SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION CONCLUDES TWO-WEEK REVIEW OF PROGRESS IN MEETING ANTI-POVERTY GOALS ON WATER, SANITATION, HUMAN SETTLEMENTS

30 April 2004
ENV/DEV/779

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION CONCLUDES TWO-WEEK REVIEW OF PROGRESS IN MEETING ANTI-POVERTY GOALS ON WATER, SANITATION, HUMAN SETTLEMENTS

30/04/2004
Press ReleaseENV/DEV/779

Commission on Sustainable Development                      

Twelfth Session                                            

22nd & 23rd Meetings (AM & PM)

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION CONCLUDES TWO-WEEK REVIEW OF PROGRESS

IN MEETING ANTI-POVERTY GOALS ON WATER, SANITATION, HUMAN SETTLEMENTS

The Commission on Sustainable Development concluded its twelfth session today with a high-level discussion on sanitation and human settlements, and a positive report on negotiations for the International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, to be held from 30 August to 3 September in Mauritius.

Focusing on the themes of water, sanitation and human settlements, the two-week session was reviewing progress made in achieving sustainable development goals laid down in the Millennium Declaration and at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002).

Opening the high-level discussion on sanitation, Jan Pronk, former Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment of the Netherlands, noted that misery in poor countries had been hidden under a landslide of misleading statistics.  Efforts to reach water, sanitation, and human settlements goals were stagnating, and inequality rising.  All knew what was needed, however, and government officials should never say the Millennium Goals were unattainable, which would only lead to laziness and indifference on the part of donors and development partners.

Voicing similar concerns about human settlements, Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Anna Tibaijuka, said world leaders in Stockholm in 1992 had pegged poverty as “the biggest polluter”, which was still true today, as slums grew steadily and the living conditions deteriorated.  The international community must work with local authorities -– cities towns and villages –- in lifting the chains constraining the poor, particularly the severe inequalities faced by women.

During the discussions that followed, speakers highlighted the hazards of rapid urbanization, which was straining housing markets and putting severe pressure on metropolitan services, especially water and sanitation.  They also focused on the need for slum upgrading, housing subsidies, secure land tenure, capacity-building, special assistance for indigenous communities, and “people-focused” policies aimed at creating employment.  Several also urged developing countries to empower women and include them in decision-making on housing and urban development.

Turning to preparations for the International Meeting in Mauritius, Jaya Cuttaree, Foreign Minister of Mauritius, said negotiations on the Strategy Paper for further implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action (a 1994 document on

the special needs of small island States) was currently focusing on four elements -- lack of resources, capacity, technology and trading possibilities.  Developing partners had agreed on several issues, while others needed more work on both sides, or a political decision.  Given the understanding demonstrated by all partners, he was confident that consultations should progress well in May.

During the dialogue that followed, speakers highlighted the special needs of small island States, pointing to their remoteness and consequent communication, transportation, and infrastructure problems.  Due to their colonial histories, most island States were single commodity producers and exporters, who were highly dependent on tourism.  Existing funding mechanisms failed to consider the special situation of small island developing States, not to mention the threat of climate change and rising sea level.

Also today, the Commission completed its high-level discussion on water.

In addition, it adopted its report, and approved its provisional agenda for the thirteenth session.  It also took note of the Secretary-General’s note on the proposed strategic framework for the period 2006-2007.

Chairman Børge Brende (Norway) presented part II of his summary of the two-week session, including remarks he said delegations had energized the Commissions work.  Participation had been broad-based and discussions interactive.  Delegations had focused on solutions and on “how we are going to make a difference”.  It was “all about implementation from here on out”, he said.

The Commission also elected its Bureau for the thirteenth session.  John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda was elected as Chairman of the Commission’s 2005 session.  The Vice-Presidents for that session will be:  Khaled Elbakly (Egypt); and Dagmara Berbalk (Germany).

Others participating today were the ministers of Ireland (speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Lesotho, Bangladesh, United Republic of Tanzania, Portugal, Bahamas, Indonesia, Gabon, Brazil, Kenya, Chile, Armenia, Venezuela, Côte d’Ivoire, Trinidad and Tobago, Bolivia, Mozambique, Iran, Qatar (speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), New Zealand, India, France, Ghana, Norway, Morocco, Pakistan, Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia, South Africa, Bahamas (speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Barbados, Marshall Islands (speaking on behalf of Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)), Ecuador, Armenia, Mexico and Jamaica.

Also speaking were the Director, Directorate for Environmental Protection, Serbia and Montenegro; Chief, Division for International Affairs of Switzerland; Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development of the United States; the State Secretary for Spatial Planning, Housing and Environment, Netherlands; and a representative for the Deputy Commissioner for Future Generations, Parliament of Israel.

The representatives of Sweden, Malaysia, Qatar (speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Ireland (speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States), United States, Guyana, Dominica, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Fiji, Cape Verde, Croatia, Greece, Azerbaijan, Papua New Guinea, Slovakia, and Kazakhstan also made statements.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Israel and Syria.

Anwarul K. Chowdhury, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, spoke as did a representative of the World Bank.

The Observer for the Holy See made a statement, as did the Observer for Palestine.

Background

The Commission on Sustainable Development met this morning to conclude its twelfth session with the holding of its final interactive dialogues on its remaining priority issues -– sanitation and human settlements -- after having discussed matters related to water yesterday afternoon.  The Chair of the Commission was also expected to present his summary of the session.  [For background, please see Press Release ENV/DEV/762 of 13 April.]

Dialogue on Sanitation

Leading off the dialogue on sanitation, Professor JAN PRONK, former Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, the Netherlands, said he would paint the real picture of where the international community stood two years after the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.  Too often, politicians and public officials had led everyone to believe that the sustainable development trend was headed in the right direction.

In fact, the misery had been hidden under a landslide of misleading statistics.  “Instead of merely saying over and over again that poor people were living off $1 a day, we should be asking ourselves ‘What kind of life could be lived on $1 a day?’” he said.  The reality was the efforts to achieve the goals on sanitation, water and human settlements were stagnating.  Inequality was on the rise.

He went on to say that everyone knew what needed to be done and how to get there, so government officials must never again say that the Millennium Development Goals were unattainable.  That would only lead to laziness and indifference on the part of donors and development partners.  It was necessary to concentrate on drastic and necessary reforms, so that the Goals could be met.  He added that efforts to achieve the Goals must be closely monitored.

Continuing, he stressed that the focus should not only be on how to get more resources or provide more access or services, but on how to guarantee that what was given or provided reached the poor.  Too often in the 1980s and 1990s, benefits went to the people who set up the development schemes in the first place –- the middle class and their children.  Governments could not do it alone, he said.  They required the assistance of the private sector, non-governmental organizations, community groups and others.

It was all about widening the opportunities for local communities to find their own solutions, he said, adding that civil society must be equally open to working with governments.  Harping on ideological differences was a waste of time.  Cooperation should be broad and politicians should work “even with those who might defeat them at the polls in future elections”.

He also said capacity should be increased at the household level.  Constraints should also be removed.  By example, he said Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) could become “straight jackets rather than tools”.  For instance, insisting on good governance as a prerequisite could paralyse action on the ground.  And focusing on outside consultants was a waste of time and precious resources.  Finally, he said that meeting international development goals required risk-taking, innovation, understanding, and drive to “get rid of the constraints that we have put in place ourselves”.

Discussion

Mr. HAYES (Ireland) stressed the need for greater recognition that sanitation and basic hygiene were prerequisites for reaching the Millennium Development Goals.  Not only would they lead to better health, but waste water was an economic resource that could be made available for future use if properly treated.  Alternative solutions to waste water treatment based on the ecosystem should accompany older technologies.  He encouraged the Commission to identify questions that needed to be addressed at its next session.  Those questions should focus on fostering political will, securing entrepreneurs for low-cost solutions, and increasing the awareness and understanding of benefits from investing in water and sanitation.

MONYANE MOLELEKI, Minister for Natural Resources of Lesotho, pointed to the central role water played in sustainable development.  His Government had adopted a strategic national development plan that provided for cross-sector actions, with water supply and sanitation necessary priorities.  It planned to establish a National Council on Water Supply and Sanitation, which was expected to produce a coordinated vision on water supply and sanitation services.

SERGE LEPELTIER, Minister for Ecology and Sustainable Development of France, said sanitation must be closely linked to water supply in any efforts to improve health and eradicate disease, and to guarantee the appropriate conditions for sanitation.  In improving water and sanitation services, the necessary resources should be sought through a tariff system, or public-private partnerships.

HAFIZ UDDIN AHMAD, Minister for Water Resources of Bangladesh, said traces of arsenic in sub-surface water in his country had reduced water coverage from 97 to 70 per cent, affecting 40 million people.  The problem had forced people to rely more on surface water carrying pollutants, which was a grave threat to public health.  For integrated water resources management, Bangladesh was fully dependent on water sources beyond its border, since all but one river flowing through it originated beyond the national boundary.  His country would welcome the formulation of international rules and standards on water quality and quantity, particularly as related to transboundary water.

EDWARD LOWASA, Minister for Water and Livestock Development of United Republic of Tanzania, said his Government had faced several challenges in improving water, sanitation and human settlements.  Some 70 per cent of diseases in the country were water- and sanitation-related.  Lack of funding had hindered national efforts to reach the Johannesburg goals.  Public funding was the major source of funding at local and national levels.  It was vital that the international community come up with financial support and alternative approaches to the problem.

Mr. MARTINS (Portugal) said the Johannesburg goals still represented a formidable challenge.  Implementing integrated water resources management ensured an accelerated pace in providing water and sanitation services.  His country had drawn up a strategic plan that drew in water, sanitation and human settlements, which was the best way to achieve the 2015 targets.  However, government resources and official development assistance (ODA) were insufficient.  Innovative technical solutions and outside investment would be needed.

Senator MARCUS BETHEL, Minister for Health of the Bahamas, said that small island developing States were faced with numerous challenges due to their size and geographic location.  For his country, the issue of sanitation was critical and the Government, with the assistance of the Inter-American Development Bank, was establishing landfills throughout the country.

But the dumping of garbage and waste from cruise ships was a major issue.  The Government was prepared to levy heavy fines against those found dumping solid waste in and around the Bahamas.  He added that leaky septic tanks and other weak infrastructure increased threats to the quality of water supplies.  Speedy steps were being taken to address those issues.  He reiterated the need to provide small island States with access to environmentally sound technology.

NABIEL MAKARIM, Minister for Environment of Indonesia, said United Nations agencies should report to the Commission’s next session on concrete actions that were being taken to ensure that development goals and targets were being met.  Reaching those goals required broad cooperation and action taken by all international agencies working with national and local entities.

EMILE DOUMBA, Minister for Environment, Fishing and Forests of Gabon, said his delegation welcomed the positive discussions that had been held on mobilizing resources for environmental protection and natural resource protection.  He suggested the establishment of a special action plan aimed at preserving the CongoRiver Basin.  Such a plan could focus on water resources and forest management.  He also proposed that the United Nations provide experts in the area of solid waste management, in order to help come up with solutions to the problem of waste and sewage run-off.

OLIVIO DUTRA, Minister of State for Cities of Brazil, said that during the previous decade the sanitation situation in his country had been characterized by the absence of policies and the lack of coordination between relevant institutions.  It had been estimated that $1.9 billion would be needed over the next two years to coordinate garbage and waste collection activities and to create landfills.

His Ministry had organized coordinated actions on sanitation and conditions for creating “environmental sanitation” had been set.  An agreement had been signed to provide $133 million in metropolitan regions, where sanitation problems were concentrated.

NEWTON KULUNDU, Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife of Kenya, said access to environmentally safe technology was an important part of providing adequate sanitation.  To deal with its sanitation concerns, Kenya had focused its efforts on education and ecological awareness-raising.  Much more had to be done, and attention should be focused on, among other things, micro- and macro-financing schemes, private sector participation to help develop and market environmentally sound technologies, and the empowerment of communities to take the lead on household sanitation programmes.

PIETER VAN GEEL, State Secretary of Spatial Planning, Housing and the Environment of the Netherlands, said promoting integrated water resources schemes would be a major incentive to help reach mid-term development goals.  All governments should work together to that end.  That could also be a framework for action in the sanitation sector.  He added that a major conference on water for food and ecosystems had been set for early next year in The Hague.  He urged the Commission to focus more attention on climate change issues, as that phenomenon directly affected effort to achieve the water-related development targets.

HUMBERTO HUENCHUMILLA, Minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of Chile, said water supply and sanitation coverage in urban areas in his country was close to 100 per cent.  Rural sanitation remained a concern.  Treatment of waste water was the main remaining challenge.  Chile financed its efforts by promoting private sector participation and privatizing some sewage treatment plants and public works.  A rural treatment programme had been developed which focused on indigenous communities.  He called for the consolidation of regional efforts, particularly in the areas of technology sharing and training.

VARDAN AYVAZIAN, Minister for Nature Protection of Armenia, said his country was cooperating regionally and receiving international assistance to help overcome its sanitation challenge.  He said the United Nations and its agencies and funds could also play an important role in that regard.  He urged a focus on rehabilitating antiquated sanitation systems and providing new environmentally and ecologically sound technology.

ANAELISA OSORIO, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Venezuela, said her country was trying to stop the spread of uncontrolled housing and encourage a public housing market.  Currently, housing unit shortages amounted to 860,000, and $1 billion had been devoted to the sector, but more interest was needed from the private sector.  The country had also regularized tenure to promote citizen participation, enabling recovery of tenancy.  It was also attempting to eradicate poverty through a health programme, unemployment reduction and micro-financing.

ANGELE GNONSOA, Minister of the Environment of Côte d’Ivoire, said sanitation had been a subject of concern in her country since the 1960s, and a plan had been implemented in an attempt to resolve it.  A private company had been allowed to manage a public company at its own risk, and received a share of user payment.  Profits, however, did not always cover the cost of repairs, and the company was assisted with that aspect.

PENELOPE BECKLES, Minister of Public Utilities of Trinidad and Tobago, said her country was developing a national strategic plan to ensure access to water, shelter and electricity.  It was developing a national solid waste system to protect human health and the environment.  Integrated water resource management was being used to improve the water supply through technology upgrade, promotion of conservation and provision of water to the poor.  As for human settlements, it would focus on low-income housing and improved housing grants.

JOSE BARRAGAN, Minister of Basic Services of Bolivia, said some 30 per cent of people in his country still had no access to water, and some 60 per cent lacked sewage facilities.  The problem was not just an infrastructure issue, but one of governance and systems management.  Working in an inclusive framework meant redistributing resources in a way so that the poorest had access to larger subsidies.  Bolivia had also set up a system to regulate the provision of services, so that the behaviour of monopolies did not negatively affect the poorest.

Mr. MABJAYA (Mozambique) said water and sanitation were top priorities in developing countries.  If resources were not the problem, then the Commission should somehow discover what the real problems were, such as the lack of technology transfer and other hindrances.

Mr. HOJJAT (Iran) said more than 96 per cent of urban areas in his country had access to drinking water.  At the national and local levels, the Rural Council had paved the way for farmers and women to take part in decision-making processes.  The country was currently enhancing water efficiency in agriculture, which consumed over 90 per cent of the entire resource.  As for housing, the country had experienced an expansion of informal settlements around cities, and a programme was now being implemented to deal with that.

VIVEKA BOHN (Sweden) stressed the need for sustainable sanitation solutions, adding that her country had promising experience in ecological sanitation solutions.  She also emphasized the importance of women’s rights for land tenure, and evaluating the gender impacts of sanitation.

MIROSLAV NIKCEVIC, Director, Directorate for Environmental Protection, Serbia and Montenegro, said unsustainable economic policy in his country had devastated its natural resources.  The country was now facing the challenging process of reconstructing its economy, and the Government had recognized that sustainability played an important role, although resources were limited.

BEAT NOBS, Chief, Division for International Affairs of Switzerland, said water and sanitation problems could be overcome with new approaches, based on the universal desire for a better life.  The private sector should be encouraged to take part, especially small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs.  An active public policy with water, sanitation and human settlements high on the agenda was vital.

RADZI ABDUL RAHMAN, (Malaysia) said national efforts by governments were vital in reaching the Johannesburg goals.  But, additional resources and technology must reinforce them.  He called on developed partners to fulfil official development assistance commitments, so that sanitation plans and programmes could be implemented in every nation.

Mr. SAGHIR of the World Bank pointed to evidence that funding for sanitation was more important than the typical supply-demand approach.  He would like to see more funding at the local level.

Mr. DEWANE of the Holy See said the failure to keep aid commitments to developing nations, including for water and sanitation, was a serious question.  Not only did it prolong poverty, it resulted in a loss of trust, with the end result of hopelessness.  Good governance by States could advance the delivery of promises made.

Summing up the debate, Mr. PRONK said that all the ministers had spoken about the achievability of the mid-term Millennium Goals, all had explained their national policies to that end and had referred to the need for broad cooperation.  That had been a positive change from the discussions at previous sessions of the Commission.  Responding to the comments of several delegations on his earlier statement, he said that, of course, more resources were needed to help developing countries meet the goals.

But, that was not the whole story, he said.  If those countries continued to rely on foreign technology, foreign consultants, and foreign enterprises to finance there efforts, no real progress could be made and any achievements would be undercut.  He warned delegations not to be swayed by experts who made sky-high estimates of the costs needed to reach the sanitation and water goals.  There were low-cost options, he stressed, particularly in sanitation.  Those experts often had their own interests in mind.

Dialogue on Human Settlements

Kicking off the dialogue on human settlements, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), ANNA TIBAIJUKA, said the struggle to resolve and achieve the mid-term goals on water, housing and sanitation was being waged in human settlements.  She said it was important not to ignore what had come before Johannesburg.  In Stockholm in 1992 world leaders had pegged poverty as “the biggest polluter”, and that was true today, as slums were growing steadily and the living conditions for the people who lived in them was steadily deteriorating.  She said the international community must work with local authorities –- cities towns and villages.  So the question was how to mobilize local action to achieve global goals.  The urban poor could take care of themselves, but the chains that constrained them, particularly the severe inequalities women faced, must be lifted.

HERNANDO DE SOTO, President, Institute of Liberty and Democracy, Peru, said for people, passports provided acknowledgement and allowed acceptance and goods and services.  It was a property document. He said that 80 per cent of start up of wealth in the United States and other industrialized countries relied on the fact that land and assets had titles.  He said that property law was more than a system of ownership; it revealed the ability to create resources.  He stressed that most of the world’s 4 billion people living in slums did not have “a property identity” and could not participate in the globalized market.  Schemes had been created to protect assets, not rights, he added.  So, improving property rights was the only thing that would give poor people an “identity” and integrate them into the world market, chiefly by giving them access to credit.

Taking the floor for the second time, Mr. OLIVIO DUTRA of Brazil said the main actions of his country’s Ministry of Cities were focused on urban areas, where 82 per cent of Brazilian populations lived.  Rural migration was affecting housing markets and putting other pressures on metropolitan areas, so the Ministry was implementing a plan of action directed at slums and improving living conditions for the poor.  One of the main efforts of the plan focused on subsidized financing for housing for low-income families.  Land tenure regularization, capacity-building, and special assistance for indigenous communities were also a focus.

Mr. KAMAL of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the countries he represented had made real strides to improve water, sanitation and living conditions for their citizens, but ensuring technology transfer and capacity-building were, nevertheless, very important.  On the work of the Commission, he said that his delegation did not support setting out new strategies for next year’s policy review during the intersessional period.  The Commission’s 2003 annual session had agreed on the way forward in that regard.

Mr. HAYES (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the focus should be on, among other things, promoting slum upgrading -- including sanitation and roads infrastructure –- capacity-building, “people-focused” policies aimed at employment creation for the urban poor, and improved access to low-income housing finance.  Developing countries must make further efforts to ensure the empowerment of women to participate in decision-making regarding housing and urban development.

PRODIPTO GHOSH, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests of India, said that sanitation and housing initiatives should focus on capacity-building.  He went on to say that taking a rights-based approach to those issues could often slow progress in providing recourses, technological assistance and capacity-building.  It was also not feasible to use a one-size-fits-all approach when addressing water management issues, particularly transboundary water sources.

Mr. LEPELTIER, Minister for Ecology and Sustainable Development for France, said that the role of local communities should be enhanced so that efforts to achieve goals in human settlements and sanitation could be driven at the local level.

KISIM KASANGA, Minister of Environment and Science of Ghana, said his country had had some success in updating slum communities and creating an enabling environment for housing development.  A village infrastructure project had sought to improve the lives of the rural poor, and a national shelter strategy had been implemented.

ERNA SOLBERG, Minister of Local Authorities and Regional Development of Norway, said urban poverty was the most significant barrier to sustainable development.  In fighting poverty, she stressed the need for local empowerment, adequate funding, stronger governance, the involvement of the local business community, and to recognize women as key agents of change in cities.  In addition, secure property rights would stimulate entrepreneurs and open new routes for financing.

SHANNON SORZANO, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development of the United States, said the international community must find ways of translating multilateral discussion into action at the regional, national and local levels.  It must focus on working country-by-country to build capacities and strengthen institutions, so that they could create enabling environments to stimulate investment.  It should also seek ways to further deploy innovative financing mechanisms to improve the lives of all people in human settlements.

MOHAMED ELYAZGHI, Minister of Environment, Water and Territory Management of Morocco, said his country was going through rapid urbanization, and that city population had risen to 54.5 per cent of the total by 2003.  Housing had always been a concern, because it fostered family stability and sustainable development.  Significant initiatives had been undertaken to improve housing, and new operations were improving living conditions for low-income people.

TAHIR IQBAL, Minister of State for the Environment of Pakistan, said that urban people living in informal squatter settlement in his country was estimated at 35 to 40 per cent.  Pakistan had adopted various long-term and short-term measures to address the problem, with a key focus on policy upgrading and ownership rights.  Water was precious, sanitation was health, and human settlement was an obligation for all.

RAILA ODINGA, Minister for Roads, Public Works and Housing of Kenya, said countries could only achieve international targets for slum dwellers through enhanced financing.  The international community must honour its commitments and support human settlement programmes.  Water, sanitation and human settlement projects should be mainstreamed into national Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers.

Ms. OSOMO of Nigeria said her country had learned, after several decades of public sector development strategies, that the private sector had an important role to play in filling the financial and technical gaps in the country’s effort to achieve the Millennium Goals.  The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) provided the framework much of the action under way in her country.

Mr. VAN GEEL, of the Netherlands stressed the need to take an integrated approach when addressing water and sanitation issues.  He added that an integrated approach would also be key as the Commission moved on to address other clusters of development issues.

Mr. SALL of Senegal said much had been done to restructure slums and poor rural areas.  A foundation had been set up to bring together States and local collectives working to allow the poorest people to have access to land and infrastructure.

BRIGITTE SYLVIA MABANDLA, Minister, Department of Housing of South Africa, said reaching international targets was only the beginning.  In her country, informal settlements continued to grow and freshwater sources continued to be pressured.  South Africa believed in taking an integrated approach to address those issues and had focused its efforts on empowering vulnerable groups.  She urged the Commission and the wider international community to continue to heed the voices of African nations, who were facing the greatest development challenges.  She announced that South Africa was set to co-host, with UN-Habitat, a regional meeting on human settlements later this year.

SYLVIA T. MASEBO, Minister for Local Government and Housing of Zambia, said that water and human settlement issues had not been integrated in many African countries.  While the role of local authorities and community actors could not be ignored, international support for capacity-building programmes was, nevertheless, important.

Summing up the debate, Ms. TIBAIJUKA said she was delighted to hear that the United Nations was finally addressing the environmental challenges of rapid urbanization.  Urbanization was irreversible.  So, improving the livelihoods of slum dwellers and addressing the environmental aspects of poor urban communities was necessary in order to avert crises in “mega-cities” of 10 million people or more.

Mr. DE SOTO said that it was necessary to learn from western countries, which had all once been poor, but had risen to that challenge and reversed their conditions.  Indeed, some European countries had been considered poor right up until the end of the nineteenth century, he said.  So “property revolutions” had taken place and lessons needed to be learned from the ways in which countries had overcome the challenges.

Meeting on SmallIsland Developing States

JAYA CUTTAREE, Foreign Minister of Mauritius, said the strategy document currently being negotiated followed the structure of the Brussels Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries.  He identified four main areas of concern for small island developing States -- lack of resources, capacity, technology and poor trading ability.  In their negotiations with developing partners there were several issues of convergence, where others needed work on both sides and others required a political decision.  Given the understanding of developing partners, consultations should be able to make good progress in mid-May.

Continuing, he said small island developing States suffered from their remoteness –- from the industrialized world and within their own countries -- and consequent communication, transportation, governance and infrastructure problems.  Due to their colonial histories, most island States were single commodity producers and exporters who were highly dependent on tourism.  They suffered from high production, transport and communication costs, had limited internal markets, and were dependent on imports, which affected their ability to compete.

The current environment called for greater understanding and assistance from the international community in honouring the commitments they made in Rio and Barbados, he said.  Existing funding mechanisms failed to consider the special situation of small island developing States, not to mention the threat of climate change and rising sea level, which must be comprehensively addressed.  He stressed that small island developing States were committed to good governance and would take all necessary steps to implement sustainable development strategies.

Statements

NASSIR BIN ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER, (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that small island developing States were a very special component of the Group’s membership.  The Group, therefore, considered the Mauritius international meeting an event of critical importance and was confident that it would result in renewed commitment to further implementation of the Barbados Action Plan.

He said that in the 10 years since that Plan’s adoption, the situation of small islands had worsened.  Their fragile environments had deteriorated, their economic prospects had weakened and, among other things, their social cohesion had been severely compromised by increased crime, drug trafficking and the spread of HIV/AIDS.  He said that the Group had no intention of renegotiating the Barbados Plan, which remained faithful to the core sustainable development aspirations of small island developing States.  Nevertheless, the upcoming review must embrace new and emerging socio-economic issues that were now recognized as critical obstacles to the development of those States.

Mr. HAYES, (Ireland) speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union considered that the Mauritius meeting would help inform the proposed major mid-term review of implementation on the Millennium Goals, set for 2005, and ensure that the valuable voice of small islands was heard.  The outcome of the Mauritius meeting should be implementation-oriented, with a focus on helping small islands put in place nationally owned plans for sustainable development and poverty eradication.

The Union would also stress addressing the importance of renewable energy resources.  The meeting should also examine the work being done on vulnerability indices, so that small islands could establish plans that would help them adapt to economic, environmental and social shocks that were beyond their control.

MARIAN HOBBS, Minister for Environment and Associate Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade for New Zealand, said the sustainable development of small island States was of great concern for her country and its PacificIsland partners.  She said that the negotiations that had taken place two weeks ago still had some way to go and she hoped that the momentum could be maintained.

SICHAN SIV (United States), said participants should focus on the adoption of a short, balanced and practicable document, such as the framework document his country’s delegation had presented just prior to negotiations two weeks ago.  The focus should not be on renegotiating the commitments made at Barbados.  The Mauritius meeting would be far more productive if the focus was on good governance and partnership.  Through partnership, he said, people’s lives could be improved and a better world could be created for all.

MARCUS BETHEL, Minister for Health of the Bahamas, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said it was clear that the biggest challenge was to convince the international community of the high and rising vulnerability of small islands.  Small island concerns were often overridden by problems in larger developing countries.  Small island single commodity economies were vulnerable to the global market, and needed preferential market access.  It was vital to increase the capacity and enhance the resilience of small islands, so that they could benefit from globalization.

ELIZABETH THOMPSON, Minister of Housing, Lands and the Environment of Barbados, said small islands had undertaken to implement 70 per cent of the Barbados Programme on their own.  The current economic situation posed significant challenges to small islands, and they should be granted special treatment, which included greater transparency in the international financial system.  The current focus on the military aspect of security had burdened small islands with limited financial resources.  The transboundary movement of hazardous material was an additional problem, which should be stopped.  She recommended that a coordinated regional mechanism be considered for sustainable development in the Caribbean region.

Mr. CHANDARPAL (Guyana) said the vulnerability of small island developing States had increased on physical and economic fronts, calling for an increase in resources, rather than a reduction.  Small islands had done much since Barbados, but had increasingly smaller resources, due to globalization and other difficulties.  Their survival was not a business deal, but a mission for humanity.  Genuine commitments and genuine partnerships were needed to move small island States forward.

Mr. GEORGE (Dominica) said small islands had made admirable progress towards implementing the Barbados Programme, considering their limited resources.  However, World Trade Organization (WTO) rules had led to rapidly declining foreign exchange earnings, growing unemployment, and declining market access for small islands.  Such nations had always accepted primary responsibility for sustainable development and regretted that the international community had not upheld the Barbados Programme.  He underscored the vital importance of preferential trade, as well as financing and debt mechanisms for small islands.

Mr. SOPOAGA (Tuvalu) said the review of the Barbados Programme of Action should focus on actions that could make a difference to failed attempts in ensuring sustainable development.  His country would welcome any support from development partners and the international community.  He looked forward to success for small islands in their development efforts at the Mauritius meeting.

WITTEN T. PHILLIPO, Minister in Assistance to the President of Marshall Islands, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said his Government supported the upcoming review in Mauritius and hoped that the meeting would achieve the necessary impetus to achieve the sustainable development of small island States.  Full implementation of the Barbados Plan required the strengthening of partnerships between small islands and the wider international community and the fulfilment of commitments made by the international community.  The draft AOSIS negotiating document presented at the opening of the session by the Group of 77 emphasized those and other cross-cutting issues, and he hoped that paper would be given prominence during further discussions on the Mauritius documents.

Mr. BECK (Palau) said although his was one of the smallest and most remote islands in the world, it was, nevertheless, one of the last thriving centres of biodiversity.  Its indigenous species of flora and fauna, like those that existed in and around many small islands, was unmatched.  But, when those species were gone, they would not return.  For that reason, Palau supported all international agreements on environmental protection and hoped that the upcoming Mauritius review would place a particular focus on that issue.

LUIS DE MATOS MONTEIRO DA FONSECA (Cape Verde) said that it was clear that small island developing States needed assistance to build resilience to counter their unique vulnerabilities.  But, raising awareness was not enough and, sadly, island-specific special treatment was almost non-existent.  There were many areas of international cooperation in which the absence of “islandness” was hard to understand.  That was particularly true for market access and trade development, and should be a main focus at Mauritius.

ISIKIA RABICI SAVUA (Fiji) said his country had been working towards strengthening its integrated water resources management plans in hopes of realizing the goals of Agenda 21 and other international development targets.  He said that deepening market access would be one way to ensure that development occurred.  Fiji was looking forward to active and cooperative participation by all States at Mauritius.

ROBERT GUBA (Papua New Guinea) said the issues his nation considered important might sound far fetched to some.  But, they not only underpinned the sustainable livelihoods of small island developing States, in some cases, they threatened the very existence of the small islands, particularly climate change and such emergency issues as the spread of HIV/AIDS.

ANWARUL K. CHOWDHURY, Secretary-General of the Mauritius Meeting and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said that the outcome documents of the meetings should focus on partnership, prioritized focus on issues, appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and follow-up -- preferably on an annual basis by a single body.

They should also place more emphasis on the inputs from regional intergovernmental organizations.  He also stressed the need for fresh contributions to the trust fund that had been set up to ensure the participation of the poorest small island States delegations to the Mauritius meeting.  He said that negotiations on the outcome documents were ongoing and he hoped that Member States would continue to support the process.

Statements on Water

FABIAN VALDIVIESO, Minister for the Environment of Ecuador, said the dwindling water supply required a consensus-based solution, and an integrated way of attaining that goal.  There was a need to expand international machinery for financing water systems and supply, such as debt-swapping to support sustainable development.  There was also a need to strengthen international cooperation, and for international organization to provide resources to those in need.

VARDAN AYVAZIAN, Minister of Nature Protection of Armenia, said his country was suffering some serious water problems, including water quality.  Much of the water came from underground, and was fresh, but it then went through obsolete water supply systems.  In 2002, the country had adopted a water code, with a focus on basin management, which had helped to introduce integrated water resources management.

FERNANDO TUDELA ABAD, Vice-Minister of Mexico, stressed the need to protect ecosystems, on which water supply depended.  For integrated water resource management, water indicators must be coupled with other analyses involving quality.  Regulations and norms were often difficult to enforce, and may only meet some of the parameters.  But, it was necessary to use water indicators to ensure that any progress made towards development goals was actually sustainable.

DEAN PEART, Minister of Land and Environment of Jamaica, said his country’s approach towards water management included working with communities and non-governmental organizations, providing designs and guidance during construction of facilities.  He noted that increasing awareness of water supply had led up to 17 per cent in savings, and stressed that up-to-date technologies must be used for desalination and recycling.  Water management included conservation and was everyone’s responsibility.

Mr. LEPELTIER, Minister for Ecology and Sustainable Development of France, described a recent meeting in Paris concerning the NigerRiver basin, and the establishment of the Niger Basin Authority.  He noted that development partners were to undertake nothing in the NigerBasin without consulting other countries involved, so that all could be conserved in the interest of all.  Africa had taken responsibility for the Basin in context of NEPAD.

ANGELE GNONSOA, Minister for the Environment of Côte d’Ivoire, said her country had suffered from shared water courses, as well as conflict and its serious consequences on the environment, in general.  A study would make it possible to assess the damage and what must be done to improve the situation.

ANAELISA OSORIO, Minister for Environment and Natural Resources of Venezuela, said her country was actively rehabilitating its water infrastructure and promoting full and active participation of all communities in planning and managing sanitation services.  The Government was also providing technological expertise to all communities, including rural indigenous populations.  She said that sustainable development for all could not be achieved unless unsustainable consumption and production patterns were reversed.

FRANCISCO MABJAIA, Deputy-Minister for Environmental Affairs of Mozambique, said in his country many people still had to walk more than 10 kilometres for water.  The country had one of the lowest water coverage rates in the world.  He appealed to Mozambique’s development partners to continue to support the Government’s efforts to implement its poverty reduction strategy, particularly in water and sanitation.  Those included promoting low-cost housing and local-level capacity-building.  He also called for support to help strengthen the creation of a strong private sector in Mozambique.

Ms. MUCK of Croatia described the country’s efforts to provide water coverage and adequate sanitation in line with the Millennium Goals.  Efforts were being made in the areas of capacity-building and integrated water resources management, but it continued to need assistance to enhance community-level action in those sectors.

ADMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece) said her nation’s initiatives were focused on, among other things:  water supply and sanitation for the poorest sectors of society; water; food; environment; capacity-building and training; and management of transboundary water sources.  She added that an increased focus on integrated water management strategies would be essential to meeting agreed international development goals and targets.

YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said management of water supplies and sanitation systems should go hand in hand.  Weak infrastructure remained a critical challenge, particularly for those living in rural areas.  He added that post-conflict countries and countries with economies in transition also faced unique challenges, particularly in providing essential public services for displaced or refugee populations.

NIRA LAMAY, speaking on behalf of the Deputy Commissioner for Future Generations, Parliament of Israel, said that in her country sustainable management of water resources and countering contamination of groundwater sources were most important.  She suggested the engagement of parliaments to drive action at local and national levels by focusing on the transparency and accountability of governments.

KLARA NOVOTNA (Slovakia) said the Commission played a special role in facilitation and reviewing implementation of the major international development goals.  Better urban land management plans should be integrated into water, sanitation and housing initiatives to ensure that those goals were achieved.  The Commission also played an important role in highlighting the benefits of integrated water resources management strategies.

Mr. BEKNIYAZOV (Kazakhstan) said it was tragic that the shrinking of the Aral Sea was a global environmental disaster that was being ignored by the international community.  It was time to introduce a resolution to the General Assembly specifically on that issue.  He called on all interested countries to cooperate with the Council on Sustainable Development, which had been recently set up in his country.

Mr. JARRAR, Observer for Palestine, said that the pressure on Palestinian water sources had been further pressured by Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian Arab lands and the illegal and oppressive actions of the Israeli Defence Forces since 2000.  He reaffirmed the right of all Palestinians and Arabs to the full use and enjoyment of their natural resources.

Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of Israel said that he regretted having to take the floor, but the Palestinian observer had abused the present forum by introducing issues of a bilateral political nature, which in fact had been based on inaccurate information and added nothing to the Commission’s work.

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of Syria said that there was no doubt or disagreement that Israel was occupying Palestinian territories, as well as part of his county and south Lebanon.  Despite the fact that the United Nations had reaffirmed the right of all Arab people to their natural resources, Israel continued to abuse and exploit those resources.  The international community must put an end to the illegal occupation in line with Security Council resolutions.

Chairman’s Summary

BØRGE BRENDE, Commission Chairman, introducing Part II of his summary, said the Commission had had an extremely productive high-level segment with more than 100 ministers.  In addition to the ministers, substantive contributions had been made by several United Nations agencies and major groups.  He had tried to provide a balanced reflection of what he had heard on progress towards sustainable development goals, and hoped the summary would help facilitate an effective policy discussion on water, sanitation and human settlements during the following year.

Statement by Major Groups

Major groups stressed the vital role of all actors in sustainable development, and the importance of their increased participation.  They also underscored the need to develop disaggregated indicators for use by those who were to implement work towards development goals.  In addition, all players needed to step up their efforts to raise awareness of the importance of meeting the Johannesburg and Millennium goals, and place them high on the political agenda, and to transfer knowledge and technology to those communities that needed them most.

The Commission should aim to treat all issues equally and in an integrated manner, they said, with more emphasis on cross-cutting issues.  Discussions on the Commission’s themes must not stop at the end of the session, since much new information would appear during the intersessional period.  Such tools as working groups and regional meetings should be considered as means for continued dialogue.  Major groups should continue to offer expertise, to enhance partnerships in civil society and beyond, build their own capacities through education and awareness raising, monitor progress and recommend changes, and network more effectively.  They would engage at all levels to implement the Commission agenda, and complement efforts of States to involve major groups as active participants in planning and implementing effective programmes.  The proposed special session in February should be devoted to improving the role of major groups in implementing the Johannesburg goals, and include major groups seated on a panel as experts.

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For information media. Not an official record.