Water, Sanitation and Human Settlements
The round-table discussions were moderated by Ms. Magaret Catley-Carlson, Chair of the Global Water Partnership, Canada. The panellists were Ms. Ana Teresa Aranda Orozco, Minister of Social Development, Mexico; Ms. Kumari Selja, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation, India; Mr. André Juneau, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Canada; Ms. Anne M. Stenhammer, State Secretary, Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Dr. Arcot Ramachandran, Chairman, Tata Energy Research Institute, New Delhi, Visiting Professor, Indian National Institute of Advanced Studies and first Executive Director, United Nations Centre for Human Settlements; Mr. Arjun Thapan, Deputy Director‑General, Mekong Department, Asian Development Bank; Mr. Ronald Carlson, Urban Programmes Team Leader, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United States of America; Professor Albert Wright, United Nations Millennium Task Force on Water and Sanitation; Ms. Prabha Khosla, Advisor, Gender and Water Alliance, Canada; and Mr. Malick Gaye, ENDa Tiers Monde, Senegal.
The major issues and concerns were that at the turn of the millennium, 47 per cent of the world’s population of 6 billion was living in urban areas. Over 900 million people lived in slums. With the proportion of the population living in cities projected to increase to two thirds by 2030, there was a need to develop a new perspective for water, sanitation and human settlements. In a world where 1.1 billion people lacked access to safe water and 2.4 billion lacked access to basic sanitation, both water and sanitation remained at the centre of reducing poverty and other related Millennium Development Goals. There was a need to focus on slums and squatter settlements, which were an integral part of urban areas. Provision of water and sanitation was an essential prerequisite for sustainable human settlements. The Millennium Development Goals’ target on water and sanitation was therefore important, both as a strategic entry point to slum upgrading and also for achieving other Millennium Development Goals.
The session discussed new approaches to develop pro-poor governance frameworks and new strategic partnerships and to introduce new delivery mechanisms which would not only give the poor a central place in the decision-making process but also facilitate pro-poor investment in the water and sanitation sector. It also highlighted the need for sectoral reforms, the development of new and participatory monitoring mechanisms with the involvement of the poor, especially women, to enhance efficiency, accountability and transparency in public spending.
The discussion sought to bring governments at the national, regional and local levels together as important partners responsible for budgetary support, governance and regulatory policies to meet the challenge of providing water and sanitation for human settlements. The private sector in a globalizing world had a major role to play in mobilizing resources and improving delivery. International lending agencies such as the World Bank and regional development banks, and also non-governmental organizations involving communities at all levels, used the Third Session of the World Urban Forum to build a new consensus on water and sanitation for sustainable human settlements.
Ms. Selja described two initiatives designed to promote inclusive approaches to the provision of water and sanitation for the poor: the national urban renewal programme, which focused on reconstruction of cities and establishing good governance structures; and the initiative on basic services encompassing integrated approaches to infrastructure development. The programmes were currently being implemented in 60 cities in India, of which four were megacities. The programme practiced inclusive and participatory approaches. Minister Selja spoke in favour of gendered budgeting for water and sanitation to ensure that the special needs of women and children were catered for.
Ms. Orozco said that national governments should delegate the responsibility for action to local authorities and should encourage flexibility in how they used funding. Success depended on effective local policy developed with community involvement. By standardizing service provision, greater economies of scale could be achieved. Local authorities should provide serviced land to poor communities.
Ms. Stenhammer raised the issue of the roles and responsibilities of women and men in slum upgrading. Although women were often involved in the planning process, they were usually excluded from implementation. She cited the example of a World Bank evaluation showing that projects involving women were six to seven times more effective in delivering services. She spoke in favour of gender action plans as a condition of loans from development banks and urged the Asian Development Bank to put those ideas into practice.
Ms. Khosla warned that households headed by women and elderly people were often neglected by policymakers and called for better funding allocation to meet their specific needs.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said that water and sanitation were today as high a priority as they had been at the first Habitat Conference in 1976. She explained how the UN-Habitat Water and Sanitation Trust Fund had effectively leveraged public, private and community resources to improve access to water and sanitation for the urban poor.
Mr. Thapan emphasized that the conditions of the Asian Development Bank stipulated the inclusion of women and pro-poor approaches in all projects. He cited the need to improve the financial capacity of local government to attract more investment and to set tariffs attractive to investors, and outlined two novel approaches where alternatives had improved service provision: the development of small-scale piped systems and zonal approaches.
Mr. Carlson, referring to the initiatives of the Cities Alliance, called for further leveraging of support and tools to promote sound business practice. He also highlighted the need to assess the creditworthiness of local authorities to enable lower-risk investment and effective sharing of risk between the private sector and local authorities.
Mr. Juneau stressed the importance of conditions for investment in water demand management, and tariffs in sector investments. Public-private partnerships were not popular in Canada, however, and that needed to be changed.
Professor Wright and Mr. Gaye discussed neighbourhood-centred approaches to water and sanitation provision. Mr. Gaye said that attaining the Millennium Development Goals would be driven by improved governance structures. Best practices from India, Thailand, Pakistan and Brazil could be replicated elsewhere. Such replication could best be achieved through documentation, dissemination and technical training.
Dr. Ramachandran said that there were innovative models and multiple routes to attain the water and sanitation goals, particularly in smaller urban centres. There was a need to promote good planning practices in smaller centres, before they suffered uncontrolled expansion. He stressed the need for national government policies promoting women in decision-making. He also stressed that rural areas should not be neglected, because they too needed access to basic services to attract investments.
The session concluded that the promotion of neighbourhood approaches to the provision of water and sanitation should be considered a novel way to improve access for the urban poor. In addition, funding from donors and governments should be conditional on the participation of women.
Although local action plans emphasized water and sanitation as a priority, national policies did not always support them. Increasing the scale would require novel financing mechanisms and leveraging to ensure the promotion of good practices. Although there were many examples of successful community-based approaches, capacity needed to be built among local authorities to fulfil their commitments.
Although privatization of services carried the benefits of improved technical capabilities and investment opportunities, it was also considered appropriate to empower public utilities to perform better, particularly in approaches to serving the poor. Novel approaches in which risks were shared between local authorities and external investors would also go a long way to promoting increased domestic and foreign investment.
There was a need to identify the special needs of HIV/AIDS sufferers and develop specific capacity-building interventions to improve provision of water and sanitation, which greatly increased their life expectancy. In addition, the role of youth in the vision of basic services should be promoted. Youth involvement in related areas such as solid waste management increased the potential for income generation and livelihood development.