The Bonn Conference on Freshwater was another conference in a long succession of events related to water which started last year in The Hague with the 2nd World Water Conference and will be followed in 2002 by the Earth Summit in Johannesburg (Rio + 10) and in 2003 by the 3rd World Water Conference in Kyoto. The Bonn conference was billed as Dublin + 10 and was a preparatory conference for the 2002 Earth Summit.
Dublin produced the "Dublin Principles" which have had a marked impact on the water supply sector for the past ten years (see Water for Basic Needs Commissioned by the World Health Organisation as input to 1st World Water Development Report). The question is whether Bonn will have as much impact. In many ways it was not billed to achieve the same sort of result. I am not sure if anything new came out of the conference - perhaps all there is to be said has been said and now more needs to be done. It was an interesting event and, as usual, some of the most important work was no doubt done in the corridors.
Some important issues were:
The identification of poverty as the underlying problem to water sector, human settlement and development problems which will inevitably ultimately frustrate all single-sector attempts to solve the problems. One would think that this is self-evident but it is clearly not.
The identification of the importance of addressing transboundary water issues (or is that 'international water' issues - a debate which took up a great deal of plenary time and which remained unresolved!). This is regarded as increasingly important, fundamentally political in nature and requiring investment in lengthy and delicate process.
The push to put sanitation and hygiene on the agenda - it is estimated that 6000 people (mainly children) die daily of preventable diseases related to poor sanitation and hygiene. The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council championed the cause together with a number of governments through the launching of the WASH campaign.
There seems to be less dogma and more realism regarding the role of the private sector in the provision of services, especially to the poor, although the discussions continue to be clouded by misunderstandings, often related to terminology. Does 'privatisation' mean the private sector providing services or the sale to the private sector of public infrastructure assets? Lets get it clear.
Launch of WASH
Sanitation Moves to the Forefront of the Political Agenda,
Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
Drawn from WSSCC press releases:-
The silent emergency. If 6,000 people were killed every day by faulty medical equipment, or a tainted food product, the civilised world would surely mobilize the resources required to remove people from danger and quickly attack the cause of the problem. And yet the world stands by as 6,000 die every day of preventable diseases whose causes are well known and easily remedied. These killers – waterborne diseases such as diarrhea– constitute a worldwide “silent emergency.”
WASH aims to raise consciousness about sanitation and hygiene, gain the commitment of political, social and opinion leaders around the world, and bring about structural and behavioural changes that will provide a permanent solution to this preventable international crisis.
Here, according to WSSCC, are the initial steps:
Affirm the basic right of everyone to have access to affordable hygiene, sanitation and water services.
Each country should set goals for achieving full coverage by 2025, along with realistic intermediate targets, building on the UN Millennium goals for halving the proportion of people without access to water and sanitation by no later than 2015.
Conduct public information campaigns on water and sanitation issues and advocacy campaigns that focus on demand-driven, social-marketing approaches.
Employ participatory, gender-sensitive approaches to develop sector policies.
Link the right to affordable services with a responsibility to conserve and protect resources.
Review policies for privatisation of urban water and sewerage services, to ensure that they favour rather than marginalize the poor.
Establish monitoring and reporting systems that indicate progress towards the goals, with specific data to identify trends on services to the unserved poor in the developing world.