INTERGOVERNMENTAL PREPARATORY MEETING OF COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT CONSIDERS WAYS TO SPEED UP ACCESS TO SAFE WATER, SANITATION, HOUSING

28 February 2005
ENV/DEV/823

INTERGOVERNMENTAL PREPARATORY MEETING OF COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT CONSIDERS WAYS TO SPEED UP ACCESS TO SAFE WATER, SANITATION, HOUSING

28/02/2005
Press ReleaseENV/DEV/823

Commission on Sustainable Development

Preparatory Meeting

1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)

INTERGOVERNMENTAL PREPARATORY MEETING OF COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

CONSIDERS WAYS TO SPEED UP ACCESS TO SAFE WATER, SANITATION, HOUSING

Meeting to Lay Groundwork

For Commission’s First-Ever Policy Segment Set for 11-22 April

The Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development this morning opened its week-long session to consider policy options and possible actions for speeding up efforts to ensure safe water, sanitation and housing, first hearing relevant presentations from the United Nations regional commissions and major groups, and then holding an introductory panel discussion.

The meeting, convened to lay the groundwork for the Commission’s first–ever policy segment –- set for 11 to 22 April -– is expected to draw on the obstacles, lessons learned and best practices identified in those priority areas since the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Last year, the twelfth session of the Commission reviewed what actions in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements had been taken to date, and assessed what needed to be done to help countries stay on track to meet the commitments and targets agreed at the World Summit, as well as the Millennium Development Goals.

Opening the preparatory meeting this morning, Chairman John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) said that delegations would not revisit theoretical concepts or redefine the problems and challenges identified at Johannesburg or its landmark predecessor, the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.  It was the Preparatory Meeting’s task to explore policy options that had led or would lead to practical solutions.

By Friday, he hoped to capture the range of policy actions and possible actions discussed throughout the week and distil that into a fairly concise text, which would form the basis for deliberations leading to policy decisions at the Commission’s thirteenth session.  The credibility of the reformed Commission on Sustainable Development process was at stake if it was not possible to move forward to more effective implementation of the commitments made in earlier conferences, he added.

[In May 2003, the Commission, which is the key United Nations forum bringing countries together to consider ways to integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development -- economic growth, social development and environmental protection -- approved a multi-year programme of work featuring different thematic clusters of issues for each cycle.  The first, to be addressed in 2004 and 2005, was water, sanitation, and human settlements.  Following that, the second cycle will focus on energy, industrial development, air pollution, and climate change.]

Following a round of presentations by the regional commissions, the Preparatory Meeting devoted the bulk of its work this afternoon to the presentation of policy options by the major groups, including, representatives speaking on behalf of farmers, the scientific and technological communities, the business and industry, workers and trade unions, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, indigenous people, children and youth, and women.  A few government representatives joined in the dialogue.

Though the presentations and suggestions were diverse, key themes emerged during the discussion, including the need to closely monitor rural-to-urban migration trends, ensure respect for sustainable consumption and development, promote the involvement of the broadest cross-section of stakeholders, boost local- and regional-level initiatives and decision-making capacities, encourage good governance, and find ways to identify low-cost options –- particularly for new technologies -- for poor communities and to “get the word out” so that local actors knew what those options were and how to acquire them.

Following that, the Commission held a brief interactive dialogue on boosting commitments to improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and promoting integrated water resource management.  Experts on the environment and water were joined by top government ministers and United Nations officials for a discussion that touched on decentralization, allocating sufficient financial resources, promoting the participation of women, safeguarding water quality by strengthening and enforcing pollution controls, and intensifying agricultural water productivity by adopting more efficient conservation and irrigation practices and policies.

Making presentations during that discussion were Nafisa Barot, Executive Trustee of Utthan of India; Carmen Arevalo-Correa, Vice Minister of the Environment for Colombia; and Albert Wright, Co-Chair of the Millennium Project Task Force on Water and Sanitation.  That panel was chaired by Dagmara Berbalk, head of the National and International Water Policy Division, of Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

Also this morning, the Commission heard from the representatives of Senegal, Uganda, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on the outcomes of relevant inter-sessional meetings, as well as the representative of Morocco on an upcoming meeting in his country.

The Commission also adopted its provisional agenda and organization of work, and approved the request of Global Water Partnership for accreditation as an observer to the meeting.

Also addressing the Commission today were the representatives of Jamaica (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union), the United States, Iran, Egypt, and Burkina Faso.

The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 1 March, to hold simultaneous round-table discussions on water and sanitation, as well as a plenary on human settlements.

Background

The Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for the thirteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) met this morning to begin its week-long meeting.  To facilitate the work of the Commission’s thirteenth session, member governments are meeting this week for interactive discussions on a possible framework of policy options and actions.  In addition to the outcome of the twelfth session of the Commission, the Secretary-General’s reports and regional contributions will be important inputs to the interactive discussions.  The Commission’s Chair will prepare a text based on these discussions, which will capture the various proposals and suggestions for action that are likely to emerge from the preparatory meeting, for consideration at the thirteenth session.

The new work programme for the Commission, based on two-year cycles with a clear set of thematic issues, provides the global community with a unique opportunity to focus in-depth attention on specific issues.  Building on the outcomes of the twelfth session of the Commission’s focus on water, sanitation and human settlements, the thirteenth session will strive to be forward-looking and action-oriented.

Secretary-General’s Reports

The Secretary-General’s report on freshwater management (document E/CN.17/2005/2) outlines wide-ranging policy options and actions to overcome the obstacles impeding the achievement of water goals and targets agreed in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.  National governments, in partnership with municipalities and local governments, bear principal responsibility for water resources management and supplying safe drinking water to their people, but not all can achieve this goal without the close cooperation of the international community.

At the national level, strong political commitment could be demonstrated in a number of ways, including by recognizing access to water as a basic right in national legislation and by including water provision in national poverty-alleviation strategies and programmes.  The international donor community can support the efforts of national governments by significantly increasing the overall volume of official development assistance (ODA) and the amount devoted to water supply and sanitation and to water resources management, among other things.  Local authorities and community-based organizations are in the front line of water supply and water management.  Options at the disposal of governments to strengthen local water governance include recognition of the role, responsibilities and powers of local authorities and community-based organizations in national water legislation.

Governments may wish to consider a number of policy options in order to expand and upgrade coverage of urban water supply.  Inasmuch as public water utilities remain the principal urban water service providers, measures could include strengthening their governance through technical and managerial capacity-building, including for network planning, finance, administration, metering and bill collection, and maintenance.  To serve those poor communities, often informal settlements not yet connected to the piped network, a combination of measures may be considered, including making concessional finance available to community organizations and small-scale private providers for investment in low-cost infrastructure.

As the main water haulers, women are likely to have the strongest interest in ensuring effective operation and maintenance of a convenient and safe water source, states the report.  Also, integrated water resources management can provide a strong basis for an effective water-related-disaster early warning, prevention and mitigation system.

Also before the meeting is the Secretary-General’s report on policy options and possible actions to expedite implementation of global sanitation targets (document E/CN.17/2005.3) set at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).  The report states that sanitation is beginning to be recognized as a national development priority that needs to be supported by adequate policies and budgetary allocations.  Essential investment in sanitary facilities and wastewater treatment, as well as support for capacity-building and technology transfer, is likely to require the mobilization of sizeable new resources.

Finding new sources of funding will also be important so that water and sewage utilities can upgrade their existing services and extend them to remote or isolated populations.  According to the report, giving small-scale service providers easier access to credit and service contracts can contribute towards expanding coverage, and adopting low-cost technology options can also allow expanded coverage.  Effective wastewater management and water quality concerns can be achieved through strengthened monitoring systems, regulatory mechanisms and enforcement capacities.

The report also notes that greater community involvement, particularly of women, in water and sanitation management can promote simple technology design for easy maintenance, facilitate cost recovery and ensure equitable access.  Research on and demonstration of different sanitation options, particularly those that treat nutrients as a reusable resource, can help communities in selecting culturally appropriate designs.

Most developing countries cannot achieve their sanitation goals without the support of the international donor community, the report stresses.  So, donor countries could assist by allocating higher portions of ODA to sanitation programmes.  Higher proportions of financial assistance could also be in the form of grants and improving donor coordination in implementation efforts.  The report also urges a focus on efforts to ensure improved hygiene, including public awareness campaigns on the links between hygiene, sanitation and health, which could be effective in changing behaviour.

According to the Secretary-General’s report on human settlements (document E/CN.17/2005/4), new approaches are required for the planning and development of human settlements.  These approaches must integrate urban planning, housing development, the delivery of safe drinking water and sanitation services, solid waste management, education and health-care services, transportation and employment and enterprise development.  While there are many examples worldwide of the impact of local policies and programmes on reducing urban poverty, the challenge is to find solutions to avert the growth of slums and informal settlements that work at city and nationwide scales.

Policy interventions benefiting the poor by governments and municipalities seem to be most effective if they support community-based programmes or strategies.  Experience shows that the most powerful examples of slum upgrading have been at the community level, where organizations of slum-dwellers have built their own capacities to improve their homes and neighbourhoods.  Gender equality remains a particular challenge in most countries, the report adds.  Even in countries in which legislation enabling gender equality exists, social and cultural circumstances often prevent women from having full and equal access to land, housing and property.

Mobilizing the full potential of domestic capital and attracting financial means from external sources for expediting the implementation of the human settlements goals and targets contained in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, including target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals, require a coherent macroeconomic policy framework and laws and regulations that are conducive to sound financial management.  The cost of achieving target 11 of the Millennium Goals -- improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020 -– is estimated at between $70 billion and $100 billion.

At the international level, continues the report, increasing ODA to the levels needed to improve housing and urban services to the poor and to achieve Millennium Goal 11, remains an essential and continuing challenge, as is the consideration of practical ways to ensure that ODA leverages domestic financial resources for sustainable human settlements development.  Recent commitments by donors to increase ODA, including those made at the International Conference on Financing for Development (Monterrey, 2002), and commitments to support developing countries in meeting the Millennium Goals could increase the resources available for sustainable human settlements development.

Statements

JOHN ASHE (Antigua and Barbuda) said that the twelfth session of the Commission last April had provided a blueprint of the key obstacles and constraints to meeting the Johannesburg and related Millennium Goals targets concerning water, sanitation and human settlements.  It was now the task of the Preparatory Meeting to identify and discuss the full range of policy options and possible actions that could effectively be used to overcome those obstacles and constraints.  Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), a manifold range of sustainable development issues had been discussed, deliberated and negotiated, with the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 serving as a critical call for action.

The meeting, he added, would not revisit theoretical concepts or redefine the problems and challenges.  It must explore policy options that had led or would lead to practical solutions.  By Friday, he hoped to capture the range of policy actions and possible actions discussed through the week and distil that into a fairly concise text, which would form the basis for deliberations leading to policy decisions at the Commission’s thirteenth session.  The credibility of the reformed Commission on Sustainable Development process was at stake if it was not possible to move forward to more effective implementation of the commitments made in earlier conferences.

Presentations by Regional Groups

Mr. LEYE, of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that the group had held a preparatory meeting from 31 January to 4 February ahead of the CSD-13.  The meeting had included the participation of and priority discussions with the African Ministers' Council on Water.  He said that the participating countries had approved an enhanced framework for housing and urban development in Africa, as well as a decision on a ministerial conference on that theme.  That framework focused on pro-poor policies, policy and loan reform and financing urban development housing.  Establishment of the Conference implied the creation of a bureau and other supporting mechanisms.  Other related issues were still under negotiation.  The participants had also made the political commitment to mainstream issues related to water, sanitation and housing within the framework of their New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) efforts.

Mr. EAVLUND, of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), said the Commission’s most recent inter-sessional meeting had been held just last week.  That meeting had built on the outcomes of CSD-12, and had incorporated regional approaches to water and sanitation.  He said that the ECE discussed its own priorities, as well as those for the transition of less developed countries, and had had recognized that pollution and overuse of ground waters had become a priority issue for developing countries and their neighbours which used those sources.  Priority should be given to the ECE water convention and its protocols, and integrated water resources and management should be used as a tool to promote the efficient use of water and maintenance of water supplies.

He said that safety issues were also prioritized, particularly to reduce the chances of pollution and contamination of groundwater sources.  The ECE had also focused on protecting forests and other natural areas that fed or bordered water sources, as well as strengthening the capacities of “upstream” and “downstream” communities.  A region-wide flood strategy was also considered a priority issue, as well as enhanced agreements on transboundary water access rights.  The ECE also agreed that efforts should be stepped up towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Access to water and sanitation was a key element in the fight against poverty, and governments should recognize and assume the responsibility for setting up surveillance and response systems, in line with the relevant ECE/World Health Organization (WHO) conventions.

Ms. ALMERES, of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that the recommendations contained in ECLAC’s report to the Commission were the result of three meetings held on the issues of water, sanitation and human settlements.  On land use and urban services, the recommendations emphasized the need to address housing the urban poor and infrastructure development in transport planning, among other things.  Crucial to all the policy recommendations was the strengthening of institutional capacity.  The report noted that water allocation systems were rigid, and that costly irrigation systems were built without sufficient returns.  To improve such situations, it was necessary to have sufficient State water administration at the national level.  Also needed was the strong participation of users to have a stable system of water rights, and a sound macroeconomic context to prompt investment and encourage the emergence of local capital markets to finance investments.

She noted that some solutions might not be right for all countries.  It was necessary to find the right equilibrium between private and public solutions, which fit the needs of each country.  Among the key challenges were implementation of integrated water resource management and managing the competitive use of water resources.  Even when privatization was chosen, the State should supervise and monitor its application.  Another challenge was accelerating progress on meeting the water targets.

Introduction of Secretary-General’s Reports

JOANNE DISANO, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the reports before the preparatory meeting on water, sanitation and human settlements.  She said that, in addition, the meeting had before it the report from last year’s session of the Commission, which includes a Chair’s summary reflecting the discussion at CSD-12 identifying the constraints, obstacles and possible approaches and best practices for the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Action Plan.

She said that the reports focused on policy options and possible actions to overcome the constraints identified during the Commission’s last session.  And while they did not provide recommendations for all countries, they drew on country experiences in order to identify successful experiences that offered policy options for possible action in the elaboration of national-level implementation plans.  In the area of water, the Secretary-General had focused on two main objectives:  the Millennium Development Goal to halve, buy 2015, the proportion of the world’s people unable to reach, or to afford, safe drinking water; and the Johannesburg goal of developing integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans by 2005.  The report considered policy options for supplying safe drinking water in urban and rural areas, for implementing integrated water resource management plans, for strengthening water monitoring and for meeting the financial challenges involved.

On sanitation, the report of the Secretary-General focused on the Johannesburg goal of reducing by half the people without access to basic sanitation by 2015, as well as on improving wastewater treatment.  It also considered policy options to expand access to sanitation in urban and rural areas, including improvement of public and household sanitation facilities and sewage collection systems.

On human settlements, she said the report noted that virtually all of the world’s future population growth would take place in the cities of the developing world, and largely in informal settlements, which represented the greatest challenge to the sustainable development of human settlements.  Policy options and actions addressed housing and land use, tenure, urban planning, employment and enterprise development.

MAMADOU LAMINE BA, Minister for Prevention, Public Hygiene and Sanitation of Senegal, presented the outcome of the Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Forum held in Dakar, Senegal, from 29 November to 3 December, which had produced three outcomes for the thirteenth session of the Commission, namely, the Dakar Statement, Actions and Commitments and the Road Map From Dakar for Achieving the Millennium Goals.  Without an integrated approach to sanitation, hygiene and clean water, there could be no positive impact on the lives of populations, and the Millennium Goals would be in vain, since the fight against poverty started with the fight against those three elements.  Without an integrated approach, the world would continue to witness the silent emergency of 6,000 children dying every day.

After the World Summit in 2002, Senegalese President Wade was among the first to establish a new ministry for Prevention, Public Hygiene and Sanitation.  At the African level, the African Ministers' Council on Water had decided to establish “AMI-WASH”, but their initiatives could not yield results if they did not enjoy support from development partners.  One of the agreed action plans in Johannesburg was to integrate sanitation in integrated water resources management.  Without sanitation, water quality could not be preserved.  The technology must be made available to make clean drinking water available to all people.  He reminded delegates that there were only 10 years left before the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Goals.  He urged all MemberStates and development partners to use the Global WASH format in developing national policies to achieve the Millennium Goals.  He also called for the integration of women and young people in the management of water resources.

MARIA MUTAGAMBA, Minister of State for Water, Land and Environment of Uganda, reported on the outcome of the Tokyo International Conference on the Integrated Management of Water Recourses, held from 6 to 9 December.  She said that world leaders had come together to discuss critical water issues and that  the meeting had yielded significant achievements.  The main priority was to reinvigorate country-level effort towards strengthening water management and water efficiency plans that had been adopted at the 2002 Johannesburg Summit.

The participants had decided to focus on implementation, planning and capacity-building.  They had also made an urgent appeal to halve the number of victims of water related natural disasters by 2015.  Those disasters hampered the development of small countries.  She said that recent United Nations conferences and summits had considered the problems that arose from not having enough water, but not what happened when there was “too much” water.  The aftermath of last December’s South Asian tsunami made it clear that this was an important issue, and the participants had made a vigorous appeal to add the problem to the Millennium Development Goals.

She also reported on this past December’s fifth ordinary session of the African Minister’s Council on Water (AMCOW), which had explored policy options and initiatives aimed at expediting water and sanitation programmes on the continent.  The AMCOW acted as a regional mechanism for cooperation on critical water challenges for Africa towards the further implementation of the Johannesburg Action Plan.  She said that the African population was expected to increase by 65 per cent in the next 35 years, mainly in urban areas, which made it crucial to address water challenges in a coherent and comprehensive manner.

Some priorities, as identified by the Ministers, included increasing access to clean water and sanitation in urban areas, building and/or rehabilitating infrastructure and strengthening transboundary water use strategies.  Mobilizing resources and enhancing technical capacities were also highlighted, she said.  Efforts were under way to ensure that AMCOW became an organ of the African Union.  The meeting also had recognized African water strategies under way with the Group of Eight and the European Union, and had noted the important role women played in integrated water management strategies.

MARIA ANTONIA TRUJILLO, Minister for Housing of Spain, presented the outcome of the World Urban Forum, held in Barcelona from 13 to 17 September 2004.  Over 4,000 participants had come together for the second session of the Forum, whose theme was “Cities as Crossroads of Cultures”.  As 57 per cent of the participants represented civil society, the Forum was a considerable success in bringing together the participation of social organizations to analyse problems facing human settlements.  The Forum consisted of a plenary, thematic dialogues and parallel events.  The thematic dialogues focused on, among other things, improving the living conditions of inhabitants of precarious settlements, urban poverty, water and sanitation services, and sustainable management.

Many participants underscored the relationship between the Millennium Goals and social inclusion, which was key for achieving the Goals.  Among the many subjects debated in the parallel events were access to basic services, improving settlements and urban rehabilitation.  The Forum’s outcome provided a guide with which to achieve the Goals, and everyone must broach the necessary actions to do so in the forthcoming meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development.  It was necessary to link water, sanitation and human settlements with national strategies for development.  She added that the third session of the Forum would be held in Vancouver, Canada, next year.

JOHAN KUYLENSTIERNA, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Sweden, reported on the outcome of the Stockholm Water Week, which had been held last August.  Some 1,400 participants from around the world -- scientist, academics, civic actors and other experts -- had gathered in Sweden to discuss issues that included drainage, sanitation, and the links between water, food and urban security.  Water and sanitation was key to sustainable development, and people outside the discussion needed to be made aware that sound resources management was linked to socio-economic growth.  In that regard, investments in the sector needed to be increasingly discussed as economic opportunities rather than as just costs.

In addition, the Water Week participants also urged that all the water-related Millennium Goal targets be discussed in a more coherent way.  The challenges facing urban areas -– particularly the impacts of water and sanitation on women and girls -– also needed to be urgently discussed.  Feeding the world’s population and finding the water to grow that food would be a challenge over the next two decades, he said, adding that there was a need to focus on strategies in the irrigated agriculture and too-neglected rain-fed agriculture sectors.

He called for closer examination of ways to link national strategies for food and nutritional security and integrated water management strategies within Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs).  Those issues should be examined in conjunction with wider eco-resource management issues.  If people were to be less hungry, and expanding urban areas were to be better functioning, critical decisions in those areas needed to be taken with the utmost urgency.  The Commission on Social Development must keep those concerns on the global agenda by taking necessary and even bold decisions.

ABDELLAH BENMELLOUK (Morocco) announced that his country would host the Second International Forum on Partnerships for Sustainable Development in Marrakesh later this month.  The Forum would focus on two priority areas, namely, water and energy.  It presented an opportunity for all experts and those involved in partnerships in those areas to have exchanges of experience, and for deepening the debate on strengthening and encouraging partnerships, in general, and those in the areas of water and energy, in particular.  The Forum would be opened by the Minister for Land Development, Water and Environment of Morocco, and he invited delegates to visit the web site of the Forum for more information. 

Mr. HOOGRVEEN (Netherlands) presented the results of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/Netherlands Conference on Water for Food and Ecosystems, held from 31 January to 5 February.  The Conference focused on the implementation of international commitments on water for food and ecosystems.  Agriculture, ecosystems and water management were members of the same family.  Both their conservation and sustainable use were cornerstones for sustainable development.  Every 1 per cent rise in agricultural production translated into an average drop of about 1 per cent in the number of the very poor.  Having access to enough clean water was not the only condition for successful agriculture, but it was certainly an important one.  The essence of the Conference was the positive power of water as a key factor for sustainable development.  The Conference made it clear that it was necessary to strike a new balance between water for human beings, water for food production and water for a healthy ecosystem.

The message of the Conference was to integrate, cooperate and invest, he said.  It was pertinent to move away from a sectoral approach -– which had not been successful in addressing the complex and critical challenges of sustainable development, poverty eradication and food security –- to an integrated approach.  Also, as the scarcity of water, hunger, the loss of biodiversity and climate change were common concerns to all, there was a strong willingness to cooperate.  In addition, substantive resources were needed to “make it happen” -– the theme of the Conference.  Such investments should be based on sound ecology in agriculture and sound economics in biodiversity conservation. 

A representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), speaking on behalf of the Programme’s executive Director, Klaus Toepfer, reported on the outcome of the twenty-third session of the UNEP Governing Council.  At that meeting, held from 21 to 25 February, governments took important steps forward in reducing the health and environmental risks from mercury, a heavy metal linked with a wide range of medical problems.  They also considered important issues related to gender and climate change, the General Assembly’s upcoming midterm review of the Millennium Development Goals, and the CSD priority issues of water, sanitation and housing.  The Council unanimously had decided that environmental sustainability was a critical component of successful achievement of the Millennium Goals and identified actions to be taken by UNEP in that area.  The Council also had adopted a number of key decisions on the outcome of the recent Mauritius World Conference on Small Island Developing States, as well as on ways to head off or mitigate natural disasters such as the recent South Asian tsunami. The Programme was convinced that the outcomes of the conference would be an important input to CSD-13.

KAZI RAHMAN, of the Regional Commissions New York Office, informed delegates that the representatives of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) could not be present for the meeting, and trusted that they would be present at the Commission’s thirteenth session to provide a report on their activities.

He noted that the degree of water scarcity in the ESCWA region had long been realized as a major problem, affecting the quality of life of the population.  The problem was further compounded by factors such as population growth, as well as a lack of data and deficiencies in financing the necessary investments.  The region also faced challenges in providing an enabling environment for attracting substantial investments for infrastructure development.  The ESCWA estimated that the region had lost roughly two percentage points in growth since the 1980s due to the lack of a conducive climate for investment in the region.  On sanitation, the region suffered from a lack of visibility and appreciation of sanitation issues.  The countries of the region had recognized the challenges and had identified water as a priority area for ESCWA, which had reflected that in its work programme.  The ESCWA had set up an intergovernmental committee to deal with those issues, and it was working to set up inter-agency cooperation with itself and relevant organizations of the United Nations system.

Turning to ESCAP, he focused on activities in the area of human settlements, noting that the rapid expansion of slum dwellers had emerged as a major problem in that region.  In 2004, ESCAP had undertaken two specific initiatives to meet challenges related to slums in the region.  It had set up a subcommittee to address the problems of slum dwellers, and had initiated a regional dialogue on housing rights.  The policy challenges related to developing local and national strategies for tenure regularization, and improving living conditions of slum dwellers, as well as ensuring gender equality in relation to housing rights.  Among the challenges identified were improving coordination at national and local levels, public awareness of water crises, and introduction of water quality standards.  Specific actions being taken included initiatives taken by various United Nations agencies to address arsenic poisoning, which affected some 2 million people in the region.

STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group remained committed to achieving the water, sanitation and human settlement goals in the Johannesburg Action Plan, and had been making their best efforts to reach them. But the experience in implementation suggested that reaching those objectives would be a challenge for many developing countries, particularly for the least developed countries.  The Group, therefore, could not support any proposals to renegotiate agreed targets or set new targets in those areas, as that would divert both attention and critically needed resources.  The Group had already noted that a number of developing countries were in danger of not meeting the Millennium Development Goals, he added, stressing that the policy measures adopted by the current CSD session must be aimed specifically at assisting those countries in improving their chances of attaining the Millennium objectives.

He said the close relation between water, sanitation and human settlements, required, in many cases, newer and more integrated approaches to planning and development, particularly in the area of housing.  Nevertheless, tackling the challenges required a balanced approach and strong support from the international community, particularly since the report of CSD-12 had estimated that the cost of estimated requirements for water and sanitation was some $33 billion a year, and some $50 billion a year for municipal waste water management.  Mobilization of resources within developing countries, especially to ensure or enhance basic services, was hampered by generally low income levels and the explicit condition in the Johannesburg Action Plan that cost recovery should not become a barrier to access to safe water by the poor.  In any event, the demand on the target population would be cumulative, he said, with the same households being asked to meet the cost of water, sanitation services and housing.

Developing countries were, therefore, challenged to provide continuous access for persons with limited or irregular incomes, he continued.  The Group noted in this regard the Secretary-General’s reference to the need for targeted subsidies and his recommendation that governments use the opportunity of projects to procure local materials and provide employment to local people as a means of stimulating growth.  Policies at the international level must be coherent enough to facilitate such actions.  Turning to some of the critical cross-cutting issues that could keep some developing countries from meeting international development goals, he highlighted lagging technology transfer, capacity-building, and lingering poverty.  He also said there was a need to raise awareness about the issues, as well as ensure the increase in ODA.

ELISABETH COLOTTE (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the policy options and actions to be identified this week should respond to the three major challenges retained in the report of the Commission’s twelfth session, namely, capacity-building and technology transfer, governance and financing.  The following key principles and policy options, which would allow for economically, socially and environmentally sound solutions, should be considered priority.

The first was adopting an integrated approach in planning and implementation of all future actions and projects to address sustainable use of natural resources, social needs and economic development, as well as promote the participation of all stakeholders, particularly local communities, and enhance the opportunity for the development of partnerships and synergies.  In addition, integrated planning procedures were extremely important to good governance and local leadership, if success was to be achieved in service provision.  Integrated planning included the simultaneous planning of land use, transportation, and the provision of water, sanitation and housing.

The second principle was including sustainable development and CSD-13 priority sectors in national processes, he said.  At the national level, National Sustainable Development Strategies and/or Poverty Reduction Strategies that integrated economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development must provide the basis for the implementation of the whole World Summit on Social Development agenda in accordance with each country’s national priorities.  Achieving the internationally agreed targets required country ownership and the setting of domestic targets and implementation plans.  Among the other principles were ensuring ownership of all programmes and actions and the involvement of all stakeholders.

Poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patters of consumption and production and protecting the natural resource base of economic and social development were overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development, he added.  In particular, adopting a pro-poor approach in all policies and actions was also necessary to address the close links between water, sanitation and human settlements and poverty eradication by prioritizing policies and actions which guaranteed improved service delivery to the poorest.  Monitoring and follow-up, as well as the need for coordination, also needed to be addressed, and the modalities in that regard should be based, as far as possible, on existing processes and initiatives.

Mr. MARGOLIS (United States) said the preparatory meeting marked an important juncture, as the Commission pressed ahead with efforts to focus on formulating policies not only to sustain development but to save lives.  It was clear that the international community had turned the corner and embraced the era of implementation.  It was also clear that networks were being created galvanizing governments, regional development banks and other actors towards improvements in the critical areas of sanitation, water and housing. And even as policy frameworks came together, success would be measured by improvements that were achieved and sustained on a country-by-country basis.  A focus should be not just on good governance, but on good water management governance. The United States had focused on water issues for the poor, and hoped that other nations would come forward with voluntary initiatives of concern to their own citizens.  He called for more and better coordination between the Commission, the preparatory meeting and the Secretariat.

Presentations by Major Groups

At the outset of today’s afternoon meeting, the representative of farmers, representing some 600 million farming families in both developed and developing countries, acknowledged that change had taken place sine Rio and Johannesburg, and the world was ready to take action.  But that momentum must be kept up because, over the next two decades, farmers would have to feed many tens of millions more people with less available land than ever before.  A main focus should be on balancing urban and rural development plans, including through the creation of public/private water partnership strategies.  He said that there should also be an integrated approach, which would include the World Bank and other regional banks and organizations, for water management and distribution included in PRSPs.

In addition, the issue of water and land use rights was also worthy of close examination if global development goals were to be met.  Farmers needed access to technologies -- from lined drainage ditches to new seed crops. And while successes could be cited, wide-scale implementation at the country level had been difficult.  In poor countries, farmers with no rights, no credit and no finances faced critical challenges. The international community must look honestly at the pricing of farm equipment and new technologies, he said.  Everyone should also be aware that the coming water crisis was on a converging path with an urban explosion in the developing world, so it was more urgent than ever to examine not only water and sanitation issues, but to find ways to improve the lives of slum dwellers.

The representative of the scientific and technological communities said harnessing new technologies would be critical to ensure that countries met the objectives agreed at Johannesburg, as well as the Millennium Development Goals.  The scientific community was prepared to make its contribution in priority areas in the national social, engineering and health sciences. That community was committed to fostering implementation in those areas, as well as to fostering partnerships to enhance technology transfer, and information-sharing among others.  But he stressed that the scientific community would also need greater cooperation at regional and global levels.

The involvement of specialists in national and research institutions was critical aimed at solving problems in sanitation, water and housing.  But the North-South gap in technology was widening.  With that in mind, he stressed that investments in science and technology were some of the highest yielding investments that developing countries could make.  And for developed countries must be more proactive in promoting technology transfer, particularly for clean technologies and water management strategies.

The representative of business and industry said access to water and the protection of water resources was an economic, as well as social, issue.  The right to water must become a fact for everyone on the planet.  All countries must have a detailed schedule and timetable for achieving water-related development goals -- that included both the developed and developing countries.  The business community had been taking measures to protect water resources or some years now, including through conservation and recycling. The business community also promoted better management of water sources.  It also called for the creation of local water and sanitation initiatives.  Local leaders must decide how those programmes would be managed, either by the communities themselves or by private enterprises.

He went on to say that, at the national level, investment and ODA needed to be increased for water services.  He called on the Commission to continue to develop guidelines on good governance and on the creation of broad and inclusive partnerships. Meeting water, sanitation and housing goals was a “major challenge”, which required the active participation of all stakeholders, including governments, civic actors and major groups.

Briefly opening the floor for discussion, SHIN BOO-NAM (Republic of Korea), Vice-Chair for the interactive session on major groups, asked the representatives of the major groups if they had any suggestions improving access to technology or on programmes that might provide incentives for responsible water use.  The business and industry representative said the technology was available, although it was often quite costly, so the real question was raising awareness about the ready availability of that technology and how to enhance purchasing power.

The farmers’ representative said there was no simple solution.  The global targets had been set to improve the economic, nutrition and water capacities for the poorest of the poor.  That group could not adopt new technologies without substantial outside help.  And the help they needed was not just financial.  Such communities would need to organize into local cooperatives.  The representative of local authorities agreed that measures to improve access to technologies should be created for and targeted to specific local communities.  The representative of the United States said that his Government had been struck by the fact that most action was taken at the local level, and how finance and good governance affected that action.

The representative of the scientific and technological communities called for local- or national-level “information clearing houses” that could provide information on low-cost and efficient technology options.  The representative of Iran said that it was most important to pursue policies that ensured better efficiency of water usage.  The representative of Egypt said improving the lives of poor farmers required a package of interventions, including availability of water, credits, subsidies and extension services for transfer of technologies.

A representative of workers and trade unions said that access to water and sanitation remained a fundamental right.  In all places, workers must become involved, with employers, in improving efficiency of water utilization and reducing waste at the production level.  Engaging people in such a process required assistance and resources.  Recognizing the need for decent jobs was a policy imperative.  Having a decent job meant that workers did not have to worry about job security.  It also meant that people could pay for water and sanitation services in their communities.  Decent work was the most direct way to address social needs.

It was also clear that strong, properly functioning local authorities were in a key position in the context of integrated water management, he continued.  Privatization could not become a major option.  It was necessary to strengthen the capacity of local authorities to manage resources as public utilities.  National governments were currently sidestepping their responsibilities.  They must assume their role for the provision of vital public services.  The promotion of local authorities’ management of public services must be fostered.

A representative of local authorities said that local authorities were the level of government closest to the people, and provided the majority of essential services, such as housing and sanitation.  So, local authorities believed that CSD-13 proposals should help implement the Johannesburg commitments.  Despite the advances announced by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives during CSD-12, important challenges remained.  She noted seven priority areas.  The first priority was to strengthen the link between the local and national levels.  National plans for poverty reduction and sustainable development should take into better account the needs at the local level.  Local authorities should be able to participate in the national development of policies.  No policy would be successful if those for whom it was intended was not involved in its design and implementation.  The second priority was to strengthen local authorities themselves, to set up programmes to strength capacity at municipal and local levels.

The third priority, she continued, was to decentralize regulatory power and technical and financial resources.  The fourth priority was to improve access to funding for provision of local services.  The fifth priority was to recognize the overwhelming importance of good local governance when it came to water and human settlements.  The sixth priority, in the area of human settlements, was to guarantee security of occupation for those living in informal human settlements, enabling them to be linked up to the water and sanitation system.  The last priority was for national institutions to promote international cooperation between local authorities through the establishment of networks and exchange of technical data to allow each city to draw lessons from the experiences of others.  It was also important to support local initiatives.  The local authorities welcomed the work done by a number of national governments.  There were cases of tremendous cooperation between the national, local and regional levels in several countries.

A representative of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) reaffirmed that NGOs were working with communities all over the world who were able to manage their water resources and human settlements.  The human right to adequate and affordable water, housing and sanitation was not accepted, and when it was accepted, it was not adequately provided.  Over-consumption of resources continued to be problematic.  It was also important to incorporate environmental, gender and cultural impact assessments into policies.  Investment must always respect the needs of local users.  In addition, developed countries should commit to reversing declining ODA levels to the sectors of water, sanitation and housing, and focus on the countries most in need, as well as agree on a timetable to implement the Monterrey Consensus.

She supported the United Kingdom’s initiative at the Group of Eight summit to cancel all debt of poor countries, as well as the use of debt swaps.  Water was a public good and its management must remain with the public sector.  It was important to keep gender on the water agenda.  Failure to provide water impacted women and girls disproportionately.  The NGOs group agreed with the women’s group that women and water must remain on the agenda of CSD-13.  On human settlements, she noted that target 11 of the Millennium Goals on reducing the number of slum dwellers was overshadowed by the fact that the number of slum dwellers would actually increase over the period mentioned in the target.

Responding to previous questions on technology, the representative of business and industry said that the solution to access to water and sanitation was not to be found through the use of more sophisticated technology.  There was a need to use technologies which were robust and cheap to ensure access for low-income communities to water and sanitation.  One key to the problem was to make local authorities responsible and to give them the means to do that.  He also stressed the role of workers in the workplace.  Related to that, the representative of Burkina Faso pointed out that his country had an increasing population and huge needs for water.  It had successfully developed underground dams, and wanted to hear the views of the scientific and technological community on what could be done with such technology, so that the people involved could be skilled in its use.

A representative of indigenous people said that water was sacred and stressed that indigenous cultures be given the right to manage and maintain their own water resource systems.  Water services must remain in local control, and indigenous communities must be active participants in the implementation of water-related goals agreed at Johannesburg, as well as those included in the Millennium Declaration.  She said that the Commission must consider ways to mainstream gender into water and sanitations issues, particularly because women were the primary users of traditional water resources in indigenous communities.  The Commission must also consider ways to ensure the future use of traditional lands and resources for generations to come.

The representative of children and youth said the outcome of this year’s discussion must focus on education, community participation and the enhancement of existing resources.  His group believed that there continued to be a gap in access to resources and information between youth groups and other grass-roots actors.  It also believed that there was an institutional reluctance to believe in the power and commitment of youth to participate in efforts to meet internationally agreed development objectives.

He called for true cooperation and true respect for the unique capacities of all stakeholders, including children and youth. He also called for the enhancement of peer-to-peer education initiatives, as well as the demonstrated commitment of governments to support grass-roots initiatives.  Everyone should work together and come up with bold and visionary decisions to promote implementation of the Johannesburg and Millennium Declaration goals.

A representative of women said that the implementation of water, sanitation and human settlement policies formed an essential part of women’s lives, livelihoods, health and security.  Therefore, implementation meant mainstreaming gender in planning, decision-making and management, and enhancing the roles and status of women as key stakeholders and agents of change.  As a group, the women recommended that women and water appear as a major topic in the thirteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development agenda and that a fund be created to facilitate the implementation of gender as a cross-cutting issue in the 10-year work plan of the Commission, as agreed in CSD-11.

Also, it should be recognized that women’s access to water was directly related to access to natural resources, specifically land.  More must be done to promote and support efforts and initiatives to secure equitable access to land tenure.  In addition, it was important to eliminate constitutional and legal barriers that barred women from owning or inheriting land, and ensure that women had access to safe sanitation.  Among other recommendations, the promotion of private sector development of natural resources should take into account women’s knowledge and subsistence activities for economic development, and the Commission on Sustainable Development should launch a gender strategy for implementing the Millennium Goals on water and sanitation.

Wrapping up this segment of the meeting’s work, Vice-Chairman SHIN said that the participants had made it clear that all actors must boost ways to include stakeholders in the efforts to meet the objectives agreed at international meetings and summits.  They had also made it clear that the implementation of water, sanitation and housing goals could also be expedited by strengthening the link between national and local sustainable development policies.  He said that several of the speakers had also stressed the need to balance urban and rural strategies, and, among other things, the need to match new technologies with specific communities and their needs.

Panel Discussion on Water, Sanitation

NAFISA BAROT, Executive Trustee of Utthan in India, said that the most vulnerable group in the area of water and sanitation remained women.  She highlighted several principles, the first and most important of which was the need to put people at the centre of all processes, and involving groups such as women and youth in the analysis of their situations, as well as in the design and implementation of policies affecting them.  Secondly, it was necessary to develop local resources.

The third principle was reallocating resources for decentralization.  The first step to achieving the Millennium Goals was to acknowledge hygiene awareness as a pre-condition for water and sanitation goals and for human well-being.  Sanitation still remained supply-driven.  Women and other groups in communities must be provided with a range of options and not just provided with low-cost options.  There were examples of communities in India which had rejected offers of local sanitation, not due to a lack of want but because they wanted options in line with their needs.

People-centred approaches, she said, must realize that the provision of water and sanitation was a fundamental human right.  Achieving water and sanitation targets in the Millennium Goals in the given time-frame was a challenge for which there was no easy formula or shortcut.  The Millennium Goals required an environment of good governance, because ultimately the goal was achieving a just society where water and sanitation were provided as basic rights.

Next, ALBERT WRIGHT, Co-Chair of the Millennium Project Task Force on Water and Sanitation, focused on policy options to achieve sustainable access to water and sanitation.  He said that, for too long, sanitation had been an “orphan” on the international development agenda.  The way to correct that was to prioritize water management issues and move aggressively forward on sanitation goals.  It would then be necessary to identify “quick win” actions in water supply and sanitation.  He added that, often, developing countries were told that funds were available, but that reforms should take place before they were disbursed.  He suggested that both investment and reforms should occur in parallel, so that poor countries could “learn by doing” and that successful initiatives could be rewarded.

He went on to spotlight the importance of promoting hygiene and said that safe water at the household level should be seen as a goal in hygiene promotion. A related strategy should focus on schools, and the provision of separate sanitation facilities for girls and boys.  He added that special consideration in this regard should also be given for persons with disabilities.  In addition, overall policy options should be focused on boosting action at the community level. For instance, sanitation should be seen as a right, as well as a civic responsibility.  Another priority for the international community could be promoting community-level monitoring, which should coordinate with relevant international monitoring mechanisms.  He also spotlighted the need for targeted sewage treatment and irrigation policies, particularly for arid developing countries, where pollution was endangering already-scarce water supplies.

CARMEN AREVALO-CORREA, Vice-Minister of Environment of Colombia, said that financing was critical for achieving the Millennium Goals.  Investment costs were the greatest costs now, and would be in the future.  She also highlighted sustainability costs, as well as costs dealing with the protection of water resources, in order to guarantee the sustainability of water resources and the ecosystems that produced them.  The question was how to factor those costs in pricing, and how to distribute the costs for protecting resources across the board.  As for who was involved, she mentioned governments, both national and local, as well as citizens, donors, users and the private sector.  She saw governments as the main providers of investment, in addition to the private sector and users.  In many countries, the major investments in those areas were coming from governments.

Clearly, she continued, there were sectors of the population, such as high earners, who could cover their costs.  However, low-income sectors would not be able to pay for the investments.  The private sector, she noted, only participated where it would get its money back.  There had been success stories in Latin America, where the private sector was involved with significant contributions of government.  On the participation of donors, she emphasized the need to concentrate investment where the greatest needs existed, and coordinate with other donors and companies which provided the services.  The most rural and poorest communities were actually able to contribute to the provision and maintenance of services.  There were some communities in which community organizations had taken over the costs for the maintenance of services to users.  Evaluating the costs of sustainability was an area in which more work was needed.

When the floor was opened for a brief discussion, the representative of Egypt wondered about initiatives that could be aimed at wastewater recycling or reuse, and also mentioned the difficulties facing cost recovery programmes in developing countries.  Ms. AREVALO-CORREA (Colombia) agreed that it was virtually impossible to recover costs completely, particularly in poor communities.  And Ms. BAROT said that the issue must be examined in terms of the recovery of capital investments and recovery of the outlay to maintain projects.

The representative of the United States asked the experts if they had any specific policy options for implementation.  For her part, Ms. BAROT called for policies on institutional reform to bring about the changes that were being discussed today.  A representative of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) asked about capacity-building to ensure a people-centred approach and partnerships.  Mr. WRIGHT said that that was a major stumbling block to meeting international development gaols.  Ms. BAROT said that capacity-building required patience, and she added that there were NGOs with expertise in that area which needed to be tapped by governments.

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For information media. Not an official record.