Speakers in Second Committee Make Case for Third United Nations Conference on Urban Development as They Consider Work of UN-Habitat
Speakers in Second Committee Make Case for Third United Nations Conference on Urban Development as They Consider Work of UN-Habitat
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
30th & 31st Meetings (AM & PM)
Speakers in Second Committee Make Case for Third United Nations Conference
on Urban Development as They Consider Work of UN-Habitat
Delegates also Continue Discussion on Sustainable Development Matters
Major developments in urbanization since the Second United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat II) made a strong case for holding a third meeting, Joan Clos, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) as it began considering that agency’s work today.
Those developments included the growing demographic and economic role of cities, he said, describing that aspect as having been among the key issues discussed at the twenty-third session of the UN-Habitat Governing Council. It had informed the view that a new conference should be convened, he added.
Mr. Clos also discussed the resolutions adopted during that session on global and national strategies for improving the lives of slum-dwellers, relating to sustainable urban development through the expansion of equitable access to land, housing, basic services, and infrastructure, and to future urban economic activities and financial mechanisms for urban upgrading.
He also spoke about the work carried out on the structural reform of UN-Habitat, and several speakers applauded the agency’s Medium-Term Strategic Institutional Plan. The representative of the European Union delegation said it provided an important framework for delivering on the UN-Habitat mandate and noted that work had already begun on preparing the Strategic Plan for 2016-2021. However, he cautioned against adding too many new priority areas that could detract from the Strategy’s realism and feasibility.
The representative of Bangladesh expressed concern about agency’s minimal share of core resources, the unpredictability of its funding and its dependence on a small number of donors. That affected the functioning of UN-Habitat and the implementation of its mandate, he said, while urging the international community to come forward with active financial and technical support to help developing countries and UN-Habitat achieve the goals of the Habitat Agenda.
Norway’s representative noted that urbanization was essential to economic growth, emphasizing that it was a consequence of, but also a requirement for, development. She added that high density significantly reduced the per capita ecological footprint of urbanization and gave cities the chance to maximize sustainability. As it only occurred once, it was important to get it right, she said, stressing the need to make sustainable urban development a priority.
The international community needed to make a policy shift from containing urbanization to preparing for it, she continued. Better urban planning could contribute to a greener economy through resource efficiency, reduced emissions and more productive and liveable cities. Planning was essential to containing urban sprawl, promoting energy-efficient transport and buildings, and improving waste management, as well as water and sanitation services, she said.
Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Argentina’s representative said cities could provide leadership on climate change mitigation and adaptation through inclusive urban planning and management, particularly in the areas of domestic energy and urban transport. With unprecedented numbers of people moving to cities in search of better living conditions, rapid expansion, particularly in developing countries, had resulted in mega-urban regions and unplanned peri-urban areas where urban slums were located and urban poverty was concentrated, he said.
Brazil’s representative took up the issue of slum upgrading, saying that equitable access to land and housing was still not a reality in many cities of Latin America, though it was crucial to the promotion of social inclusion and should be combined with other social, economic, and environmental policies.
Also today, the Committee continued its general discussion on sustainable development, with speakers underlining the significance of the many different environmental challenges facing States, and stressing the need for a renewed focus on sustainable development at the forthcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), despite the prevailing economic and financial crises.
India’s representative noted that global attention on sustainable development had “suddenly waned”, with the focus falling on the economic and financial meltdown, unemployment, debt and striving to ensure recovery in the United States and Europe. It remained essential to address sustainable development and to refocus on the future of mankind, he stressed. A holistic framework was needed, he said, adding that Rio+20 offered a huge opportunity. “The best must never become the enemy of the good,” he said, calling for a repositioning of sustainable development as a global priority and for its return to international attention.
A number of speakers called for the strengthening of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to preserve its legitimacy, with France’s representative saying that the agency could resolve conflicts on environmental issues if given a legal personality, and become the source of recognized political authority on environment-related matters if granted stable resources. That should be part of a general change in global governance on sustainable development, he said.
Slovenia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Green Group”, said sustainable development was now part of the mainstream of political discourse and an important component in battling current environmental challenges. The challenges the world faced were interconnected and there were many links between climate change and the other challenges. The blurred boundaries meant that the challenges should be tackled on a global level, she stressed.
Several speakers discussed disaster risk reduction, land degradation and the plight of small island developing States, with the representative of the Maldives pointing out that climate change menaced her country’s development and severely threatened its very existence. Sustainable development was not just a goal for its people; it was at the core of their very survival, she emphasized.
Also participating in today’s discussion on sustainable development were representatives of Sudan, Vanuatu, Cuba, Israel, South Africa, Liechtenstein, Kuwait, Thailand, Iraq, Japan, Tajikistan, Morocco, Jordan, Serbia, Eritrea, Montenegro, Republic of Korea, Algeria, Congo, Niger, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Namibia, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Monaco, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Kyrgyzstan, Fiji, Chile, Pakistan, Ghana and Germany.
An official representing the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also spoke.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, presented the Secretary-General’s report containing the implementation status of the Nagoya Biodiversity Outcomes.
Participating in the debate on UN-Habitat were representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Mexico, Chile, Singapore, India and Thailand.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, 2 November, for an event on “Food and energy”.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to continue its consideration of sustainable development issues. For background information, see Press Release GA/EF/3322 of 31 October. It was later expected to take up its agenda item on the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat).
Committee members had before them a note by the Secretary-General (document A/66/326) dated 26 August 2011, which transmits his report on the Coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2011/106). The latter highlights key decisions taken by UN‑Habitat’s Governing Council at its twenty-third session, as well as key issues raised in its publications during the reporting period.
The report calls for an early decision on convening a third United Nations conference on housing and sustainable development, and urges Governments and United Nations agencies to support the UN‑Habitat resolution on strategies and frameworks to improve the lives of slum-dwellers beyond the Millennium Development Goals target. It recommends the inclusion of sustainable urban development and the role of cities and local authorities in governmental contributions to the preparatory process for and deliberations at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“ Rio+20”).
Also before the Committee was the report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (document A/66/282) dated 9 August 2011 on convening a third United Nations conference on housing and sustainable urban development (Habitat III). It suggests that the conference examine key developments since the 1996 Habitat II in Istanbul, including: the demographic dominance of cities and their rapid spatial expansion; the resurgence of the public sector in urban planning and development; the rising frequency of disasters and the increase in UN‑Habitat’s post-disaster and post-conflict work; and the emergence of transnational migration, globalization, sustainable urban development, climate change, rising urban insecurity and crime, increasing destruction of human settlements by natural and human-caused disasters and conflicts, and rising informality within cities.
The report recommends that Habitat III consider ways to strengthen the institutional frameworks for housing and sustainable development and promote continued financial contributions to support the participation of developing countries in the conference. It also recommends the themes of “housing finance systems” and “sustainable urbanization” for consideration during the preparatory process.
Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on the 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/66/281) dated 9 August 2011, which provides an overview of the policy implications of the outcomes of UN-Habitat’s twenty-third session.
The report notes that significant changes have occurred in the human settlements sector since Habitat II. In light of the new trends, Governments should review the effectiveness of past policies set forth in the 1996 Habitat Agenda and put into place a new agenda capable of responding to the new and predominantly urban challenges while strengthening the existing framework for human settlements development. It calls on the General Assembly to support the convening of Habitat III, and recommends that Governments include sustainable urban development and the role of cities and local authorities in the outcome of Rio+20.
The Committee also had before it the Report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme on its twenty-third session, held from 11‑15 April 2011 (document A/66/8), and a letter dated 27 September 2011 from the Permanent Representative of Argentina to the Secretary-General (document A/66/388) transmitting the Ministerial Declaration adopted at the thirty-fifth annual meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77, held at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 23 September 2011.
The Committee first continued its general discussion of sustainable development matters.
Introduction of Reports
AHMED DJOGHLAF, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, introduced the Secretary-General’s report containing the status of implementation of the Nagoya Biodiversity Outcomes. He said that, with the financial support of Japan, the Convention had organized nine regional and subregional workshops with more than 400 participants, with a view to revising national biodiversity strategies and action plans. To enhance the involvement of all stakeholders, particularly business, the Tenth Conference of Parties had facilitated a forum for dialogue and encouraged the establishment of national and regional business and biodiversity initiatives. The Conference had also endorsed an initiative dedicated to raising awareness of the critical importance of urbanization and local action on biodiversity.
ARWA A. M. SALIH (Sudan), associating herself with the Arab Group, said climate change was a threat to the entire planet, hitting people around the world equally hard, irrespective of wealth or location. Rio+20 would be a historic occasion to make proper decisions on sustainable development, she said, expressing hope that the international community would make long-term commitments to support the eradication of poverty without prejudice to nature.
She said her country possessed fertile land and subterranean rivers, which made it rich in agriculture with the ability to meet food-security needs. Sudan was developing an agriculture plan to do so, but conflict and its status as a least developed country meant that it needed international support, particularly official development assistance (ODA) to combat desertification, as well as access to credit under favourable terms. Given such assistance, Sudan would be able to develop and help neighbouring developing countries to combat poverty as well, she said.
DONALD KALPOKAS (Vanuatu), associating himself with the Group of Pacific Small Island Developing States and the Group of 77 and China, pointed out his country’s significant and unique vulnerabilities and challenges, including remoteness, limited economies of scale, a narrow resource base to combat climate change, and susceptibility to disasters, which Vanuatu faced alongside other small islands, and which worked against sustainable development. Regarding the Mauritius Strategy, he said implementation still fell short, with improvements needed in data collection and analysis, financial protection and support.
Alongside other small islands, Vanuatu believed in a new vision of sustainable growth and prosperity that focused on implementation and concrete benchmarks, he said, adding that, given that the Mauritius Strategy was the only way to address the particular vulnerabilities of island States, he looked to the United Nations to address their needs. Climate change remained the single biggest threat, he said, noting that cyclones, droughts and coral bleaching were increasing in frequency and severity, as pollution also grew. With the approach of Rio+20, the link between climate and sustainable development must be recognized in the Conference outcome, he stressed.
MAYTE MASOT PLANAS (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said developing countries were making Herculean efforts to ensure sustainable development but their lack of economic resources, limited access to technology and the stagnation of the Doha Round were examples of their persisting difficulties. She called for a change in developed countries’ unsustainable consumption patterns, pointing out that an economy based solely on consumption was not sustainable. The neoliberal economic model had failed developing countries, she said, underscoring the need for a new model founded on sustainable development and respect for the Earth. Sustainable development was the only paradigm for everyone to move forward, she said, adding that the guarantee of poverty eradication for the developing world lay in the lands of those countries that refused to fulfil their commitments while imposing economic conditionality on global markets.
AMOS RADIAN ( Israel), noting that rising oil prices contributed to poverty, said that the poorer the country, the greater the problems caused by rising prices. Israel was at the forefront of developing revolutionary methods to conserve energy, he said, noting that 4 per cent of its total energy demand came from solar power and 90 per cent of homes used solar hot-water systems. The Government proposed to produce at least 10 per cent of electricity from renewable sources, he added. Emphasizing the importance of water management to the fight against desertification and to sustainable development, he said his country recycled 74 per cent of its waste water.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection had committed to reaching a target of zero land-filling by 2020, he said, going on to note that his country had hosted a meeting of experts on “Using Green Agriculture to Stimulate Economic Growth and Eradicate Poverty”. The event had made an important contribution to preparations for Rio+20 by exploring how green and sustainable agriculture could contribute to the green economy. Israel had more than 100 countries involved in renewable energy, he said, adding that the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative sought to create the world’s first energy-independent region in the Negev. He said green investment doubled dividends as a driver of long-term economic growth.
THEMBELA NGCULU ( South Africa) said the global economic crisis had seriously undermined the quest for sustainable development due to the lack of political will to address poverty. The Rio+20 Conference should be seen as an opportunity for those who had resources to assist those living in destitution, he said, adding that the Conference should also serve as an opportunity to reflect on past progress. Benefits to developing countries could also come through the green economy, but that would require transparent and robust engagement, he said, cautioning, however, that a shift towards a green economy should not replace the initial commitment by developed countries to lift the poor out of poverty.
In that regard, fairness meant an acknowledgment of developing countries as equal players in economic markets, he said, adding that financial support and greater transparency and accountability on the part of international organizations were vital. As the host country for the upcoming Seventeenth Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention, South Africa believed it should present an opportunity to shape a global response to climate change and environmental integrity. It should introduce a fair and equitable outcome, he said, stressing the importance of multilateralism and calling upon world leaders to come together to meet their common but differentiated goals.
ALESSANDRA GREGG ( Liechtenstein) said that while October had seen the birth of the seven-billionth human being, unsustainable production and consumption patterns were pushing against planetary boundaries. The know-how to tackle that crisis existed, but the political will to address it was largely missing. Thus, Rio+20 was a generational opportunity to set a new course, and should result in political commitment at the highest level to accelerate and broaden the global transition to a green economy, she said. It should send out a clear, unified signal to all people that sustainable development was the only model, while also acknowledging the importance of democracy, good governance and respect for human rights and reminding Governments of their responsibility to guarantee the right to development. A short political text would be best for effectively catalysing political will, she said, adding that her delegation favoured a forward-looking and action-oriented outcome.
The green economy should be seen as a pathway to sustainable development that provided policy tools to correct deficiencies in market, development and trade policies, she said. A range of policy options to advance all countries on that pathway should be part of the Rio+20 outcome and the Government of Liechtenstein supported proposals for a green economy roadmap, including a monitoring mechanism to secure implementation. Partnerships should also be enhanced and impetus created for the development of new indicators to complement traditional economic growth measures. Sustainable development goals could address problems of integration and implementation within the current sustainable development framework, she said. Liechtenstein supported proposals for the improvement of interagency coordination, including proposals to transform the Commission on Sustainable Development into a Sustainable Development Council, she said, adding that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) should also be upgraded to a specialized agency.
EIMAN AL-SHAABAN ( Kuwait), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said her country continued to support international efforts to help developing countries achieve sustainable development. More than 104 countries had benefited from the low-interest loans provided by the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, established in 1961. The country also contributed to other international and regional institutions and development funds, including the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Development Fund, she said, adding that the median amount of Kuwait’s ODA was the equivalent of 1.04 per cent of its gross national product (GNP) — double the internationally stipulated percentage.
She said that preserving the environment and biological diversity was among the priorities of Kuwait, which prided itself on the existence of governmental institutions such as the Public Authority for Agriculture and Fish Wealth, and the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research. They were concerned with managing, preserving and conducting research in the field of biodiversity. Kuwait had also established a permanent national committee on biodiversity, in addition to natural reserves such as the Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Natural Wildlife Reserve, where species threatened by fungi were resettled. She appealed to the international community to stand together and put forward strategies and mechanisms that would limit the impact of climate change through the use of alternate clean energy in all sectors.
JAKKRIT SRIVALI (Thailand), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), stressed the importance of integrating the economic, social and environmental pillars into a global sustainable development agenda. Questioning how truly sustainable the development of humanity had been, he noted that persistent poverty and the widening gap between rich and poor meant that the needs of the many were not met while those of a few were.
He called for a new economic model that would promote sustainable development in a holistic manner, emphasizing that it must be inclusive of all nations and peoples. Regarding Rio+20, he said its outcome should reaffirm the commitments made at the 1992 Earth Summit and also come up with a new development paradigm not based solely on consumption and exploitation. United Nations organizations must work together in cohesion, at the same time, remaining mindful of the unique national needs of each Member State, he said before concluding by pledging his country’s full support for and commitment to the Rio+20 Conference.
RAZZAQ MANSOUR AL SEEDI ( Iraq) said that increasing desertification was destroying fertility, turning good soil into desert, making ecosystems disappear and exerting a negative impact on humans and biodiversity. Flawed policies had led to excessively aggressive farming which had spoiled agricultural land. It was a social, economic and environmental problem, requiring the restoration of a balanced environment, he said, adding that an initiative to fight desertification, reclaim lands and increase productivity would restore fertility and preserve it by environmental means.
That would require surveys, research and studies to manage water resources and train scientific and technological cadres to carry out their role as efficiently as possible, he continued. To preserve the environment for future generations, Iraq had acceded to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, he said, pointing out that fighting the spread of deserts was a great sustainable development and poverty-eradication priority. Ignoring it would threaten the future of humanity, especially pastoral and rural communities, he said, stressing that it was essential to tackle the issue and diminish the serious consequences of desertification.
THILMEEZA HUSSAIN ( Maldives) described oceans as the backbone of her country’s economy and said she was deeply disturbed by the numbers contained in a recent Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) report. It had found that 85 per cent of fisheries were either over exploited, fully exploited or recovering from exploitation, she noted, calling for steps to address the issues causing oceans to tip out of balance and endangering countries like the Maldives.
It was 20 years ago during the Earth Summit when the international community had recognized small island developing States as a special sustainable development case, she recalled. In light of that recognition, the Maldives had seized the opportunity provided by Rio+20 to ensure that the unique sustainable development challenges faced by small islands were addressed.
Climate change had severely threatened the development of the Maldives, she said, adding that sustainable development was more than just a goal for her country. It was the core of its very survival. The Maldives had maintained that cutting carbon emissions was not a threat to development but could instead form the basis for sustainable development through the creation of jobs and technological innovation. She said she remained optimistic that there would be an opportunity at Rio+20 to make significant progress towards addressing poverty, global resource inequity and the planet’s very survival before it was too late.
N. K. SINGH ( India), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, noted that global attention to sustainable development had “suddenly waned”, with the focus falling on the global economic meltdown, unemployment, debt and ensuring the economic recovery of the United States and Europe. It remained essential to address sustainable development and refocus on the future of humankind, he stressed, pointing out that each episode underlined the “overwhelming scientific evidence and the urgency of assigning the highest priority to environment”.
He said the Cancun Agreement had addressed key areas, but on mitigation, it was important to engage in new cropping patterns that could withstand weather changes. That would have huge implications for livelihood patterns and pastoral habits. Also, food security was related to more than just population size, he said, adding that it was intolerable that there could be huge waste in some places and hunger elsewhere. Adapting to climate change would require new habitats, with renewable energy taking more prominence, and a shift away from fossil fuels.
Noting the huge divergence between national carbon footprints, he said that a carbon tax could help to finance investment in renewable energy. “The best must never become the enemy of the good,” he said, urging a repositioning of sustainable development as a global priority, and its return to international attention. India promised its own engagement and had given resources to combating environmental problems, having introduced three new items for Durban, including equitable access to sustainable development, unilateral trade measures and technology-related intellectual property rights. He concluded by stating that cyclical economic behaviour was necessarily transitional, and sustainable development must be the abiding principle of future growth.
JUN YAMAZAKI ( Japan) said the significance of green economy must be emphasized at the upcoming Rio+20, with each country formulating a national strategy. The Conference should contribute to discussion of the international development agenda beyond 2015; human security, which employed a people-centred, holistic approach, could be a guiding principle for a new international development policy. Japan had put forward nine proposals for Rio+20, including, for disaster risk reduction, an international conference in 2012 to share lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake. The country had also presented “ Future City”, a model of low-carbon and sound material-cycle cities. On education for sustainable development, it had proposed an “Initiative to Cultivate Sustainable Citizens” in each country.
To achieve sustainable development, it was necessary to promote integrated efforts at the national, regional and international levels, while striking a balance between economy, society and environment, he continued. The function of the Commission on Sustainable Development should also be improved, and Japan wished to propose a peer review mechanism for that body. World leaders should also agree to concrete measures for improving the international framework so as to avoid duplication of actions and administrative inefficiency in light of the numerous existing multilateral environmental agreements and related organizations. “If we are only to engage in discussion on organizational reforms without reshaping existing organizations, this could only result in an undesirable fragmentation,” he said. “ Japan considers that step-by-step approach is realistic.”
IDIBEK KALANDAROV (Tajikistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country was aware of its responsibility to address climate change as the Central Asian region had been seriously impacted in recent years, specifically in light of the decreasing access to water. Tajikistan had proposed an international fund to save the world’s glaciers as it was greatly affected by that issue. The second half of the twentieth century had also seen the Central Asia region experience the degradation of the Aral Sea, caused by unsustainable development and climate change, he said, calling for international cooperation and support in addressing the Aral Sea crisis affecting the region.
The transformation of the global economic system into a green economy should take into account the well-being of current and future generations, he emphasized, adding that the effects of climate change could only be addressed on a global scale. Access to energy was critical to addressing social and economic disparities, and it was also necessary to encourage the sharing of renewable energy. Measures such as transferring new technology and enhancing energy cooperation were essential for preserving life on the planet, he said, adding that to address the growing impact of climate change, it would be necessary to ensure the water supply. Tajikistan planned to organize national and regional water summits, he said, recalling that water-cooperation issues had been organized during the Dushanbe Conference on Water in hopes of attracting more global attention.
NICOLAS CHIBAEFF ( France) said Rio+20 would be a chance to give sustainable development the place it deserved in the United Nations. Governance was currently not up to meeting the planet’s challenges and the environmental pillar was “too fragile”. If things continued the way they were going, UNEP’s power could diminish to the point of irrelevance, he warned, emphasizing that conflicts on the environment must be resolved and UNEP given a legal personality, he said, adding that it must become a source of recognized political authority with stable resources. Strengthening environmental governance must be part of a general change in global governance on sustainable development, he said.
The road map presented by the European Union would help address at the source the apparent contradiction between growth and environmental preservation, he said, adding that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Stiglitz Commission had paved the way for progress in that area. The United Nations could voluntarily develop strategies to aid transition to the green economy, which should be adapted to the characteristics of individual nations, he said, describing the term as the operational expression of the idea of sustainable development, and of the idea that growth and sustainable development were part of the same ambition. France was committed to Rio+20 in various areas, he said, describing its efforts on water, including the hosting of the sixth World Forum in March 2012. It had been an important preparation for Rio, and France hoped for suggestions so that the international community could renew its Agenda 21 commitments to the proper management of water resources and provision of access.
FAIÇAL SOUISSI ( Morocco), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, reiterated his country’s dedication to addressing climate change, which remained one of the biggest challenges of modern times. An international environmental legal framework had been in place since the Earth Summit in 1992, but the loss of biodiversity, the degradation of oceans and the increasing frequency of disasters had made visible the non-implementation of those policies, he said.
However, the many environmental conferences that had preceded Rio+20 had made progress, but real momentum was lacking in their implementation, he said. In spite of progress by developing countries, sustainable development was currently not a viable option on the international level due to the setbacks resulting from disasters and widespread poverty. As for Morocco, the country had put in place a legal environmental framework and a major solar project to diversify its energy base. It would be able to produce a great deal of solar energy each year, he said, noting that the project was expected to become operational next year. Morocco would also create zero-emission cities in the south of the country, he added.
DIANA AL-HADID (Jordan), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the negative effects of climate change had led to a reduction in agricultural productivity, drought, aggravated water scarcity, coral reef bleaching and land degradation. More effective measures were needed to tackle the challenges, she said, calling for the strengthening of the Hyogo Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and support for the implementation of preparedness, rapid response, recovery and development. The estimated global cost of disasters would exceed $300 billion annually by 2050 if nothing was done to counter the impact of climate change, she warned.
She said Jordan had acted comprehensively on biodiversity, conserving natural resources, monitoring wildlife and promoting the application of strategic environmental assessments to promote sustainable development and eradicate poverty. The Climate Change Convention and its Kyoto Protocol should be the primary forum for negotiating a response to climate change, she said, urging the international response to address the root causes of the problem. Durban was a good chance to advance that agenda, she said, emphasizing the essential importance of concrete actions in that regard. Rio+20 must show renewed commitment to promoting sustainable water, agriculture, land use and food security, while increasing access to energy and energy security as well as promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency through international partnerships.
LIDIJA BUBANJA ( Serbia) expressed her country’s commitment to addressing sustainable development through investment in the new technology and energy sectors. Rio+20 would provide the opportunity to discuss various topics pertaining to poverty reduction, job creation and the crafting of a better future for all, she said. Serbia, for its part, had already made considerable progress in respect of sustainable development and sustainable consumption, she said, calling for the strengthening of international organizations, including UNEP, in its role of implementing and promoting global environmental policies. She went on to stress the need to find new sources of energy, and called on every country, particularly developed countries, to seriously consider reducing greenhouse gas emissions by investing in renewable energy sources. In an interconnected global community, the transfer of technology from developed to developing countries was also vital for development, she said.
TESFA ALEM SEYOUM ( Eritrea), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that his country’s location in an arid and semi-arid area made the topic important to the State. Eritrea was affected by desertification, degradation and drought, which were strongly linked to climate variability. The issue called for coordinated global action, he stressed.
Eritrea had acceded to a number of international sustainable development agreements, he said. Regionally, the country was part of the Great Green Wall Initiative to halt the advancing Sahara, and nationally it was making greater efforts to address land degradation through appropriate policies. Combating degradation was important to poverty eradication and efforts should be country- and community-driven as well as owned.
Permanent forest closures, the planting of seedlings and the construction of micro-dams had also been essential to Eritrea’s sustainability agenda, he continued. Efforts had been made to establish areas for the protection of marine ecosystems and the establishment of national parks. Calling for measures to help improve the knowledge base on degradation and drought, so as to ensure mitigation measures were taken in a timely manner, he said monitoring and early-warning mechanisms for drought and desertification were a part of that effort. Eritrea’s national action plan recognized the need to recognize the problem while enhancing and sustaining ecosystem resources, he said.
MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ ( Montenegro), associating himself with the European Union, said sustainable development was a main priority for his Government. In the last year, it had undertaken numerous activities in preparation for Rio+20. Montenegro had also begun using new and renewable sources of energy since its independence in 2006, harmonizing its laws with European Union policy. Its energy sector was significant for the further development of its economy, he said, adding that renewable energy technologies and the efficient use of energy were its main priorities.
Besides improving its national grid and connections, Montenegro had started improving interconnections to neighbouring countries with the aim of becoming a hub for electricity transport in the region, he said. Its proactive approach to the development of renewable energy was expected to show practical results in 2012, when construction on two wind power plants and a dozen hydro plants was expected to start. Montenegro was also focusing on using biomass and solar energy, especially for heating and cooling, solving problems relating to both waste disposal and the security of supply, he said.
SUL KYUNG-HOON ( Republic of Korea) stressed that it was imperative for the world to look for sustainable ways to produce and consume so that future generations would have a fair opportunity to lead dignified lives. Despite considerable progress since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the international community was still far short of achieving its sustainable development goals, he said, adding that the adoption of a green economy was not a choice but a requirement for the survival of humanity.
The Republic of Korea had adopted the “Low Carbon, Green Growth” initiative and invested 2 per cent of its annual gross domestic product (GDP) in the development of green technology and related infrastructure, he said. Emphasizing that the world needed to ensure that the benefits of modern and clean energy were available to all, he said that improving access to modern energy services would give the poorest people an opportunity to escape extreme poverty. Acknowledging that climate change posed a serious threat to the global community by reducing the available food and water, he warned that failure to combat climate change would ultimately degrade human economic development and cause steep increases in the levels of poverty.
ABDELGHANI MERABET ( Algeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said Rio+20 offered a chance to reaffirm and renew political commitment to the Rio Principles, Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Declaration and Plan of Implementation and other agreements on sustainable development. Its outcome document should focus on shared but differentiated responsibilities and the three pillars of sustainable development, he said. The green economy should be understood as a concept relating to poverty eradication, he said.
He went on to emphasize that the green economy should not be a vehicle for establishing new constraints to ODA or strengthening trade protectionism, and neither should it impact on realization of the Millennium Development Goals. Access to green technology was essential as a precursor to implementing sustainable development objectives and achieving development goals. Given the serious drought in Africa, the subject should be a top priority. The upcoming Durban Conference should be a decisive deadline since the lack of progress on climate change was worrying to developing countries, he said, stressing the importance of following up on the agreements reached in Copenhagen and Cancun and of moving to a new cycle of commitments in 2012.
APPOLINAIRE DINGMA (Congo), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said no country on its own could meet the challenges of sustainable development in the face of pressing environmental and social crises, scarcity of natural resources, growing gaps between developing and developed countries, and increasing disasters. There was need for a united and cohesive political commitment by all international stakeholders to act as one, he said. Despite progress in many areas, a better job must be done of evenly dispersing the benefits on a worldwide scale, especially to the poorest countries.
Growing ocean pollution, exploitation of forests and arable lands as well as the increase in disasters threatened not only the political stability of already vulnerable countries, but also the existence of their populations, he said. There was a need to research innovative economic financing options to help developing countries overcome their most difficult challenges. In regards to Rio+20, he said the Conference should promote sustainable development and environmental protection in multilateral negotiations. Turning to national efforts, he said his country had spared no effort to meet environmental initiatives on the national, regional, and international levels. Although Congo had established the basis for meeting its international commitments on the sustainable management of biodiversity through the implementation of forest-management plans, it still needed developed countries to keep their financial commitments.
AMINATOU AGADA ( Niger), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said her country was affected by desertification and land degradation which had forced it to import food. The Niger River had been affected by climate change, which was a major reason why the country supported Agenda 21. In 2011, the Government had launched the “3N” food initiative to improve the production of key food crops watered by micro-dams, thereby preventing food crises. Significant infrastructure projects were also being implemented across the country, she said, noting that education and health care were also receiving Government attention. Niger had been fighting desertification and soil degradation for decades and had strengthened its national policies over time, she said. The National Council for Sustainable Development had been created to evaluate and implement policy but a proper development strategy would only be possible if financing were provided, she said.
LINYI BAIDAL SEQUERIA ( Costa Rica), associating herself with the Green Group and the Group of 77 and China, said her country continued to suffer disasters due to the Earth’s environmental imbalance. Last year, Costa Rica had suffered losses of human life as well as millions of dollars, and this year the Central American region was suffering the worst floods in years. The disasters were burdening countries in the region, which were the most environmentally vulnerable in the Americas, she said.
Costa Rica had adopted innovative policies to deal with those issues, she said, while reiterating calls for multilateral political decisions and multilateral decisions in response to the overarching crisis. “We cannot hide behind excuses any more,” she said. “We are all called to work for our people.” She called for a more rational use of resources to prevent disasters, and also cited the recent October snowfall in New York as another sign that climate change was real. Were leaders prepared to act or did they need the biggest disaster in history to move them, she asked.
BITRUS VANDY YOHANNA ( Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said it was in the interest of all to strengthen international cooperation. Developing countries needed sufficient means and policy space to build viable economies, social justice and equity that would be resilient to all kinds of shocks, he said, adding that access to energy and the transfer of technology were the most important preconditions for that to happen. Connected to that was the disbursement and efficient use of ODA and lifting of the debt burden while providing better market access to and reducing tariffs for developing countries.
An absolute transformation of the global energy system was needed to secure sustainable energy for all, he said, cautioning, however, that much more cooperation was needed to increase renewable energy technologies so they could be used by the poorest people living in rural areas. There was also an urgent need to address the challenges of climate change and desertification, he said, calling upon Member States to show strong political will to implement agreements in that regard. It was also urgently necessary to fulfil Chapter 8 of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation to realize the sustainable development needs of many African countries. The international framework should be strong enough to support the continent’s national and regional efforts to address sustainable development amid environmental challenges, he said, calling on developed countries to scale up their bilateral commitments.
SANJA ŠTIGLIC (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the Green Group, said that sustainable development was now part of mainstream political discourse and an important component in battling current environmental challenges. There were many links between climate change and other challenges, and the boundaries between them were blurred, she said, adding that they must be addressed on the global level. Without tackling water challenges, decent living conditions for the world or future generations could not be met.
Meanwhile, energy availability and accessibility were also related, she said, citing statistics that showed 50 per cent more energy being needed by 2030, with developing countries needing most of it. Given the limited availability of fossil fuels, energy needs must be met through new, environmentally clean ways, she said, pointing out that 2012 had been designated the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Emphasizing that the question of environment, in its widest sense, concerned all social segments, she said that combining the knowledge of all players could result in successfully confronting complex global challenges. More efforts were required from the international community, she said, expressing hope for resolute efforts and renewed political commitment to achieving the necessary goals at Rio+20.
WILFRIED EMVULA (Namibia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, called on the international community, particularly developed countries, given their historical responsibility, to address climate change within the framework of the Climate Change Convention. The complex Durban agenda would need to address a range of key political issues amid fundamentally differing positions among States parties. Namibia called for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, and for enhanced and urgent action to provide financial resources and investments in support of action on mitigation, adaptation and technology transfer to developing countries.
He said desertification, land degradation and drought corroded the three pillars of sustainable development and remained a “blind spot of the global agenda”. He welcomed the September High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on Desertification, recalling that it had highlighted the importance of strengthening the relevant Convention through the provision of financial and technical resources. Land degradation cost Namibia $60 million in lost productivity each year, he said, noting that the Government had established the National Programme to Combat Desertification as part of an integrated sustainable land-management programme. Rio+20 would allow reaffirmation and renewal of previous decisions and undertakings, as well as the political commitment to their implementation, he said, adding that he hoped the Conference would reaffirm the balance between the economic, social, and environmental pillars of sustainable development.
JÓN ERLINGUR JÓNASSON ( Iceland) said the world would be unable to achieve its food and water goals without a major improvement in the conservation and restoration of soil resources. Land degradation and desertification were among the greatest global environmental challenges, greatly affecting the climate, biodiversity, soil quality, food and water security. Yet, they were not receiving due international attention, he said, warning that the loss of soil and its declining quality may very well be regarded as the “silent crisis”.
He said his country had been among those advocating soil restoration for climate change adaptation and mitigation while simultaneously providing opportunities for productive human use. Iceland had launched a global soil partnership campaign with the aim of achieving soil protection and sustainable land management while contributing to the realization of the goals of the anti-desertification Convention. Another national programme aimed to provide training for a number of fellows from countries combating land degradation and desertification, especially in Africa, he said.
YERBOLAT SEMBAYEV ( Kazakhstan) said that the twentieth anniversary of the closure of his country’s Semipalatinsk nuclear test site had not prevented high levels of cancer and other diseases caused by radiation. The environment was also affected, with millions of hectares of agricultural land spoiled. Rehabilitation had involved extending social protection to the local population, specifically earlier pensions and additional payments. Compensation payments had been renewed since 2006 and measures continued to be enacted with a view to improving the health and development of the eastern region while enhancing the quality of life and creating the necessary conditions for boosting the economy. The budget promised $20 million to develop the region’s main city and that figure would rise to $57 million, he continued, noting that other State programmes indirectly addressed the problem. The United Nations and donor countries continued to provide assistance for rehabilitation, with support from the Government, he said, calling for a unanimous resolution on the issue.
The Committee then took 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).
JOAN CLOS, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, introduced the reports on the implementation of the outcome of Habitat II and the strengthening of UN‑Habitat, the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development (Habitat III) and “Coordinated Implementation of the Habitat Agenda”.
He said the convening of Habitat III in 2016 would be among the most important issues discussed by the Governing Council of UN‑Habitat at its twenty-third session. The Secretary-General’s report made a case for holding the conference, as it examined key developments since Habitat II in 1996.
The first development was the demographic and economic significance of cities, which were now home to more than half the world’s population, he said. Their role as national and global economic agents had grown significantly since 1996, and it was expected to grow even more in the near future. The second development was the rapid expansion of urbanized land, which had resulted in mega-cities, huge urban corridors and uncontrolled peri-urbanization in developing countries. The third development was the changing roles of the public, private and non-governmental sectors, and the fourth was the increased frequency and intensity of natural and human-made disasters. They made the argument for a third United Nations conference on sustainable urban development, he said.
He went on to discuss the key actions taken by UN‑Habitat’s Governing Council at its twenty-third session, saying that its first resolution was on global and national strategies for improving the lives of slum-dwellers; the second on sustainable urban development through expanding equitable access to land, housing, basic services and infrastructure; and the third on future activities in urban economy and financial mechanisms for urban upgrading. Preparation of the six-year strategic plan for 2016‑2019 had also started as part of the work on organizational reform, he added.
Finally he said that during the reporting period, UN‑Habitat had supported 33 countries in the implementation of slum-upgrading and slum-prevention policies. It had also developed a comprehensive programme highlighting three major components of its strategy — policy development and advocacy at the regional and national levels; training and capacity development at all levels; and monitoring and reporting. He concluded by urging the Committee to recognize the relevance of a third UN‑Habitat conference.
In the ensuing question and answer session, the representative of Mexico asked about the challenges that UN‑Habitat faced while working within so many strategic frameworks.
Mr. CLOS responded by saying that a number of systems posed different challenges. There were strategic networks that must be followed within the United Nations system but also with stakeholders. It was an effort to work within the UN‑Habitat budget to address problems on the ground, he said, although it was possible to improve its effect at a time of reduced income within the Organization. UN‑Habitat’s response to the challenging new conditions had been positive and it was using assessment to better focus its responses to the urban agenda, he said, adding that in addressing that agenda, it was necessary to look at urban areas from a new viewpoint. Unless UN‑Habitat adapted, there would be no way for urban areas to grow without facing problems, he warned.
MARCELO SUÁREZ SALVIA (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that, with more than half the world’s population living in urban areas, sustainable development was becoming increasingly dependent on sustainable urbanization. Increasing and unprecedented numbers of people had moved into cities in search of better living conditions, leading to the rapid geographical expansion of urban settlements, particularly in developing countries. That had resulted in mega-urban regions and unplanned peri-urban areas where slums were located and urban poverty was concentrated.
Cities offered opportunities to provide leadership on climate change mitigation and adaptation, through inclusive urban planning and management, particularly in the areas of domestic energy and urban transport, he continued. The Group of 77 and China reiterated the important role that UN-Habitat played in the overall pursuit of sustainable development. The agency and developing countries must be provided with the necessary financial support to achieve that goal, he stressed, urging Governments to include sustainable urbanization in the outcome of Rio+20.
YUSRA KHAN (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations and associating himself with the Group of 77, commended the strengthening of the existing institutional framework for human settlement development, saying he was ready to engage in constructive debate on implementing the Habitat Agenda. He cited the growth of slums as a consequence of rapid urbanization, noting that many people in the region’s cities lived in slums.
The need to reduce the number of slum-dwellers arose against the backdrop of an opposite problem in developed nations, where excess building had helped to cause the global crisis, he noted, adding that the recovery should include policies benefiting the poorest social sectors. The poor needed affordable mortgages and greater access to credit, he said, commending UN-Habitat’s efforts to focus on promoting finance for slum upgrading and basic services for the urban poor, while establishing innovative pro-poor housing and financing initiatives.
Efforts to achieve the goals of adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development had been pursued since Habitat II, he recalled, hailing the remarkable job done by UN-Habitat offices in ASEAN countries, especially in helping to implement programmes for affordable housing. He pointed to the Sustainable Cities Programme as an example of ASEAN’s increased capacity to manage its cities, as well as the ASEAN Environmentally Sustainable Cities Award initiative. The flooding in South-East Asia underlined the need to link urbanization to the challenges of climate change and sea level rise, he said, while reaffirming support for convening Habitat III to evaluate and update policies and strategies endorsed by Habitat II. Hopefully, new ideas to advance the agenda would be discussed, he said.
TUMASIE BLAIR (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that if ever there was a time to focus on the urgent need to address the challenges of urbanization, now was that time as the world had just welcomed its 7-billionth inhabitant on Monday. He welcomed the efforts of UN-Habitat in the area of advocacy, saying the challenge lay in determining how to address adequately and sustainably the growth of mega-cities and urban sprawl. That would require a comprehensive and integrated approach, supported by nationally owned and nationally led policies, he said, stressing the importance of access to safe water and sanitation, poverty eradication, modern and affordable energy services, and waste collection and disposal.
CARICOM was well aware of the damage caused by disasters, he said, citing the 12 January 2010 earthquake in Haiti which had displaced millions of people. He encouraged the agency’s continuing involvement of human settlements experts in assessing and developing programmes focused on prevention, rehabilitation, and reconstruction in disaster areas. Expressing concern over the imbalance in the levels of UN-Habitat’s core and non-core funding, he called for more predictable and reliable financing. Finally, he said that CARICOM endorsed fully the call by the Group of 77 and China for the convening of Habitat III in 2016, and looked forward to Rio+20, which hopefully would adequately address sustainable urbanization.
AMERICO ZAMPETTI of the European Union delegation said that achieving sustainable urban development and UN-Habitat’s mandate to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities, as well as shelter for all, was increasing in importance. UN-Habitat faced huge tasks and the European Union was committed to continuing to work towards “cities without slums”, something that would hopefully be achieved without the need for forced evictions, and which would require the involvement of city and local authorities. As part of its advocacy of social inclusion, the European Union would design a new policy on development cooperation with a more comprehensive approach to human development, he said.
Recognizing UN-Habitat’s achievements, he noted the progress it had made in developing the Medium Term Strategic and Institutional Plan, which provided an important framework for delivering the UN-Habitat mandate. Work had already begun on the next Strategic Plan, he said, adding that any new priority areas would not detract from the Strategy’s realism and feasibility. He also welcomed the open and transparent governance review of UN-Habitat, and stressed the importance of delivering results. He called for a close, synergistic relationship between UN-Habitat and other United Nations bodies as part of the “Delivering as One” initiative. Looking ahead to Rio+20, he said it should accelerate and broaden the worldwide transition towards a “green economy”, promoting sustainable development and contributed to poverty eradication. It offered win-win opportunities to all countries, regardless of economic structure and development level.
FÁBIO FARIAS ( Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that nearly one third of the urban population in Latin America lived in informal settlements and in inadequate housing. Although the region had come a long way in improving the lives of city-dwellers, equitable access to land and housing was still not a reality in many cities. Slum upgrading was, therefore, crucial to promoting social inclusion and must be combined with other social, economic, and environmental policies.
He called on the international community to allocate additional financial resources to UN-Habitat’s financial facilities, adding that his country attached great importance to the agency’s mandate. Brazil recognized the links between development-oriented urbanization and the goal of eradicating poverty and hunger, he said, adding that he looked forward to Rio+20 as a key opportunity to strengthen the social dimension of sustainable development while proposing measures to ensure equitable access to land and housing.
JORGE LAGUNA CELIS (Mexico) acknowledged the topic’s importance in light of the upcoming Rio+20 Conference, saying that UN-Habitat’s vital experience and contribution would remain in the realms of policymaking and various other decision-making areas. He cited the agency’s particular importance in urban planning, covering transport, land use, building coherent road networks, distribution of equipment, building legal frameworks for development, institutional and financial strengthening, training, technology transfer and best practices, and in the recovery and rehabilitation of public spaces. With respect to monitoring the Habitat Agenda, he said it had added value because it showed the progress made on the Johannesburg agreements and the Millennium Development Goals. He called for improved indicators on living conditions, saying results from monitoring would help in designing policies in line with the Habitat Agenda.
GAO MING (China), endorsing the Group of 77 statement, said that, since the adoption of the Habitat Agenda in 1996, countries had made unremitting efforts to address the problem of human settlements and achieved positive results. However, the associated problems were far from being solved and developing countries in particular still faced serious challenges in that regard. The Government of China was promoting large-scale affordable housing while further strengthening and improving the real estate market. Its goal was to enable every Chinese citizen to have a place to live, he said.
The Government had adopted an urban-housing policy that combined market supply with the Government policy on affordable housing, he continued. It had also taken an integrated approach to urban and rural planning, and tried to introduce more concentrated and intensive modalities of urban development to make its cities more energy-efficient and environment-friendly. Governments at different levels continued to emphasize the protection of the environment in the construction of urban infrastructure, and had made remarkable progress in sewage and waste treatment, as well as in the use of gas fuel and central heating, he said.
SUSAN ECKEY ( Norway) said the developing world was at the centre of a historic demographic and economic transformation, with the populations of South Asia and Africa set to double, along with the size of the globe’s urban areas. Urbanization was essential to economic growth, she said, adding that it was a consequence of, but also a requirement for, development. High density significantly reduced per capita ecological footprint and gave cities the chance to maximize sustainability. It was important to get urbanization right as it would only take place once, she emphasized, calling for sustainable urban development and a policy shift from containing urbanization to preparing for it.
Commending UN-Habitat’s new priorities, she said they were echoed in Norway’s new aid policies. Better urban planning could contribute to a greener economy through resource efficiency, reduced emissions and more productive and liveable cities. Planning was essential to containing urban sprawl, promoting energy-efficient transport and buildings, and improving waste management, water and sanitation services. She also underscored the need to harness the development potential of youth and women, saying that the “youth bulge” would continue to be felt until 2050 and was a “neglected problem of the international community”. The United Nations system’s capacity to lead on human settlement issues needed strengthening through a new Habitat agenda, she said, expressing her country’s support for convening Habitat III in 2016.
MARY ANNE PAN ( Singapore), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said that while most of those present had homes to go to at the end of the day, they must remember the 830 million slum-dwellers around the world. They had little or no access to education, protection from the elements or health care. Providing adequate housing for them remained a critical goal for the international community, and the economic and financial system had caused property prices to skyrocket, pushing the dream of home-ownership out of reach for many. The lure of jobs and a chance at a better life had attracted droves of people to cities and Governments were required to address that pressing issue, she said.
As one of the world’s most densely populated countries, Singapore was always grappling with the best way to provide its population with social and economic rights, she said. Sharing her country’s experience, she said it was important for short- and long-term policy reviews to assess what was working and what was not. In addition, urban planners must address urban density coupled with liveability. Greening the economy through sustainable development should be done in urban areas through recycling, energy conservation and green building, she said, adding that Singapore was on the path to providing its citizens with a greener lifestyle. More than mere shelter, a home was a place where one could find peace, she said, emphasizing the collective responsibility to help the millions without that luxury to attain it.
SHATRUGHAN SINHA ( India), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that poverty eradication efforts and attempts to promote inclusive growth and reduce environmental stress would depend on efforts to integrate urban development into wider socio-economic planning. Noting that UN-Habitat could enrich discussions at Rio+20, he expressed support for its recent governance review, saying his country was also working to improve its own local bodies and make them catalysts of change. Population growth in recent decades had led to massive urban growth, with nearly 50 per cent of Indians due to live in cities soon, he said.
To meet the challenges in an integrated manner, India had launched the National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy in 2007, which sought to ensure affordable housing for all through equitable land supply, shelter and services for all sections of society. An important element was the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Initiative, which provided basic services to the poor, he said, adding that dedicated social housing projects had also been enacted. Expressing support for the mid-term review of the Medium Term Strategic and Institutional Plan, particularly its focus on strengthening its catalytic and pre-investment role, he called for further capitalization to enable the agency to provide more financial and seed capital support for slum upgrading and prevention.
KESARIN PHANARANGSAN (Thailand), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said her country had been hit hard by the worst floods in half a century, which had inundated many towns and cities, including parts of the capital, Bangkok. There was a need for a new agenda capable of responding to new, predominantly urban challenges, she said. Given the vulnerabilities of modern cities and their need to prepare for emerging and future challenges, four important issues must be highlighted — climate change, disasters in the urban context, exchange of knowledge and best practices among cities, and the engagement of all stakeholders for any kind of progress.
The concentration of large populations in cities and towns around the world had an undeniable impact on the attainment of sustainable development, she continued. It was, therefore, vital for sustainable urban development and the role of cities and local authorities to be included in the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference. Thailand was pleased to host the UN-Habitat in Asia-Pacific Conference next year under a theme of land and housing, and with risk and disaster management on its main agenda. Hopefully the event would provide an opportunity for countries in the region to share their experiences and best practices in dealing with pressing twenty-first century challenges of sustainable development and climate change, she said.
MD TAUHEDUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that, while cities occupied slightly more than 2 per cent of land, they produced 70 per cent of waste. Hence, environmentally sound urban infrastructure and services were critical in ensuring an environment-friendly urbanization across the world. He expressed concern about the challenges affecting the functioning of UN-Habitat, including minimal core resources, funding unpredictability and dependence on a small number of donors. Bangladesh supported the Medium Term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013, as well as the Experimental Reimbursable Seeding Operations in support of pro-poor housing and urban development, he said, urging the international community to come forward with active financial and technological support, including capacity-building to help developing countries and UN-Habitat realize the goals of the Habitat Agenda.
THOMAS ROHLAND, International Organization for Migration, said that urbanization and urban-rural migration went hand-in-hand, adding that convening Habitat III was timely but overdue. While rural development was important, urban centres would dominate human settlement activity in the future and was, therefore, of greater importance. Rural-urban migrants faced discrimination and barriers to full participation in urban life, he noted, also stressing concern about the impact of climate change on rural-urban migration flows and the viability of urban centres themselves. Directly or indirectly, obstructing rural-urban migration was counter-productive and would impoverish populations, he said, pledging technical assistance to urban centres in low-income areas that might need international aid to build the capacity to deal with population growth and the effects of climate change.
The Committee then resumed its general discussion on sustainable development matters.
ATAKLTI HAGEGE HAILU (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said his country was working hard to achieve an integrated approach to sustainable development that would balance its economic, social and environmental pillars. Despite the global economic and financial crises, Ethiopia had registered double-digit economic growth in recent years, he said, but the country had suffered cyclical droughts, erratic rainfall patterns, desertification and rising temperatures, he said. That had caused a slowdown in economic and social development, and Ethiopia was aggressively undertaking programmes that had succeeded in conserving oil, water and forest resources. It was also developing clean energy from hydropower, wind, and geothermal sources for its own growth and the needs of its neighbours, he said, adding that Ethiopia had also put strict mechanisms in place for assessing the impact of all development projects on the environment.
VALÉRIE BRUELL-MELCHIOR ( Monaco) stressed the need for political will in pushing through to Rio+20, and expressed support for the creation of a High-Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All to achieve universal access to energy, and double the renewable part of the global energy basket for all by 2030. She said that the goals set out in 2002 could be achieved, but progress so far had been too slow. Welcoming the report on coral reef protection and commitments to ensure the implementation of measures to protect and preserve rare ecosystems, she expressed particular support for efforts to improve the sustainable management of oceans in the context of the “green economy”.
She went on to say that her country would host a meeting of experts at the end of the month which would focus on that issue, with particular reference to food security and energy. That was the spirit of Monaco’s preparation for the Durban Conference and Rio+20, she said. Monaco promoted renewable energy at home and had reduced its emissions, she said, adding that the Government had introduced subsidies for residents using solar heating. It had also enacted laws on water saving and biodiversity plans, and would continue to work internationally on agriculture, combating desertification and land degradation, and improving access to water and sanitation, she said.
JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO ( Venezuela) said that the outdated capitalist model that promoted overexploitation of the world’s resources was not working. Since the 1992 Earth Summit, developed countries had avoided their responsibility to address damage done to the climate, he said, adding that they were far from living up to their commitments to provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries.
Large financial centres of global capitalism were draining the natural resources of developing countries, he continued, noting that the Northern countries focused primarily on the economic pillar of sustainable development while ignoring the social and environmental pillars. The green economy was an attempt to turn nature into a commodity to be exchanged on the mercantile market and would only further exploit the planet, he added.
In order to achieve a sustainable economy, it would be necessary to adopt a system that would transform completely the way in which the global market functioned, he said. To eliminate the socio-economic imbalance between the North and the South, a new economic model based on equality and sovereignty must be established, he stressed, calling also for the elimination of measures that distorted sustainable development in the areas of trade, finance and ODA. Venezuela was building a model of development that placed people at the centre, focusing on the eradication of poverty and human rights, he said. Looking forward to Rio+20, he expressed hope that leaders would recognize the importance of social policy in ensuring the world’s well-being.
RUEANNA HAYNES (Trinidad and Tobago), associating herself with the Group of 77 and CARICOM, said the inherent limitations of small island developing States made them vulnerable to climate change, and those limitations had been rendered more severe by the current global financial difficulties. Fisheries and agricultural productivity had been eroded by changes in climate and could erode progress towards realizing the Millennium Development Goals, she said, adding that despite her country’s minimal emissions output, it would diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.
Trinidad and Tobago was pursuing policies in line with Climate Change Convention, encouraging zero-emissions energy and more efficient practices in industry, she said. Parliament was considering a national environmental development policy, but development aspirations could not be achieved through renewable energies alone. However, Trinidad and Tobago would continue to follow a low-carbon path, she said. A framework renewable energy policy had been drawn up, and a national mitigation strategy was working to reduce emissions.
Despite its limited resources and small contribution to climate change, Trinidad and Tobago was on a path to sustainable development, but the scale of the task required developed countries to take the lead, she said. As developing countries did their part, developed countries needed to work as well, she emphasized, calling for a second commitment period under the Climate Change Convention’s Kyoto Protocol, since the global effects of climate change called for a robust global response. Moving towards the Durban Conference, she said expectations were being managed and lowered, and urged States parties not to forget the weakest States.
The representative of Kyrgyzstan said that humanity continued to suffer poverty and inequality as the economic and financial crises threatened all the advances that developing countries had made in recent years. Developed countries had a historical responsibility to help developing countries realize the Millennium Development Goals. As a vulnerable landlocked developing country, Kyrgyzstan’s security may very well be threatened by the melting glaciers in its mountainous region, which made up most of the country’s geography, he said. Access to water was vital for his country’s sustainable development, he said, adding that many of its people lived in mountainous regions, which made them highly vulnerable to climate change.
LUKE DAUNIVALU ( Fiji), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Pacific Small Island Developing States, said the needs of the present should be met without compromising the future. He called for full implementation of Agenda 21 to encourage a paradigm shift towards cross-sectoral coordination and integration of environmental concerns into all areas of business. He supported calls for a third global conference on small island developing States and added a call for formal United Nations recognition of a formal category for small islands.
Referring to the “blue economy” as the sustainable management of the oceans, he said his country depended on the ocean that was an essential aspect of the paradigm shift needed to address current challenges. Climate change was the ultimate example of the results of unsustainable development, he said, urging the world to reduce its carbon footprint, build capacity and help poor countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. Given the existing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the ocean, it was important to build the resilience of marine ecosystems, he emphasized, calling for the protection of coral reefs.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said he was aware that collective international action was crucial in tackling international challenges. Multilateralism was the way to find solutions to global issues, and if the global community did not act, the economic, financial and human cost would be enormous, he warned.
He said the global green economy must take into account the unique economic, social and environmental needs of each country. Reducing the technological gap, strengthening institutions in developing countries and rejecting market professionalism was also of great importance. The path towards sustainable development meant adopting greater energy efficiency, he said, adding that his country had committed to ensuring that 20 per cent of its energy matrix would be made up of non-conventional renewable energy sources in the near future. Finally, he emphasized the importance of adequate responses to disasters.
SHAHRAS ASIM ( Pakistan) said that, while global economic fragility should encourage greater collaboration and cooperation, the opposite was more the case, as illustrated by the paralysis of the Doha Development Round and intensifying efforts to bury the Kyoto Protocol. Industrialized countries, historically responsible for impacting climate, were refusing to undertake deeper emission cuts, while financing for development had dwindled to a virtual trickle, he said. Rio+20 would be a major opportunity to forge a collective response to the development challenges facing most developing countries, he said.
He went on to propose an agreement on “green policy space” in international economic arrangements and regimes to ensure that green economies could be achieved in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. Such an initiative would entail reorienting intellectual property regimes towards the diffusion of technology, as opposed to innovation alone; granting greater flexibility to developing countries in multilateral trading rules by limiting trade disputes over policies that promoted green industries; and developing a United Nations system-wide response to the availability of international financial and technical support in financing green start-up and existing industrial sectors.
On the national level, he said that two of the biggest challenges facing his country were land degradation and desertification. Pakistan had launched its National Programme of Action on Desertification in 2002, with the assistance of several United Nations agencies, and in 2008, it had created the multimillion-dollar Programme on Sustainable Land Management, now in its second phase. Several important lessons had been culled from the latter experience, including the need for renewed emphasis on redrawing rules on uncultivated land, the need to address the rising environmental and climatic hazards facing the poor, and the need for regional centres that would demonstrate the economic, social and environmental benefits of community-regulated land use.
HENRY TACHIE-MENSON ( Ghana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that a change in orientation, collective efforts by partners and expanded horizons were needed to address environmental challenges in a mutually beneficial way. Praising the decisions taken at the Tenth Conference of Parties to the anti-desertification Convention, he emphasized the relevance of the Convention to Rio+20, and called on the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) to increase the resources it provided to allow the Convention greater latitude to implement decisions, particularly in Africa.
He went on to say that the dependence of the continent’s mainly agrarian economies on land meant that the Rio+20 outcome should seek to improve agricultural productivity and food security, emphasizing forestation and land use, sustainable technology, and secure and sustainable energy, while promoting and supporting green industries. The international community should honour its Agenda 21 and other commitments, he said, adding that he expected Durban to make operational the institutions pledged at Cancun. He said he also expected flexibility to ensure a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, with international measuring and monitoring of emissions an essential aspect.
ANDREAS PFAFFERNOSCHKE ( Germany), associating himself with the European Union, stressed that 1 billion people lacked access to drinking water and 2.5 billion people had no access to sanitation. Without those basic human necessities, they were trapped in poverty, he said. The availability of water resources was becoming a top priority for all countries in terms of quality and quantity, he said, pointing out that water underpinned energy production and food production was highly sensitive to water availability. Rapid global population growth would exert pressure on developing and emerging economies to keep up with their population demands, he said, emphasizing that being prepared for a resource-scarce future required shared solutions in the food, water, and energy nexus. Germany was organizing a conference in Bonn to discuss the green economy solutions it was preparing to contribute to the Rio+20 Conference, he added.
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