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global action > overview > world summit: a progress report

World Summit: A progress report

Posted: 21 Jun 2004

The World Summit on Sustainable Development, was held in Johannesburg in 2002. Its progress was assessed by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in April 2004. The United Nations then admitted, in typical understatement, that the results so far are "mixed".

The aim of the Commission's April meeting, in New York, was to review what action had been taken to reach the targets agreed at the Summit. These targets include and expand upon the UN Millennium Development Goals agreed in the year 2000.

The Commission focused on three of the world's most pressing problems: water, sanitation and human settlements. The goals in these areas include halving by 2015 the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

Progress report

Reports issued by the UN Secretary-General in preparation for the meeting said that, in the short time since the World Summit, there have been mixed results in terms of progress towards sustainable development. "Some regions are making good progress and are on track to reach the targets while others are falling far behind," said Mr. Jos´┐Ż Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, whose office prepared the reports.

Findings included the following:

Improving access to safe water and sanitation

  • During the 1990s, improved drinking water supply and sanitation reached an additional one billion people in developing countries, roughly one-sixth of the world's population.

  • Major deficits remain in rural areas, where three out of five people still lack access to improved sanitation and 30 per cent lack access to an improved drinking water source.

  • Deaths from diarrhoeal diseases have declined by 60 per cent over the past 20 years; still, they remain a leading killer in developing countries, claiming 1.8 million lives, mostly children, in 2002.

  • In Africa, guinea worm disease has been almost eradicated through improved water and hygiene initiatives, public awareness campaigns, and improved monitoring. Reported cases dropped from 3,500,000 in 1986 to 75,000 in 2000, a decline of 98 per cent.

  • To achieve the MDG targets by 2015, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimates that $30 billion could be needed annually in the next eleven years to provide safe drinking water and improved sanitation to an additional 1.6 billion people and 2 billion people, respectively.

Improving the lives of slum dwellers

  • Almost one-third of the world's urban population, or more than 900 million people, are estimated to live in slums. Without concerted action now, the number of slum dwellers could swell to 1.4 billion by 2020.

  • Even by meeting the target of significantly improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by that year, this will only affect less than 10 per cent of the projected slum population.

  • East Asia has been especially successful in reducing slums, thanks to high economic growth, poverty reduction policies, targeted slum upgrading, and shelter programmes.

  • North Africa and parts of Latin America have also undertaken major slum upgrading, with regularisation of land titles increasingly seen as essential to promote infrastructure investment and enabling slum dwellers' to obtain credit for home improvements.

  • Some countries in Central America have managed to expand the stock of low cost housing in step with demand, significantly slowing the expansion of slums.

Partnerships and capacity building

A key aim of the Commission session was to drive forward new partnerships between Governments, non-governmental organisations, UN agencies and the private sector. As part of the Johannesburg Summit process, more than 200 partnerships, with over $235 million in resources, were launched.

Small islands challenge

Part of the meeting was devoted to preparations for the United Nations International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, now to be held in Mauritius on 5th January 2005. This includes issues of climate change, tourism, natural disasters, wastes, marine resources, freshwater, land resources, energy, biodiversity and transport.

Other emerging issues that affect small islands which are to be examined in Mauritius include: trade, HIV/AIDS, information technology, new security concerns and island cultures.

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