World Summit on Sustainable Development: briefing by Minister of Housing

NCOP Public Services

24 June 2002
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SELECT COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SERVICES

SELECT COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SERVICES; HOUSING PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE: JOINT MEETING
25 June 2002
WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: BRIEFING BY MINISTER OF HOUSING

Chairpersons:
Ms P Majodina (ANC) & Ms Z Kota (ANC)

Documents Handed Out:
World Summit on Sustainable Development: UPDATE

SUMMARY
The Minister of Housing briefed the Committees on various international events and issues that will culminate in the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable development on the 26 August-4 September 2002. The Minister highlighted issues of human settlement, water and sanitation, health as critical to sustainable development. The issue of good governance and lobbying by regional blocks will feature prominently at the Summit.

MINUTES
Minister of Housing: Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele, pointed out that the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development must build on the Rio Declaration and the Agenda 21 which was adopted at the same time. The Summit will review the Agenda 21 and will discuss issues of human settlement, health, sanitation and water. The NGO forum will deliberate on issues of local government and hopes to foster partnerships around the globe. The issue of sustainable cities in Africa will be discussed and issues of good governance will feature prominently. Issues of social development require political commitment from various countries. The Inter-Ministerial committee will consider political issues around development. But this Committee is also charged with the duty of completing the chairman's paper since no agreement was reached at the Bali conference.

Human Settlement
The issue of human settlement will feature prominently at the summit as it was not sufficient dealt with at Rio Summit. Though human settlements encompasses many developmental issues, delegates agreed that major focus must be given to water and sanitation. Therefore there is a need for holistic approach to development as water and sanitation are linked to health.

The Minister said that eradication of poverty and technology transfer remains a critical challenge if sustainable development is to be achieved. This view is held by all G77 countries, of which South Africa is a member. However, the JUSCANZ bloc (Japan, United States, Canada and New Zealand) continues to insist that the developing world must rather focus on issues of good governance. For instance, it has been argued that Zimbabwe must adopt a land reform programme consistent with international requirements. But such a requirement must not determine the domestic policy for Zimbabwe or any other country. The G77 countries are of the view that sustainable development is linked to the issue of land. Whereas the JUSCANZ block argues that land grabs needed to be dealt from the international law perspective. The Minister remarked that this results in conflict between national and international laws.

She also highlighted the issue of the Millennium Declaration of the UN, which requires the reduction, to acceptable levels, of slums and water shortages by the year 2015. It was reported that the EU supports the view that environmental degradation must be addressed through socio-economic platform. But this resulted in disagreement at the Bali conference and lack of progress on these issues. At the heart of the dispute is the question of whether environmental degradation is a national or international matter. The G77 countries would like to see the creation of a world fund for sustainable development. Whereas the JUSCANZ countries are reluctant to commit themselves on this issue. The Minister indicated that SA supports the idea of world poverty relief fund. There is a difference of opinion on this issue. The JUSCANZ bloc says that countries must commit on a voluntary basis whereas other countries are saying rich countries must commit a certain portion of their GDP to this fund.

Mr Scheemann (ANC) asked if there is any particular impact that the Housing Ministry intends to make at the Summit.

The Minister replied that they would hope to forge relations with other government and international agencies involved in housing. She mentioned the interest expressed by Habitat for Humanity to learn more about South Africa's housing programmes. The issue of human settlement has to be linked within NEPAD. Therefore, she argued, the Department of Housing has to make efforts to pilot Habitat programmes within NEPAD.

A Member asked if they anticipate any protests action during the Summit.

The Minister responded that certain NGOs involved in development work expressed their dissatisfaction at the lack of progress since the Rio Conference. It follows that protest action is expected within the parameter of our national laws.

Mr Skhosana (ANC) asked if there was any collective position adopted within SADC on sustainable development.

The Minister replied that indeed problems of development are similar in most SADC countries. Therefore the need to lobby within SADC may strengthen the position of the G77 countries.

A Member asked if there will be any economic benefit for the country from the Summit.

The Minister replied there will financial spin-off for both entrepreneurs as a well as tourism markets. However she also indicated that should the Summit approve the creation of a poverty relief fund, less developed countries may benefit from accessing credit from this fund.

Ms Semple (DP) asked if there would be concessions made prior to the Summit by participating countries.

The Minister replied that efforts are made to reach concessions with friendly countries on certain issues ahead of the Summit.

The Chairperson apologised for the limited time given to the Minister to outline the build up towards the Summit. She hoped that another meeting would be set up to deliberate on this topic.

The meeting was adjourned.

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