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[4th World Water Forum]

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4th World Water Forum

Mexico City | March 16-22, 2006

Focus on Africa at Fourth World Water Forum

On Sunday, 4th World Water Forum participants addressed the Forum framework theme of "Water Supply and Sanitation for All," convening in plenary and thematic sessions. Africa took centre stage on this fourth day of the Forum, as the continent's water challenges were addressed in the regional presentation and various thematic sessions, and its vibrant culture presented in traditional performances held throughout the venue.

Above: African children delivered a message to participants during the morning's regional presentation.

Sunday, 19 March
Regional Presentation

Maria Mutagamba, Uganda's Minister of State for Water and President of the African Ministerial Conference on Water (AMCOW), stated that the objectives of the presentation are to review recent progress in water management, focus global attention on Africa and mobilize global support. She emphasized that while Africa appreciates aid, trade has more potential to reduce poverty.

Loïc Fouchon, President of the World Water Council (WWC), acknowledged the positive work conducted by African organizations including AMCOW and the African Water Facility, highlighted the importance of technology, and called for the creation of an emergency task force to ensure appropriate aid delivery.

Kordjé Bedourma, Director of the African Water Facility, presented the Africa regional report, noting that 300 million Africans currently lack access to basic water and sanitation. He said the report's key message is that Africa must build water infrastructure, including large dams, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), sustainable development and growth.

José Dioné, UN Economic Commission for Africa, presented an advance copy of the Africa regional report to Mutagamba, highlighting that the processes that countries underwent in contributing to the report should be mainstreamed into national policy-making procedures.

Outman Djame, Minister of Water and Fisheries of Chad, read out the African Ministerial Declaration to the 4th Forum, which calls, inter alia, for improving: development of water resources through infrastructure, environmental protection, transboundary water management, integrated water resources management (IWRM), and early warning systems for natural disasters.

Michel Jarraud, World Meteorological Organization, discussed climate change and risk management challenges in Africa. He described the extreme impacts of droughts and floods in Africa and their links to climate change, and stressed the need to recognize, forecast and plan for these extremes and to monitor and gather accurate information to effectively assess, manage and mitigate risk.
Keynote Address
Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director, UN-HABITAT, described a vision of the world where all people can access safe water and basic sanitation. Noting the 3rd World Water Forum's call for commitments and partnerships, Tibaijuka highlighted that cooperation between UN-HABITAT and the Asian Development Bank since the 3rd Forum has brought US$300 million in investments in water and sanitation for the poor in Asia. She expressed her support for the 4th Forum's focus on local actions, saying that water and sanitation conflicts have to be resolved at the local level.

Tibaijuka lamented that Africa is not on track to meet the MDGs and, noting that donor funding for water and sanitation is declining, called for implementation of policies to assist developing countries. She addressed the need for "quick impact" initiatives, such as the Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation Initiative, and highlighted the challenge of developing monitoring mechanisms that reflect the voices of poor communities.
Water Rights

Emilio Alvarez Icaza Longoria chaired a session exploring the theme using rural and urban case studies to establish a framework for discussion.

Lorena Viniegra Veláquez, Ra'yo deje A.C. ("New Water"), presented on Ra'yo deje A.C.'s programme of extra-curricular educational and awareness-raising activities, which help children in rural communities to explore the right to life.

Alejandra Serrano Pavón, Mexican Center for Environmental Rights, stressed the need to recognize the human right to water not only in laws but also in actions.

Maude Barlow, The Council of Canadians, chaired a session on civil society perspectives on securing the right to water, from the local to the global. She called for a binding UN treaty guaranteeing every citizen on earth the right to water.

María Cruz de Paz, Mazahua, highlighted the Mexican indigenous Mazahua movement, which campaigns for an integrated sustainable water plan in Mexico.

Richard Bricks Mokolo, Orange Farm Water Crisis Committee, narrated a South African town's struggle against the privatization of water through prepaid water meters.

Henri Smets, French Water Academy, highlighted the UN General Assembly Resolution in which States recognized the rights to food and clean water.

Houria Tazi Sadeq, Maghreb-Mashreq Alliance for Water (ALMAE), noted that the right to water is: widely recognized in international law; makes the executive branch accountable at local, national and international levels; and could help with conflict resolution and human migration.

Adriana Blanco, Uruguay's Ministry of Environment, said her country provides basic water services to those who need them, which was achieved through strong commitment of the State and contributions of society at large.
Public Policies for Water and Sanitation Services

Chair Jesús Campos López, CONAGUA, opened the session.

Blanca Alicia Mendoza Vera, CONAGUA, elaborated on the devolution of rights and responsibilities to Mexican water and sanitation operators through a financing scheme based on federal loans.

Jorge Garcés, North American Development Bank (NADBANK), outlined NADBANK's investments in an initiative aimed at promoting development along the US-Mexican border.
Delivering on the MDGs in Three Years: A Model-Setting Regional Initiative

Participants in the session heard discussions of the Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation Initiative, a partnership formed in 2004 among the governments of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and UN-HABITAT to deliver water and sanitation services to secondary urban centers around Lake Victoria.
The Public-Private Controversy in Water and Sanitation: Lessons in the Light of the MDGs' Requirements

María Luisa Torregrosa, Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), pointed to structural socio-economic and demographic problems as underlying challenges to provide access to water. She said disparities in urban infrastructure made it difficult to redirect the necessary investment for building basic infrastructure, and that falling incomes and a decrease in living standards since the 1980s and 1990s, has resulted in the poor having little or no capacity to cover basic services.

Calling water an "uncooperative commodity," Erik Swyngedouw, University of Oxford, noted that private sector participation in the water sector is not new, and stated that policy makers have not learned the lessons from the past. Urging thinking "outside the water box," he said the "radical political nature of water" and the limits of market mechanisms must be recognized.

Carlos Crespo Flores, University of San Simón, discussed Bolivian water disputes arising from the privatization of water services in that country, describing the social and political conditions and water policy history in Bolivia. He noted problems regarding lack of transparency in decision making and operations, unfair bidding practices, a lack of interest in expanding services to the poor, and inequitable, profit-oriented policies.
Safe Drinking Water for All

Ricardo Torres, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), provided a conceptual overview of Water Safety Plans (WSPs), noting their benefits, including: access to safe drinking water, low cost, and development of self-esteem and teamwork. He also addressed constraints to WSPs, including a lack of trained personnel and water management agencies' reservations in making new assessments.

Dennis Martenson, American Society of Civil Engineers, said engineers can provide technical support in IWRM, stream flow measurement, development and management, hydraulic modeling and environmental protection and restoration, and said the engineering community can help develop sound water management.

Richard Davis, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), discussed the implementation of WSPs, noting the partnership among PAHO, CDC and the US Environmental Protection Agency. He described the WSP Demonstration Project in Spanish Town, Jamaica, which aims to demonstrate how WSPs can be applied to all types of communities.
Public State Policy Impact on Drinking Water Service Delivery Supply and Sanitation for Urban Use

Andrés Ruiz Morcillo, Director General, Commission for Drinking Water and Sewage of Quintana Roo, elaborated on public water policies in Mexico. He said that while legislative frameworks are in place, legal provisions need to be standardized and better aligned with sustainable development objectives.

Enrique Dau Flores, Director General, Water State Commission of Jalisco, said the Mexican central government authority over water issues should be transferred to state entities, which are closer to the local population and more efficient at solving water problems.

Ricardo Sandoval Minero, Water State Commission of Guanajuato, urged better analysis of water management systems in Mexico. He said water availability should not be used beyond its renewable potential.
Service Delivery and Local Empowerment: Turnaround of Public Utilities

William Tsimwa Muhairwe, Uganda's National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), presented on the history of the NWSC, highlighting the importance of a committed Board of Directors with clear objectives, government and donor commitment, and autonomy through decentralization.

Marlon Lara, Minister for the Social Investment Fund, Honduras, spoke about his experience, as former Mayor of the City of Puerto Cortés, conceding water services and creating a mixed-capital company as part of municipal reform. He underscored the importance of public participation and awareness raising in decentralization.

Osward Chanda, Zambia's National Water Supply and Sanitation Council, spoke about regulating commercial utilities and addressing poor people's needs. He highlighted the difference between regulating water resources and water supply and sanitation, and emphasized the importance of: transparency to regulate system providers; making performance figures public; autonomy; and lean business structures.
Desalination of Seawater in the Middle East

Fehied Al-Shareef, Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), described the growing global demand for freshwater and need to rely on desalination services to meet these demands. He outlined SWCC's work in expanding desalination activities and the potential for future growth, noting that development of this technology must be cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Sergio Alcocer, UNAM, presented a research project on sea- and brackish water desalination through renewable energy. He highlighted several initiatives in Mexico, including harnessing the energy of hot seawater vents on the coast of Baja California, solar radiation in the north, and tidal currents in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Noting that there are currently 17,000 desalination units around the world, Leon Awerbuch, Chairman of the International Desalination Association, observed that desalination is no longer a research idea, but a rapidly growing global market.

More Information

4th World Water Forum Site
Conference Program
World Water Council

Related Links

3rd World Water Forum,
Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka, Japan, March 2003
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
Ramsar COP-9,
Kampala, Uganda, November 2005
3rd Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts and Islands,
Paris, France, January 2006