High-level UN forum devises work plan to boost sustainable development

1 May 2003 –

Top government ministers and key United Nations officials meeting in New York have sketched out a two-year work cycle for the UN forum charged with helping countries integrate and, ultimately, implement the three dimensions of sustainable development - economic growth, social development and environmental protection.

Summing up the three-day high-level segment of the eleventh session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, Chairman Mohammed Valli Moosa of South Africa praised the ministers' "positive" contributions and said that their main objective had been to nail down a plan towards the implementation of global development goals. The Commission will continue meeting at the UN Headquarters through next Friday.

Speaking at a press briefing, Mr. Moosa said the high-level segment's success proved that the spirit of the last year's World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, had "carried through." Senior ministers had devised a two-year work plan - focused on water and energy - that would allow the Commission to help countries realize the targets and goals agreed at that landmark conference.

Echoing that sentiment at the briefing was Nitin Desai, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who said the ministers had a "much more positive outlook now than the morning after" the Summit. Successful elements from the WSSD, like Johannesburg's "partnership fair," had been revived for the present Commission session. As a result, a total of $1.2 billion had been committed to partnerships, and not just between governments, but also between them and private sector or trade partners, as well as labour unions and other organizations, he said.

Implementation had been at the core of the high-level segment, Mr. Moosa emphasized, recalling that the main outcome document from Johannesburg had been a Plan of Implementation. There was no need to focus on policy since sustainable development was now building on "Agenda 21" - a blueprint for sustainable development agreed upon at the 1992 UN Conference for Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. "No new definition of sustainable development is needed," he said, "we must now work out how to implement agreed measures."

Responding to a question on what had changed in the years between the Rio Summit and Johannesburg, Mr. Desai said the aid climate was better now. After Rio, aid for sustainable development activities had declined. Now, more aid was coming in for projects, such as for partnerships. He added that Johannesburg had come out with an action plan rather than with concepts - some 30-plus programmes with timetables had been agreed.

Asked to comment on the choice of water and energy for the theme of the Commission's first two-year theme, Mr. Moosa said freshwater had been seen as a central issue impacting on other issues. For example, a shortage of freshwater affected women in a particular way. The issue was crosscutting, involving issues of health, sanitation and development. Likewise, energy was linked to questions of natural resources and others so that all could be handled in a comprehensive way, he added. This was in line with a major message the ministers had delivered during the high-level segment.

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