World governments fail to act on aid as water crisis worsens | WWF

World governments fail to act on aid as water crisis worsens

Posted on
19 April 2004
New York, US – World governments are reneging on their commitments to meet the UN development target of halving by 2015 the percentage of people without access to drinking water or to basic sanitation, according to a report by leading international NGOs.

The report comes as ministers meet this week at the 12th session of the Commission for Sustainable Development in New York, US, the first meeting since countries pledged to address the water and sanitation aspects of poverty at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. 
  
The scorecard report by WWF, CARE International, Green Cross International, Oxfam, Tearfund, and WaterAid criticizes both rich and poor countries for failing to take the world’s water crisis seriously. It shows that the majority of the 22 OECD countries surveyed failed to increase the amount of aid they give to water and sanitation between 1998 and 2002, and that overall aid for water is declining.

Countries such as the US, Japan, and the European Union member states are far from delivering on their commitments to the UN water targets. In the US for example, only 4 per cent of its development aid is spent on water and only 8 per cent of that goes to the 30 countries most in need. 
 
According to the report, only 38 per cent of OECD bilateral aid for water goes to these 30 countries that include some of the world's poorest, inhabited by most of the world’s 1.1 billion people without access to safe drinking water. Furthermore, OECD countries tend to give aid on national interest grounds. For example the US gives most of its aid for water to Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian-administered areas and less than US$8 million dollars in aid for water to sub-Saharan Africa. 
  
"If the world continues at this snail’s pace, billions of people will remain without access to safe water or basic sanitation, with little prospect of escaping poverty. Many will continue to spend hours hauling water and will fall sick from contaminated water supplies," said Ravi Narayanan of WaterAid. "Countries need to act fast if they are to reverse this trend. They must wake up to the fact that their inaction on water is undermining efforts to reduce poverty."
 
Responsibility does not just lie with the world’s rich countries. According to the report, Tanzania and Uganda are among few countries making water a priority in their poverty reduction strategies. Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Indonesia, and Guinea have not prioritised water at all, while Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China are facing the prospect of acute water shortages by 2025. 
  
"Dams and pipes alone will not solve the world water crisis," said Jamie Pittock of WWF. "Sustainable provision of water for people and nature starts with a commitment to protect wetlands and rivers, precious sources of water, from the damaging impacts of development." 
  
The NGOs are calling on ministers at the meeting in New York as well as on the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and their member governments to make water and sanitation a very high priority in poverty-reduction strategies. The NGOs are also urging donor countries not only to increase water aid but also to ensure that it gets to the people in countries most in need. 
  
For further information:

Olivier van Bogaert
Press Officer, WWF International
Tel: +41 22 364 9554
 E-mail: ovanbogaert@wwfint.org
 
Chris Williams (in New York)
WWF-US
Mobile: +1 240 6051742
E-mail: chris.williams@wwfus.org
 
NOTE:
The 12th session of the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD-12) — taking place in New York from 14-30 April 2004 — is the first meeting since the World Summit on Sustainable Development to assess progress towards the UN development goals and consider what new action is required for governments to meet their commitments.
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