11 April 2005

Government Ministers to Decide on Policies to Reach Goals on Water, Sanitation, Human Settlements

Key Issues Include Financing, Utility Management, Service Charges, Water Efficiency, Tenure Security and Low-Cost Housing Development

NEW YORK, 8 April (UN Headquarters) -- More than 60 ministers with a broad range of portfolios, including finance, trade, development, planning, environment, water, housing and health, will meet at the United Nations from 11 to 22 April to decide on policies and practical measures to accelerate progress towards achieving the internationally agreed goals and targets related to water, sanitation and human settlements.

These targets include halving by 2015 the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, developing by 2005 integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans, and significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

The Commission on Sustainable Development’s thirteenth session (CSD-13), will be its first policy-setting session since the World Summit on Sustainable Development was held in Johannesburg in 2002.

The meeting follows the Commission’s Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting held from 28 February to 4 March 2005 and the release in January of the Millennium Project Task Force reports which included recommendations to governments for action to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  The CSD-13 provides the first opportunity for governments to decide what they believe are the most appropriate and effective options in the three thematic areas. 

“This year’s CSD aims to turn political commitments into action.  The policy options that governments are expected to agree on at CSD-13 will underpin our common endeavours in the coming years to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation targets and commitments on water, sanitation and human settlements”, stated John W. Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda), Chairman of CSD-13.

CSD-13 will build on last year’s session which reviewed progress and identified obstacles and constraints in achieving the international development goals and targets related to water, sanitation and human settlements contained in Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

“These three issues encapsulate the silent humanitarian crisis in the world today, where roughly 4,000 children die each day of diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor sanitation and contaminated drinking water, and where the living conditions in crowded slums are exacerbating public health issues such as communicable diseases”, stated José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

Reports issued by the Secretary-General in advance of the meeting, together with the Chair’s text from the CSD-13 preparatory meeting last month (all available at www.un.org/esa/sustdev/csd/csd13/docs.htm), set out the key policy options and practical measures that will be the focus for deliberations.  These include:

Extending Water and Sanitation Services to Those Unserved

-- Strengthening management and financing of public water and sanitation utilities

-- Ensuring service access by the poor through targeted subsidies

-- Tariff reform to improve cost recovery for operation and maintenance

-- Increasing donors’ financing for water and sanitation as part of overall increase in official development assistance (ODA) commitments towards the 0.7 per cent of gross national income target

-- Enhancing hygiene education and awareness-raising, combining that with gender-segregated sanitation facilities in schools

-- Enhancing the role of women in planning and managing water and sanitation systems

-- Raising investments in waste-water treatment

-- Defining the role of the private sector, notably small-scale providers

Improving Efficiency of Water Allocation and Use

-- Developing integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans

-- Improving water efficiency in agriculture

-- Not “wasting” wastewater, but considering it as a resource

-- Technology transfer for efficient water use, recycling and reuse

Improving Housing, Services and Employment for Urban Poor

-- Improving security of tenure in slums and informal settlements

-- Providing decent and affordable housing

-- Developing credit facilities suitable to the needs of the urban poor

-- Creating jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities in urban settlements, in particular, for poor women and unemployed youth

-- Realizing women’s rights of full and equal access to land, housing and property.

Highlights of CSD-13 will include:

11 April -- Opening of the CSD-13, including an opening address by Chairman John W. Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) and UN Deputy Secretary General, Louise Frechette.

14 April -- Distribution of Chair’s draft elements for negotiation.

18 April -- A panel of finance and development cooperation ministers, moderated by the Minister of Finance, South Africa, and the Minister of International Development, Norway, will discuss the economic benefits of implementing sound policies on water, sanitation, and human settlements.  Representatives of the World Bank and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) will lead off the discussion.

19 April1:15 p.m. -- Press conference by Chairman Ashe at the conclusion of negotiations on draft policy decisions.

20 April -- Opening of the high-level segment (20 to 22 April) featuring several keynote addresses, including by His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander, the Prince of Orange, and by Stockholm Water Prize winner Sunita Narain, Director, Centre for Science and Environment, India.

-- A discussion on the Millennium Development Goals related to water, sanitation and human settlements led by Robert Orr, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning.

-- A panel on the impact of natural disasters:  prevention and response will be led by Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, and Salvano Briceño, Director of the Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Major Group Priorities

About 1,000 people representing some 150 major groups’ organizations have registered to attend the CSD-13.  A wide array of stakeholders, called “major groups”, have an opportunity to present their priorities (document E/CN.17/2005/5).  Examples of priorities expressed this year include:

-- Women’s groups indicated that “the liberalization of water markets is pushing large sectors of the population further into poverty, forcing the use of unsafe sources of drinking water”.

-- Youth organizations emphasized “basic sanitation services should be available in every school”, while affirming that basic sanitation is a “precondition for education”.

-- Indigenous peoples stressed that “issues with regard to human settlements, in both urban and rural areas, deserve equal attention”.

-- Local authorities advocated that “improving access to financing for (water-related) targeted service provision requires increased financial autonomy of subnational and local authorities”.

-- Workers and trade unions called for recognizing “access to water, sanitation and habitation as fundamental human rights”.

-- The business and industry sector declared that “it is vital that governments and all major groups recognize the enormous and very diverse contribution that business will make to the development of new and sustainable models for meeting the world’s needs for water, sanitation and human settlement”.

The focus on water at CSD-13 coincides with the launch of the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” (www.un.org/waterforlifedecade), which aims to promote efforts to fulfil international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015, placing special emphasis on the involvement and participation of women in these efforts.

For more information on CSD-13, including the full press kit and schedule of the session, visit: www.un.org/esa/sustdev/csd/csd13/csd13.htm.

CSD-13 will be webcast live at www.un.org/webcast.

Media representatives without UN credentials who wish to attend CSD meetings should contact:  Media Accreditation & Liaison Unit, UN Department of Public Information, fax: +1-212-963 4642, tel: +1-212-963-2318.

For media queries regarding the CSD, please contact:  Renata Sivacolundhu, UN Department of Public Information, tel: +1 212 963 2932, fax: +1 212 963 1186; e-mail: mediainfo@un.org.

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