UN Commission on Sustainable Development ends 12th session

30 April 2004

The international community must accelerate its pace towards the achievable goals of delivering safe drinking water, basic sanitation and shelter for the poor by 2015, the chairman of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development told the meeting's high-level ministerial segment as it wrapped up its 12th session today.

“The international community is not on track and efforts must be scaled up. Achieving the targets is doable,” the chairman, who is also the Norwegian Minister of the Environment, Børge Brende, said in his concluding summary. “The time-bound targets are specific, practical and realistic. They are technically feasible and financially affordable. For too many years we have had too little action.

“Let us all embark on a decade of implementation.”

The agreed Millennium Development Goals would have governments worldwide provide 1.6 billion people with safe drinking water and 2 billion people with basic sanitation by 2015. By 2020, the living conditions of 100 million slum dwellers would have to be substantially improved.

The Commission was the first substantive review of the progress made to reach targets set at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, which include many of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Challenges identified by the more than 80 government ministers in attendance included improving access to safe drinking water, ensuring effective water management and infrastructure investment, improving regulatory frameworks and strengthening local governance. The role of women in making water policies was also seen as essential, Mr. Brende said.

Many delegations stressed the need for governments to include sanitation in the Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs) submitted to the World Bank and in their national development plans. Improved regulatory standards, increased development aid to build sanitation infrastructure and transfer of relevant technologies to developing countries were also seen as important needs, he said.

In the area of human settlements, ensuring security of property tenure for the poor was a prerequisite for people to access funding to improve their homes. Women needed legal recognition of their rights to property and inheritance, he said.

Speakers also emphasized the importance of cooperation between slum communities and local authorities in upgrading existing slums, Mr. Brende said.

Some delegates said paying more attention to the development of rural areas might reduce the pull of the rural poor to urban slums.

The Commission elected Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda as chairman of its next session.

 

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