The jinx of 13 sustained

Published: Tuesday 31 May 2005

-- (Credit: Emkay)The 13th session of the un Commission for Sustainable Development (csd), which steers the development agenda agreed upon at the Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992, was a damp squib. The 11-day meet at New York had water supply, sanitation and human settlements as its focus areas. Though participants agreed on policy guidelines, they couldn't reach consensus on how to move forward. Many of them felt the recommendations lacked specifics.

"World governments have failed to put names or dates to any of the actions needed to get water and sanitation targets back on track," said the ingo's Water Consortium, a group of five international non-governmental organisations, including wwf and Water Aid. The April 22nd draft decision, adopted by csd- 13, does not elaborate how it will achieve the Millennium Development Goals (mdgs) committed in its preamble. A un millennium project report released in 2005 says mdg targets on csd -13's focus areas are off track, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.

Integrated Water Resource Management (iwrm), a process promoting ecologically sustainable water management, drew significant attention at the meet. But delegates recognised that not all countries would meet the 2005 target to incorporate iwrm principles in their national water strategies. The need of increased financial resources for access to basic water services and sanitation was agreed upon. The Commission also listed general national and international policy suggestions to improve access to affordable land and housing. But serious contentions in further negotiations on the issues resulted in even-handed, non-specific decisions.

Developing countries argued for including the need of more aid for access to water in the decision. But the eu wanted to highlight the recovery of costs and the us wanted to stress the need for public-private partnership. As a compromise, the decision text just says progress towards the water goal needs more resources from all sources, including development aid. The debate over sanitation centred around the language to be used in the decision about the requirement of more aid.

csd -11 had sorted the Commission's work into seven clusters, which were to be worked upon in two-year cycles. csd -13 ended the two-year cycle of work on water, sanitation and human settlements. The next two-year cycle and the focus of csd-14, to be held in 2006, will be on energy for sustainable development, industrial development, air pollution/atmosphere and climate change.

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