United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

European Union

Check against delivery
Delegation of the European Commission
to the United Nations
Statement by
Mr. Stavros DIMAS
Commissioner for Environment
European Commission
Commision on Sustainable Development, 13th Session
"Turning Political Commitment into Action"
New York, Thursday, 21April 2005
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Mr Chairman, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the first policy session after Johannesburg, CSD13 sets a model for our future efforts to
achieve sustainable development globally.
Furthermore, dealing with crucial and imperative issues like water, sanitation and human
settlements, CSD13 enables us to make a strong, undeniable point on the importance of
sustainable development to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, to end the poverty
This is the message that needs to be submitted to the Millennium Review Summit in September,
so that our Heads of State and Government can take the decision to develop a UN system that
better governs environment and that is better equipped to answer, at all levels, with everybody's
contribution, to the challenge of sustainable development.
But this message needs to be concrete, needs to be complemented and supported by actions.
This CSD has proved that the international community is indeed ready to take the necessary
steps to move from commitments to actions - and this is essential for our credibility and for our
real success ! It is very positive that we have been able to agree on several important policy
recommendations and concrete measures that can bring us closer to achieving the goals of
halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015.
With the outcome of CSD13, we hope to have a clear blueprint that guides our work in the next
years. It is now up to all actors - governments, regional and local authorities, international
institutions, NGOs, private sector, UN organisations and international financial organisations -
to make sure that these recommendations become part of their everyday activities.
How the EU is delivering
What is the EU doing to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals ?
First of all, let me confirm once more that the EU is taking its global commitments very
We have taken a series of concrete actions to put into practice the Johannesburg Plan of
Implementation. I will address mainly water, sanitation and human settlements, as this is what
CSD 13 is concentrating upon, but I will also be touching upon our broader sustainability
agenda, as I believe the title of this session encourages.
My main message to you is: the EU is delivering, both internally and externally.
Firstly, we are improving our governance systems so that we better incorporate WSSD goals and
targets into our own policy making framework. This will be done in the context of the review of
the EU's Sustainable Development Strategy, which will take place in the autumn of 2005.
In addition, already by now, 22 of the 25 of the EU Member States have also put in place and are
implementing their own national sustainable development strategies.
One of the important steps we have taken to improve the coherence between our internal
policies and our international commitments is the reform of the EU's Agricultural and
Fisheries Policies. It indeed represents a great change for the EU to shift towards more
sustainable models, moving away from trade-distorting production-based subsidies. Efforts will
need to be intensified, much still needs to be done, but we are on the right track, and we are
proud of the steps we have already taken.
We are also committed to tackle the pressures on the environment caused by unsustainable
patterns of consumption and production. Several policies and tools to this end already exist in
the EU, including, for example, the Integrated Product Policy and the Environmental
Technologies Action Plan.
More is in the pipeline. This summer, in fact, we will be presenting a new strategy to promote
the sustainable use of resources : the aim is to examine the whole lifecycle of natural resources
and to identify those usages of resources where there is the greatest potential for environmental
We are however aware that we need to tackle better key sectors such as agriculture, energy or
transport where increases in demand risk worsening environmental trends.
Last November, the Commission organised, together with UNEP and the Belgian Government, a
European meeting on sustainable consumption and production, which came up with very
interesting conclusions. We look forward to sharing our experience in this area in the future CSD
sessions as well in international expert meetings.
Another issue that I want to briefly mention here is the new EU chemicals regulatory system,
REACH, which we are developing and which - we hope - will be operational some time in
2006. REACH will make a decisive contribution towards meeting the WSSD goal to ensure the
"sound management of chemicals".
Mr Chair,
Let me now turn specifically to the issues of water, sanitation and human settlements, which
of course have been and are our focus here.
Internally, the EU Water Framework Directive is particularly innovative and ambitious,
promoting a holistic view of water management. It is based on principles such as stakeholder
participation and integrated river basin management. It is an example of best practice that is
applicable also in our neighbouring areas. It is worth mentioning that countries that are part of
the International Convention for the Protection of the Danube River are also already applying the
Water Framework Directive - a living example that it indeed gives a "best practice approach".
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The EU Water Initiative is designed to bring together the European Community and its
Member States, civil society and financial institutions with the governments and stakeholders of
partner countries to achieve the water and sanitation MDGs and to develop an integrated
approach to river basin management.
The initiative has five key objectives: reinforcing political commitment, promoting better
governance, improving coordination, encouraging regional cooperation, and catalyzing
additional funding.
The horizon of the EUWI is 2015. While a great deal of attention was paid over the first two
years to setting in place the mechanisms that will ensure swift delivery, some important early
results have also already been achieved. The most significant successes of the EUWI to date are:
1) the development of a new approach to addressing the water and sanitation challenge by
pooling EU resources to increase efficiency;
2) the adoption of some essential steps to mobilise a critical mass of funding for water;
3) the idea of convincing partners that the water supply and sanitation objectives can only be
met within the overall context of an integrated approach to water management at the
basin level.
The EUWI has become emblematic of the EU's drive to pool resources to increase the efficiency
of EU external action.
Through the EUWI, the EU has also been able to mobilise a critical mass of funding capable of
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Moreover, in order to focus on the specific needs of Africa, the European Commission, with
support of the Member States, has decided to give a £20 million contribution from the ACP-EU
Water Facility to the African Water Facility, targeted specifically at the African water and sanitation sector, and a ?18 million contribution to the Nile Basin Initiative.
As the EU is also keen to share with partners its extensive experience from the implementation
of the Water Framework Directive, a joint process between the EU Water Initiative and the
Water Framework Directive was successfully started in 2004. Thus, the innovative concepts of
the Water Framework Directive, which is widely recognised as a breakthrough in water policy,
can be adapted to the context of the EU Water Initiative.
We'll have the opportunity to discuss the EU Water Initiative further at a side event on the EU
water initiative tomorrow evening - I would like to invite you all to this event.
On human settlements, the EU is active at home and abroad. Internally, we are finalising a
strategy on the urban environment to be launched this summer. It aims to improve the quality of
the environment in cities and to reduce their adverse environmental impact.
Internationally, we are working together with UN Habitat. One particular area of focus is to help
Sub-Saharan countries to upscale urban issues in the global development agenda. We are
supporting local authorities and other relevant urban actors.
Some words also on how the EU is delivering its commitments on financing. Collectively, being
the world's largest donor, the EU provides 50% of global Official Development Assistance
(ODA). Nonetheless, our levels of ODA are increasing. The European Commission is closely
monitoring the progress of Member States towards the Monterrey commitments and our latest
report shows that we are on track, as the EU average ODA ratio compared to gross national
income remains above the effort of most OECD countries.
But we are also trying to do more. We are in particular trying to spend aid better. This is done
in a variety of ways including by putting high on our agenda the improved coordination of
development cooperation policies, by untying of aid, by participating in the Heavily Indebted
Poor Country Initiative aimed at debt reduction, increasing trade-related assistance as well as
working further on innovative sources of financing and the reform of international financial
Mr Chair,
In Europe, there are some that voice concerns that sustainable development might be detrimental
to competitiveness and growth. Understandably, this concern might be even stronger in
developing countries, where poverty eradication is an overriding priority. But competitiveness
and growth are based on the sustainable use of natural resources. That is why we need an
integrated approach to policy making, and mainstreaming of sustainability in all policy areas.
We must make sure we include sustainability requirements in national sustainable development
strategies and, in developing countries, in poverty reduction strategies. The response lies
therefore in the right policy mix, addressing in a mutually supportive way social, economic and
environmental objectives, as well as balancing short term and long term requirements.
So, much is being done. But obviously, more is needed. The challenges ahead of us are immense
and the obstacles are legion, but I believe that this CSD session has proved that by concerted
action of all key actors the goals can be reached.
Many thanks.