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UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD12)

30 April 2004

19-30 April 2004, New York
Report by David G. Hallman, coordinator, WCC Climate Change Programme (16 June 2004)

The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) is the body charged with follow-up on the international agreements from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. The CSD meets annually and the 12th session (CSD12) was held in New York in April 2004. The CSD re-organised its approach to its work last year and now concentrates on only a few priority issues for two year terms rather than covering the entire spectrum of sustainability issues. For 2004 and 2005, the priority issues are water, sanitation and human settlements. 

The WCC helped to coordinate a small ecumenical team at CSD12 which concentrated on the experiences and advocacy concerns of churches and ecumenical development and relief agencies around the world related to water issues. The team produced a statement entitled "Water as Gift and Right" and includes the following sections:

a.. Threats to water for the most vulnerable and responses of communities
b.. Theological and ethical foundations for water as gift and right
c.. Advocacy Issues:
a.. Support and expansion of community-based initiatives
b.. Overseas Development Aid (ODA) issues related to water projects and funding
c.. Trade and privatisation concerns
d.. UN Decade on Water 2005-2015
e.. International legal framework options
In this update, I will reproduce the main advocacy recommendations from the Ecumenical Team's statement. The full document with background and analysis is available on the WCC web-site at:

CSD12 Ecumenical Team recommendations regarding support and expansion of community-based initiatives:

a.. governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector and civil society should increase support to community based and driven initiatives with a priority on those that recognise leadership of women and the energy of an educated youth;
b.. support to community level service providers should be increased in planning, strategies and national budgets as the key component to meeting the Millenium Development Goals for improved water and sanitation;
c.. the inter-connection of water access and adequate sanitation should be emphasised in community projects;
d.. an ecosystem approach should be utilised because it expands our perspective to include the full community of life, human and non-human, with all its inherent integrity and because it increases our awareness of the inter-connectedness of the range of dynamics which can influence the well-being of communities.
CSD12 Ecumenical Team recommendations on ODA issues related to water projects and funding:

a.. fulfil the Monterrey commitment of raising development aid to 0.7% of the Gross Domestic Product,
b.. increase the share of aid to water and sanitation within ODA to a minimum of 10%,
c.. prioritise rural areas and urban slums in the poorest countries, specifically sub-Saharan African states,
d.. focus on the reform and improvement of public water and sanitation systems, and avoid pre-determination in favour of corporate private sector control,
e.. follow a flexible approach based on an in-depth analysis of the given situation and on community participation.
CSD12 Ecumenical Team recommendations on trade and privatisation concerns related to water services:

a.. Water is a public good.
b.. if water resources are to be a public good then the state has to manage this resource for the benefit of the public, not only for the present generation, but the generations to come.
c.. implications of this responsibility of the state include:
d.. recognition and practice of good governance,
e.. adequate opportunity to participate in decision-making by the affected communities especially the indigenous and the marginalised,
f.. transparency, and
g.. accountability.
h.. responses to the global water crisis should avoid narrowing available options to "privatisation" as the "solution" (by international financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank or by rules and provisions in the GATS negotiations and agreements), and should facilitate the learning process through the exchange of experiences amongst communities and developing countries.
CSD12 Ecumenical Team recommendations regarding the UN Decade on Water 2005-2015:

a.. Governments, multilateral bodies, the private sector and civil society should utilise the new UN Decade to:
b.. build on the learnings of the past,
c.. focus on socially and ecologically sustainable strategies which challenge and strengthen public responsibility for the realization of the human right to water, and
d.. involve local people not only as clients, but as citizens.
CSD12 Ecumenical Team recommendations regarding international legal frameworks for water:

a.. states should recognise and observe their obligations regarding water as a human right that flow from their ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
a.. negotiations should be initiated through the United Nations for the preparation of an international freshwater convention.

As I mentioned above, the full 11-page statement of the ecumenical team at CSD12 can be read on and downloaded from the WCC web-site at: