UN AGENCY EFFORTS TO IMPROVE WATER, SANITATION, HOUSING IN POOREST COUNTRIES FOCUS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION DIALOGUE

29 April 2004
ENV/DEV/777

UN AGENCY EFFORTS TO IMPROVE WATER, SANITATION, HOUSING IN POOREST COUNTRIES FOCUS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION DIALOGUE

29/04/2004
Press ReleaseENV/DEV/777

Commission on Sustainable Development                      

Twelfth Session                                            

20th & 21st Meetings (AM & PM)

un agency efforts to improve water, sanitation, housing in poorest

Countries focus of sustainable development commission dialogue

Continuing its high-level segment today, the Commission for Sustainable Development gathered the heads of major United Nations agencies and funds for a dialogue on what was being done to help poor countries meet critical goals for providing clean water, proper sanitation and adequate housing.  The Commission also held a dialogue with major civil society groups, highlighting the significant contributions women, youth, and business and industry, among others, were making to sustainable development.

Setting the stage for the dialogue with the agency chiefs, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett, said the focus should be on how agency cooperation could drive country-level implementation of the goals set at Johannesburg and the Millennium Summit.  And while the agencies should concentrate on strategic priorities where they had competitive advantage, that must be combined with greater inter-agency cooperation and better use of resources.  But governments could not call for more action from United Nations agencies unless they themselves were prepared to “raise their own game” to get implementation back on track.

The Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Mark Malloch Brown, said his agency had a $4 billion portfolio for sustainable development, in general.  It was currently involved in 300 urban development projects, which dispersed more that $400 million in grants.  He urged the Commission to ensure that water, sanitation, and housing issues topped country agendas.  If key ministers understood the links between those sectors, the focus on them could then feed into Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and other financial schemes.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said the outcome of his agency’s recent executive-level regional meeting in Jeju, Republic of Korea, had stressed, among other things, strengthening cooperation among and between United Nations agencies.  By example, he said that UNEP had recently started a programme with several other United Nations agencies to deal with arsenic in water sources in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and elsewhere.  The UNEP was also in the process of fine-tuning a memorandum of understanding with the UNDP.

The Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Thoraya Obaid, added that one of the main challenges that the world body’s agencies faced was that they were often automatically linked with the work of specific government ministries –- in the UNFPA’s case, ministries of health.  So, perhaps it was time for United Nations agencies, regardless of their real or perceived competencies, to actively open their doors to ministries that fell outside their areas of expertise, including environment, public works and finance.

A representative of the youth caucus opened the Commission’s dialogue on the role and contributions of major groups, which included representatives speaking on behalf of farmers, local authorities, trade unions, women, indigenous people and non-governmental organizations.  The youth representative recounted the difficulties women suffered when they had to carry water great distances, or lacked public latrines.  Stressing that youth and children were important in sustainable development, she said all countries should have a strategy for education in sustainable development.

A representative of the International Council of Science stressed the urgency of understanding water and sanitation problems, and embracing the challenge of providing the needed services.  A new effort in the field was the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which was the study of scientific knowledge about new ecosystems to assist in providing water and waste disposal systems.  In striving to reach international goals in water, sanitation and human settlement, she stressed the need to:  strengthen coordination between the science and technological community with the United Nations; make better use of existing technologies for water and sanitation; strengthen science at primary and secondary school levels; and continue the partnership between major groups and governments at the Commission’s next session.

Also today, the Commission touched on two other issues, covered by interactive dialogues, on energizing local-level entrepreneurs and partnerships for development, and the challenges faced in meeting mid-term targets on water.

Opening the discussion on mobilizing partnerships, a representative of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said entrepreneurs could be multinational corporations, local corporations or small- and medium-sized enterprises.  Partnerships between companies were built on the “win-win” assumption, while those between business and governments mainly aimed to achieve what neither could do on their own.  Partnerships needed substantial time and resources, which were often underestimated.  There was a need to strengthen the visibility analysis of those issues to increase the probability of partnership success, which was vital in reaching the Millennium Development Goals, he said.

Environmental Ministers from Nigeria and Australia led the special dialogue on water.  Both countries were struggling to reach the mid-term Millennium Goals in that sector.  For Nigeria and many African countries, meeting the Goals meant creating an enabling environment to attract foreign investment and to promote the transfer of appropriate and affordable technology.  For Australia, providing adequate water coverage on the world’s driest continent meant placing value on ecological ecosystems, and water in particular, and to establish governance arrangements to achieve integrated natural resource management.

Also speaking today were the Ministers of Brazil, Uganda, Bangladesh, Angola, Niger, Rwanda, Zambia, France, Hungry, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), United Kingdom, Canada, Pakistan, New Zealand, Kiribati, Suriname, Qatar, Austria, Japan, Congo, Bulgaria, Marshall Islands, Barbados, Turkey and Belgium.  The Deputy Minister of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation also spoke.

The representatives of Kenya, Sweden, Nepal, Mongolia, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), and Botswana also spoke.

Other speakers included the State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark; the Secretary of State for International Development of Norway; the Director-General, Ministry for the Environment and Territory of Italy; the Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs, Department of State, United States; and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development, United States, and the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, State Department of the United States.

Officials from United Nations agencies included the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Assistant Director-General for Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments, World Health Organization (WHO), the Special Adviser on International Economic Financial Institutions, International Labour Organization (ILO), and a representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In addition, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) made a statement.

Civil society participants included representatives of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the Indigenous People’s Caucus, the Federation of International Agricultural Producers, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the Gender and Water Alliance of the Women’s Caucus, and the Latin Federation of Municipalities.

The Commission will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its high-level segment, with an interaction discussion on sanitation.  It is expected to conclude its session tomorrow afternoon.

Background

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

United Nations Agencies and Sustainable Development

To set the stage for the Commission’s interactive dialogue with the heads of four United Nations agencies on their individual and coordinated efforts to respond to the challenges of providing clean water, proper sanitation and adequate housing for all, two government ministers briefed the panel on southern and northern perspectives.

Senator MARINA SILVA, Minister of the Environment for Brazil, said that for the purposes of the debate, she would focus on four points for consideration by the agency chiefs:  making “cross-cutting” approaches work; the need for new approaches to international cooperation; strengthening partnerships; and its universality at United Nations agencies.

She said the programme of action adopted at the Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development had established a set of actions for access to water, expanding sanitation and improving sanitation, with the ultimate goal of eradicating poverty.  Those actions required the integration of public policies and enhanced coordination of international organizations with national policies, thereby avoiding a duplication of efforts.

She said that one of main lessons during the Commission’s current session had been that, be it in their multilateral, regional, national, provincial, municipal or local governments, the solutions called for cross-cutting analyses and implementation.  With that in mind, she would ask the agencies what advances the international community could expect in integrating cross-cutting issues.  Going on to give example of the advantages that had been gained from South-South cooperation, she also asked what new paths the agencies envisioned for international cooperation, particularly between regional groups and community groups and international agencies.

Nearly two years after Johannesburg, it could be said that the expected boom in public/private partnerships for development had not occurred and innovative programmes or new resources had, for the most part, not materialized.  So, directing her question to the agency heads, she asked what could be done to energize such partnerships and overcome the apparent lack of private sector interest in providing new or additional resources to projects that would improve the living conditions of people in developing countries.  Finally, was the universal nature of the agencies being challenged today, or were there formulas in play that could make their actions compatible with selective agendas?

MARGARET BECKETT, Secretary of State of the United Kingdom, said the debate should focus on how agency cooperation could drive implementation of the goals set at Johannesburg and the Millennium Summit to meet the mid-term targets and beyond.  Chiefly, it made sense for United Nations agencies to focus on the strategic priorities where each agency had a competitive advantage.  But, that must be combined with greater inter-agency cooperation and better use of resources.  It was also necessary to make sure that all the Organization’s agencies, funds and programmes were driving implementation on the ground.

She went on to say that it was most important to focus on effective delivery at country level and giving priority to the world’s poorest people.  Particularly, the efforts of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) could perhaps be formalized to drive plans and programmes in their competencies.

She added that country reporting methods should be improved without putting burden on governments.  Finally, she said that governments could not call for more action and coordination from the United Nations agencies unless they themselves were prepared to work with their national organizations, and “raise their own game” to get back on track.

United Nations Agencies

MARK MALLOCH BROWN, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said his agency had a $4 billion portfolio in sustainable development, in general.  It was currently involved in 300 urban development projects, which dispersed more that $400 million in grants.  The agency had a huge focus on capacity-building and technical assistance in service areas related to water, sanitation and human settlements, and was trying to promote integrated water resources management.

He suggested that the Commission put water, sanitation, and human settlements at the top of country agendas.  The links between those sectors and poverty reduction must be understood by key ministers, so that focus on them could then feed back down into Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) and other financial instruments.  Commission advocacy and leadership could also help make public-private partnerships work.  The Commission should pay close attention to the 2005 high-level summit on progress five years after the Millennium Summit, and push for the event to force closure on everything from higher levels of aid to trade and sustainable growth.

CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), stressed that sanitation must be given the same importance as water issues, which currently was not the case.  Improved indicators on access to water were counterbalanced by a lack of improvement in sanitation.  She noted the link between sanitation services and water-borne diseases, including malaria, which was almost the number one killer of children in Africa.  Efforts must also be made to ensure that primary schools provided water and basic sanitation services, which would help attract and keep children in schools, and reduce a nation’s health burden.  She also emphasized the need for clean water and emergency sanitary facilities in areas of conflict and natural disaster.

KLAUS TOEPFER, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said the outcome of his agency’s recent executive-level regional meeting in Jeju, Republic of Korea, had highlighted some of the issues raised today.  The Jeju Initiative had stressed, among other things, awareness-raising on sanitation issues, and strengthening cooperation among and between United Nations agencies.  By example, he said that UNEP had recently started a programme with several other United Nations agencies to deal with arsenic in water sources in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and elsewhere.  The UNEP was also in the process of fine-tuning a Memorandum of Understanding with the UNDP.

ANNA KAJUMULO TIBAIJUKA, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), said the notion of mobilizing resources for human settlements was at the core of the business at hand.  “You can’t provide sanitation to homeless people,” she said.  Her agency had begun costing exercises to put a figure on the millennium targets for providing adequate housing and upgrading slums.  The average cost of improving housing and the full range of basic services in developing countries had been calculated at $2,000 per person.  The total cost over 17 years was some $184 billion for slum upgrading.

THORAYA OBAID, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said it was critically important for agencies, as well as government officials and delegations, to have a better understanding of the global development agenda.  The targets and goals that had been set were all interrelated:  The main issues and objectives discussed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio in 1992, echoed through to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994 and the Johannesburg Summit.

She said that issues of population and productive health were linked to the Commission’s priority themes.  One main weakness faced by United Nations agencies was that they were often associated only with specific government ministries –- in the UNFPA’s case, ministries of health.  So perhaps it was time for agencies, regardless of their real or perceived competencies, to open their doors to ministries of environment, public works and finance.

Discussion

KAHINDA OTAFIIRE, Minister of Water, Lands and Environment of Uganda, said his Government was reforming management and services of the country’s water sector, with special focus on poor and vulnerable groups.  Access to water had increased from 18 per cent in the 1990s to 65 per cent by the end of 2003.  As for human settlements, the country was concerned about the lack of shelter for the poor.  It was currently reviewing existing policy and legislation, and trying to attract private capital for housing projects.  Resources, innovative approaches, and economic growth were needed, however, if the country were to meet internationally agreed goals.

CARSTEN STAUR, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, said the lack of local ownership for water, sanitation and human settlement projects remained a key constraint in developing countries.  The sectors must be integrated into national strategies and development plans.  Also, integrated water resource management was vital to reach 2015 targets and other Millennium Goals.  Denmark had recently decided to assist Kaliningrad in developing a water resources plan, and would also invest over $50 million in official development assistance (ODA) over the next few years.

SHAHJAHAN SIRAJ, Minister of Environment and Forest of Bangladesh, said development must be primarily a national responsibility, domestically owned and driven, with development partners assisting in areas defined by national governments.  He stressed the near stagnant situation of resources, and urged development partners to fulfil ODA commitments.

SYLVIA MASEBO, Minister of Local Government and Housing in Zambia, said her country had a capacity problem in reaching water, sanitation and human settlement goals.  This year, it must reach the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative completion point.  Some of the conditions were difficult, making it difficult for Zambia to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

SERGE LEPELTIER, Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development of France, said the Secretary-General should consider appointing non-governmental organizations to the World Water Council.  He then drew attention to the question of intergovernmental follow-up of international goals, and monitoring implementation of recommendations, which should be discussed at the Commission’s next session.  Also, existing modalities for data collection should be strengthened, and a framework was needed for regular follow-up of the Millennium Development Goals.

CHOISUREN BAATAR (Mongolia) briefed the Commission on his country’s efforts to make progress in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements.  But, faced with enormous challenges, Mongolia would stress, among other things, that environmental issues must be addressed in a holistic manner, but should focus on conserving freshwater sources.  Such an approach required United Nations agencies to coordinate their efforts to help developing countries overcome obstacles to effective water management.

Ms. KARUA of Kenya said that she believed her country could meet the Millennium Development Goals by being innovative and by applying local human resources and technologies.  Still, at the end of the day, no real progress could be made without outside finances.

VIRGILIO FONTES PEIRIRA, Minister of Urbanism and Environment for Angola, said sanitation services throughout the country were precarious, and housing conditions, as well as efforts to settle or resettle the population, had been grievously affected by years of conflict.  Nevertheless, Angola was moving along a new path to ensure its development.  The Government was putting programmes in place to address health, education and other issues and looked forward to increased cooperation with relevant United Nations agencies.

ADMOU NAMATA, Minister of Water, Environment and Combat against Desertification for the Niger, also President of the Council of Ministers of the NigerRiver Basin, said his country and region faced serious water challenges.  Regional leaders had agreed to work towards sustainable use and protection of the Niger, which ran through nine countries and was under increased pressure from soil run-off and silting.  The World Bank was working with the States in that regard.

PATRICIA HAJABAKIGA, Minister of State in Charge of Land and Environment for Rwanda, said that her country appeared to have abundant water resources, but the sustainability of those sources could not be taken for granted.  They were constantly under threat from pollution, competing demands of agriculture, and deforestation.  Rwanda had put together a plan that integrated environmental protection needs with those of the people of the country.

KERSTIN LEITNER, Assistant Director-General for Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments, World Health Organization (WHO), said her agency had changed since Johannesburg, with new attention directed at sustainable development, healthy environments, and sanitation and other issues on the Commission’s agenda for the session.  She added that WHO also believed that investments in the environment and environmental protection directly affected improvements in health.  The agency was also repositioning itself to create new partnerships with fellow United Nations agencies and other groups.

VIVEKA BOHN (Sweden) said the issue of sustainable consumption and production patterns -- achieving “more crop per drop” and “more nutrition per drop” -- would require broad cooperation among the United Nations agencies funds and programmes.

MIKLOS PERSANYI, Minister of the Environment and Water for Hungary, said the United Nations had shifted its focus to sustainable development issues just as his country was undergoing a major transition.  The Government was, therefore, focused on addressing challenges in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements.

JOKE WALLER-HUNTER, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said climate change would exacerbate water problems in areas of water scarcity.  She emphasized the need to manage climate change risks in areas of national and regional vulnerability, and to make investments in infrastructure.  There was also a need to fully integrate climate change into integrated water management.

KIYOTAKA AKASAKA, Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said his organization had recently released a report showing that real ODA had increased by 11 per cent over the last two years to $68.5 billion in 2003, and was expected to rise to $86.3 billion in 2006.

Mr. MONYU, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the efficiency of water use must increase, considering that the world population would rise by 2 billion by 2030.  He then drew attention to a proposal to organize a conference on water, agriculture and land at the beginning of 2005.

Releasing Energy of Entrepreneurs and Partnerships

The Commission then turned to the second segment of its discussion, which focused on entrepreneurs and partnerships.

In opening remarks, Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, State Department of the United States, said that catalysing the creativity and innovation of entrepreneurs depended on four elements -– an enabling environment, capacity-building, financing, and partnerships.  Partnerships were vital in leveraging governments, civil society and the private sector.  Her country looked forward to continuing its partnership work with all of those sectors.

BJÖRN STIGSON, of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said entrepreneurs could be multinational corporations, local corporations or small- and medium-sized enterprises, which made up the vast majority of economic activity in any country.  All were driven to achieve certain goals and willing to take risks for a profitable reward.  If there was no reward, then the business was unsustainable.

A partnership was an integrated way of doing business, he said.  Partnerships between companies were built on the “win-win” assumption, while those between business and governments mainly aimed to achieve what neither could do on their own.  Partnerships needed substantial time and resources, which were often underestimated, and common values.  There was a need to strengthen the visibility analysis of those issues to increase the probability of partnership success, which was vital in reaching the Millennium Development Goals.

Mr. HAYES (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that partnerships must have realistic goals, avoid conflicts of interests, and have adequate mechanisms to monitor progress.

ELLIOT MORLEY, Minister for the Environment of the United Kingdom, said partnership meant that no single actor was alone responsible for delivering all elements of the international development goals.  The task was to harness the benefits of partnerships as an effective solution to challenges such as delivering clean water, proper sanitation and adequate housing.  The international community would also need to work out a regulatory framework to ensure protection of public services.

OLAV KJORVEN, Secretary of State for International Development of Norway, said the world must learn from past mistakes and shortcoming if the Millennium Goals were to be achieved.  The voices, priorities and capacities of local communities must be heard and put to use.  National and local governments bore the primary responsibility for energizing small-scale and community-level private sector participation.  And governments would ignore the benefits of local actors at their own peril, he added.  By working with local-level actors, governments could ensure that the needs of the poor were safeguarded.  International agencies must support those efforts.

DAVID ANDERSON, Minister of Environment of Canada, said that more than ever, everyone must work together, among countries, among agencies and international organizations to make international agreements a reality.  Multi-stakeholder participation and partnerships should be essential components of the process, and local participation could be particularly critical for success.

XAVIER DARCOS, Minister for Cooperation and Sustainable Development of France, said public/private partnerships were essential to sustainable development, particularly as they often promoted and strengthened North-South cooperation.  He gave examples of several “water-for-life” partnership initiatives his Government had begun with African countries to address integrated water resources management for Lake Victoria, in the Niger River Basin, and elsewhere.  He added that those programmes included funds to support the activities of civic actors and non-governmental organizations on the ground.

CORRADO CLINI, Director-General, Ministry for the Environment and Territory of Italy, said the issue of mobilizing partnerships had been the main issues discussed last March at the International Forum on Partnerships for Sustainable Development in Rome.  The participants at the meeting had stressed that partnerships were vital to stimulate private capital at national, as well as international, level, helped improve local business capacities and drove initiatives on sharing technological know-how.

MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said that internationally agreed goals for human settlements could be reached if developing and developed countries worked together in broad-based partnership.  The question was whether all players were ready to stand up and honour the commitments they had made in Johannesburg.  Most of the goals were still reachable, with efforts at home and assistance from the outside.  Development partners should lend momentum to the process by filling the financing gap.

ACHIM STEINER, Director-General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), stressed the importance of embracing a wider water framework, which drew in water management and efficiency plans, biodiversity loss, and managing natural wells sustainably.  It was a challenge to assist the millions without freshwater, but the international community must also conserve water for the long term, by focusing on the protection of existing services, groundwater sources and the treatment and use of wastewater.

LARRY KOHLER, Special Adviser on International Economic Financial Institutions, International Labour Organization (ILO), noted that formal service markets were developing rapidly in many countries.  Such markets required the political will to engage the local private sector, as well as recognition of the needs of the poor and the laws of all stakeholders.  Since 1999, about 50 community-based enterprises had been set up for wastewater collection, and many jobs had been created, particularly for women and youth. Together with UN-Habitat, the ILO was working to expand such enterprises.

Mr. LENNON, of the International Chamber of Commerce, said that successful delivery on the Millennium Development Goals required government ownership and leadership, receptive communities, sustainable and innovative financing mechanisms, and empowerment through identification of business opportunities in services that were to be provided.

Role and Contributions of Major Groups

A representative of the Canadian Youth Environment Network recounted the difficulties women suffered when they had to carry water great distances, or lacked public latrines.  She congratulated delegations that had supported youth, and encouraged others to follow their example.  Her group had collected funds from its members to assist youth delegates from developing countries to attend the next session of the Commission.  Stressing that youth and children were important in sustainable development, she said all countries should have a strategy for education in sustainable development.  People needed adequate and safe places to live, she said, and access to secure tenure, land, and low-cost building materials.

A representative of the International Chamber of Commerce group stressed the importance of corruption-free governance that supported democracy and the rule of law.  National ownership of sustainable development practices was particularly important, so that countries could contract with the private sector for water and sanitation services.  Stressing the importance of developing innovative financing mechanisms, he said governments needed to work together to mobilize local resources.  Business and industry had been successful in reducing water use, and could help with identifying such practices.  Concluding, he emphasized the need to create an enabling environment, as well as financing mechanisms for adequate water service delivery.

A representative of the International Council of Science stressed the urgency of understanding water and sanitation problems, and embracing the challenge of providing the needed services.  A new effort in the field was the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which was studying scientific knowledge about new ecosystems to assist in providing water and waste disposal systems.  In striving to reach international goals in water, sanitation and human settlement, she stressed the need to:  strengthen coordination between the science and technological community with the United Nations; strengthen global observational systems; make better use of existing technologies for water and sanitation; strengthen science at primary and secondary school levels; and continue the partnership between major groups and governments at the Commission’s next session.

Dialogue

Mr. HAYES, (Ireland) speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the role of the scientific and technology community, particularly its review and update of national and global monitoring networks, as well as its work in the areas of drugs and promoting new water and sanitation technologies.  He urged the scientific and technology community to pay close attention to the needs of women and to those countries that were most at risk of missing the Millennium mid-term targets.  He also welcomed the role of business and industry and urged the wider international community to create an enabling environment in which that sector could operate to the best of its abilities.  He welcomed the role youth groups played, saying it was vital that their voices be heard.

MARIAN HOBBS, Minister for Environment and Associate Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand, said that it was utterly essential that major groups and civil society actors be able to work with women at village level, or to involve young people in plans and programmes.  If they could not “walk in someone else’s shoes”, they were of no use to the sustainable development process, she said.

The Minister for Environment of Pakistan wondered what difference business and industry could make when people in poor countries could not afford to buy a bottle of water.  The most critical need was to focus on human beings.

The representative of business and industry said he felt the focus for his sector was primarily towards rehabilitation and maintenance of infrastructure.  That would require extending the boundaries of the partnerships between businesses and governments, who were generally in charge of ensuring the delivery of basic public services.

The representative of the indigenous people’s caucus said Johannesburg had reaffirmed the vital role indigenous people played in ensuring sustainable development for all.  He stressed the critical need to overcome cultural differences and holistically and effectively address all issues relating to water, particularly preservation and sustainable use of that most valuable of resources.  Social and environmental justice and equity required that the rights of the poor, indigenous people, women and children be upheld at all levels.  He warned that violation of indigenous people’s rights and the decimation of traditional lands and forests was leading to climate change, global warming and the impoverishment of local communities.

The representative of the Federation of International Agricultural Producers, speaking on behalf of farmers group, said that agriculture must double its capacity over the next 25 years.  That should be done not with research and development, but through the transfer of technology from those that had the expertise to those living in the poorest regions of the world that did not.

Water must be given a higher priority and agriculture must be considered a larger part of the international development agenda, particularly if water was going to be made useable –- and reusable –- to effectively address population increases in the future, he said.  He added that he felt that there were several technologies that, with modest adaptation, could be used in local markets in poor countries.  The question was the will of national governments to bring in civil society groups to help point the way.

The representative of non-governmental organizations said any discussions about improving access to freshwater must promote an ecosystem approach and start at the sources.  Developing countries must be provided with resources and technological know-how to promote integrated water resource management initiatives.  He agreed that the biggest obstacles to meeting international development goals had been that the words in Johannesburg had not been matched by money and resources.  Couple that with a hostile trade environment, decreasing ODA and increased debt burden, and it was clear that the Millennium Goals were in danger.  She said that all efforts to achieve those goals must focus on a rights-based approach.

Mr. KJORVEN, Secretary of State for International Development of Norway, drew attention to the concerns of indigenous peoples, and the commitments the international community had made in Rio and Johannesburg to ensure that their rights and perspectives were an integral part of the sustainable development agenda.  He commended all civil society groups working to advance human dignity, who were the true partners of sustainable development.

A representative of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) said the international community must speed up its efforts to develop measures to implement the Millennium Development Goals and commitments made at Johannesburg.  The trade unions were working to establish a consensual machinery for implementing those objectives in all countries, and to further involve women in that process.  Any agreements attaching greater priority to sustainable development in the workplace must aim to reduce water consumption, stop using toxic chemicals, and improve conditions for workers.  It should also be possible for workers to cooperate with employers in improving those conditions.  Trade unions were working with regional organizations to attain those aims.

A representative of the Latin Federation of Municipalities stressed the importance of strengthening local authorities, and support for those efforts through laws in solving water problems and improving human settlements.  Thousands of municipalities throughout the world now implementing Agenda 21 could support national legislation to release the appropriate resources.  It was important to decentralize the responsibilities of sustainable development and hand them over to the local authorities.

A representative of the Gender and Water Alliance of the women’s caucus said water had a precious value for indigenous women that others took for granted.  Women kept the circle of life flowing, but where were local women experts in the Commission?  Shouldn’t a woman minister be chairing the next session?  Why had governments failed until now to report on gender aspects of implementing development goals?  There were many ways governments could prove that gender was not only a matter of lip service; for example, enact legislation allowing land tenure for women, and increase women’s participation in water management bodies to 50 per cent.  Ending poverty was not only about increased water and sanitation coverage or good laws; it was about preventing unfair service profits, making polluters pay, and entering into fair and grass-roots-oriented partnerships.

NABUTI MWEMWENAKARAWA, Minister for Finance and Economic Development of Kiribati, said that efforts must be made to integrate water, sanitation and human settlements with equally important issues, such as climate change.  He saw great opportunities in partnerships, technology transfer, and finance for sustainable development goals.  Donor countries could be more forthcoming in providing financial assistance.  His country used loans to finance its water and sanitation project, but needy nations needed grants, not loans.

CLIFFORD MARICA, Minister of Labour, Technological Development and the Environment of Suriname, said the obstacles and constraints to implementation required an immediate response to ensure that the world’s poorest countries could meet the Millennium Goals.

ALFRED DUBE (Botswana) said the availability of adequate and good quality water or lack of it had a direct impact on the overall sustainability of nations.  He drew attention to his country’s plans to provide adequate water to 90 per cent of rural area and 100 per cent of urban areas.  There was still the need to develop alternative and appropriate technologies to address recycling needs.  Botswana viewed infrastructure as a prerequisite for sustainable and viable human settlements.

Special Dialogue on Water

The Commission devoted the remainder of its afternoon session to an interactive debate on the constraints and obstacles to meeting the water-related targets set at the Millennium Summit and Johannesburg.

ALHAJI MUKHTAR, Minister for the Environment of Nigeria, also speaking in his capacity as Chairman of the African Ministerial Council on Water, said most of the participants today would return to their homes or hotels with no real concerns about how much water they were going to use for their showers or other purposes.  But, for more than 300 million Africans, daily water uses that were taken for granted in most countries were an abiding and critical concern.

Above all, African governments must increase funding for water coverage, he said.  An enabling environment should be created to attract foreign investment and to promote the transfer of appropriate and affordable technology.  That was important, because many African countries were struggling with huge debt and could not afford to buy or import new technologies.  He added that African countries must also focus on capacity-building.

DAVID KEMP, Minister for the Environment and Heritage of Australia, shared his country’s experiences in trying to provide adequate water coverage on the world’s driest continent.  He said that his country had some features of water resources that were similar to many developing countries.  Around 75 per cent of Australia’s managed water was used in irrigated agriculture.  Irrigation had given Australia enormous economic and social gains.

But, the downside had been severe environmental impacts.  Altered flow patterns in rivers, together with associated land use change, resulted in increased salinity of rivers and lands, toxic algal blooms and reduced biodiversity.  Those problems had occurred because the science of farming Australia’s land was not well-planned or understood.  The response had been to place value on ecosystems, and water in particular, and to establish governance arrangements to achieve integrated natural resource management.

YUSSEF HUSSEIN KAMAL, Minister for Finance of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said capacity-building for planning and management was essential for development countries in the water management field.  Sustained international support should enhance those efforts. He stressed that the Commission was the only high-level forum within the United Nations monitoring and reviewing implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg programme of action.

Mr. HAYES (Ireland) said the international community must focus on reaching its 2015 and 2020 targets in sustainable development.  Priorities included the production and implementation of water efficiency plans based on the ecosystem, the strengthening of transboundary river management, public sector involvement, local service delivery, and greater integration of water, health and sanitation into poverty reduction strategies.  Priority questions for next year’s session should include Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, integrated water management, and financial mechanisms, particularly in mobilizing domestic sources.

Ms. HOBBS of New Zealand said much of the water management in her country involved the local authorities, whose responsibilities included water quality, although lately the central governments had begun to review water management.  The main aim was to attain adequate, clean, fresh water for all the country’s needs.  Irrigated land had doubled and the amount of water needed had substantially increased, which was a current stress for the country.

Mr. ANDERSON of Canada said the international community must commit itself to human and financial resources for water management.  They must also empower communities, so they were better able to take charge of their affairs, by translating international commitments into political will.  Little over 10 years remained until 2015, so the international community must move forward quickly.

Ms. SILVA of Brazil said national public policies must be based on solid governance, offering efficiency and continuity in further sustainable development goals.  She also referred to technical discussions during the session that did not consider the Johannesburg discussions on developed country responsibilities.  She stressed the importance of providing financial resources for implementing national priorities in the area of water resources.

JOSEF PROLL, Federal Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management of Austria, said a well-developed water infrastructure was necessary not only for life, but to control diseases and protect the environment.  Amendment of Austria’s Water Act in 2003 had taken into account the European Union Water Framework Directory.  Austria had both public and private water management systems, as well as public-private concerns.  The country had experience in integrated water management, much of it in connection with the DanubeRiver.

MOTOO HAYASHI, Senior Vice-Minister for Land Infrastructures and Transport of Japan, said his country would host a conference on disaster reduction in 2005. During the Commission’s session, it had hosted side events on water access, and hoped to make significant progress in that vital area. Japan would continue its efforts to promote integrated water management on a global scale.

IRINA OSAKINA, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources of the Russian Federation, said it was impossible to solve all its problems nationally, and her country was interested in international cooperation with transboundary waters.  She supported Tajikistan’s initiative to hold an international meeting on transboundary waters.

SHANNON SORZANO, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development, United States, noted the need for enabling environments, capacity-building, education in hygiene, and enriched financial institutions in reaching water and sanitation targets.  The challenge was how to make improvements in those areas.  There was a need for national policy reform, credit enhancement for water utilities, and partnerships with people and organizations of good will to attack the tragedy of 6,000 water-related deaths per day.

HENRI DJOMBO, Minister for Forests and Environment of the Congo, said the CongoRiver Basin covered 200 million hectares of humid, dense forest.  The rich diversity of the basin made sustainable use of its resources all the more necessary.  On overall integrated water resource management strategies, he called for a focus on post-conflict countries and regions.

DOLORED ARSENOVA, Minister for Environment and Water of Bulgaria, recounted the efforts of his Government to promote integrated water resource management plans.  He said the Government was also contributing to efforts to ensure sustainable use of the DanubeRiver region.  It was also implementing programmes for wetlands reclamation and natural resource preservation.

WITTEN PHILIPPO, Minister for Environment and Forestry of Marshall Islands, said his country would continue to seek assistance for developing regional initiatives and action plans on water management.  Investments had been made for replacing or upgrading water supply schemes.  There had been difficulty in developing integrated water management schemes and his country would continue to work with its development partners to overcome challenges.

ELIZABETH THOMPSON, Minister for Environment and Housing of Barbados, said her Government was on course to meet the relevant goals agreed upon in Agenda 21 and at Johannesburg.  But, Barbados was having difficulty meeting demands for potable water, due to difficulties in collecting rainwater.  With global warming a persistent problem, particularly for small island developing States, she regretted that more industrialized countries had not signed on to the Kyoto Protocol.

OSMAN PEPE, Minister for Environment and Forestry of Turkey, said his country had made significant strides in ensuring sustainable use of its water for power generation, irrigation and other purposes.  Still, it faced challenges in developing and managing its water resources, while protecting natural freshwater sources and meeting the needs of its growing and modernizing population.

JOZEF TAVERNIER, Minister for Environment, Agriculture and Development Cooperation of the Flemish Region for Belgium, said that in his country it was generally accepted that water was a public good and access to water was a human right.  At the international level, he wondered if the many water-related initiatives under way in the various United Nations agencies would be enough to meet the prescribed goals.

In his small but densely populated region, a diverse collection of actors was working on water issues.  The Flemish Development Plan on Water included the participation of business, civil society and government agencies.  He urged other States and regions to similarly draw on local competencies to overcome the challenges in supplying water coverage.

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For information media. Not an official record.