Global Action Needed to Tackle Urban Squalor as Number of Slum-Dwellers Continues Rising Worldwide, Second Committee Told

2 November 2010
GA/EF/3294

Global Action Needed to Tackle Urban Squalor as Number of Slum-Dwellers Continues Rising Worldwide, Second Committee Told

2 November 2010
General Assembly
GA/EF/3294
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Second Committee

24th & 25th Meetings (AM & PM)

Global Action Needed to Tackle Urban Squalor as Number of Slum-Dwellers

 

Continues Rising Worldwide, Second Committee Told

 

Responding to Emerging Urban Challenges Vital

For UN-Habitat’s Continuing Internationally Relevance, Says New Head

Despite marked improvements for millions of slum-dwellers worldwide over the last decade, the number of people living in urban squalor was still rising and must be addressed through global action, Joan Clos, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today as it began consideration the work of that agency.

As the Committee took up implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and the strengthening of UN-Habitat, the Programme’s new chief said the Millennium Development Goal of improving the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers by 2020 had been surpassed by 100 million, but 828 million people still lived in urban slums.

Current predictions suggested that their numbers would increase by 60 million over the next decade, particularly in the world’s poorest countries, he continued.  “A new framework is needed for those efforts, since the Millennium Development Goals target on slums has already been attained, but the slum phenomenon is still growing.”  He called on Governments to bolster efforts to improve the lot of slum-dwellers and prevent others from joining their ranks.

Mr. Clos, who took office on 18 October, pledged to continue UN-Habitat’s work to assist countries toward that end.  He noted that during the reporting period, UN-Habitat had worked to improve human-settlement financing systems, facilitating cooperation among domestic banks, local authorities and urban-poor organizations to mobilize and package domestic capital, public investment and community savings for slum upgrading.  Almost $2.8 million in catalytic loan transactions had been made through the Experimental Reimbursable Seeding Operations.

He went on to note that UN-Habitat had helped Governments review their land and housing policies, and implement “pro-poor” land and affordable-housing programmes.  It had launched the second phase of the Participatory Slum Upgrading and Prevention Programme in three African countries, and supported implementation of the Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction Project in Bangladesh, one of the world’s largest urban-poverty reduction initiatives.

For UN-Habitat to remain internationally relevant, it must respond to emerging urban challenges, he emphasized, adding that he planned to guide that effort by bolstering the role of urban planning in creating sustainable cities and towns; focusing on sustainable urban mobility and transport; ensuring better responses to natural and man-made disasters, with an emphasis on early recovery and reconstruction; and promoting the role of local authorities, with a focus on municipal finance.

Several speakers applauded UN-Habitat’s activities, but stressed that its financial resource base must be strengthened to enable it to operate efficiently and meet sustainable urban-development aims.  For example, the representative of Bangladesh said it was critical to ensure environmentally sound urban infrastructure, particularly since cities produced 70 per cent of all waste and greenhouse gas emissions.  The cost of meeting the development goal on slum upgrade and prevention was an estimated $20 billion annually, but official development assistance (ODA) for the urban sector had largely stagnated at $2 billion, he said.

The resource base of UN-Habitat and the Human Settlements Foundation must be expanded to provide “pro-poor” housing, he said, adding that despite its steady source of income over the last six to seven years, the unpredictability of its funding, due to the imbalance in core and non-core funding, earmarked and non-earmarked contributions, and declining number of donors, was worrisome.  Addressing those issues would help the Programme function in the way that States wanted, which meant efficient implementation according to national priorities.

Echoing those concerns, Indonesia’s representative said UN-Habitat should explore new ways to promote cooperation on sustainable urbanization, such as integrating South-South cooperation into its programmes.  UN-Habitat should also strengthen its regional and national presence, she added.  China’s representative said the issue of human settlements was far from resolved, pointing out that fewer than 35 per cent of cities worldwide treated their wastewater, and up to half of the solid waste in most cities in low- and middle-income countries went uncollected.  Economic development and poverty eradication were fundamental to achieving the Habitat Agenda, he said.

India’s representative said that in supporting its own rapid urban development, his country had launched a policy to provide land tenure, affordable shelter, water, sanitation, education, health and social security for the poor, in addition to actively promoting affordable housing in rural areas.  Like other speakers, however, he expressed concern about UN-Habitat’s low core funding, and called for further contributions so the Programme could better assist with slum upgrading and prevention.

Belgium’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that in light of the added challenge of delivering results amid the global financial downturn, it was essential that UN-Habitat focus rigorously on prioritizing in its allocation of resources.

Also today, the Committee concluded its general discussion on sustainable development, with speakers hailing the recent adoption by the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity of an international protocol aimed at protecting biodiversity and ensuring the equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of genetic resources.  That action took place in Nagoya, Japan.

Speakers also outlined their national efforts to prevent the loss of biodiversity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a “green economy”.  They stressed the need to increase financing and technical support to help developing countries carry out Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and to reach a legally-binding agreement on climate change in Cancun, Mexico, later this month.  Moreover, several speakers called for special support for small island developing States grappling with the adverse effects of climate change, including more frequent and severe floods, typhoons, hurricanes and other natural calamities.

Also participating in today’s discussion on sustainable development were representatives of Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Monaco, United Arab Emirates, Colombia, Morocco (on behalf of the Arab Group), Ecuador, Liechtenstein, Jordan, Iran, Philippines, Bhutan, Montenegro, Israel, Swaziland, Algeria, Serbia, Zambia, Tajikistan, Russian Federation, Slovenia (on behalf of the “Green Group”), Kazakhstan, Gambia, Syria and Maldives.

Participants in the debate on the work of UN-Habitat were representatives of Yemen (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Croatia, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Cameroon.

Also speaking were representatives of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Others delivering statements today were the Permanent Observer of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, 3 November, to hold its annual dialogue with the Executive Secretaries of United Nations Regional Commissions on the theme “Growth with equity:  the regional experience”.

Background

Meeting this morning to conclude its general discussion on sustainable development, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) was expected subsequently to take up implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).  (For further information, see press release GA/EF/3293.)

Before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report on coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document A/65/302) for consideration at the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly.  It highlights some of UN-Habitat’s strategic actions to enable, empower and entrust existing and new partners to partake in decision-making, priority-setting and implementation, an approach used to create and launch the World Urban Campaign.

The report also highlights landmark decisions taken at the twenty-second session of UN-Habitat’s Governing Council, including a proposal for the Assembly to consider convening a United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in 2016; World Habitat Day celebrations in Washington, D.C.; the coming of age of the World Urban Forum; and progress in forging innovative financing options for affordable housing.

Based on the growing recognition that sustainable urbanization is crucial for sustainable development in a rapidly urbanizing world, the report proposes holding Habitat III to define the new paradigms, policy frameworks and mechanisms for international cooperation required to guide sustainable development.  It also recommends that Member States participate actively in the World Urban Campaign by organizing national habitat committees, and use World Habitat Day to mobilize a wide range of stakeholders to celebrate success stories and explore new policy options to meet current and future challenges associated with rapid urbanization.

Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), which gives an overview of outcomes and results of the substantive issues addressed by the Assembly in resolution 64/207, and describes progress in assessing urbanization trends and advocacy for sustainable urbanization; urban planning, management and governance; land and housing policies; basic urban infrastructure and services; human settlements finance systems; and the governance and management of UN-Habitat.

The report (document A/65/316) notes that in 2008, for the first time in history, more than half the world’s population was living in urban areas, a proportion set to reach 70 per cent by 2050.  The State of the World’s Cities 2010/2011 noted that from 2000 to 2010, 227 million people in the developing world gained access to one or more of the following:  adequate drinking water, safe sanitation, structurally improved housing and less-crowded housing.  However, access was better in more advanced developing countries than in poorer ones, and during the same period, the number of slum-dwellers rose by 6 million every year.

According to the report, Member States must recognize the expertise and contribution of UN-Habitat to the upcoming 20-year review of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, or “Earth Summit”).  It encourages Governments as well as other entities, both public and private, to help capitalize the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation so it can provide more financial and seed-capital support for slum upgrading and prevention, in addition to pro-poor investment in urban water supply and sanitation.  Moreover, in the coming years, it is important to strengthen UN-Habitat’s resource base by broadening its donor base, in line with the resolutions of the UN-Habitat Governing Council and the General Assembly.

The report concludes that, in light of emerging urban challenges, including rapid and chaotic urbanization, climate change, the global economic crisis, poverty and inequality, and the geographical expansion of cities into huge megalopolises, the convening of a Habitat III in 2016 would be timely.  Furthermore, cities in developing countries, where the majority of the population will live after 2025, must learn how to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change while also meeting serious urban deficits in drinking water supply and sanitation.  They must focus on how to strengthen their role as engines of national economic growth and pay greater attention to poverty and exclusion, the most visible manifestation of which is the existence of slums.  Only a sustainable development approach can simultaneously address these environmental, economic and social problems.

Statements

U AUNG KYAW ZAN (Myanmar), associating with the “Group of 77” developing countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said unfulfilled commitments and a fragmented approach had created persistent gaps in poverty eradication and food security, as well as in efforts to reduce income inequality and combat climate change.  The upcoming 2012 Rio Conference would provide a timely opportunity to work together that must not be lost, he said.  Myanmar viewed poverty as both the cause and effect of environmental degradation, he said, adding that poverty eradication therefore figured prominently on its development agenda.  Forests covered 47.01 per cent of the national territory and played a prominent role in the economy.  Myanmar had been managing its forests through sound environmental policies, laws and stringent enforcement, he said, noting, however, that for successful implementation of sustainable development, developing countries required more equal access to the world economy.  They also needed international support in the form of the transfer from developed countries of environmentally sound technology and additional financial resources.

PALITHA KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said that according to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), developing countries would bear 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the costs of global climate change.  That had been borne out by the massive floods in Pakistan, he noted, calling for the early establishment of a climate fund to address such devastation.  Sri Lanka’s apparel and garment sector had embraced clean carbon emissions and now operated under the slogan “garments without guilt”.  Turning to biodiversity, he noted that, while the 11 biodiversity goals for 2010 had not been achieved, according to Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, his country had imposed a complete moratorium on timber felling, placing 13 wet-zone forests under total protection.  However, past experience showed that policies alone could not yield results without community-level ownership.

VALÉRIE BRUELL-MELCHIOR ( Monaco) said her country was undertaking several measures nationally and internationally to ensure sustainable development, including promoting environmentally friendly activities and reducing greenhouse gases.  Monaco supported fully the recent adoption in Nagoya, Japan, of an international regime to ensure access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of their benefits.  The country was committed to meeting biodiversity objectives beyond the International Year on Biodiversity and supported the establishment of an intergovernmental science policy mechanism.  Monaco planned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 and to improve energy effectiveness by 20 per cent, she said, adding that it also had plans to promote the production of solar energy, including through subsidies, and heat pumps for warming house water.

AHOOD AL-ZAABI ( United Arab Emirates) said her country had made significant progress in implementing Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.  It had achieved several Millennium Development Goals, including the total eradication of poverty, the empowerment of women, and climate change mitigation.  The State had made ensuring decent jobs and employment for youth a national priority, allocating 23 per cent of its 2009 federal budget to education.  The United Arab Emirates was working to diversify its local economy and move away from dependence on the export of oil, she said, recalling that non-hydrocarbon sectors had accounted for 63 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008.  The country planned to increase that to 80 per cent in the next 10 to 15 years.  With regard to climate change, the United Arab Emirates had taken major steps to reduce pollution, preserve ecosystems and promote a green approach in construction, transportation and waste management, she said.

JUAN RENGIFO ( Colombia) expressed hope that the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development would lead to a development-based post-2011 regime focused on adaptation, technology transfer and capacity-building.  He called for effective implementation of the Nagoya objectives in order to protect biodiversity and its benefits for development and poverty eradication through implementation of the Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilization.  Colombia accounted for 10 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, and its achievements so far showed that the country did in fact protect its heritage, he said.  The economy was relatively clean and Colombia had the lowest emission levels, on average, in Latin America.  A full 87 per cent of its energy came from hydraulic resources, he said, noting that the Environmental Development Index ranked the country first among South American countries and tenth worldwide.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, recalled that the recent African-Arab Summit in October had confirmed its commitment to sustainable development, adding that the Rio Conference must reach international consensus on the means to support sustainable development after 2012.  It must help developing countries achieve sustainable development, he said, emphasizing the importance of carrying out the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.  It was also important to remove obstacles to sustainable development such as foreign occupation, including Israel’s occupation of Arab lands.  The Rio Conference should review those fair and just questions.  On climate change, he said it was essential to help developing countries through financial and technical aid, noting that developed countries had a historical responsibility to do that while taking practical measures to deal with the negative impact.  Protecting biodiversity was increasingly important, he said, welcoming the results of the Nagoya Conference.

Speaking in his national capacity, he warned against pursuing economic development at the expense of sustainable development, and welcomed the recent adoption in Nagoya of the Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilization.  Morocco supported the Secretary-General’s initiative to create a high-level panel to seek ways to eradicate poverty and combat climate change while securing energy security and the rational management of water resources.  He shed light on Morocco’s various efforts to achieve sustainable development, pointing to strategies for rural and human development as well as the country’s transition to a low-carbon, clean-energy economy.

CARLOS VELASTEGUÍ ( Ecuador) said current human behaviour was the result of a fundamental failure to recognize that human beings were an inseparable part of nature.  “We cannot damage it without seriously damaging ourselves,” he stressed.  The failure by developed countries to comply with official development assistance (ODA) commitments had severely affected the ability of their developing counterparts to implement Agenda 21.  There was also an absence of the necessary political will to combat climate change, he said, emphasizing that the international community must cut emissions and underscoring the need for a post-Kyoto commitment period.  Political will was also required for the implementation of the Bali Plan of Action in the context of shared but differentiated responsibilities, he said.  Developing countries were considered the custodians of biodiversity but without international support, particularly that of developed countries, they could not achieve sustainable development, he noted, adding that in light of the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters, there was a need to implement the Hyogo Framework of Action.

GEORG SPARBER ( Liechtenstein) said the impact of global climate change was most threatening to the most vulnerable and their development gains so far.  “Environmental pollution and climate change do not stop at boundaries,” he emphasized.  In that regard, Liechtenstein had signed the Copenhagen Accord and set aside the first round of new and additional funds to help developing countries address climate change challenges, he said.  The global community must cooperate in achieving the peaking of global emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that a low-emission development strategy was indispensable to sustainable development.  As a member of the Environmental Integrity Group, Liechtenstein would continue to engage in the negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in seeking a legally binding climate change agreement after 2012.  “We believe, like the Secretary-General, that other fora like the G-20 can provide valuable input to facilitate progress within the UN on this issue,” he said, adding that as a member of the Global Governance Group, his country was ready to assist in feeding substantial political agreements into the broader discourse of the General Assembly — the only basis for a legitimate multilateral consensus.

DIANA Al-HADID ( Jordan) said that with its semi-arid climate, scarcity of water resources and a large dependence on rainfall, Jordan was among the many countries severely affected by climate change.  Despite its low emission of greenhouse gases, its ecosystem productivity and water resources were highly dependent on the hydrological cycle.  In that regard, she reiterated her belief that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol should be the primary forum for negotiating the global response to climate change. 

Much of Jordan’s land had suffered from — or was threatened by — desertification, which Jordan’s National Action Programme was actively tackling through projects aimed at monitoring and control, capacity-building and natural resource development.  Other initiatives included developing advanced irrigation systems, minimizing soil erosion, enforcing afforestation and soil conservation. 

She said Jordan’s unique geographical features made it rich with a tremendous diversity of habitats, with many species continually being discovered.  Despite its rich biodiversity, however, the country’s natural environment faced many threats that were endangering species and their habitats.  Nevertheless, Jordan had taken comprehensive steps towards conservation of its natural resources and biodiversity.

AHMAD RAJABI (Iran), describing the 2012 Rio+20 Conference as an opportunity to address failures in implementing the Rio and Johannesburg outcomes, said it should avoid a theoretical discussion on “green economy” since there was currently no clear and consensual definition for the term and it could not be considered a substitute for sustainable development.  He noted that dust and sandstorms were a major regional effect of climate change, saying his country stood ready to enter into bilateral and multilateral arrangements for its eradication.  Any post-Kyoto agreements must take that issue into consideration.  Turning to desertification, he said it would drive nearly 135 million people off their lands by 2020.  Insufficient financial resources, lack of institutional capacity and a lack of access to efficient, clean technologies were the major obstacles hindering developing countries from tackling desertification, he added.

CARLOS SORRETA ( Philippines) recalled the numerous aspects of sustainable development being addressed in the Committee and noted the successful outcomes of the Nagoya Conference on biological diversity, including the multi-year plan of action for South-South cooperation on biodiversity for development. 

The Philippines, he said, was among 17 “mega-diverse” countries identified as a biodiversity “hotspot”; the hope was that the positive developments would help reverse the alarming trend of increasing biodiversity loss. 

Similarly, the forthcoming resolution on coral reefs should receive unanimous support, to address the fact that 60 percent of the world’s corals were threatened with “bleaching”.  This situation was discussed, but little action was taken to address its manifold adverse effects in the areas of biodiversity, food security, national economies, community livelihoods and other sociocultural implications.

He said an efficient address of the pressing problems related to sustainable development called for a comprehensive, coordinated and coherent approach; the value of the Committee was precisely to study the issues, distil the most important recommendations and integrate disparate elements into a unified whole.

LHATU WANGCHUK ( Bhutan) recalled the proposal of his Prime Minister of Bhutan during the recent High-Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals that of “Happiness” should be included as the ninth voluntary Goal, because Bhutan believed that happiness must be the purpose of development.  He said the principle of “Gross National Happiness” was based on the belief that happiness could best be achieved through “development that balances the needs of the body with those of the mind” within a stable and sustainable environment.

He said the pillars of the policy were as follows:  the equitable and sustainable socio-economic development; the preservation of the environment; the promotion and preservation of culture; and promotion of good governance.  Achievements such as the peaceful emergence of Bhutan as the youngest democracy had been the result of pursuing happiness.  As an addition to the Millennium Development Goals, it went beyond the poor and developing Member States to “bind all of humanity, rich and poor, to a timeless common vision”.  His delegation would soon be circulating a draft resolution on the matter.

KAKOLI GHOSH DASTIDAR ( India) said his country had contributed to the development efforts of Small Island Developing States in the spirit of South-South solidarity, helping them on capacity-building, preparedness for natural disasters, adaptation to climate change and resilience enhancement.  In Cancun, India would continue to push for an ambitious and equitable outcome under the Climate Change Convention and Kyoto Protocol processes, on the basis of common but differentiated responsibilities.  India and Mexico had jointly organized the Delhi Ministerial Dialogue with a view to developing, deploying and transferring environmentally sound technologies in agriculture, health, renewable energy, energy efficiency and other adaptation and mitigation areas of action to combat climate change.  She welcomed the adoption in Nagoya of a legally binding instrument on access and benefit sharing.

MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ ( Montenegro) said his country had endeavoured to develop an institutional system to implement the recommendations of the Johannesburg Summit.  To that end, Montenegro had established a national council and an office for sustainable development, and had adopted a national sustainable development strategy and action plan.  However, the country faced several challenges, including a lack of willingness on the part of decision makers to promote alternative solutions to vital problems, particularly in the areas of energy and transportation.  Close cooperation among all national and regional actors was essential to resolving those challenges, he stressed.  Montenegro recognized the importance of education for sustainable development and had undertaken various activities to that end, he said, underscoring the importance of reaching a legally binding post-Kyoto agreement in Cancun.  Montenegro intended to define its national measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and would continue to harmonize its strategies with European Union legislation, he said.

BETH-EDEN KITE (Israel) said her country had worked to integrate sustainability into Government policy, corporate practice and human behaviour.  It had secured strong public support for sustainable development goals; building coalitions around those goals; and prioritizing their implementation.  Over the next several years, the country had prioritized related goals:  transforming waste from a nuisance to an economic resource by creating new markets for products and materials made from waste; acting to prevent and reduce air pollution; reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a target of 20 per cent compared to the “business-as-usual” scenario; increasing pollution enforcement based on a policy of zero tolerance for polluters; and promoting environmental education and sustainable lifestyles.

She said her delegation was eager to share its expertise and experience with others in the international community, while at the same time adopting methods, technologies and practices that had been useful elsewhere.  As such, the country had served as an active member of the Bureau of the Commission on Sustainable Development since 2006.  It had also established a Centre for Sustainable Development Through International Environmental Cooperation, which sought to help achieve the set goals of the three United Nations Conventions, namely Desertification, Biodiversity and Climate Change.  Israel would also host the third international conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification next month

ZWELETHU MNISI ( Swaziland) hoped the forthcoming Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, would be successful in addressing the effects of such change.  Swaziland had been impacted by its manifestations of climate change, with incessant drought, windstorms and sporadic rainfall, among others.  Thus his country’s development programmes, notably in the agro-business, experienced a reverse trend in their efforts to create jobs and alleviate poverty and unemployment.

He called for the Cancun Conference to produce a morally and legally binding agreement that took into account common but differentiated responsibilities.  Without this agreement the effects of climate change would be “compounded to unmanageable proportions”, he stated.  It was not just a complex technical problem, but a moral and ethical challenge and he stressed that concerted efforts needed to be made together in order that the preservation and protection of the Earth be ensured.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said his country’s national strategy to achieve sustainable development was built on a legal framework encompassing laws on environmental protection, sustainable development and renewable energy.  Algeria’s national sustainable development strategy aimed to increase economic growth, reduce poverty, preserve natural resources and improve public sanitation and health services.  Emphasizing the need to step up efforts in Cancun for a legally binding agreement on climate, he also expressed support for a high-level meeting on biodiversity preservation during the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly, saying it would be an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity and help Governments revisit strategies for its protection.  He welcomed the outcome of the Nagoya Conference and the adoption of the 10-year strategy to guide international efforts to protect biodiversity, as well as the protocol to protect genetic resources.  Turning to desertification, he underlined the importance of placing it at the top of the international agenda, and the need for coherent implementation of the goals of the United Nations Decade to Combat Desertification.

DRAGAN MIĆIĆ ( Serbia) said the adoption of the new 10-year Strategic Plan to guide international efforts to save biodiversity was a strong message that protecting the planet had an important place in international politics.  “We are ready to join forces to save life on Earth,” he said, and he hoped that the agreement reached in Nagoya would lead to the enforcement of the Nagoya Protocol by 2012.  Serbia fully supported the establishment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and expected the General Assembly to formalize the relevant agreement.

He said the improved International Environmental Governance system should help mainstream climate change and ecosystem services into economic and social policy.  Serbia expected the “green economy” to embrace both the development and environmental agendas and help create new jobs.  Over the last two years, his Government had developed by-laws to regulate waste disposal and management.  Its new system of taxation and subsidies for each of the identified waste streams provided 90 per cent of subsidies for improvement of the waste treatment industry.  In turn, the investment would help create thousands of new jobs by mid-2011 and trigger investments in the recycling industry.

LUBINDA AONGOLA ( Zambia), noting that the multiple global crises were threatening to reverse the meagre strides made since the Rio Summit, expressed hope that the Rio+20 Conference in 2012 would identify measures to strengthen the implementation of Agenda 21.  The international community should do more to help small island developing States address the daunting challenges facing them, including climate change.  He also expressed concern that, despite continuing desertification and land degradation, the Convention to Combat Desertification had failed to attract adequate support in those countries experiencing desertification, particularly in Africa.  He therefore called for adequate and predictable resources to implement the Convention in order to give the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification full meaning.  He added that discussion on living in harmony with nature should be placed squarely in the context of sustainable development, and called for greater emphasis to be placed on sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead.

SIRODJIDIN M. ASLOV ( Tajikistan) stressed that unless States mainstreamed a water component into their national strategies, the world could not achieve sustainable development.  The Aral Sea was an excellent example of what happened in the absence of sustainable and integrated water management, as it was now only one tenth of what it used to be.  The global economic downturn had caused serious economic and social challenges in Asia, compelling States in the region to introduce integrated water management approaches, and jointly implement sustainable use of water resources throughout the Aral Sea basin.  The Dushanbe Declaration on Water called on States to make adequate budgetary allocations to the water sector, ensuring access to clean drinking water and sanitation.  There must be more coordinated action by all stakeholders at all levels, and women must be involved in decision-making, he stressed, adding that his delegation had circulated a draft resolution on the matter and hoped it would be adopted by consensus.

ALEXANDER S. ALIMOV ( Russian Federation) noted that there had been a number of positive improvements in several areas of sustainable development this year.  All States must ensure implementation of the core 18 guidelines on that thematic cluster.  It was critical that the international community work towards a balanced approach, particularly with regard to the transformation to a green economy.  The environmental work of the United Nations must be reviewed, particularly with regard to forests, he emphasized, adding that any decisions by the Committee must reflect the role of forests in ensuring sustainable development and combating climate change.  On natural disasters, he said there was a need for better coordination of joint efforts and for new technology in that regard.

SANJA ŠTIGLIC (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the Green Group, called on all countries to contribute to a successful outcome at the forthcoming Cancun Conference that would build on the Bali Action Plan.  She expected the Cancun gathering to make an ambitious step towards a global, comprehensive and legally binding agreement to address climate change.  Water issues should be accorded more visibility because water management was a nexus between economic and environmental sustainability; climate change directly impacted the natural water cycle and availability of water resources, which were essential for socio-economic development and preserving ecosystems. 

She said there was a growing body of evidence indicating that water scarcity would further increase the likelihood of conflicts.  To ensure water security, she underscored the importance of improving water management through good policies, technological improvements and changes in human behaviour towards more efficient water use.  Countries should fully implement the water-related goals of Agenda 21 and take ambitious steps at the 2012 summit in Rio de Janeiro.  The Green Group, she said, was committed to developing clean, renewable and efficient energy to meet mounting needs.  That required good policies, sound technologies, mobilization of financial resources and efficient energy markets.  Renewable energy was important for environmental sustainability and long-term energy security. 

ZHANDOS SADUAKASSOV ( Kazakhstan) said climate change caused an increase in natural disasters and socio-economic devastation.  The international community must take urgent measures to limit the growth of fossil fuels.  Kazakhstan was developing a green economy and had a draft law on energy saving and other measures to ensure reduction of fossil fuels.  It was working on a law to ensure a national market to control greenhouse gases.  It was actively participating in international climate change negotiations.  In 2010, it signed the Copenhagen agreement and it would do everything possible to meet the commitments set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  It would sign the Kyoto Protocol. 

He said he lauded the outcome of the Nagoya Conference and supported creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems.  Kazakhstan was a party to all major conventions on biodiversity.  It was giving particular attention to protect biological resources and to increase the size of protected areas in the country by 2030.  Work was under way to create a Government system to monitor the environment in the Caspian Sea area, including the use of all its natural resources.  Information from that monitoring system would be available online.  With the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Bank and others, Kazakhstan was implementing projects to protect biodiversity.  The 2010-2014 national plan aimed to develop a green economy.

SUSAN WAFFA-OGOO ( Gambia) said that while tourism’s contribution to global trade was vital, there was a nexus between economic and social inequalities and civil unrest and conflict.  In that context, the Gambia, through its Ministry of Tourism and Culture, had taken concrete measures to implement and internalize elements of the Code of Conduct in its policy design and national legal framework.  It had launched an ecotourism policy and action plan in 2001.  On sustainable development, she said the Government had adopted legislation designed to promote the rational use of natural resources and improve the quality of human life, adding that to date, more than 6 per cent of the total national land area was protected.  Unprecedented incidents of flooding worldwide served as a gloomy reminder that climate change was a challenge of the present and future, she noted, stressing that developed countries must show the political will to ensure the adoption of a legally binding agreement in Cancun.  Developing countries like the Gambia required additional and predictable resources to support its efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

RABEE JAWHARA ( Syria) recalled that repeated Israeli bombardments of Lebanon had led to an oil leak that had contaminated the Syrian coast.  The country had made efforts to clean up its coast through its own local resources and without any international assistance.  Syria therefore had the right to estimate the costs of repairing the damage done to its coast and territorial waters.  The General Assembly, in resolution 64/195, had asked the Israeli Government to shoulder responsibility and pay immediate compensation to all affected States, but, as in all cases, Israel had not responded to that request or shown any commitment to do so.  Such non-recognition was a “flagrant challenge” to the will of the international community, he said, urging the Assembly to send a clear message condemning and rejecting Israel’s aggressive behaviour, and insisting that it must immediately pay damages to Syria and Lebanon.

ABDUL GHAFOOR MOHAMED (Maldives) said small island developing States were “continuously challenged by a lack of financial, technical and human resources”.  The global financial crisis had a particularly significant effect on them, because of their narrow range of income-generating industries, such as tourism.  Many of them relied heavily on exports and imports of essential goods.  All development partners were “urged to honour without delay” all commitments related to those countries and give them special consideration in trading arrangements because of their limited ability to fully integrate into the global economy.

He said most Small Island Developing countries faced significant vulnerabilities to natural disasters and climate change, as well as epidemics of “vector-borne diseases”.  It was therefore sensible to find an approach that addressed both adaptation and disaster-risk reduction simultaneously.  He said Maldives was advocating for such countries to be formally recognized as a special category within the United Nations; for them, sustainable development was “not possible without accounting for their unique status”.

The Committee then took up its agenda item on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

Introduction of Reports

JOAN CLOS, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (document A/65/316) and on coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document A/65/302).

He said that during the reporting period, UN-Habitat’s had sought to improve the monitoring of sustainable urbanization conditions and trends, deepen understanding of current urbanization challenges and focus on the social, political and security consequences of rapid urbanization as well as the increasing inequalities emerging in those processes.  The Programme had published two major reports:  the Global Report on Human Settlements titled “Planning Sustainable Cities”, and The State of the World’s Cities 2010/2011 titled “Bridging the Urban Divide”.

Citing the report, he said convening a third United Nations conference on housing and sustainable urban development (Habitat III) would be timely, pointing out that between 2000 and 2010, the lives of 227 million slum-dwellers had been improved, though results were not uniform among regions.  More advanced developing countries had made better progress than poorer ones.  The Millennium Development Goal of improving the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers by 2020 had been surpassed by 100 million, but 828 million people still lived in urban slums, he said.

Current predictions suggested that between 2010 and 2020, the total number of slum-dwellers around the world would increase by 60 million, he continued.  “It is therefore clear that Governments need to intensify efforts to improve the lives of slum-dwellers and to prevent both the emergence and growth of slums,” he said.  “A new framework is needed for those efforts, since the Millennium Development Goals target on slums has already been attained, but the slum phenomenon is still growing.”

He said events to advance advocacy efforts for the Habitat Agenda over the past year included the fifth session of the World Urban Forum, held in Rio de Janeiro in March 2010; the launching of the World Urban Campaign during that session; and the Shanghai World Exposition, held in May 2010.  In May 2009, UN-Habitat had launched the “Cities and Climate Change Initiative” in Uganda, Mozambique, Ecuador and the Philippines, he said, adding that the Programme had also carried out activities to help Governments review their land and housing policies, and to implement pro-poor land and affordable-housing programmes.  Additionally, it had launched the second phase of the Participatory Slum Upgrading and Prevention Programme in three African countries.

In Bangladesh, UN-Habitat supported implementation of the Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction Project, one of the world’s largest urban-poverty reduction initiatives, he continued.  The Programme had also published the third Water and Sanitation in the World’s Cities report, titled “Solid Waste in the World’s Cities” in addition to supporting solid-waste projects in 20 developing countries.  Also during the reporting period, UN-Habitat had bolstered its work to improve human-settlement financing systems, facilitating cooperation among domestic banks, local authorities and urban-poor organizations to mobilize and package domestic capital, public investment and community savings for slum upgrading.  Almost $2.8 million in catalytic loan transactions had been made through the Experimental Reimbursable Seeding Operations, he said.

Mr. Clos, who took office on 18 October, said he intended to build on his predecessor’s gains to transform the UN-Habitat Secretariat into a centre of excellence and a global reference point on sustainable urban development.  For the Programme to remain internationally relevant, it must respond to emerging urban challenges and prioritize several areas, he said.  They included promoting a new role for urban planning in developing sustainable cities and towns; promoting the role of cities in climate change; and focusing on urban-based mitigation and adaptation in energy, as well as sustainable urban mobility and transport.  Others were:  responding to natural and man-made disasters, with an emphasis on early recovery and reconstruction; and promoting the role of local authorities, with a focus on municipal finance.  A new economic appraisal should be developed to enable a better understanding of the urbanization process, he added.

Statements

KHALED HUSSEIN ALYEMANY (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said recent trends in human settlements, including increasing urbanization and growing mega-cities, highlighted the need to focus on implementing the Habitat Agenda, particularly Millennium Goal 7.  The sustainable management of cities and urban sprawl was a significant challenge and growing urban economic inequality would significantly compound the socio-economic challenges already faced by millions.  The Group of 77 urged UN-Habitat to continue to promote sustainable urbanization and support efforts by developing countries to address urban poverty and inequalities.

He said the agency should intensify its work in slum upgrading and prevention, improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation, promoting an effective human settlement financing mechanism, addressing gender inequality and promoting partnerships.  He noted that cities had an important role to play in addressing the climate change crisis and could provide leadership on mitigation and adaptation through inclusive urban planning and management.  Fulfilling internationally agreed shelter-related goals required a holistic and integrated approach, nationally owned and led, in addition to pro-poor strategies and partnerships involving the public and private sectors and civil society.

Expressing concern at the imbalance in the levels of core and non-core funding, he said there must be greater predictability and reliability of funding for United Nations operational activities in general.  There was also a need to bolster progress in pursuing the objective of shelter for all, and sustainable human settlement by building adequate capacity at the regional and national levels.  That could be done partly through common regional policy formulation and implementation, he said, adding that the international community must give due attention and support to the Habitat Agenda, including by providing financial resources.

DELPHINE DELIEUX (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that 828 million people were living in slums in 2010 despite concerted international efforts to improve the lives of slum-dwellers, in line with Millennium Goal 2.  UN-Habitat therefore faced a huge tasks related to the impact of environmental degradation on human settlements and the growth in the number of slum-dwellers.  During the High-level Millennium Development Goals Summit, the European Union had reiterated its commitment to continue working towards cities without slums in order to reduce the slum population and improve the lives of slum-dwellers.

In adopting the Lisbon Agenda, the European Union had committed to facilitating social inclusion by ensuring effective access to quality social services including housing, she continued.  The shortage of decent housing must be taken fully into account when elaborating social-inclusion and gender-responsive policies.  Decent housing was “an important condition for the exercise of fundamental rights”, such as the rights to privacy, family, education, employment and social security, she stressed.  She encouraged UN-Habitat to maintain the momentum it had achieved over the past year in implementing the 2008-2013 Medium Term Strategic and Institutional Plan.  Delivering results was much more challenging now due to the financial crisis, thus it was essential that the Programme maintain a rigorous focus on prioritization, including in its allocation of resources.

KARTIKA HANDARVNINGRUM ( Indonesia) commended UN-Habitat’s outstanding programmes for improving the lives of the urban poor as well as those on slum upgrading facility and water and sanitation.  Noting that many developing countries faced the challenge of providing better access to affordable housing, she said UN-Habitat needed to strengthen its regional and national presence in order to achieve its goal of providing adequate shelter and sustainable urban development.  There was also a need to strengthen the Programme’s resource base and to explore new ways to promote cooperation in sustainable urbanization, including by integrating South-South cooperation into its programmes.  UN-Habitat should also be a catalyst for regional efforts, she said, thanking the Programme for supporting the successful outcome of the Third Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development, held in Indonesia last June.

XING JISHENG ( China) said the issue of human settlements was far from solved.  As indicated by the Secretary-General’s report, the number of slum-dwellers had increased by 6 million annually from 2000 to 2010.  Fewer than 35 per cent of cities had their wastewater treated, and in most cities in low- and middle-income countries, one third to one half of the solid waste generated went uncollected.  There was a need to strike a balance among population growth, environmental protection and human settlement improvement so as to ensure sustainable urbanization, he said, adding that in his own country’s efforts to improve urban infrastructure, special attention was paid to environmental protection.  China had made headway in the treatment of sewage and waste, landscape architecture and gardening, the use of gas fuel and central heating.  It was working to make cities more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly, and to match urban population growth with increased employment and improved infrastructure and public services.

JOÃO LUCAS QUENTAL NOVAES DE ALMEIDA ( Brazil) said donor countries and other development partners should take measures to allocate further financial resources to UN-Habitat’s financial facilities.  The international community must focus on ways to better assist the one billion people currently living in slums, he said, noting that more than 82 per cent of Brazilians now lived in urban areas.  Some 11 per cent of urban households lacked access to drinking water, and almost 50 per cent were not connected to sewage collection points.  The right to the city should encompass the collective right of present and future generations to a sustainable city and should have, as a principle, the democratic management of urban settlements.  The management of cities should, therefore, bear in mind the need to ensure equitable, universal and democratic access to sustainable resources, wealth goods and services for all inhabitants, he said, stressing the need to ensure the full participation of society in the decision-making process.

GOPINATH PANDURANG MUNDE ( India) said his delegation supported the Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan of UN-Habitat for the period 2008-2013, particularly its focus on strengthening the catalytic and pre-investment role of UN-Habitat.  He urged all to contribute further to its capitalization so that it could give more support to slum upgrading and prevention.  To meet the challenges of India’s own rapid urban development, he said, the Government had, in 2007, launched a policy to provide land tenure, affordable shelter, water, sanitation, education, health and social security for the poor.  India had also actively promoted affordable housing in rural areas, where the majority of its population still lived.  But it was a concern that the regular budget for UN-Habitat remained low, and India fully supported the demand to enhance its resources.

ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) said changing demographic and socio-economic circumstances had led to the situation where half the world’s population now lived in urban areas and the other half was increasingly dependent on cities for their economic, social and political development.  UN-HABITAT had done well with fund raising and with securing a steady source of income over the last six to seven years.  However, the imbalance in the levels of core and non-core funding was of concern.  So was the unpredictability of funding owing to the imbalance between earmarked and non-earmarked contributions; the number of donors had also decreased.  Addressing those issues would help HABITAT function the way States wanted, which was to efficiently implement the Human Settlements Programme according to national priorities.

Continuing, he said sustainable urban development would be based on environmentally sound technologies.  While cities occupied just 2 per cent of the world’s land, they produced 70 per cent of its waste in addition to that same percentage of greenhouse gas emissions.  Ensuring an urban infrastructure that was environmentally sound was critical, yet the cost of achieving the Development Goal on slum upgrade and prevention had been estimated at $20 billion a year, whereas the official development assistance (ODA) to the urban sector had largely remained at the stagnant $2 billion.  The resource base of both UN-HABITAT and the Human Settlements Foundation needed to be raised to provide for “pro-poor” housing based on the 2008-2013 medium-term strategic plan and for the experimental “seeding operation” for pro-poor housing and urban development.

The Committee then returned to its discussion on sustainable development.

ATOKI ILEKA ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) called for international solidarity in putting new, cleaner technologies in place to mitigate the effects of climate change.  “It is up to all of us to make the sacrifices in order to safeguard the world’s climate,” he stressed.  The United Nations should mobilize partners, donors and Member States, starting with the largest polluters.  Copenhagen had been a step in the right direction, but the international community must reach an ambitious, staunch and binding agreement in Cancun, with specific numbers for emission reduction, he said.  The current global crises should not be used as an excuse not to uphold commitments, he said, calling upon States to follow in the footsteps of Japan, which had pledged $2 billion to implement the Nagoya Agreement on biodiversity.  For its part, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was resolved to further its commitment to reducing emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation, he said.

ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) said he wished to be associated with the statements made by Yemen and Nepal on behalf, respectively of the Group of 77 developing countries and China and of the least developed countries.  “The already proven impacts of climate change,” he said “are taking place with greater severity and frequency.”  That was reversing progress made in obtaining the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals.  In that context, he urged an equitable geographical representation in the membership of the High Level Panel, especially with respect to the least developed countries and small island developing States.

He said there were three key imperatives for a successful outcome from the 2012 Rio Summit.  The first was the need to depoliticize climate change discourse. Secondly, tens of billions of dollars were needed to meet adaptation needs.  And third, the future climate change agreement had to ensure that the least developed countries and other vulnerable nations had access to eco-friendly and cost-effective technologies.

In that respect, he said, Bangladesh felt strongly that like the Adaptation Board, there should be a “Technology-transfer Board” to facilitate technology transfers to the least developed.  A substantial increase in disaster risk reduction investment was also urgently required to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action as well as a better integration of disaster risk reduction and adaptation measures.

FARRUKH IQBAL KHAN ( Pakistan) said the multidimensional nature of sustainable development lay in its three basic constituents:  economic growth, social development and environmental protection.  Pakistan believed that the concept of a green economy was more of an “innovative approach” to sustainable development than a distinct concept of it.  It was important that a green economy approach not become a vehicle to impose trade and other unilateral barriers on developing countries.

Coherence in action, he continued, should not be restricted to environmental concerns but should also aim to expand the economic opportunities of developing countries in key sectors such as agriculture.  He highlighted the need for key decisions at the forthcoming conference in Cancun:  a permanent body at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to improve governance of climate finance; a new fund of $50 billion; agreement on the level of emission reduction by developed countries; agreement on fast start finance; and the extension of the mandates of the two ad hoc working groups.

ZALWANI ZALKAPLY ( Malaysia), associating with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, highlighted three major factors impeding impeded sustainable development:  natural disasters resulting from climate change, the global economic crisis and the prevalence of conflicts.  With respect to climate change, she said it was crucial to address its consequences through new, additional and sustainable financial resources, capacity-building and access to technology.  As for the economic downturn, there was an urgent need to reform the international financial system and return to the original objective of the Doha Round — to ensure free, fair and equitable trade.  On the prevalence of conflicts, she strongly emphasized the need to seek peace under the premise of the “covenant of the willing” rather than the “hegemony of fear and coercion”.  Durable peace could only be achieved if countries chose negotiation over confrontation, working together and not against each other and moderation over extremism.

FRANK ISOH ( Nigeria) said climate change was a threat around the world, particularly to Africa and the small island States, where extreme weather conditions had “seriously diminished the hope” of combating hunger, diseases and poverty.  The Kyoto Protocol should be the major vehicle for concluding a legally binding instrument on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, he said.  Development could be sustainable rather than damaging to the planet if States intensified national efforts to change human behaviour, engage best environmental practices and developed regional partnerships, he said.  However, there were constraints in the areas of adaptation, technology, capacity and financing, and it was to be hoped that the Cancun Conference would successfully address those areas.  The long-term sustainable management of water resources was crucial, he stressed, noting that his country struggled with floods in one region and water shortages in another.  Nigeria was now actively engaged in the work of the African Ministerial Council on Water and its African Water Task Force, with a view to promoting the development and implementation of coherent policies and strategies for water resource-management.  Nigeria was also engaged in a number of measures to check desert encroachment, including the Green Wall Sahara Nigeria Programme, focused on halting the advance of the desert into the country’s northern region.

TANIA VALERIE RAGUŽ ( Croatia) spoke of the enormous ongoing challenge of climate change, and said that for its part, Croatia’s “National Strategy and Action Plan and Landscape Diversity” served as its key policy instrument for implementation of the Convention on Biodiversity.  National efforts towards the preservation of the balance of nature and biodiversity had been further strengthened by a national ecological network decree.  She said it was incumbent on all Member States to “shore up” the outcomes of the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Nagoya, with the requisite political will to ensure their implementation.  Croatia called for the General Assembly to establish an intergovernmental science policy platform for identifying key scientific information related to biodiversity and ecosystem services.  Turning to the Year of Forests, 2011, she said Croatia, as the lead country behind the effort, would continue in its efforts to ensure that the added value of both the international years of forests and biodiversity would continue beyond their mandated periods.  She said deliberations on sustainable development were at a crucial juncture this year, with preparations for an ambitious United Nations conference on sustainable development, to be held in Rio in 2012.

YANERIT CRISTINA MORGAN SOTOMAYOR ( Mexico) reiterated her country’s interest in seeing a balanced approach to the three “most important items on the agenda”:  an evaluation of the challenges and progress made in implementation of the summits on sustainable development, including new challenges; the new institutional frameworks on sustainable development; and the green economy.  On climate change, she said Mexico recognized the high vulnerability of small island developing States and supported an effective application of the Mauritius Strategy.  It would also support confirmation of the advances made on the middle-term evaluation of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2915, and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.  In light of the increasing number and intensity of natural disasters, Mexico agreed on the importance of the Organization’s support for developing countries in implementing of operational prevention and risk management frameworks.  Additionally, Mexico agreed that it was important to promote the anti-desertification measures and to tackle drought by implementing the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.  Mexico was also an active promoter of the Convention on Biodiversity and was pleased with the recent progress in Nagoya.

CUELLO CAMILO ( Dominican Republic) said solutions were needed to make proper use of resources and to ensure food security for everyone.  As a small island developing State dependent on tourism and with fragile coastal areas, the Dominican Republic needed national strategies to address climate change and called on donors to make good on their funding pledges.  It would be difficult to achieve sustainable development without effective strategies to mitigate and respond to natural disasters, he said, adding that it was for that reason that the President of the Dominican Republic had proposed that the General Assembly establish an alliance of countries at risk to exchange experiences and share lessons learned as a way to help them minimize their vulnerability.  He emphasized the importance of creating risk-management programmes at the urban level and educating people as the best way to avoid human tragedies in the wake of natural disasters.  Noting that his country had the second largest level of biodiversity in Latin America, he said its laws had created protected areas, enabling it to reverse deforestation.  Sustainable development would require a dramatic change in consumption patterns and energy use, including eliminating the use of fossil fuels, he said.

FELIX MBAYU ( Cameroon) said his country had implemented a national sustainable development policy to deal with the close linkage between environmental degradation on the one hand, and poverty, famine and disease on the other.  Cameroon had achieved real results in preserving protected areas, which made up 18.8 per cent of its national territory.  The sustainable management of forestry resources was of particular importance since Cameroon was one of Africa’s largest forested countries, he said.  It was working on forest management and creating re-forestation schemes with the goal of preserving the environmental, ecological and social functions of forests.  There was also a need to reconcile efforts for the preservation of biodiversity, he said, pointing out that his country had created an area of about 900,000 hectares of forest as a buffer zone against the declassification of protected areas.  Calling for more North-South dialogue on the role of forests in combating climate changed, he said the REDD Plus mechanism should be implemented through partnerships entailing compensation for countries affected by deforestation.

BATJARGAL ZAMBA, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said present capabilities to provide climate services fell short of meeting present and future needs.  Unprecedented collaboration among institutions across political, functional and disciplinary boundaries was critical to addressing the immense variety of user needs.  The Global Framework for Climate Services would guide international efforts to build the necessary infrastructure, skills and expertise, he said, noting that when fully implemented, it would lead to widespread social, economic and environmental benefits through more effective climate and disaster risk-management, as well as increased capabilities to adapt to climate change.  Minor investment would be required to establish the Framework, but it would capitalize on the significant resources and capacities already available.  Finally, he stressed that the Framework would need a strong governance mechanism to drive its development, particularly in engaging and mobilizing stakeholders, user communities and new resources.

LILA RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, Director, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office with the United Nations, said the agency was addressing gaps in sustainable agriculture for rural development and other issues related to land use, deforestation, desertification, mountains, biodiversity, oceans, water and wastewater management in rural areas.  FAO would examine the green economy for the food and agriculture sector and outline prospective challenges and policy options in its Greening the Economy with Agriculture report.  Food security would most likely face critical challenges in the decades ahead, she said, noting that more sustainable land and water management was needed.  Conservation agriculture could contribute significantly to climate change adaptation and mitigation, the diversification of production, reducing the use of inputs and managing water.  Consequently, it could provide significant socio-economic benefits, she said, noting, however, that for sustainable agriculture to take place, issues of access to land and water must be addressed.

AMY EMEL MUEDIN, Office of the Permanent Observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said gradual climate change and sudden natural disasters were exposing new risks and vulnerabilities; many inhabitants of coastal regions, low lying islands, and areas susceptible to drought would be forced to move to safer areas.  Targeted, multidisciplinary research was needed on the effects of environmental stress and degradation on migration.  There should also be increased capacity to anticipate and respond to the challenge. 

She said it was time to consider migration in mitigation and adaptation scenarios.  Gradual environmental changes such as drought and desertification may seem a less obvious factor precipitating migration than extreme environmental events but, in the longer term, they displaced far more people.  However, advance planning could minimize risks to vulnerable populations, so it was necessary to launch a dialogue among Member States on how to fill legal, operational and capacity gaps associated with climate change and human mobility, allocating sufficient additional funding to this issue.

NARINDER KAKAR, Permanent Observer, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), noted that biodiversity continued to be lost at unprecedented rates; there was a need to achieve sustainable development by linking the environmental, economic and social pillars.  Attaining that goal would require that efforts be supplemented by serious commitments and cooperation by developed and developing countries, as well as various segments of society.  Major groups, including of women, must also participate in natural resource conservation and management.  “We need to increase our investments in nature now by supporting the environment’s ability to continue to provide trillions of dollars worth of services”, she stressed, pointing to clean air, water, food, clothing and medicines.  Investing in nature through ecosystem-based approaches to managing today’s challenges was an effective and achievable means to decreasing people’s vulnerability to drought, desertification and food insecurity.

AMBER BARTH, Programme Officer for the International Labour Organization (ILO) said the ILO “Global Programme on Green Jobs” was actively working to help facilitate a just transition to a low-carbon economy by focusing on the preservation of the environment and providing new sources of income.  There would be shifts in the labour market structure that would lead to job losses in the short-term, and would thus require both coherent policies and direct investments.  That reality, she said, underscored the need to ensure that a proper framework for a just transition was erected, based on the four components of decent work — rights, employment, social protection and social dialogue.  There was a large untapped potential for social dialogue and alliances at the national, sectoral, company and workplace levels to help arrive at better informed and more integrated policy responses.  Coherent policies were critical and required firm commitment.

QAZI SHAUKAT FAREED, Special Adviser to the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), described a “green industry initiative” which he said was meant to highlight industry’s role in moving forward sustainable consumption and production, and environmentally sound waste management.  The green industry agenda focused on two areas:  reducing the energy, water and materials use of all producers, and managing waste in an environmentally sound manner.  In many cases, he added, implementing “green industry” practices could be achieved by using available technology and knowledge, provided that resources were directed towards sustainable production patterns. 

He said his organization provided assistance to developing countries in eliminating carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, while encouraging them to take advantage of wealth creation opportunities within the green industry agenda. Increasing access to modern energy services required political commitment and with that in mind, he said the ambitious goals outlined in the report Energy for a Sustainable Future, released by the Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change, would be achieved only with commitment from national Governments.

ELYSE MOSQUINI, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said thousands of Federation volunteers were responding to disasters even as she spoke.  Six of those situations were in South-east Asia alone and others of major humanitarian magnitude were impacting Haiti and Africa.  Globally, 52 appeals were active, representing a need in excess of $1.8 million.  Those facts substantiated the need to invest in risk reduction, not only to save money, but also lives and livelihoods.  The Federation’s risk reduction approach was aimed at strengthening both community safety and resilience, she continued, noting that when provided with support to prioritize and manage its own risks, a community’s capacity to absorb shocks increased.  On a global level, more people lived in urban areas than rural ones for the first time in history, she said, adding that urban populations in developing countries had risen 77 per cent over the past decade.  Given the already large infrastructure and service deficit in those developing population centres, the urban “risk divide” was expected to grow as climate change brought ever more severe disaster impacts on the world’s most vulnerable locations.  People must be empowered, involved and consulted in the development of their environment, he emphasized.  They must not be marginalized and left exposed.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.