Magazine article UN Chronicle

'How Can You Produce So Much Material and Be Efficient?'. (towards a Global Partnership for Development)

Magazine article UN Chronicle

'How Can You Produce So Much Material and Be Efficient?'. (towards a Global Partnership for Development)

Article excerpt

Agnes van Ardenne-van der Hoeven had been Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands for only four weeks when she attended the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Seven Dutch Government departments--development cooperation, finance, trade, agriculture, labour, foreign affairs and environment--had been preparing for two years a joint position for the Summit, she emphasized, saying that "it was my responsibility to carry out the instruction and come back with results".

Horst Rutsch of the Chronicle spoke with Mrs. van Ardenne on 16 September 2002 in New York.

On the millennium development goals

Water is life; sanitation is dignity. Sanitation was not part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). After tough negotiations, the Johannesburg Summit agreed to accept 2015 as the target year to provide access to sanitation for half of the population lacking it today--some 2.4 billion people. And 1.2 billion don't have access to water; we will also halve that amount. On biodiversity, we added something to these goals. We had hoped to achieve more on durable energy. But now, I think, we must stop adding goals; we have to work these out--that is what the plan of implementation is all about. We don't need new talks or new conferences on that scale. Instead, we should now focus on implementation--that's more important.

On the Johannesburg Summit

The outcome of the Johannesburg Summit is significant, above all, because of what is new. For the first time, we have combined poverty reduction with trade and sustainability and environment protection in one holistic approach--that's very important. We also found out that besides the involvement of Governments, you need the private sector and civil society. You need partners in sustainable development: multilateral organizations, the private sector, civil society, as well as Governments. That too is what is new about Johannesburg--the search for new partners in sustainable development: from the private sector, the non-governmental side and the UN system. These kinds of partnerships complement bilateral development cooperation. In partnerships, you try to find more capacity, more managerial expertise, more institution-building--that's important whenever you want to improve water, energy, health, education or biodiversity. You need the capacity and the people to make it sustainable.

On the centrality of water issues

Water was one of our priorities for the Summit, as was energy. We have the Prince of Orange very much involved with water issues. He is our water Ambassador. He travels worldwide to put that issue on the political agenda, and he was successful because in Johannesburg it was the most visible issue: water and agriculture; water and biodiversity; water and health; water and education. We are water experts in the Netherlands. We have lived below sea level for centuries and have learned to survive, and we can teach other countries to survive by managing water. We have water boards in order to be transparent, in order to be democratic. And in Egypt that idea has been taken over already--water boards managing local water resources, managing their own quality of water and the level of water in order to irrigate the country.

On the role of local governance

Act global, think local. This is the case more than ever. Since the decentralization of development has started, not only in the western world but also in Africa, you see that mayors, for instance, have to tackle challenges in water, energy, health and education. But they don't have the capacity or the funds. And what happens then, as a mayor explained in Johannesburg, is that the private water industry sells all the water supply and then there is no contract at all to supply water and assure quality and prices. So the poor suffer even more. That's why partnerships on the local level are much more important than on the governmental side. …

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