On the second day of the conference, UN-HABITAT convened a special seminar with a panel of donors, representatives of major organizations and other experts to provide a special insight to conference delegates on the Global Water Operators Partnerships Alliance which the agency promotes around the world.
The meeting, chaired by Mr. Bert Diphoorn, Acting Director of UN-HABITAT´s Human Settlements Financing Division, heard outlines from each region of the world on concrete actions taken so far to strengthen partnerships aimed at strengthening and delivering water and sanitation to the poor.
Mr. Carlos Rosito, President-elect, Inter-American Association of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering, addressed Latin America and the Caribbean; Mr. Bassam Jaber, Coordinator of the Foundation Committee of the Arab Countries Water Utilities Association; Mr. Suleiman Chandio, Chair of the South Asian Water Utility Network, and Mr Pireh Otieno of UN-HABITAT who outlined the partnerships programme in the Lake Victoria region of East Africa.
In brief opening remarks, Mr. Antonio Miranda, head of the partnerships working group of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on water and sanitation, said the idea behind the partnership programme was to ensure that the Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation are achieved.
The audience of experts was only too aware of the staggering world water statistics in this International Year of Sanitation:
- According to UN statistics, 20 percent of the world's population in 30 countries face water shortages. This number is expected to rise to 30 percent in 50 countries by the year 2025.
- The average citizen of Europe uses 200 litres of water a day, the average North American double that, while a poor person in the developing world uses just 10 litres for all their drinking washing and cooking needs according to figures by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.
- Unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and hygiene are the 88 percent of all diseases, costing developing countries five billion working days a year, report the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and Water Partners International.
A panel of experts who led the discussion after the presentations agreed that the task to redress this was urgent and would require seed funding in some of poorer countries. At the same time they said that while specialists could help huge leakages cited in some regions, more would have to be done to prevent corruption disrupting the clean water flow.
The discussion was moderated by Mr. Faraj El-Awar, Programme Manager of the Global Water Operators Partnerships Alliance. The speakers were: Mr. Dick van Ginhoven, Senior Water and Sanitation Advisor, Department of the Environment and Water, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands, Mr. Steen Bjeggaard, the Water Operators Partnerships Coordinator, International Water Association; Mr. Andreas Kuck of the German development agency GTZ; Ms. Corinne Cathold of the Inter American Development Bank; Mr. Jim Frankiewicz of USAID; and Mr. Paul Taylor of UNDP's capacity building network, CAP-NET.