Maciej Nowicki opened Working Group II's discussion on health, human settlements and freshwater (Item 6(a)).
HEALTH: Lowell Flanders from the Secretariat introduced the two documents: the report of the Secretary-General, "Progress in protecting and promoting human health" (E/CN.17/1994/3); and the Task Manager's report, "Background Paper on Health, the Environment and Sustainable Development." Dr. Wilfred Kreisel introduced the Task Manager's report which was prepared by WHO in close cooperation with partner agencies. He noted that while not explicitly addressed, all environmental threats are about health.
There was overwhelming support for the two reports and, accordingly, there was general consensus on the recommendations and conclusions they outlined. Consequently, the majority of interventions were in support of these reports. Many delegates applauded: the emphasis on prevention measures; the four broad-based areas of health reform identified in the Task Manager's report; and the cooperation between agencies in studying health issues. China, Canada, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, among others, strongly supported the special attention given to more vulnerable groups, such as women and children. The EU identified HIV and drug victims as an additional vulnerable group and, likewise, Australia added indigenous peoples. Sri Lanka requested that more emphasis be given to the education of people in developing countries, citing cases of ignorance about chemicals and pesticides. Pakistan challenged the need for State-sponsored intersessional meetings when existing international organizations could host such meetings. China, India and Pakistan were among several developing countries that requested greater financial assistance and technology transfer to improve national health care.
HUMAN SETTLEMENTS: The Secretariat presented the two reports relevant to this discussion: the report of the Secretary-General, "Assessment of progress achieved in promoting sustainable human settlement development" (E/CN.17/1994/5), and the "Task Manager's Report on Promoting Sustainable Human Settlement Development and Solid Waste Management and Sewage-related Issues," prepared by UNHCS (Habitat). Habitat's Mark Hildebrand presented an overview of the report. There was substantial support for the two reports and their recommendations and conclusions.
UNICEF, India, the Nordic countries, Australia, Kenya and several NGOs gave broad support to strengthening local authorities and community-based organizations. Germany noted the special challenge of implementing Chapter 7 of Agenda 21: on one hand, human settlement issues must be addressed for global stability, but, on the other hand, they can only be addressed at the national and local levels. Many countries applauded the cooperation among agencies in addressing these issues and urged the CSD to continue this approach. Among others, Sri Lanka, the Nordic countries and the Netherlands gave considerable support to the preparatory process for Habitat II. Several countries noted that this issue is as significant for the North as it is for the South and agreed that focus should be placed on the linkage between employment and housing. Financing and technology transfer were mentioned by several countries: Sri Lanka requested research in reducing housing costs; India suggested that the two working groups should address the issues of finance and technology together; UNIDO mentioned the importance of technology transfer; and the Netherlands noted that sustainable housing and infrastructure can save energy, improve health and save costs.
FRESHWATER RESOURCES: Discussion began with the introduction of: the Secretary-General's report (E/CN.17/1994/4); the inter-agency Task Managers report, presented by the FAO; the report of the Netherlands Conference on Drinking Water and Environmental Sanitation; and the roundtable on water and health in underprivileged areas, held in Sophia Antipolis, France.
The EU noted that freshwater resources are threatened by explosive urban growth, expanding populations, and increased agricultural use. Denmark, on behalf of the Nordic countries, mentioned the threat to groundwater resources from pesticides and agro-chemicals and the effect of hydropower on water resources. Belgium noted that strong conflicts are to be expected between expanded, irrigated agriculture use and principles of conservation.
The EU and UNICEF noted that lack of freshwater resources leads to disease, which kills 6,000 children per day. UNICEF also stressed the need for greater emphasis on sanitation and hygiene education.
The EU, Australia, and Tunisia advocated comprehensive, integrated management of freshwater resources. Pakistan and Bangladesh stressed the need for regional and sub-regional approaches to freshwater management. Australia said that water is not only the responsibility of central or local governments but the shared responsibility of all stakeholders.
Germany, the Nordics and Pakistan called for greater capacity building efforts. Egypt called for a concrete, practical and implementable programme. Tunisia called for better demand management, standardization, appraisal of water resources, and awareness of resource scarcity.
The Nordic countries called for a global water assessment. Pakistan suggested creation of a fund to identify, develop and share technology. The World Food Programme noted its role in relief and food aid and urged delegates to stress the need for prompt responses to disasters.
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