High-level Meeting offers hope on sanitation and water

At the first ever High-Level Meeting on Sanitation and Water held on Friday in Washington DC, Ministers and policy makers from 30 countries agreed a joint statement that included commitments to:

  • Work through the new Sanitation and Water for All partnership to increase political prioritisation, resource mobilisation and aid effectiveness.
  • Work together to improve targeting of resources to ensure more gets to low-income countries and the poorest communities.
  • Set up a new funding mechanism to better support the poorest countries with the weakest capacities to develop national plans.

In addition, some countries made additional individual pledges. Bangladesh committed to spending an extra $200m over the next 5 years, Senegal an extra $24m per year. Many others, including Ghana, Liberia and Ethiopia, committed to raising domestic budgets to meet regional commitments – for example African countries are jointly committed to spend 0.5% of GNI on sanitation by the eThekwini Declaration, which was signed in 2008.

Yakub Hossain, Convener of Freshwater Action Network Bangladesh said:

“We needed countries to get together and raise the bar of ambition, so this is an important first step in providing services that have the potential to prevent 2.2 million child deaths every year.”

Yet in contrast to the commitments made by a number of developing countries, there were few specific targets from donors to increase resources to the poorest countries, despite a strong appeal from African and Asian Water ministers.

Edward Kairu, Chairman of the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW) added: “People cannot drink promises, so the real test is whether today’s announcements will be translated into action on the ground. We need to put the meat on the bones of this agreement with clear plans and new money. Only then we will really begin to see progress in the form of fewer children dying, more girls in school, and communities able to work themselves out of poverty.”

Last week we blogged about a new UN Report which showed that only 42% of aid for water and sanitation was going to low-income countries, and that the share of aid to this issue had been in decline, despite it killing more children than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

With announcements on child and maternal health due at this June’s G8, and a major UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals in September, WaterAid’s Head of Policy, Henry Northover, said it was time to make access on sanitation and water a global priority: “The launch of the Sanitation and Water for All initiative is a chance to move away from worthy expressions of concern to action.  We need to see this renewed commitment flow through to services for the poorest of the poor.”

Take a look at our November 2009 action on the G8 and sanitation and send a card to Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada if you would like to take action on this issue.

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