Development of Central Asia, said that population growth and economic growth contributed to increased demand on water resources in his region.  He went on to highlight a recent meeting held in the region, which had focused on local-level strategies to address those and other concerns. He hoped that the international community would continue to support the effort of Central Asia to meet the Millennium and Johannesburg goals.

    MIKLOS PERSANYI, Minister for Environment and Water of Hungary, discussed the need for concrete policies and actions aimed at addressing unique transboundary water sources.  Because of its geographic location, Hungary’s water policies had focused on sustainable use of the Danube River, as well as the Black Sea, he said. He also urged the Commission to consider discussions that would link the present themes of water, sanitation and housing with upcoming discussion on energy and transportation, among others, and the need to enhance international cooperation on those issues.

    MOK MARETH, Minister for Environment of Cambodia, discussed his country’s effort to address housing and sanitation problems, highlighting its Mekong Basin Plan. Progress had been made and projections had shown that Cambodia had a real opportunity to meet or surpass sanitation coverage goals by 2015. The Government was strongly committed to pro-poor policies, particularly those that would enhance the lives of those living in urban areas. Cambodia had the opportunity to make real strides, he reiterated, and it would need the support of the international community to achieve broad success.

    BELA MANDE, Minister for Environment of Nigeria, said his country had taken concrete steps in an integrated manner as part of its overall strategy to reach international development goals. The Government had established a waste management system and had set a National Task Force for Water and Sanitation. It had also adopted a National Empowerment and Development Strategy aiming to provide, among other things, 80 per cent water and sanitation coverage by 2007, and to ultimately improve the lives of slum dwellers by 2020. He added that international assistance was, nevertheless, needed to support those efforts.

    EUGENE BERGER, Secretary of State for the Environment of Luxembourg, pointed to the lack of financial means and inadequate governance for sustainable development. As for financial means, he said financial systems adapted to the local context were the most appropriate, especially microfinance.  In countries where private finance was in the minority, ODA became a vital means of support.

    Mr. OLVER of South Africa said it was vital to establish private sector partnerships with communities where programmes were being carried out to obtain the needed resources. In South Africa, Government assistance was given to local governments, according to their needs, with the poorer in the country receiving basic services at a reasonable price.

    IGOR STRMSNIK, Deputy Minister, Government Office for Structural Policy and Regional Development of Slovenia, described activities his Government had carried out under the theme “Initiative for sustainable development -- the way ahead”. Participants included members of ministries, employers’ organizations, and unions and civil society organizations.

    MIRIAM HARAN, Director-General, Ministry of Environment of Israel, said the Johannesburg Summit had been a major landmark towards promoting sustainable development in her country. Following that meeting, the Government had decided to require all ministries to promote the Johannesburg programme of action and to prepare sustainable development plans in consultation with civic actors. She went on to describe the various initiatives under way stressing the development of successful environmental technologies like sophisticated irrigation systems, and innovative waste water treatment facilities.

    SUWIT KHUNKITTI of Thailand said a country could not be considered healthy if it suffered from environmental degradation, unsustainable use of resources and poverty.  One way to address those issues was through the enhancement of regional-level initiatives.  Thailand also encouraged local villages to share best practices and lessons learned to help address poverty issues.

    BERHANU TAMRAT, State Minister for Federal Affairs of Ethiopia, said his country was committed to achieving the targets agreed at Rio, Johannesburg and at the Millennium Summit. The Government was aiming to develop and enhance urban capacity through decentralization programmes and urban reform initiatives. Efforts to rehabilitate non-functioning or malfunctioning water supply infrastructure were currently under way. A particular focus was addressing the living conditions of slum dwellers.

    Taking up the issue of slum dwellers and poor city inhabitants, Mr. MALLOCH BROWN said those people were at the very core of the rapid demographic shifts currently under way. It would be critical to address the needs of the urban poor in order to meet the Millennium Goals.  Because that segment of the population was growing so quickly, he felt that, in the end, the international community might have to surpass the pre-set goals in order to achieve any type of success. He added that it was important to stress that the solution to rural poverty was not urban migration.

    JOHN F. TURNER, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Department of State of the United States gave examples of his country’s success with international partnerships on partial loan guarantees and microcredit schemes, which, while not a substitute for ODA, nevertheless generated considerable monies to build and sustain essential public services.

    AMBROSE GEORGE, Minister for Agriculture and the Environment of Dominica, said the leading challenge for small island developing States was trying to convince the international community of the vulnerable nature of the world’s poorest countries. As the negotiations for the upcoming 10-year review of the Barbados Programme of Action got under way last week, he had not been encouraged, as some development partners seemed non-committal or not responsive to small islands’ call for assistance. He urged the Commission to continue to keep the special and differentiated needs of small island countries at the top of its agenda.

    VILLU REILJAN, Minister for the Environment of Estonia, said that detailed integrated water resources management plans were under way in his country. And based on agreements with neighbouring countries, programmes aimed at better management and protection of water basins were also being set up.  National and local budgets, as well as international loans, had been funnelled to several encouraging projects to enhance drinking water infrastructures. He went on to urge the Commission to use the suggestions and proposals made during this session to sharpen its agenda and programme of work for next year’s policy review.

    NANDCOOMAR BODHA, Minister for Agriculture, Food, Technology and Natural Resources of Mauritius, said the concerns of small island and developing states were to have been integral to the work of the Commission this year, but most of the ministers that had shown up for high-level discussions had been from large developed countries.  He stressed that it was still essential to include the specific challenges facing small islands in an effort to map out a more holistic view of achieving sustainable development for all.

    Taking the floor for a second time, PRODIPTO GHOSH of India, said participation of citizens in sustainable development efforts was now considered a major part of ensuring the success of such efforts. A vibrant and independent media was also necessary, he added. The media played a critical role not only in raising awareness, but also in policy advocacy and in strengthening the basis of informed decision-making. Another step towards creating an enabling environment in India was ensuring an independent, non-political judiciary.

    BEAT NOBS (Switzerland) said clean water and adequate sanitation were the keys to poverty eradication. And while there was no blueprint to meet the targets and goals in those areas, there were several courses of action that had emerged in recent years that could point the way forward. Those included focusing on the ecosystems approach, enhancing private sector participation with a focus on the needs of the poor, looking at sanitation as a business and elaborating an international system for water governance.

    RAOUF DABBAS, Advisor to the Minister for Environment of Jordan, said his was one of the most water-poor countries in the world. But, it nevertheless made solid strides in the areas of water management and sanitation. Much more needed to be done in order to implement the Johannesburg and Millennium goals, particularly so the country could apply an ecosystem approach to its sanitation and agriculture infrastructures. Jordan looked forward to continued international financial assistance to help improve that infrastructure, he added.

    NAVIN CHANDARPAL (Guyana) said globalization was losing its components of cooperation and goodwill and was increasingly being dominated by attitudes of aggression and greed. Under such conditions, the partnerships that small islands sought to help with implementation of the priority areas listed in Agenda 21 were undercut by the hostilities that had been displayed on the “battlefields” of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in other international forums.

    But coming together to discuss water, sanitation and human settlement issues provided another opportunity to seek out genuine partnerships that would bring about meaningful results, create an environment of understanding and cooperation and set an example of ways to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

    ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said despite real progress in relation to water, sanitation and human settlements in his country, only about 55 per cent of the population had access to piped or protected well water, and less than 40 per cent of households had sanitary latrines. Less than 10 per cent of primary schools had proper latrines. To address those problems the Government planned to expand its clean water and environmental programmes. The main objective through 2005 was to increase to 65 to 70 per cent of the population access to clean water and to improve hygienic latrines by 45 to 50 per cent. It hoped to equip at least 20 per cent of schools with proper latrines.

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