21 April 2005

Deputy Secretary-General Stresses Role of Commission on Sustainable Development As Member States Seek Adjustment to Meet Needs of New Century

Millions of Lives at Stake Owing to Lack of Clean Water, Sanitation, Habitable Dwellings, She Says

NEW YORK, 20 April (UN Headquarters) -- In the present momentous year for the United Nations, Member States were not only looking back at 60 years of history, but also looking ahead and seeking to adjust their policies and institutions to the needs of a new century, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette told the Commission on Sustainable Development today, as it opened its three-day high-level segment.

The topics discussed today, largely at the ministerial level were:  “Turning political commitments into action”, “Meeting the Millennium Development Goals related to water, sanitation and human settlements targets”, and “The impact of natural disasters on water, sanitation and human settlements -- prevention and response”.  The focus of the Commission’s two-week, first-ever policy session, due to conclude on Friday, was on water, sanitation and human settlements. 

Noting that delegates bore a heavy burden, the Deputy Secretary-General reminded them that it was in the Commission more than anywhere else in the United Nations system or the wider constellation of international organizations that the imperatives of global economic growth, poverty reduction and ecosystem protection converged.  It was there that ways must be found to make those imperatives compatible and mutually reinforcing and where the complex interdependence of the Millennium Development Goals could be seen most profoundly. 

She said that, as the Commission moved into the final phase of its deliberations, it was to be hoped that it would focus on what was at stake:  nothing less than the lives of millions of people around the world who laboured each day to provide enough water for their families to drink; who suffered and often died from water-related diseases; and who lived in slums where existence was uncertain and insecure. 

While it was impossible to pretend that results could be achieved without mobilizing additional financial resources, she said, too many countries were still being forced to choose between servicing their debts and making the necessary investments in their populations.  It would be tragic and shameful if, come 2015, the international community was to find itself scrambling to explain its failure.

Jeffrey Sachs, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General and Director of the Millennium Project, addressed the Commission via video message, stressing the critical need for investments to improve water management and increase access to sanitation.  Only five countries had fulfilled their development commitments thus far.  The most worrisome news was that the United States, the world’s richest country, had not shown concrete efforts to invest the targeted 0.7 per cent of gross national income, as agreed at the 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development.

In addition, the European Union should announce a timetable for reaching that target by 2015, he said.  The poorest countries may not have money, but they had the energy and will both to improve hygiene and increase food production, and there was an urgent need to empower them by sending financial assistance.  Without that assistance, people in developing countries were being left to die in massive numbers owing to inadequate water supplies and a lack of basic sanitation services.

Donald Buchanan, Jamaica’s Minister for Water and Housing, spoke on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, agreed with calls for increased international support for the creation of an enabling domestic environment and better integrated planning incorporating the three thematic areas under discussion -- water, sanitation and human settlements.  But there was some bad news:  many developing countries had already laid the necessary foundation and managed to create and sustain some kind of enabling environment.  Despite that, they still lagged behind in delivery to their respective populations and many were in danger of failing to meet the global targets in those three sectors.  They were literally unable to move forward because they simply did not have the kind of resources necessary to meet the targets. 

He said that, while governments bore the primary responsibility to facilitate access to affordable, appropriate and sustainable water, sanitation and housing, when those were absent or substandard, governments were held responsible, defamed, sued and sometimes overthrown.  It was governments that had committed themselves to achieving the development goals, and they recognized that they could not simply delegate that responsibility to others.  But the “Group of 77” and China also recognized that to meet those goals, they could not act alone, but must explore public-private, and public-public partnerships, in order to leverage the appropriate human and financial resources.

Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai also addressed the session via video recording on the topic “Turning Political Commitments into Action”.  Leading the interactive discussion on “Meeting the Millennium Development Goals related to water, sanitation and human settlements’ targets” was Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.  Opening the discussion on “The impact of natural disasters on water, sanitation and human settlements – prevention and response”, were Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, and Salvano Briceño, Director of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) Secretariat. 

Other speakers in the interactive discussions, including at the ministerial level, were representatives of:  Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union); Republic of Korea; Antigua and Barbuda; Germany; Netherlands; United States; Italy;  European Commission; Ireland; Australia; Finland; El Salvador; United Republic of Tanzania; South Africa; United Kingdom; Zambia; Libya; Saudi Arabia; Croatia; Switzerland; Kenya; Norway; Egypt; Lesotho; Poland; Denmark; Bangladesh; Slovakia; Iceland; Senegal; Azerbaijan; Venezuela; Sweden;  Ghana; Côte d’Ivoire; Chile; Namibia; France; Pakistan; Sierra Leone; Japan; Indonesia; Hungary; Portugal; and the Czech Republic.

Also making a statement was the Permanent Observer for the Holy See. 

The Commission on Sustainable Development will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow to continue its high-level segment.


The Commission on Sustainable Development today began its three-day high-level segment, during which it was expected to convene several interactive discussions, including “Turning political commitments into action”, “Meeting the Millennium Development Goals related to water, sanitation and human settlements targets”, and “The impact of natural disasters on water, sanitation and human settlements -- prevention and response. 

Address by Deputy Secretary-General

LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that clean water, adequate sanitation and decent housing were among the most basic of human needs and aspirations and that the international community had a responsibility to do whatever it could to support governments in their efforts to meet those needs and to build safe, healthy, and prosperous communities. In this momentous year for the United Nations, its members were not only looking back at 60 years of history, but also looking ahead and seeking to adjust their policies and institutions to the needs of a new century.

She recalled that with his report, “In Larger Freedom”, the Secretary-General had placed before the membership proposals for far-reaching action to defeat poverty, strengthen collective security and promote respect for human rights. The newly released Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was yet another warning about the perils of continuing on the current unsustainable course of human activities. The September summit offered, in the Secretary-General’s words, “the perfect opportunity for world leaders to bring together the work their representatives are doing in different fora and enshrine it in a form clearly stamped with our unique authority”. Delegates bore a heavy burden, for it was in the Commission more than anywhere else in the United Nations system or the wider constellation of international organizations that the imperatives of global economic growth, poverty reduction and ecosystem protection converged.  It was in the Commission that ways must be found to make those imperatives compatible and mutually-reinforcing and where the complex interdependence of the Millennium Development Goals could be seen most profoundly. 

Full advantage should be taken of last month’s launch of the “Water for Life” Decade, she said, stressing that it should be used to raise awareness, mobilize resources and help community-based organizations and small-scale private providers build up their capacity and expertise. At every step of the way, the stakeholders should be working with women’s organizations, water users’ associations, indigenous peoples and others to tap the reservoir of knowledge and blend it with the best expertise that scientists, engineers and businesspeople could offer. The work of the water decade should give equal prominence to sanitation, as providing safe drinking water without adequate sanitation and sewerage was becoming increasingly costly, if not futile, in the ever more densely crowded cities of the developing world, especially in the rapidly expanding urban slums. 

She stressed that rural areas needed support in extending sanitation coverage, which lagged far behind that of urban areas. Too little attention had been given until now to wastewater treatment and reuse, and to developing, transferring and applying environmentally sound low-cost technologies for both. That would have to change if human settlements were to be sustainable. Indeed, the effective governance and management of human settlements was one of the biggest challenges facing the developing world. According to United Nations projections, the urban population of the developing world would reach 4 billion by 2030, roughly double what it had been in 2000. Well-run cities did not run themselves and citizens must be free to live their separate lives. But they also needed to come together and act collectively in running their businesses, in building, operating and maintaining the infrastructure that made urban life possible, and in enforcing the laws and maintaining peace and order.

As the Commission moved into the final phase of its deliberations, she said, it was to be hoped that it would focus on what was at stake: nothing less than the lives of millions of people around the world who laboured each day to provide enough water for their families to drink; who suffered and often died from diarrhoeal and other water-related diseases; and who lived in slums where every aspect of existence could be uncertain and insecure, from the roof above one’s head to the land beneath one’s feet. It was impossible to pretend that any of that could be done without mobilizing additional financial resources. Too many countries, especially in Africa, were still being forced to choose between servicing their debts and making the investments in agriculture, health, education and infrastructure that would allow them to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. 

To meet the water and sanitation targets by 2015, safe drinking water access must be provided to an additional 1.5 billion people, and basic sanitation to an additional 1.9 billion people, she said. Based on recent estimates, that could require as much as $30 billion a year, or roughly double the present level.  Significantly improving the lives of 100 million slum-dwellers by 2020 would require an estimated $5 billion per year.  More ambitiously, if the world was to provide the many millions of new city-dwellers expected over the next few decades with an alternative to slums, that figure could quadruple.  Given the stakes and the needs, actions must be bold and innovative. The international community must determine exactly what was needed of governments and of the international community, and decide how best to deliver on its commitments.  It would be tragic and shameful if, come 2015, the international community was to find itself scrambling to explain its failure.

Statement by Nobel Peace Laureate

WANGARI MAATHAI, Nobel Peace Laureate, addressing the session via video recording, stressed the need to make the environment central to the management of development matters. It would be difficult to enjoy peace unless resources were managed in a sustainable, accountable and responsible manner, and unless resources were shared equitably. Equally critical was the promotion of democracy, respect for the rights of the marginalized, the poor, women, and children, as well as the rights of other species.  It would be impossible to survive without other human beings and without other species and it was important to continue to recognize the interdependence of all species on the planet.

Turning Political Commitments into Action

CLAUDE WISELER (Luxembourg), speaking for the European Union Presidency, said water, sanitation and human settlements were critical to ensuring better living conditions and crucial to the survival of millions of people. It was impossible to overcome poverty and ensure peace and security without the proper management of water and sanitation.

He said a proactive approach in fulfilling the Johannesburg objectives and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals were critical to ensuring peace and security. The three pillars of water, sanitation and human settlements were inextricably linked, faced common obstacles and had common goals.  Also important were technology transfer and adequate provision of financial resources for development. To overcome obstacles in the proper management of water, sanitation and human settlements, it was critical to use development as a catalyst for public and private investments, and to maintain partnerships between the public and private sectors.

It was also crucial to address other obstacles, including gender inequality, and to achieve sustainable modes of consumption. That required the active participation of all actors, including representatives of civil society. The European Union and the European Commission were actively assisting the efforts of developing countries and the Union was a leading donor, having allocated 1.4 billion euros for water and sanitation.  Proposals were being considered for a doubling of that amount and for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and the Johannesburg objectives.

DONALD BUCHANAN, Minister for Water and Housing of Jamaica, said, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, that governments had the primary responsibility to facilitate access to affordable, appropriate and sustainable water, sanitation and housing, particularly for the most vulnerable in society. When those were absent or substandard, the government was held responsible, defamed, sued and sometimes overthrown. It was the governments that had committed themselves to the development goals and the implementation programme with which to achieve them, and they recognized that they could not simply delegate that responsibility to others. The Group of 77 and China also recognized that to meet the goals and targets in the three thematic areas, they could not act alone, but must all explore public-private, and public-public partnerships, in order to leverage the appropriate human and financial resources.

Noting that a lack of financial resources was the main obstacle to progress in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements, he said he continued to hear calls for an enabling domestic environment.  The Group agreed with calls for increased international support for the creation of such an enabling environment and with recommendations for increased and better integrated planning that incorporated all three sectors. But there was some bad news: many developing countries had already put in place some or all of those measures to some degree; they had laid the necessary foundation and managed to create and sustain some kind of enabling environment. Despite that, however, they still lagged behind in delivery to their respective populations and many were in danger of not meeting the global targets in those three areas.  Those countries were literally unable to move forward in any meaningful way because they simply did not have, and could not leverage, the kind of resources necessary to meet the targets. 

The Group had highlighted, in all submissions to the Commission, the need for small community-based innovative approaches to the provision of those services to achieve basic access and wider coverage, he said. But that approach alone would not bring about sustainable access across the national spectrum. To meet the agreed goals and targets, the international community would have to face up to the fact that large infrastructure projects would have to be financed, implemented and sustained, which would require massive capital injections. In addition, investments in the three areas must not result in high user fees, as that would defeat the purpose of those projects. The international community should work together to overcome the single most difficult obstacle -- lack of financial resources. The Group had made some recommendations, such as debt cancellation, debt swaps, increased official development assistance (ODA), and greater market access for developing countries, together with reform of the international trading regime. 

KWAK KYUL-HO, Minister for Environment of the Republic of Korea, said the Chair’s draft text represented a balanced and holistic approach that would expedite implementation of the environmental targets of the Johannesburg objectives. To meet the challenge of converting draft policy decisions into concrete actions, governments must take the lead in creating an enabling environment for implementation.  Equally critical were partnerships between the public and private sectors, along with cooperation among international communities.

He said that building a strong implementation mechanism required the creation of sound legal and institutional foundation to facilitate private investment, as well as a concerted effort to mobilize new financial resources. Those were crucial to enabling national and local governments to carry out their obligation to provide water, sanitation and basic housing to all citizens. Strategies, such as earmarking a fixed proportion of taxes on liquor to support local governments, had enabled the Republic of Korea to ensure effective local provision of public goods to its citizens.  The Government had also successfully employed a build-transfer lease scheme to facilitate private investment in public goods. The Republic of Korea was committed to providing support and cooperation for all activities of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

WILMOT DANIEL, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transportation, Public Works and the Environment of Antigua and Barbuda, said that more than 25 million people now visited the Caribbean annually and that the environment, a prime resource, powered the economies of the Caribbean, which depended on tourism. That was notably so in Antigua and Barbuda, which had been able to translate its tourism investments and revenues into living standards that ranked high on the human development index of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Despite its high rating, the country retained all the vulnerabilities of a small developing State. It would get by with a little help from its friends in the United Nations network, as it struggled to improve living standards of all. Limited resources and the ongoing wave of migration to Antigua and Barbuda from other Caribbean countries had made that task considerably more challenging. 

He said the Government had so far been able to ensure that 90 per cent of the population had access to water and sanitation, but the goal was water for all. The means must be found to provide adequate water supplies to propel the revitalization of agriculture. Committed to installing the first, and long overdue, sewage system in the capital city of St. Johns, and to expanding it to communities across the island, the Government was an international leader in water treatment and delivery.  Still, Antigua was under constant threat of drought and deforestation was another significant factor, for which reforestation was an obvious option. 

The rehabilitation of potential water sources and the achievement of best practices would not, by themselves, provide countries like Antigua and Barbuda with water security, he said.  The Caribbean was just months away from the hurricane season and the country knew all too well the grim and familiar prospects of widespread destruction of the physical infrastructure. Robust economies should ensure disaster relief mechanisms for vulnerable island communities.  The critical challenge confronting the current session of the Commission was to hammer out an action plan for the establishment of a disaster relief fund to assist small island States. Without such a fund, and without appropriate best practices, many of those countries might soon be awash in misery. 

JURGEN TRITTIN, Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany, said the Johannesburg sanitation targets would not be achievable without reversing current trends and changing current policies.  Some 2.6 billion people lacked access to basic sanitation and there was a need to prioritize water and sanitation in national budgets and development strategies. Those efforts must be accompanied by the necessary structural and legal frameworks, as well as training programmes.  Sanitation must be also be prioritized in the political agenda, managerial capacity improved innovative financial instruments applied at all levels.

He said sustainable water management required better coordination of donor engagement, as well as better use of the vast capacities for water and sanitation within the United Nations system. Germany supported the Chair’s revised text, which called for a substantial increase in the ODA and other resources.  The environment and the well-being of billions of people deserved to be at centre stage in considerations regarding United Nations reform. Germany invited interested countries to participate in informal consultations scheduled for May in Berlin to discuss the upgrading of the UNEP.

PIETER VAN GEEL, State Secretary for Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment of the Netherlands, said that failing to protect the environment undermined poverty reduction and public health -- particularly the health of women and children -- and jeopardized peace, security and stability.  A coherent strategy for tackling environmental problems and eradicating poverty and illness would benefit sustainable development, which was why the follow-up to the Millennium Declaration must generate synergy between the Millennium Development Goals and the Johannesburg objectives.  There was also a need to better incorporate energy issues into the Millennium targets.  Responding to those messages would not come cheap and the Millennium Project report had recommended a substantial investment increase in a range of basic services, such as safe drinking water and safe cooking fuels.

To help expedite concrete implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, the Netherlands had set national targets, he said, including an undertaking to facilitate access to safe drinking water and sanitation for 50 million people.  The country’s Development Minister wished to deploy every available instrument to achieve that goal, including bilateral cooperation and partnerships with United Nations entities and international financial institutions, and partnerships with the private sector.  To live up to the energy commitments made at Johannesburg, the Netherlands had adopted a national goal of providing sustainable and modern energy services to 10 million people, mainly in Africa.

The Commission’s rule in relation to the Millennium Development Goals was clear, he said, noting that all the major thematic areas covered by the Commission’s first three cycles were important for attainment of the Millennium targets.  It should, therefore, take substantial and concrete steps to bring about the required investment in those areas.  That would forge a solid link between the Johannesburg and Millennium agendas.  While the Commission must deliver on commitments it had already made, and identify clearly the “action owners” and “implementation leaders” in each policy area, it might find it worthwhile to distinguish between actions for all countries, actions where individual lead countries could coordinate implementation, and actions where United Nations agencies or international financial institutions must deliver on their mandates.  In that respect, UNDP, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the international financial institutions should take a much more active part in the Commission’s policy cycle.

PAULA DOBRIANSKY, Under-Secretary of State for Global Affairs for the United States, expressed her country’s commitment to working through the Global Water Partnership to support the development and implementation of integrated water-resources management.  The United States had joined other donors, including World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and others, to help reduce the incidence of water-related disease worldwide and was committed to working with other donors, as well as the World Bank, in supporting UNDP’s Shared River Basin Initiative, which had brought capacity-building and other assistance to developing countries for the integrated management of rivers.  The United States was also committed to mobilizing resources from all potential sources and had nearly doubled its aid to the developing world since 2000.

Promoting democratic and economic freedoms was the best way to advance the Millennium Development Goals and the Johannesburg objectives, she said.  Following up on the commitments made at the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, the United States had created a new foreign assistance programme, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, for which nearly $2.5 billion had been appropriated, and plans were under way to upscale the programme to $5 billion annually beginning in 2006.  Resources were also being mobilized through public-private partnerships and other innovations, such as credit guarantees and revolving loan funds.  The task now was to empower implementation actors to bring stronger networks for advancing sustainable development.

ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy) said his country was fully engaged in the water implementation cycle of the Johannesburg Plan and was supporting several related initiatives.  In fact, Italy was financing multilateral and bilateral sustainable development programmes that specifically addressed the water crisis.  Emphasis should continue to be placed on the role of water-resource management and protection in the global political agenda, beyond the current session.  Excellent results had been achieved through initiatives such as the European Union Water Initiative -- Italy was playing a leading role in its monitoring component -- and public-private partnerships, aimed at solutions relevant to citizens and users. 

Private sector partnerships, as well as alternative financial instruments, such as tax incentives and microcredit, were complementary to traditional ODA schemes, he said, and should be further evaluated on the basis of the positive experience gained since the Johannesburg summit.  The current session must send a clear message on water issues to the United Nations system, and reaffirm the role of various agencies and departments in relation to those issues.  Sanitation was linked to efficient water-resources management and efforts must be focused on providing a range of affordable solutions suitable to actual cases, allowing the widest access to sanitation services, and defining educational programmes aimed at increasing awareness at all levels.

Regarding human settlements, he said Italy favoured an integrated approach to policy-planning and management to address problems linked to continuous and rapidly increasing urbanization, particularly in developing countries.  Towards that goal, the improvement of the quality of life in rural settlements was key to reducing migration pressure on urban areas.  An integrated approach could ensure that core issues of human settlements, whether urban or rural, were taken into account in decision-making relating to land use, transport, housing, sanitation and social services, sustainable tourism and education.  Cross-cutting strategies and policies for poverty eradication, the promotion of sustainable production and consumption patterns, the right to education and equal opportunities were priorities for achieving sustainable development.  The protection and sustainable management of natural resources was an opportunity for growth, as well as social and economic development in both developed and development countries, and remained a common basis for enhancing cooperation.

JEFFREY SACHS, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General and Director of the Millennium Project, said via video message that investments were critically needed to improve water management and increase access to sanitation.  Violence and war had caused serious obstacles to the efforts of dozens of countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals and without adequate investment and assistance from the developed world, those targets would not be achieved.  It was important to create the necessary financial mechanisms for practical investment in the improvement of basic water and sanitation services.

Pointing out that only five countries had fulfilled their development commitments thus far, he said the most worrisome news was that the United States, the world’s richest country, had not shown concrete efforts to invest the targeted 0.7 per cent of gross national income, as agreed by all signatories to the Monterrey Consensus.  Additionally, the European Union should announce a timetable for reaching the 0.7 per cent target by 2015.  Investment in people and infrastructure was critical to achieving progress in water management and access to safe water, which, in turn, was crucial to fighting disease.

The poorest countries may not have money, but they had the energy and will both to improve hygiene and increase food production, he said.  There was an urgent need to empower developing countries by sending financial assistance not only to capitals, but also to villages, as local efforts were paramount in improving water and sanitation.  Without that assistance people in developing countries were being left to die in massive numbers owing to inadequate water supplies and a lack of basic sanitation services.

ROBERT ORR, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, led the interactive discussion, saying that policy decisions in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements were extremely important in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and for the successful outcome of the September summit.  Regarding the Secretary-General’s report, “In Larger Freedom”, everyone was talking about the “great handshake” between development, security and human rights, while in fact it focused on development because of its intrinsic importance. 

This morning’s session on turning political commitments into action was exactly what the Secretary-General’s report and the upcoming summit were all about, he said.  The report had recognized the central role of developing countries in their own development and the Secretary-General had simultaneously asked developed countries to resource their national strategies, including through debt relief and the early completion of the Doha round.  The report recommended that governments adopt time-bound targets for better management of natural resources.  It also recommended that they adopt environmental safeguards as an essential part of policies in the area of fisheries, agriculture and transport and stressed the need to improve access to modern energy services. 

The process of enhancing the coherence of international structures dealing with the environment should begin now, he said.  All would be in vain if environmental degradation and natural resources depletion continued unabated.  The international community must take that challenge seriously and heads of State would be called upon to do so in September.

STAVROS DIMAS, European Commissioner for Environment, said the Millennium Development Goals could not be taken in isolation and stressed the critical importance of recognizing that a sustainable environment was the very basis for livelihoods of the poor.  Millennium Goal 7, on environmental sustainability, was the one where progress had been the slowest, yet it was crucial to attain that goal if the others were to be met.  Also, it was not possible to eradicate hunger and poverty if water was not sustainable.  And without access to water, agriculture would suffer, child mortality would not be reduced and women’s health would not improve.  The lack of sanitation in schools would continue to deter girls from attending and the poorest people would continue to suffer most from the deterioration of the ecosystems on which their livelihoods depended. 

Pointing out that present funding levels were not sufficient for meeting the Millennium Development Goals and the Johannesburg targets on water and sanitation, he underscored the urgent need for new, innovative and flexible mechanisms.  The European Union was contributing to Millennium Goal 7 and was on the way to meeting its ODA targets in 2006.  It might be timely, therefore, to consider new concrete commitments for the period thereafter, for which the European Union had already tabled some proposals aimed at stepping up efforts.  Its 25-member countries had collectively provided some $1.4 billion to fund water and sanitation initiatives in developing countries, which made it, collectively, the largest provider of development assistance and the largest water and sanitation donor.

BYRON BLAKE (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77”, said the focus should be on an overall development strategy that translated quickly into a reversal of governments’ main institutional and resources constraints.  As far as the institutional and human capacity was concerned, that should be built by highly trained technical personnel, but in several cases, those were “outflowing” from the developing countries.

The other side of the problem was the large number of unemployed, he said, adding that many people, in urban and rural areas alike, lived without sufficient income.  Most developing countries had had to reduce their fiscal deficits and by so doing, reduced their capacity.  Other issues flowed from their large debt burdens, which really must be dealt with, in order to enable those countries to build capacity.

Mr. WISELER (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the European Union, urged the Commission to promote a comprehensive approach, as well as the involvement of all actors in meeting development targets.  Development, security, and the enjoyment of human rights were all interrelated.  Poverty reduction, resource management and natural disaster relief were important objectives and imperatives for sustainable development.  The contribution of sustainable development towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals and efforts to ensure peace and security were often underestimated.

Noting that much progress had yet to be made in fulfilling development targets, he said it was critical to use all existing instruments to halt environmental degradation and the impoverishment of natural resources.  Environmental issues must be integrated into national policies and into the work of various United Nations bodies, agencies and programmes.  It was important to address the issue of climate change and to enhance renewable energy resources.  The provision of adequate access to water, sanitation, and human settlements was critical to poverty eradication and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

DICK ROCHE, Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government of Ireland, said that the meeting’s outcome should contribute towards meeting the water, sanitation and human settlements targets, which were critical to achieving environmental sustainability and other important development goals, including health, poverty eradication and gender equality.  Preparations for the September summit were gaining momentum and the session was a great opportunity to make a real contribution.  Sustainable development must be the overarching framework for achieving long-term development results.  That should be a key message. 

In the past decade, he said, progress had been made in putting the principles of sustainable development into action, but many fundamental challenges remained.  Hand-wringing was really a poor substitute for effective action, particularly in the case of the richest and most powerful nations.  The challenge was for everyone; it was up to governments to create the climate in which change could take place.

IAN CAMPBELL, Minister for the Environment and Heritage of Australia, said his government was firmly committed to helping developing countries reach their goals and its percentage ODA contribution remained above the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average.  This year, Australia would spend $135 million on water-related development assistance.  The importance of targeting aid carefully was critical to all development efforts and most resources would continue to come from foreign direct investments and local capital investments.

Stressing his Government’s continued support of the Monterrey Consensus, he said progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals required a partnership between developed and developing countries.  Developing-country governments would only attract capital investment if they developed the right enabling environment, captured in the phrase “good governance”.  Security and safety for citizens and foreign investors were essential.  The rule of law, as well as protection of property rights were basic requirements in that regard.  Well-structured and stable markets for housing, water, and sanitation services were the most efficient means of allocating resources.  As agreed in Johannesburg, there was a need to create more voluntary, practical public and private partnerships.

PAULA LEHTOMAKI, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, said that the long-term effect of policies and programmes should be recipient-country-owned.  While analysing the poverty reduction strategy papers of its developing-country partners, Finland had recognized that they did not consider environment, including support for water, sanitation and human settlements, as cornerstones of poverty reduction.  It was extremely important to take environmental issues fully into account, and Finland was ready to assist in that regard.  Economic growth that ignored environmental implications was simply not sustainable.  Support for the environment was important for meeting the Millennium Development Goals and also from the perspective of growth and competitiveness. 

She said her own country was an example of how solid environmental and social performance was not only consistent with, but indeed had contributed to, overall economic competitiveness.  Competitiveness grounded in economic efficiency, economic innovation and the development of environmental technologies made sound business sense.  The cross-cutting issues of good governance, sensitivity to consumption patterns and gender questions also demanded attention.  A rights-based approach should be adopted for the provision of basic services to the poor, and community participation was crucial for planning, implementing and managing those services.  The Commission’s outcome should present clear political priorities for action to facilitate the relevant targets, and they should include a follow-up and monitoring system.  A clear message should be sent to the September summit that environmental sustainability underpinned the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and was crucial to escaping the poverty trap. 

JOSÉ GUILLERMO MAZA, Minister of Health of El Salvador, reiterated his Government’s commitment to fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, while noting the serious deficiencies of resources that continued to impede progress.  There was still much to be done in improving access to safe drinking water. Updating legislation and continued civilian participation were crucial to that effort.  There must also be a focus on recycling wastewater and on the proper management of water resources.  The Salvadorean Government had recently implemented decrees that all taxes levied on firearms and tobacco be channelled towards health- and water-related projects.

He expressed his delegation’s gratitude for the support his country had received from developed countries thus far, and urged their continued support.  Without their continued assistance El Salvador would not be able to meet its development targets.

ARCARDO NTAGAZWA, Minister of State, United Republic of Tanzania, said that, while national governments in sub-Saharan Africa were making efforts to achieve the international targets, their performance had not been encouraging.  In 2003, approximately 40 per cent of the region’s population, or more than 260 million people, were classified as “income poor”.  Sub-Saharan Africa region also ranked lowest in terms of broader poverty measurements.  Worse still, HIV/AIDS was exerting a heavy toll on domestic savings, investment and growth, while the provision of basis services in the areas of water, sanitation and housing was not keeping pace with accelerating urbanization. 

He said that, in order to expedite the pace towards achieving the agreed goals and targets, national governments in developing countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, should enhance national ownership in economic and structural reforms, and harmonize the interventions of development partners in water, sanitation and human settlements.  They should also demonstrate leadership in championing the reform agenda.  Addressing poverty in Tanzania had been based on a national strategy for poverty eradication and sustainable growth, conceived with the participation of all key stakeholders and partners.  The international community should actively support regional cooperation and initiatives.  The elimination of trade barriers was also crucial, and increased financial support to countries harbouring multitudes of refugees, especially given the added burden of providing adequate and potable water, sanitation and shelter, was critical as well.

BUYELWA SONJICA, Minister for Water Affairs and Tourism of South Africa, said that a recent meeting of African ministers in Durban had addressed the alarming population increases projected for Africa, particularly urban populations.  In light of that estimated urban population growth for the coming decades, South Africa urged the alignment of that issue with efforts to meet global development targets related to water and sanitation.  There was a critical need for a broader approach to meeting the needs of slum-dwellers.

She urged developed countries to meet the commitments they had made at the Monterrey Conference, saying it was time to measure commitments and actions against stark realities.  South Africa hoped the present session would create the necessary environment for increased momentum to meet the commitments to achieve the agreed development targets.

LORD WHITTY OF CAMBERWELL, Minister for Farming, Food and Sustainable Energy of the United Kingdom, said the international community was clearly not meeting the hopes of the African people, which had been raised at the Millennium Summit and again at Johannesburg.  Economic growth, urban poverty in Africa, and climate change could all be helped by investment in sanitation and water.  For every dollar spent, the return was something between $3 and $30.  So, while investing in water and sanitation was both economically and rationally sensible, that was not happening, at least, not adequately.  There were also problems of delivery mechanisms and of funding.  

Recalling that Jamaica’s Minister had emphasized this morning that national governments were responsible for delivery and for integrating sanitation measures into their overall development schemes, he said that “jibed” with the Secretary-General’s call for bold national strategies that brought together all targets, including those on environmental sustainability.  There was a need for increased aid volume, underpinned by better governance and delivery mechanisms, as well as improved generation of resources for front loading existing commitments.  The focus for aid and investment should be on the areas of greatest need, particularly in urban Africa.  Measures with the greatest returns, including soft measures such as stopping leaks, must be part of national and international programmes. 

Mr. ORR, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, said the clarion call made by a number of ministers for greater attention to Millennium Goal 7 underscored the need for unified strategies in addressing all development targets.  Goals could not be advanced separately.

Intervention on the question of poverty reduction strategy papers must take environmental considerations into account, he said, adding that quick wins must be integrated into long-term strategies.  It was to be hoped that the Commission would provide the necessary leadership for shaping policy decisions at the upcoming September summit.

SYLVIA T. MASEBO, Minister for Local Government and Housing of Zambia, said her country was one of the most highly urbanized in Africa, with more than 50 per cent of the population living in urban areas.  Zambia, therefore, was already facing the challenges of rapid urbanization, which were now recognized internationally.  Nevertheless, experts’ reports indicated that most countries in the developing world, Zambia included, would not attain the Millennium Development Goals.  The reason for that failure was neither a lack of trying nor of political will, but rather one of inadequate local financial resources and capacities. 

She said that her country, on its own and relying heavily on domestic resources and prudent management, had attained the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative completion point, and thanked the cooperating partners who had since started cancelling Zambia’s debt.  The Government had also created an enabling environment for the formulation of good governance policies and had taken steps to facilitate the sustainable delivery of services.  For example, policies on decentralization and housing were already in place and a sanitation policy was “in the offing”.  While there was a time frame for attaining the Millennium Development Goals, there had been neither a target nor a time frame for the availability of new and additional resources agreed upon by the international community at the 1996 Habitat Summit in Istanbul.

TAHER JEHAIMI, Minister for Planning of Libya, affirmed his country’s commitment to implementing the Millennium Development Goals, saying that water and sanitation services were core requirements in achieving sustainable development and successful poverty-reduction strategies.  Libya called upon all international financial institutions and donor countries to increase their assistance for water and sanitation development projects.  Financial and technological assistance were critical for achieving progress in those key areas.

He said Libya had implemented a national programme for building the necessary infrastructure to improve water and sanitation services in both rural and urban areas.  Thousands of drinking water wells had been constructed as had, reservoirs and pumping stations.  There was also a programme aimed at providing complete sewer services within urban areas.  That ambitious programme was expected to be completed in the next seven years.

TORKI BIN NASSER AL-SAUD, Head of the Meteorology and Environmental Protection Agency of Saudi Arabia, said his country was in a dry or semi-dry area, making water provision very important.  Saudi Arabia had sought to enhance water supply through a number of policies that took current and future needs into consideration without ignoring economic, social and environmental aspects relating to water.  As a result, it had accomplished much in the area of water and sanitation, including expansion of the water network to cover the whole kingdom.  One million households were now connected and expanded desalination plants were meeting the increased demand of household usage.  Services had also been provided through the building of dams and distribution networks. 

NIKOLA RUZINSKI, State Secretary for Environment Protection of Croatia, said he was fully aware that national governments, in partnership with local authorities, bore the primary responsibility for providing safe drinking water and sanitation, as well as adequate housing.  The Croatian Government had sought to incorporate economic protection, social sensitivity and the need to preserve the environment into its policies and strategies.  Its environmental sustainability programme had led to an increase in the number of inhabitants connected to the public water supply, which now covered 94 per cent of the population.  The sewage system covered 65 per cent. 

BEAT NOBS (Switzerland) said the session presented an important opportunity for the Commission to make a critical contribution to the fulfilment of the targets set with respect to water, sanitation and human settlements.  Switzerland was committed to fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals and to ensuring that environmental sustainability was linked to all other Millennium targets.  They were all interdependent and could be achieved only if implemented in a holistic manner.  In addition, there must be synergies between international environmental conventions.

He said that a multidisciplinary approach must be the driving force behind an integrated water-resources management.  Achieving Millennium targets must be done through a sector-wide approach that would create access to safe drinking water, while maintaining access to an economically and technically sound infrastructure.  The State must set regulations for the operation of water services to be performed by public or private entities.  The need for sanitation and hygiene services was an opportunity for small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs to deliver innovative solutions.  There was a need for improvement in linking the vast range of water-management activities and projects currently under way.

AMOS KIMUNYA, Minister for Lands, Settlements and Housing of Kenya, said the current session should provide clear policies and measures that countries could adopt for the fulfilment of internationally agreed goals.  Meeting the targets for safe water, sanitation and human settlements was a prerequisite for meeting those in other areas, such as poverty eradication and environmental sustainability.  That was a daunting challenge in Africa, but with closer cooperation and commitment, it could be done within the set time frames.  The Johannesburg World Summit had paved the way for the implementation of sustainable development activities by introducing a major shift from a donor-recipient paradigm to one that focused on obstacles to economic growth in the poor countries, correctly underscoring the need to reform the international economic and trading systems. 

He recalled that the Secretary-General had called for a big push by the international community to enable poor countries and citizens to break out of poverty traps, and pointed out that without sustained interventions, Africa would have difficulty meeting the agreed commitments.  Any approach by the Commission should be comprehensive and participatory, involving all sectors of society.  The developing countries should do their part, and the international community as a whole should honour its commitments to provide sustained and predictable means of implementation.  Without financial and technical resources, the Commission’s expectations would remain mere rhetoric.  Efforts should be made to increase the volume and quality of the ODA, which remained a significant source of development financing.  Other countries should follow Europe’s lead in that regard. 

BORGE BRENDE, Minister of Trade and Industry of Norway, continued the discussion on turning political commitments into action this afternoon, saying that sustainable development could easily be seen as something abstract, but the reality of no development was, to too many people, by no means abstract.  There had been some positive developments, including in the water-related targets.  For example, a considerable number of countries -- supported by a number of actors -- were expected to reach the target of developing integrated water-resources management and efficiency plans by 2005.  That was an important first step towards much-needed sustainable water-resources management to the benefit of the poor.  Now, efforts should be increased to reach the other targets in water, sanitation and human settlements.  Progress in that regard, while much more uneven, was a prerequisite for meeting the Millennium Goals.

He said that in the developing world, 90 per cent of wastewater was discharged untreated, causing adverse impacts on ecosystems and livelihoods.  Deaths caused by waterborne diseases represented a staggering global economic loss estimated at more than $186 billion.  And half the world’s hospital beds were occupied by people suffering from waterborne diseases, many of whose victims, mostly children, lived in slums.  They could have attended school, gained a way out of poverty and, later in life, contributed to much-needed economic growth but for a safe water supply and adequate sanitation.  The case for meeting the targets on water, sanitation and human settlements was obvious and the interlinkages with other areas were clear:  no water, no life; no sanitation, no dignity, no shelter, no security.

It had been estimated that each dollar invested in achieving the targets on water and sanitation would yield an economic return of between $3 and $34, depending on the region, he said.  That was, at a minimum, a 200 per cent return.  The message from the session to the September summit should be that reaching the targets in water and sanitation was an investment that would pay off in terms of economic growth and lasting poverty reduction.  Sanitation had for too long been the orphan of the water agenda, but it was the bigger challenge in terms of the 2.6 billion people without basic sanitation.  The social impact was as shocking as AIDS and as solvable as polio.  Efforts must be scaled up to meet the sanitation challenge, as well as the others in water and human settlements.  Governments in developing countries must make strong commitments, at least by ensuring that water and sanitation were firmly anchored in national poverty-reduction strategies.  Among the other steps to be taken was the strengthening of private-sector involvement. 

MAHMOUD ABU ZEID, Minister for Water Resources and Irrigation of Egypt, said that integrated water-resource management provided a comprehensive framework for mobilizing resources and achieving desired water and food security, preventing pollution and managing competing water demands.  It also contributed to the maximizing of socio-economic welfare and equity, and the sustainability of the environmental system.  Planners and decision makers in each country should adapt ways to develop and manage water resources that were appropriate for its specific needs.  At the same time, developed countries and donors should provide concrete financial and technical support to developing countries in their water endeavours.

Encouraging governments to prioritize and allocate adequate resources to the water sector, and to reverse the current trend of falling international assistance, he said donors and international financial institutions should change their traditional practice of providing soft loans for investments in water.  Egypt acknowledged, however, that it was exceptionally difficult to develop an adequate financial model to provide sufficient funds for water infrastructure and recover enough operational costs for sustainable water services.  Cost-recovery mechanisms were useful in recovering costs from beneficiaries and partially relieving governments from the financial burden of operating and maintaining water systems.  Linking payment to services should also encourage greater efficiency and savings in resource use.

Market-based instruments were always portrayed as the main tools for water conservation, he noted, but water savings in agricultural consumption and improved efficiency could be better achieved by enhancing extension services, providing farmers with the know-how to improve agronomic practices, and using modern irrigation and water saving techniques.  That would ultimately result in increased crop yields and higher water productivity.  Finally, diverse water sector challenges required wide sectoral reforms to create an enabling legal and regulatory framework and to develop the necessary capacities and skills.  Effective international assistance for appropriate technology transfer, as well as investment in the water sector must take place in parallel with implementation of reforms.

PONTS’O MATUMELO SEKATLE, Minister for Local Government of Lesotho, urged the Commission to come up with clear, specific and action-oriented guidelines to enhance implementation of agreed targets on water, sanitation and human settlements.  Human settlements were the basis upon which all other infrastructures must be provided.  Those settlements held great potential, but in the least developed countries, they were characterized by poverty, unemployment and lack of services, particularly in unplanned settlements and slums.  Efforts should build on people’s ability to raise funds locally, and be enhanced through microfinance at the national level.  The donor community should also assist in raising capital. 

Stressing the important role that could be played by local authorities in empowering people, she said there was great potential in their ability to foster partnership arrangements in the planning and management of human settlements.  It was everyone’s responsibility, however, to meet the targets in that regard.  With the increase in rural migration, development plans must reflect the need to upgrade unplanned settlements and slums as a top priority, in both urban and rural areas, with support from corresponding budgetary allocations.  UN-HABITAT had an increased responsibility to carry out the outcomes of the present session.  Additional resources were needed for UN-HABITAT to continue to play a key role in the Commission’s future work. 

JERZY SWATON, Minister for Environment of Poland, associating himself with all the proposals made by the European Union, stressed the importance of adopting and implementing national integrated water-management strategies.  The Polish Government had drafted a national water management strategy and would spend an estimated 20 billion euros for water management investments.  All possible savings in expenditures would be directed to assistance for developing countries.

With regard to development assistance, he said his delegation had established a list of priorities, with first priority assigned to assisting countries that lacked adequate water resources, including those with very low rainfall.  Second priority should be given to countries which had sufficient water resources but were at risk of losing infrastructure.  The third priority was countries experiencing seasonal catastrophic floods and contamination of water resources.

ULLA TORNAES, Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark, stressed that international environment-related targets must be recognized as playing an instrumental role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, since environmental sustainability was closely linked with development.  If environmental degradation and natural resource depletion continued unabated, efforts to defeat poverty and pursue sustainable development would be in vain.  The Commission must send a strong message to the millennium review summit on the need to integrate sustainable development fully into the review.

Insufficient national ownership of goals and targets had been identified as a key constraint in implementing targets on water, sanitation and human settlements, she said.  The Commission should, therefore, recommend that countries integrate international goals on water, sanitation and human settlements into poverty reduction strategies and national development plans.  It should also underline the importance of implementing the 2005 target on Integrated Water Resource Management, which was vital in reaching targets on water and sanitation, as well as other Millennium Development Goals and commitments from the Johannesburg summit.

HAFIZ UDDIN AHMED, Minister for Water Resources of Bangladesh, associating himself with the “Group of 77” and China, said his Government had achieved considerable success in poverty eradication and social development, namely in the areas of food security, public health, and protection of the environment.  It had also adopted policies to address problems related to water supply and sanitation.

He said the lack of financial and technological resources was a major obstacle to progress in achieving development goals.  In addition, Bangladesh was disadvantaged by geographical factors, with 57 major rivers flowing in from beyond its national territory.  Transboundary river issues posed major threats to water-resources development since any unilateral withdrawal of water affected navigation, irrigation, fishing and biodiversity.  Bangladesh would welcome the establishment of international rules and standards to ensure equitable distribution of water.

LÁSZLÓ MIKLÓS, Minister for Environment of Slovakia, said that an important tool for the achievement of sustainable development goals was integrated water-resources management, which had to include not only water issues but also the whole river basin.  It was necessary to develop a comprehensive planning process in the field of river-basin management, including stepping up efforts to develop national drinking water supply and sanitation strategies.  Drinking water supply and sanitation should be an important part of integrated water resources management aiming to provide access to safe and sustainable sanitation for everyone in both urban and rural areas. 

Although the primary responsibility for providing access to water and sanitation services rested with local and national public authorities, he said it was essential to involve a broader range of stakeholders.  In Slovakia, 56 per cent of the population lived in houses connected to public sewerage, and 85 per cent were supplied with water through public water lines.  The Government was preparing strategies focused on construction of sewerage systems and wastewater treatment plants, as well as construction of public drinking water supply systems. 

Actions concerning interlinkages and cross-cutting issues were the key to enhancing synergies and jointly managing water, sanitation and human settlements, he noted.  Any isolated action on one theme was likely to have only short-term, and less efficient or less sustainable, effects.  Strengthening of monitoring, reporting and assessment mechanisms at the national, regional and global levels was essential for assessing progress, identifying constraints, bottlenecks, emerging issues, opportunities and threats, and for providing policy guidance on appropriate action.

SIGRIOUR ANNA POROARDOTTIR, Minister for the Environment of Iceland, noted that the new Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report had focused on the links between ecosystem services and human well-being, arguing that healthy ecosystems were vital in alleviating poverty and meeting the Millennium Development Goals.  Noting the considerable scope for action to reduce the severity of ecosystem problems, the report said that finding solutions was a common challenge for decision makers and the international community in the years to come.  While the United Nations Decade for Water (1981-1990) had brought water to more than a billion people and sanitation to almost 770 million, some 1.1 billion people still lacked adequate access to water, and 2.4 billion to appropriate sanitation.

Water was crucial for preserving biodiversity from freshwater lakes and rivers to mountain regions, wetlands, coastal zones and oceans, she said.  Coastal zones -- the most productive ecosystems on earth -- were at risk today, due to pollution from land-based activities, which caused local health problems and affected the marine ecosystem as a whole.  Improvement to sanitation in rapidly growing coastal cities could bring the double dividend of enhancing health in cities and preventing environmental deterioration.  In 1995, some 108 governments, as well as the European Commission had adopted the Global Programme of Action for Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities, which was the only global mechanism explicitly addressing links between freshwater and coastal and marine environments.

Mr. KIMUNYA, Kenya’s Minister for Lands, Settlement and Housing, said that developing countries had earnestly called for debt relief through debt cancellation and debt swaps, which should now be urgently addressed.  The required applications should be harmonized and simplified.  Water-related issues were clearly reflected in Kenya’s socio-economic development plans and it now needed the international community, through the Commission, to translate international commitments into actions that supported the development of water and sanitation infrastructure. 

Commending UN-HABITAT’s work in the area of slum upgrading, he said that the Commission, for its part, could make a difference towards the realization of the Millennium Development Goals by serving as a launching pad for turning political commitments into actions.  Kenya also called for the strengthening of regional bodies as suitable vehicles for accelerating the development processes in Africa.

MAMADOU LAMINE, Minister for Prevention, Public Hygiene and Sanitation of Senegal, noting that his Government had developed a programme to improve access to safe drinking water, stressed the need to mobilize development partners, without whose assistance development efforts were threatened with failure.

Recalling the Dakar road map, he said it provided useful guidelines for the successful achievement of development targets.  Senegal also emphasized the importance of grassroots participation in all efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the Government had initiated an educational programme to change people’s attitudes and to mobilize grassroots support.

HUSEYNOGLU BAGHIROV, Minister for Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan, said that nowadays, easy access to water had increased the pressure on the surrounding environment.  However, people had a right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and it was the responsibility of governments to make it affordable.  The promotion of safe water supply and the rationalization of water resources should be an essential component of national development strategies.  An integrated approach in the planning process was also important, as was a sound regulatory framework that enhanced poor people’s access to land use.  The development of the relevant infrastructure was of critical importance. 

He supported calls for increased resources for UN-HABITAT, and agreed fully with the call by the “Group of 77” urging support for countries hosting refugees.  One aspect of human settlements that required urgent attention was that of illegal settlements arising from occupation.  Azerbaijan’s concern was not only political in nature, but related also to environmental damage, including land degradation and pollution, and the strain on water resources. 

MARTHINUS VAN SCHALKWYK, Minister for Environmental Affairs and Tourism of South Africa, said practical solutions to the development challenges of Africa and the developing world must be found.  Without action on critical implementation issues -- including finance, market access, investment, technology and good governance -- many countries would simply not meet development targets.  Developed countries must remain committed to fulfilling their pledges to improve the quality of life for people in developing countries who lacked access to basic services.

He called on developed-country partners to fulfil their financial commitments, made at the Monterrey Conference, to replenish global and regional funds and to transform the policies of international financial institutions to ensure that they supported the needs of developing countries.  Action was urgently needed through measures such as debt relief, debt cancellation and other innovative mechanisms to address the debt problems of developing countries.

He added that governments alone could not deliver on targets and that partnerships with the private sector and civil society organizations were essential.  South Africa welcomed the steps taken to ensure that the voices of major civil society groups would influence the final outcome of this session.

JAQUELINE FARIA, Minister for Environment and Natural Resources of Venezuela, cautioned against wasting an opportunity to send a clear message from the Commission.  The issues being discussed had implicitly referred to nature as an economic good or tradable commodity, but Venezuela rejected that approach since nature, like sovereignty, was neither open for discussion nor negotiation.  Venezuela’s Constitution not only ruled out any form or transfer of sovereignty in environmental affairs, but identified water and sanitation as an inalienable responsibility of the State. 

She said Venezuela had developed concrete mechanisms in the areas of uncontrolled urban spread in poor rural areas and among indigenous people’s habitats.  More than 90 per cent of the overall population now had access to drinking water, and a majority were benefiting from wastewater recycling.  Policies ensuring that the marginalized had access to it were also geared towards guaranteeing housing that was fit for all.  South-South cooperation had been a necessary tool to resolve problems related to development and the deterioration of natural resources.  The Commission must adopt efficient and effective mechanisms to fulfil the mandates for which it had been established and to ensure that it did not become a bureaucratic forum. 

MONA SAHLIN, Minister for Sustainable Development of Sweden, said that access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as housing had a direct effect on women’s lives.  Many women and girls often spent a major part of their day fetching water.  Better access to freshwater was an issue relating to improved privacy, dignity and security.  Access to energy was also instrumental for economic growth and poverty eradication.  Women were more affected by limited access to energy, especially in rural areas. 

In recognition of the significance that Sweden attached to sustainable development, a Ministry of Sustainable Development had been formed earlier this year, she said.  The tasks of the previous Ministry of the Environment had been merged with new areas of responsibility, such as energy, emissions trading, construction, planning and housing.  The vision was to transform and modernize Sweden into a green welfare State.  To expedite implementation of common goals, the Swedish Water House had gathered Swedish expertise in the water and sanitation field and made it available to other countries. 

The UNDP Water Governance Facility had been established with the support of Sweden and UNDP at the Stockholm International Water Institute, she said, offering the World Water Week in Stockholm as a platform for deliberations on the cross-cutting dimensions of environment management and protection, social progress and economic development. 

Mr. BUCHANAN, Minister for Water and Housing of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China, said he had already indicated that small countries had to look at innovative approaches and strengthen their institutions to ensure an integrated focus on development, namely in the areas of water, sanitation and housing.  However, in order to achieve a sustainable approach to development, most of the developing countries would be severely constrained in terms of their financial capacities.  Thus, while community approaches and partnerships were important, major develop projects were also needed, especially those capable of attracting international funding.  Everyone should recognize that the very people and communities that the Commission sought to help were unable to afford exorbitant user fees or recovery costs.  The question of financing major projects, therefore, would have to be addressed through multilateral institutions and the international private sector.

CHRISTINE CHURCHER, Minister for Environment and Science of Ghana, said her country had striven to realize global targets on water, sanitation and human settlements, but the required official development assistance had fallen far too short, constraining progress towards those goals.  Ghana strongly recommended full implementation of commitments made to provide financial resources for sustainable development, and targets on water, sanitation and human settlements should be given clear, precise and unambiguous support, as well as time frames for each stage of development.

She stressed the importance of integrating water, sanitation and human settlements plans into national sustainable development strategies or poverty-reduction strategies, and urged countries to share lessons learned.  Such integration was a sure way of ensuring national commitment and ownership, political leadership, and the harnessing of available resources for their implementation.  Strengthening public-private, public-public and non-governmental organizations in the delivery of water, sanitation and human settlements was also essential.  Infrastructure facilities in slums must be improved and new slums prevented through rules and regulations on land-use plans.  Innovative development and partnership systems should be introduced in built-up areas.

PHILIPPE DJANGONE-BI (Côte d’Ivoire) said that water resources management in his country had been integrated into the national policy for sustainable development.  The corresponding strategy had focused on, among other things, adoption of an adequate framework with regard to water usage.  Côte d’Ivoire had an abundance of water resources, as well as large expanses of surface groundwater.  Its approach was based on a participatory strategy to be implemented at the regional level, through South-South relationships, as well as internationally, including with the participation of donors.  The latter allowed for enhanced investment in the field of water, sanitation and human settlements.  Actions taken with the support of development partners had proven fruitful and had led to the adoption of a decree on water, as well as a system to identify river basins and integrate water resources management through 2015. 

In terms of drinking water, he noted that 608 local communities had access in the rural areas, and the Government had pursued the use of hydroelectric power for more than 1,000 local communities.  Several communities now had access to septic tanks and sewage systems.  Much remained to be done in the area of human settlements, despite some progress.  Informal settlements were a persistent concern for the Government.  Once relocated, the people often returned to unsafe living areas.  The spread and development of the electricity network had also spawned the sprawl of certain villages.

MICHEL JARRAUD, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said a top priority for the organization was to take part in preventive action for natural hazards.  The WMO was joining forces with other United Nations agencies to ensure that a tsunami early warning system in the Indian Ocean and other regions at risk may soon become a reality.

He said risk-management principles, based on preparedness, prevention, response and recovery, should be fully incorporated into water resources management practices.  Freshwater was a finite resource and was central to sustainable development, economic growth, social stability and poverty alleviation.  That called for an integrated approach to water, land and ecosystem management to ensure that future generations could meet their water needs in a sustainable manner.

CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said that guaranteeing both equal access and adequate amounts of water, sanitation and human settlements required the direct involvement of local populations in decision-making processes in order to find solutions which were local by their very nature.  Thus, each part of society would have to be empowered to look after its own affairs, while learning to respect and assist others in need of assistance.  According to the principle of subsidiarity, a community of a higher order should not interfere with the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with those of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.

Additionally, the application of the principle of subsidiarity would permit the better realization of one of the keys to sustainable development, as recognized in the Rio Declaration, he said.  In the context of the Commission on Sustainable Development, the idea of solidarity left its typically limited sphere to take on a more international character.  The Commission must be capable of demonstrating a particular care for those with less ability and proportionately greater difficulty in accessing safe drinking water, sanitation and adequate housing.  Only from that special care would it be possible to evaluate the success of the Commission’s new working structure, and whether that first policy session had been a success.

SONIA TSCHORNE BERESTESKY, Minister of Housing and Urbanization of Chile, noting that significant efforts were under way to meet her country’s targets and commitments, stressed that effective policy must be based on the active participation of citizens in decision-making processes.  It was critical to identify local needs, taking into account issues of gender perspective, as well as environmental considerations.

She noted that recent census figures showed that 87 per cent of Chile’s population lived in urban areas and that, according to those figures, 99 per cent of households had access to drinking water, 97 per cent were linked to sewage systems, and 98 per cent had electricity.  Progress had not always been smooth and had required great efforts.  It was important to acknowledge certain specificities to be studied at the regional level and to issue policies that addressed regional needs.

JOHN PANDENI, Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development of Namibia, said his country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry aimed to provide safe water to the entire population, manage resources according to the principles of equity and sustainability, and ensure that water provision contributed effectively to economic development.  However, many donors and private-sector investors were unwilling to invest in water, and the Government must charge those who could pay for water and subsidize those who could not.  The Commission should underscore the need for long-term investment in water-related infrastructures both by donors and the private sector.

He said that, despite efforts to address housing needs, rural-urban migration was increasing, and population growth in cities -- which came to about 600 to 1,000 people per month in the capital city alone -- was posing a huge demand on housing and other basic services in cities and urban areas.  To address that trend, the Government had identified new growth points and settlements, and proclaimed them as villages or towns.  The Commission’s policy options should include proper measures to develop rural infrastructures to reverse those and similar trends.

SERGE LEPELTIER, Minister for Ecology and Sustainable Development of France, said the greatest challenge in achieving the Millennium Development Goals lay in the field of water and sanitation.  Greater mobilization was needed both politically and financially.  A better understanding of water and sanitation conditions in developing countries was also essential.

The proposal for an observation and monitoring mechanism should consist of technically and politically oriented monitoring mechanisms, as well as the adoption of a global approach, he said.  In that context, France was committed to financially supporting the actual functioning of a global observation mechanism.

TAHIR IQBAL, Minister for the Environment of Pakistan, said his country’s enormous irrigation system was helping to produce 90 per cent of the nation’s food.  It was experiencing problems from population growth and in another 10 years, if it was not managed and conserved, Pakistan would face a water shortage.  But the country had already developed a water policy to ensure safe water in the future, including water for crops.  Still, 50 per cent of the population did not yet have clean drinking water, though the Government had taken a very big step by launching a new programme to provide clean water to 73 million people by the end of seven years. 

Regarding sanitation, he said his country was lagging behind.  There was no doubt that the situation required much progress and money, especially in support of women living in rural areas.  The Government was taking every step possible to provide clean sanitation facilities to the population.  It was also undertaking projects to improve human settlements and ensure that those living in urban areas had sanitation and roads, among other things.  Nearly 1,000 apartments in Islamabad were going to the very poor.

IBRAHIM SESAY, Deputy Minister for Development and Economic of Sierra Leone, associated himself with the “Group of 77” and China, saying that developing countries could meet development targets by adopting concrete policies, backed by financial resources.  In both poverty reduction strategies and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the issues of water, sanitation, and human settlements were key priorities.

Sierra Leone’s objective was to increase access to safe drinking water and improve sanitation services, he said, noting that it still faced critical tasks ahead, including a need for substantial increases in the ODA.  Sierra Leone looked forward to agreements on policy options that would adequately address the needs of developing countries that faced the greatest challenges in meeting development targets.

Second Interactive Discussion

Mr. JARRAUD, WMO Secretary-General, opened the discussion, “The impact of natural disasters on water, sanitation and human settlement -- prevention and response”, saying that high-impact weather, such as floods and cyclones, could disrupt water supply and sanitation systems, which were especially critical in rural areas.  Such weather amplified the risk of the epidemic spread of waterborne disease.  The impact of droughts and associated water scarcity was less well documented, but that also often led to migration from drought-stricken regions into already overpopulated areas, especially in the developing world. 

Noting that climate change also affected the frequency and intensity of disasters, he stressed that climate change and natural disasters were development issues.  Water managers clearly recognized the value of climate information as important tools in decision-making.  To reduce the vulnerability of water-resources infrastructure and enhance the resilience of economic and social life, it was necessary to consider the provision of timely early warning systems based on a multihazard approach.  It was also important to reduce the vulnerability of critical water structures against failure, and to have adaptive measures in place, since not all natural disasters could be prevented.  Public awareness and preparedness were also essential to mitigating the effects.

SALVANO BRICENO, Director of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, highlighted the importance of integrating disaster reduction strategies into development policies, stressing the need to do so before disaster struck.  Disaster reduction strategies involved risk awareness and assessment, education and training, community action, and other measures related to land-use and urban planning.

Disaster reduction was both an essential investment and a moral imperative to achieve sustainable development, he said.  Disasters caused by natural hazards had claimed hundreds of thousands of lives over the past decade, in addition to causing economic losses amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars.  Losses resulting from natural disasters exceeded contributions from international development sources and, in some cases, even exceeded the annual gross domestic income of developing countries.  Given the many linkages between disaster reduction and water, sanitation and human settlements, development could not be sustainable without considering disaster reduction as a cross-cutting element in all development processes.

MASAKI KONISHI, Ambassador of Japan for Global Environmental Affairs, said it was often said in Japan that disasters struck when least expected and over time, the country had learned the lesson, after losing so many lives to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and typhoons.  The response had been to introduce a culture of prevention into its long-term national policies, city planning, regional planning, regulations and standards.  Japan had recently set for itself the goal of reducing by half the damage caused by massive earthquakes over the next 10 years, and it was strengthening policies to reinforce public facilities, such as schools, hospitals, and homes.  In rural areas, land-use planning must take into account the fact that paddy fields and forests contributed greatly to preventing flash floods and inundations caused by torrential rains. 

He said that in order to mitigate the serious impact of natural disasters on water, sanitation and human settlements, it was important to develop “disaster-resilient” infrastructure, such as water supply systems, sewerage and power generation equipment, roads, railways, ports and airports, dams and dikes to protect coastal areas and forests to prevent flooding and desertification.  Preventive measures were most effective, however, when the local community was involved.  Nations and communities must be made more resilient through people-centred early warning systems and enhanced public awareness.  And, in the aftermath of a disaster, it was essential to provide drinking water and food, as well as shelter to the many displaced persons.  It was also important to implement appropriate policies in a seamless, coherent and integrated manner, corresponding to each specific phase.

Third Interactive Discussion

Mr. WISELER, Minister of Public Works of Luxembourg, said that since the populations of developing countries were most vulnerable to natural disasters, natural disasters must be regarded as major obstacles to sustainable development and disaster reduction must be an integral component of development strategies.

A lack of energy and water was an additional factor contributing to environmental degradation, and those aspects must also be addressed by the international community.  Guaranteeing safe livelihoods and adequate living standards could only be done through an integrated approach that addressed water needs, disaster reduction, and environmental factors, as well as development strategies.

Mr. CAMPBELL, Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Heritage, said natural disasters continued to undermine his country’s partners in the South Pacific region, destroying hard-won progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those related to water, sanitation and human settlements.  Australia’s humanitarian action was focused on the Asia-Pacific region, an area where countries were highly prone to a range of natural hazards.  While the country was committed to disaster relief efforts, it also focused on prevention of damage caused by natural disasters and to that end, investment in disaster-risk management measures for vulnerable communities was critical to the achievement of progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

He said Australia supported an integrated approach to disaster risk management within the context of sustainable development in the region, noting that humanitarian action could help reduce poverty and conflict in a number of ways.  It could counteract social instability, reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen local capacities, as well as promote the conditions for development and poverty reduction.  To that end, the overarching goal of Australia’s humanitarian action policy was to protect lives, alleviate suffering, maintain human dignity and assist communities in their recovery from conflict, natural and other disasters through effective responses, prevention, preparedness and risk reduction.  The country’s policy recognized the functional links between humanitarian activities and broader aid policies and programmes.  That policy also had a particular focus on increased participation by beneficiary governments and communities at all levels of activity.

Mr. AHMED, Minister for Water Resources of Bangladesh, stressed the critical need for strategies to improve preparedness for and responses to natural disasters in order to reduce losses.  Establishing regional mechanisms for increased cooperation was essential, as was the integration of risk-management strategies for disaster mitigation in development strategies.  There was a great need for additional financial resources to establish early warning systems.  That also required the transfer of technologies and expertise to disaster-prone countries.  The Government of Bangladesh was trying to tackle that issue, but needed technical and financial assistance. 

Mr. DIMAS, European Commissioner for the Environment, said it was necessary to fully integrate sustainable development into all policies of the European Commission in order to address the challenge of natural disasters.  In light of the tsunami disaster and the Kobe Conference, the Commission aimed to improve its capacity to respond to natural or man-made disasters.  A main component of that plan would be to strengthen the Community Civil Protection Mechanism.

He said that strengthening that mechanism would include creating a civil protection fund supporting, for example, transport of aid and staff; fully implementing an agreement with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to maximize the use of available resources and coordinate responses to disasters in third countries; developing a modular approach based on rapidly deployable national civil protection units; and reinforcing early warning systems and the analytical and planning capacity of the European Commission’s Civil Protection Monitoring and Information Centre.

Mr. RANTE (Indonesia), noting the prevalence of earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions in his country, as well as its recent experience with the tsunami disaster, urged greater attention to natural disasters in the formulation of development strategies.  The main damage caused by the tsunami, which had claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people, had affected water and sanitation facilities.  Indonesia was grateful to all donors for the support they had provided in the aftermath of the disaster and strongly supported proposals by the European Union that addressed the overwhelming expense of overcoming the consequences of natural disasters.

Ms. SAHLIN, Minister for Sustainable Development of Sweden, said that the people saved in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster had been saved by local people, friends, neighbours and volunteers.  The first line of defence was always local, and that was a strong case for supporting local disaster preparedness capacity.  Coastal management also saved lives and there was clear evidence that where coastlines were protected by natural vegetation, such as mangrove, and where coral reefs had not been mined for minerals or blown up for fisheries, the impact of tsunamis on coastal communities was greatly reduced.  Disasters struck the poor most violently and families who made a living from the sea had seen their entire livelihoods washed away.  Reducing risk, therefore, had a social dimension -- it must include protecting the assets of the most vulnerable.

She said that during the reconstruction of future tourist and fish industry in damaged areas, it was absolutely crucial to protect coastal vegetation, avoid large-scale exploitation in fragile areas special buffer zones, in an overall ecological sustainable manner.  Sweden had contributed large amounts of funds, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including for building up an early warning system in the Indian Ocean.  It had recently joined a special multidonor trust fund for reconstruction in the tsunami’s aftermath, which also provided an opportunity for policy influence along the lines of sustainable reconstruction.

MIKLOS PERSANYI, Minister for the Environment and Water of Hungary, said an integrated approach and contingency planning was required to better manage water-related disasters.  There was a need for long-term management and planning for water-related disaster -- particularly for floods, a special concern for Hungary after its experience with record-level flooding of its rivers.  It was important to make water-related disasters a key issue in development strategies and delegations should ensure that the session’s outcome document reflected a recognition of the critical link between sustainable development and natural hazard management.

THOMAS ZELTNER, Secretary of State of Switzerland, said that two thirds of all reported disasters were water-related and closely linked to an unsustainable use of natural resources.  Drought and flood management were critical issues in integrated water resources management, and were due, among other causes, to climate change, overexploitation of natural resources and ecosystem destruction, unsustainable agricultural policies, and poorly planned and managed infrastructure.

He said that disasters forced everyone to reflect on unsustainable development patterns and led to a rethinking of technological, institutional and resource management choices.  The Hyogo framework for adoption, adopted in Kobe, Japan, in January, recognized the need to implement natural resources management, such as critical ecosystems that integrated disaster risk reduction.  Prevention and management of floods and drought would only be successful if pursued at basin level, through interdisciplinary cooperation at all levels, and by building on indigenous knowledge, culture and adaptive strategies.  Public information and participation in decision-making was essential for successful hazard prevention and mitigation. 

Mr. IQBAL, Minister for the Environment of Pakistan, urged improvements in disaster management and in emergency response measures to better respond to natural disasters.  Those measures should include early warning systems and the provision of lifesaving equipment.

Mr. BA (Senegal), referring to a wave of unseasonable rain and cold in his country last year, said that might not have been a tsunami, but a great deal of economic potential had been jeopardized.  It was then that the people of Senegal had become aware of climate change.  When countries were flooded and that went unaddressed, mosquitoes multiplied and malaria became a serious threat.  The Ministry of Prevention was working to change behaviour, dealing specifically with the topics being discussed in the session.  States must be encouraged to ratify all conventions on the environment, but there were still some that had not even ratified the Kyoto Protocol or the Convention on Desertification.  In Africa, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was incorporating environment-related issues into development issues.

FRANCISCO NUNES CORREIA, Minister for Environment, Spatial Planning and Regional Development of Portugal, said the problems posed by natural disasters must be integrated into strategies for achieving Millennium Development Goals, which required increased investments to protect the most vulnerable communities.  Water-related problems, including drought and floods, aggravated water conflicts that could only be overcome through an integrated water resources management approach.  Public awareness campaigns and the implementation of measures promoting the efficient use of water were also critical in improving national programmes for drought management.  Sustainable spatial planning was essential to prevent flood hazards, which were often caused by urban sprawl.  Portugal, in collaboration with Spain, had invested heavily in creating a water-resource surveillance and warning system.

TOMAS NOVOTNY, Deputy Minister for Environment of the CzechRepublic, said his country had successfully applied a new system to the catastrophic floods of 2002, which had led to great improvements in early warning and preparedness, compared to the reaction to earlier floods.  The CzechRepublic had also modified a legal framework on spatial planning, and the Government had launched a new programme aimed at preventing so-called permanent living in dangerous locales.  It was also participating in several international instruments designed to improve disaster preparedness.  Nationally, it was concentrating on early warning, training and education.

Two panellists then summed up the discussion and urged that higher priority be given to the impact of natural disasters on development.

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