Wednesday’s Thematic Dialogue on Urban Services, was chaired by the H.E. Dr. John W. Ashe, chair of 13th session on the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and dealt with the myriad challenges facing water and sanitation access among the world’s poor. In the words of Dr. Ashe, the Dialogue and subsequent events would all make important contributions to the policy session of CSD next year.
“We are living in a world whose population has just passed 6 billion” said UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka. “Aid must be doubled if the Millennium Development Goals are to be reached.”
Ms. Buyelwa Sonjica, South African Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, outlined the needs of the poor with respect to privatization maintaining that transparency and public education were essential tools in educating the public on the outsourcing of services.
She said companies should be made to give back to communities. Countries, nevertheless had take a realistic view and allow the private sector to still make a profi t. Though commercial sector involvement was almost universally accepted as an inevitable tool for urban development, several presenters focused instead on the necessity of research and hard data.
Ms. Penelope Urquhart, Project Coordinator: Preparation Phase, Global Review of Private Sector Participation said that while the panelists seemed to agree on the need for private participation, “the jury is still out” in the world’s eyes on water procurement.
There remains a large gap between views of private involvement. Positive responses she cited towards commercialization included increased accessibility, cheaper prices, and overall positive impacts on health. Negative impressions took an opposing tack such as, limited accessibility, increased prices, and lower quality.
Among the panelists was a unanimous concern over corruption and its concurrent effect on privatization. Speakers, such as Mr. Loic Fauchon, President Director General, Eau de Marseille and Vice President of the World Water Council, and Ms. Sonjica encouraged better governance and response to the issues of corruption.
Financing was perceived as a critical issue in water development and access. “For a long time it was a free gift. Now we know it is not free” said Mrs. Maria Mutagamba, Minister State of Water, Uganda. She emphasized an unquestionable need for public/private partnerships, reiterating an overall fi nancial concern. “The limiting factor is fi nancing” she stated.