In 2000, world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit committed themselves to attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Goal 7, target 10 addresses the aim to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) added another target: to halve by 2015, the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation.
It was with these goals and targets in mind that on the occasion of World Habitat Day 2002, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT launched the Water and Sanitation Trust Fund. The Fund’s goal is to contribute to the achievement of the internationally agreed goals related to water and sanitation in human settlements with particular focus on the urban poor in order to facilitate an equitable social, economic and environmental development. The Fund’s objective is to support developing countries to achieve sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation for the poor, particularly in urban areas.
The Fund was started with one million US dollars advanced from the Housing and Human Settlements Foundation. UN-HABITAT signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Canada committing US$11.3million to the Trust Fund. The donor community has responded impressively with generous contributions. Other countries donating funds have included the Governments of Sweden US$3.3million, the Government of Norway US$10million, The Netherlands, US$22.9 million, with US$14.9million going towards the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Initiative.
UN-HABITAT is collaborating with the African Development Bank to facilitate safe water supplies and sanitation in African cities and small urban centers. In March 2006, UN-HABITAT and the African Development Bank (ADB) signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding to improve urban water and sanitation in African cities in coming years with Bank funding worth 500 million US dollars. The agreement will see the two organisations prepare investment proposals for water and sanitation schemes as well as pro-poor Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and coordinating aid and advice to recipient countries on common areas of activities. In Asia, partnership with the Asian Development Bank (AsDB) has facilitated additional pro-poor investment in water and sanitation amounting to US $125 million in the region (US $100 million in Nanjing, China and US $25 million in Lao DPR).
In order to discharge responsibilities with regard to the Fund, the Executive Director is advised by a Review Board. The review board is composed of the Head of the Water, Sanitation and Infrastructure Branch, contributors to the fund and organisations with which the Fund has already entered into partnership.
The key focus areas supported by the Fund are:
- Operational activities serve as the main vehicle for the provision of the water and sanitation services to participating countries under the Water for African Cities Programme and the Water for Asian Cities Programme. The Trust Fund has helped UN-HABITAT forge strategic partnership arrangements with the African Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank, promoting pro-poor investments in urban areas in Africa and Asia. UN-HABITAT is working in these regions to encourage water, sanitation and hygiene education among children and the community, raise public awareness on social, environmental and economic aspects of water and sanitation, mobilise political will through advocacy and exchange of information and ensure that gender issues are integrated into all programmes. Activities also include strengthening regional, national and city level institutional capacity for management, system maintenance and development through South-South and North-South cooperation.
- Normative activities provide a neutral forum for policy dialogue among water and sanitation providers, users, utilities and governments. This also includes disseminating information on water and sanitation issues and developing pro-poor and gender sensitive governance frameworks, including policy options, norms, standards and management toolkits.
- Replicable Model-Setting Initiatives, the two initiatives currently supported are the Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation Initiative and the Mekong Regional Water and Sanitation Initiative. In order to achieve greater confidence among the urban poor and a more responsive participatory approach to the delivery of water and sanitation services, UN-HABITAT aims to fast track pilot demonstration projects in these two regions to address urgent water and sanitation needs while the overall framework evolves.
- Monitoring Activities support water and sanitation institutions in participating countries develop enhanced capacity to track progress towards internationally agreed targets based on improved information systems and monitoring frameworks. The Water and Sanitation Branch is working with the statistical services of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to improve participatory monitoring of the MDGs. In collaboration with Monitoring and Research branch of UN-HABITAT, household questionnaires have been developed to track water and sanitation progress in the Lake Victoria region, the process will then be to other regional programmes.
- Other projects
UN-HABITAT’s Water and Sanitation programme undertakes other projects to improve delivery of water and sanitation, particularly for the urban poor. A notable example is development of the Vacutug, a device to provide a simple and inexpensive method for emptying pit-latrines in areas where access by conventional exhausters is impossible, for instance, because of narrow roads in slums.