Department of Public Information - News and Media Division
Preparatory Committee for the World ENV/DEV/B/7
Summit on Sustainable Development 29 May 2002
4th Meeting (PM)
FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE TOLD
Water should be put “at the top of the agenda in Johannesburg”, Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange of the Netherlands, said this morning as the fourth and final Preparatory Committee session for the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development continued its work.
“Water is crucial to development”, the Prince stressed. That could be seen by the fact that while the world population had tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources had grown six-fold, mostly for use in agriculture. No single type of intervention had had greater overall impact upon economic development and public health than the provision of safe drinking water and proper sanitation.
He said he knew that there would be many, many issues competing for attention at the World Summit and it was therefore important to focus attention clearly on priority issues. In his contribution to the report of the Panel of the United Nations Secretary-General in preparation for the Summit entitled “No Water No Future”, which was distributed to those present, he had proposed a small number of water targets and actions that could go a long way towards solving the water crisis at the global level.
The targets and actions were organized in the four key areas identified by the panel of the Secretary-General -- shared values, the public-private sector nexus, global governance, and science and technology.
Concerning shared values, he recommended mandating the World Water Assessment Programme of the United Nations to establish a baseline and monitor progress towards achieving the water-related targets set out at the Millennium Summit. His recommendation in the area of the public-private sector nexus was to build capacity in local government to assess alternative forms of financing for infrastructure, as alternatives to large-scale investments.
Regarding global governance, he recommended that in the international trade negotiations on agricultural subsidies and trade in agricultural products, the World Trade Organization (WTO) should consider the impact on water use in countries importing and exporting food. On science and technology, his recommendation was to have the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research assess the potential for increased drought tolerance and increased water productivity in agriculture, including the potential use of functional genomics and other tools of modern molecular biology.
He said the water crisis was mainly a crisis of governance -- not of water scarcity. Overcoming the world water crisis was one of the most formidable challenges on the road to sustainable development. The Summit should reaffirm the importance of achieving water security and adopt targets and actions that would allow the international community to meet the challenge jointly.
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