Good water governance can help poor communities, panel tells Water Forum

Report
from UN Development Programme
Published on 19 Mar 2003
The current global water crisis is mainly a crisis of water governance, the Prince of Orange of the Netherlands, Willem Alexander, told a high-level panel organized by UNDP and other partners at the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, yesterday.
"On a global scale, there is enough water to provide water security to all, but only if we change the way we manage and develop it," he said.

Good water governance is an integral part of managing water resources to help gain access for the 1.2 billion people who lack safe drinking water and more than two billion without adequate sanitation. The issue has re-emerged on the global agenda at the forum, moving forward from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year.

The Prince of Orange is a patron of the Global Water Partnership, which together with UNDP and the International Council for Local Environment Initiatives has conducted dialogues on effective water governance all over the world.

"By bringing the results of these dialogues to the forum, we can foster new coalitions where all water users can get together, share experiences and information, reach out to communities and try to get action on the ground," he said.

"Governance and politics are about who gets what, by what means," said another panelist, Alvaro Umana, head of the UNDP Environment and Sustainable Development unit. Access to water is not a political priority "because the lack of safe water affects primarily the poor, and the poor have no voice or a soft voice. They may speak, but they are not heard," he said.

Mr. Umana said that the Millennium Development Goals, which include the target of halving the proportion of people lacking safe drinking water by 2015, demonstrate that there is political will to overcome poverty and achieve sustainable development. "These lofty objectives must be implemented through a bottom-up approach with community-based local solutions. Water governance is critical to allow local solutions to flourish," he said.

Ravi Narayanan, Director of WaterAid, said that the essential elements of good water governance include ethical leadership that focuses on the interests of poor communities and reliable information on technologies and financing options for the poor. It is also necessary to find ways to resolve conflicts from the local to the international level and to combat corruption through public disclosure, information and open audits, he said.

"At all levels, we need to rethink water use," said Mr. Narayanan. 'We must focus from national to the community level on who makes the decisions about how water is used, how water resources are protected, who has access to water, and under what conditions."

The week-long forum, which ends on 23 March, brings together 6,000 participants, including Heads of State, ministers and participants from civil society organizations, and will recommend solutions to key global water issues.

For further information please contact Cherie Hart (cherie.hart@undp.org), UNDP Regional Communications Officer, or Akiko Fujii (akiko.fujii@undp.og), UNDP Tokyo Office.