The12th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was launched on 19 April 2004 with the international community calling for renewed commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, especially those specifically concerned with water, sanitation and human settlements.
With an estimated 1.5 billion people living without access to safe drinking water and about 2.5 billion living without access to adequate sanitation, in his opening address, the Chairman of CSD, the Norwegian Minister for Environment, Mr. Borge Brende reminded the delegates that there was an urgent need to implement the Millennium Development Goals.
Only half of the developing countries are on track towards meeting the global target of halving the number of poor people without clean water and only about one third of the developing countries are on track in the field of sanitation. The chairman therefore emphasized that CSD faced the daunting challenge of keeping up the political momentum and catalyzing action to ensure progress especially as the numbers of people living in slums and squatter settlements was set to double within the next few decades.
Concerned about the numbers of people suffering from no access to clean water or adequate sanitation, the Prince of Orange called for a doubling of investment in the water and sanitation sectors. If the targets are to be met, there would also have to be a quantum leap in the capacity building of managerial and professional personnel in the developing world.
Mr. Jose Antonio Ocampo Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs emphasized that with rapid urbanization even the target of improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers represented a modest progress and called for more commitment.
Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, welcomed that fact that CSD had chosen to focus on water, sanitation and human settlements as this provided a global spring board for local action. She stated that this review session provided an important opportunity to catalyze action at the local level and she committed UN-HABITAT to play its role in this process. “The struggle for achieving the MDGs for water and sanitation will have to be waged in human cities and towns and villages. It is at this level where actions can be coordinated and managed. It is at this level that policy initiatives become an operational reality and an eminently political affair. It is here that local actions must and can deliver global goals.”
Dr. Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UNEP, committed his agency to taking its responsibility to provide the environmental dimension of sustainable development. He pointed out that up to one third of the world’s population will soon suffer from chronic water shortages and that this was not just about the crisis of availability by a crisis of investment and management. Mr. Zephrin Diabre, of UNDP, also committed his organization to paly its part by focusing on helping countries with capacity building and technical assistance in the area of water and sanitation and human settlements.
The 12th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, being held at UN Headquarters, in New York, from 14-30 April, is the first review session under the Commissions new Implementation Cycle. The first few days of three days of the session served as the preparatory meeting for the ten year review of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. From 19- 30 April, CSD will focus its implementation cycle on Water, Sanitation and Human Settlements in order to emphasize the sense of urgency that the international community ascribes to these issues. During this important event, UN-HABITAT is presenting a number of different events to highlight the problems of the urban poor.