Water and sanitation - fifth update on DFID's water action plan
Mike Foster - Speech to the DFID Stakeholder Water Forum
30 APRIL 2009
Thanks Sarah, thanks Marcus, Sanjay, for your words, and thank you all for joining us at DFID for the Water Forum 2009. I am really delighted to be here with you today, and I'm looking forward to some lively - some open - discussion and, like yesterday morning, another grilling from the International Development Select Committee Chairman, by the sound of it.
I've been in this job seven months now, so I'm a relative newcomer, and when I'm at an event like this I am acutely conscious of the collective knowledge, expertise and years of experience that's in the room in front of me. I know many of you work day in day out on projects out to improve water and sanitation right around the world.
Now we all know that we are in the middle of a global economic crisis. But it's also easy at this time to forget that we also face another crisis, equally severe. And that's of dirty water and poor sanitation 4,000 people, mostly children, are dying each and every day - and most of them from diarrhoea, which is just so easily preventable.
So today I'd like to talk about how we can make sure that this second crisis isn't ignored.
And I'll start by asking, looking at what have we achieved so far, and then go on to address some of the challenges that are ahead of us.
First of all, as has been said already, we have made substantial progress: Since 1990 1.6 billion people have gained access to safe drinking water and 1.1 billion to improved sanitation. And the hard work of many of people like you in this room has been instrumental in enabling that to be achieved. So I'm pleased to launch today the 5th update of our Meeting our Promises booklet, and that highlights DFID's contribution over the last year. I hope that you will all (as Marcus said) take time to read the details of our work - through our country programmes, through our regional programmes and international policy.
Now DFID has met its target to double its funding on water and sanitation in Africa by 2007. Our challenge now is to achieve what our White Paper Three committed - and that was the doubling of this again by 2010. And we have further promised to maintain that level of funding over five years.
But of course, it is not just about money. What we achieve on the ground is far more important. So in the policy paper we launched last year, we committed to helping up to 25 million more people across Africa to gain access to water and basic sanitation in the next five years, and at least 30 million more people to get access to improved sanitation across South Asia by 2011.
And as Minister responsible for the sector I am following the progress very closely. Indeed I have instigated a strict routine of reporting every six months against these particular targets in Africa and Asia. And it is the numbers of people that get the benefit that I am frankly interested in. The first report I will be getting in October this year. And I can assure you that it does focus the attention of officials when they come into the Minister's room and there's a whiteboard in front of them with a graph and a series of 'To do' items on there.
I visited Bangladesh earlier this month, and I saw the challenges first-hand. I saw the concrete impact DFID's projects in the Chars Livelihoods Programme, for example, where we've helped over one million people living on low-lying islands in the Jamuna River. We've helped to raise their homes safely above the 1998 and 2007 flood levels. But I also saw how the simple thing of having a latrine for each family can have such a great impact on reducing the spread of disease.
At the other end of the spectrum in January I visited Yemen, where water is increasingly scarce. And through our £63 million funding to the Yemen Fund for Social Development, DFID is supporting projects which, one example, provide cisterns to actually harvest the rain water, so villagers can store 3 months worth of drinking water, plus of course water for their livestock. And as a nice by-product of that, women and girls now spend far less time collecting water, so they've got more time with their families and a better opportunity to go to school too.
In Nepal earlier this month, I announced an extra £4 million to help 285,000 people affected by drought and conflict in the remote Western Hills of Nepal. Part of this funding is to develop water supplies and irrigation schemes. And during my previous visit to Nepal in November last year I was able to see the impact of global warming on the Himalayan glaciers. I will talk more about our response to that later.
So what about the future and what are the challenges?
Firstly, it is recognised everywhere that there is much more still to do, and we cannot be complacent: 2.5 billion people in the world remain without decent sanitation, and around 900 million without water. On current trends, as Marcus said, in sub-saharan Africa the Millennium Development Goal target on water won't be met until 2035, and the sanitation target not met until 2108, a hundred years too late.
And whilst we're in the midst of the global recession and we know developing countries are suffering as their sources of finance start to dry up, we expect that by the end of next year we could see an additional 90 million extra people living in extreme poverty as a result of that global slowdown.
What was brought home starkly to me when I was with the char dwellers in Bangladesh was just the sheer scale of the threat posed to long-term development by climate change. And we know what Sir Nick Stern's report noted, that its effects primarily are transferred through water.
And it's because we've got a greater acceptance now that we do live in this interconnected and interdependent world - with issues such as climate change and financial crises which do not stop to recognise international border - that I want to look the challenges and our future response in that particular context.
The urgency of meeting the MDGs in both sanitation and water is going to remain with us. We will continue to keep up the pace in our particular programmes, increasing support as has been outlined earlier for sanitation, and also tackling the governance challenges which I know are particularly difficult for us.
But we cannot do it all alone. And much of our work must involve the galvanising of support of many other people.
In addition to the funding, there must be capacity and there must be political will as well. Now we're committed to supporting national planning for water and sanitation, with plans that are owned by governments, by users and by civil society. And there needs to be particular focus on the off-track countries, many of which are actually fragile states as well. And the global aid architecture needs to be coordinated and accountable at all levels.
And that is why we are joining hands with leading multilateral agencies and others such as the Dutch and with civil society in support of the Global Framework for Action. We have a consensus on what we want to achieve, and we are working with partners including the WHO, UNICEF, UN-Water, the World Bank, and End Water Poverty to define exactly what the Global Framework will look like. This is historic, and it's exciting. And we're committing our human resources not only here in London but actually by seconding one of our most senior water experts to the World Health Organisation, to work on the Global Annual Assessment Report, or GLAAS as it is now known.
Now most of the world's poorest countries have to cope with high rainfall variability and they do not have the infrastructure to store and distribute the water adequately. So irrigation is often under-developed, as a consequence agricultural productivity is low, vulnerability to drought is high, hydro-power potential is under-exploited, and water resources are polluted and they're poorly governed.
And in the near future we know that in large parts of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia they will start to suffer increasingly from water stress - from climate change, from larger and growing populations and from economic growth. This we know is likely to result in local conflicts, tensions across borders, and inefficient use of resources and consequently economic losses too.
By contrast, improved water resource management can enable developing countries to meet their basic needs, improve livelihood opportunities and maximise their economic growth. It will also enable countries to cope with the existing variability of rainfall, but also prepare for the uncertainty that we know will continue as a result of climate change, and importantly reduce the risk of further conflict.
DFID has a strong track record of support to strategic water resources initiatives, through activities at country, regional and at global levels. And we will continue to deepen our support for improved water resource management, and promote cooperation rather than conflict around water resources.
And at the global level, we will work with UN-Water to ensure a coordinated approach within the UN system and support the Global Water Partnership to provide global intellectual leadership. And we will continue to work as Sanjay said, with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature on addressing the international architecture for water resources management.
We are also going on with our work at country and at a regional level.
I've already mentioned that I've witnessed at first hand the speed of glacial melt in the Himalayas, where a quarter of the world's population - some one and half billion people - directly rely on water flowing from here. And half the world's population - three billion people - depend on the food and the power that it produces.
In response, we are working with the World Bank on the South Asia Water Initiative, which supports dialogue among the seven countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Pakistan, and Nepal on supporting water and its benefits, and improving the evidence for impacts of climate change and to developing joint programmes of research. I met with Claudia earlier this morning to see how things were progressing, and I know that she'll be giving an excellent presentation to you all later.
And we're supporting other transboundary water cooperation initiatives: as you probably know, DFID has provided £14 million to the Nile Basin Initiative - which has helped the 160 million people living within that basin. And also in southern Africa we are providing £5 million to support improved management of the five shared rivers to increase agricultural productivity.
And I'll mention briefly three other country examples:
In China DFID has provided £23.5 million, through five different water resources projects, to improve watershed and water resources management. The scope and variety is fascinating - from supporting democratic and inclusive water user associations that manage small-scale irrigation in 11 provinces, to helping the Government of China to implement the Water Law in two water scarce basins. This DFID support has helped over 2 million people, mainly in the poor western region of China.
Another country that we have assisted is India, where the livelihoods of the rural poor, particularly women, are becoming increasingly insecure because of unreliable access to water. DFID is investing £20 million a year in rural communities in rain dependent parts of India to help improve poor people's livelihoods through better management of their land and of water resources. The incomes of poorest - including the women - have increased by up to 80%; and that went alongside a reduction in food scarcity periods.
And in Darfur, DFID is providing £1 million to UNEP to build capacity and ownership in local government to implement water management plans. This will help reduce conflict and contribute to more secure access for some 7 million people, including who have been displaced and are currently living in camps.
There are other examples I know that you can read about in our Meeting our Promises booklet.
In conclusion, can I say to you all that water and sanitation and water resource management are at the heart of the challenges of the 21st century, and they have got to be at the heart of our response too.
Over the last few years, DFID has contributed to solid progress in the sector, and we've made some bold commitments to spend more, achieve more and make sure that others do more too. And I will do all I can in this job to make sure that we deliver on those commitments.
We will strengthen our efforts on water and sanitation, and increase our focus on water resource management.
And I look forward to continuing to work together with all of you. And thank you all in this room for the contribution that you have made over the previous years - but also the contribution I hope you will continue to make in the future, so that we have that shared agenda and deliver for the people who so desperately need what all of us in this room probably consider to be the basics of normal life. Thank you.