Water top of the agenda for post-Summit action

Posted: 21 May 2003

The follow-up to the Johannesburg Summit will focus on water, sanitation and human settlements for the first two years, decided the Commission on Sustainable Development at the end of its annual meeting.

"Unless something dramatically new happens, we are not going to reach our goals of providing 200,000 people with access to freshwater every day and 300,000 people with access to sanitation each day. The United Nations is very conscious of that," said Mr. Nitin Desai, head of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa, last September.

Some 1.2 billion people, or 18 per cent of the world's population, lack access to safe drinking water, and over 2.4 billion people (40 per cent of the world's people) lack access to adequate sanitation. More than 2.2 million people in developing countries, most of them children, die each year from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

At the Johannesburg Summit, governments reaffirmed the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015, and set a new target to halve the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by the same year. At the present rate of investment, universal access to safe drinking water cannot reasonably be anticipated before 2050 in Africa, 2040 in Latin America and the Caribbean and 2025 in Asia.

"It is very good that water is our first focus," added Mr. Desai. "There were many big initiatives on water and sanitation launched in Johannesburg, so we can test whether the Commission can really put pressure on making them happen."

Long-range plan

The Commission's two-year 'implementation cycles' include 'review' and 'policy' years. The review year will evaluate progress made in putting in practise development goals, as well as identify obstacles, while the policy year will decide on measures to speed up the process of development and take action to overcome these obstacles.

The two-year cycles form part of a larger multi-year programme of work. The Commission has decided that the second two-year cycle of work (2006/2007), should focus on energy for sustainable development, industrial development, air pollution, atmosphere and climate change.

Subsequent two-year cycles will focus on: agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification and Africa (2008/2009); transport, chemicals waster management, mining, and a ten-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns (2010/2011); forests, biodiversity, biotechnology, tourism and mountains (2012/2013); oceans and seas, marine resources, small island developing States, and disaster management and vulnerability (2014/2015).

In every cycle, a number of cross-cutting issues will be addressed, such as poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, health, education and sustainable development in a globalizing world, as well as means of implementation.

The years 2016 to 2017 will be devoted to an overall appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

The Commission elected H.E. Børge Brende, Norway's Minister of Environment, as Chairman of its next annual session.

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More information and the final text of the Commission's resolution can be found on the official website of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development