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Published on 26/03/2012

World Water Forum: The Voice of Fair Development

The 6th World Water Forum opened on Monday, March 12, in the presence of Prime Minister François Fillon and with the announcement that the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people without access to drinking water worldwide had been attained—a declaration that GRET immediately contested in a press release. For six days, GRET and approximately fifteen of its partners from developing countries defended the voice of fair development in the official, side and alternative sessions to promote the right to water in all its forms for poor populations.

Solution Forum or Preparatory Forum

François Fillon announced it opening the Forum, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon demanded it in his video message, Minister of Cooperation Henri de Raincourt stated it during the Ministerial Conference: the World Water Forum is a preparatory forum to identify solutions for the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012. With a Ministerial Declaration adopted “by acclamation” on the 2nd day of the Forum on the sidelines of the United Nations processes, the promises made in Marseilles are not binding and lack announced resources to implement them (see the Ministerial Declaration). To avoid languishing in a “large pool of solutions,” GRET ran and contributed to official target sessions, spoke in multi-actor sessions, followed high-level panels, and mobilized for the side events so that fair development would not be left out of the Forum. Drinking water, sanitation, agricultural water, water and energy, etc.—GRET has been active in the field and in policy for 30 years to propose solutions to the various water challenges in developing countries. It has set six priorities based on its field experience, and promoted these priorities in Marseilles:

  • not pit the various uses of water against each other so as to make a real contribution to inclusive development;
  • better targeted supplementary and additional finance that responds in priority to the needs of the Least Developed Countries;
  • favor policy instruments as levers for development to guarantee access to water for all, including the poorest;
  • put an end to the dictatorship of numbers over sustainability as the day of reckoning approaches for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015;
  • support social innovation rather than give in to fads because the right solution is the one that suits the local context; and
  • guarantee access to water for peasants in developing countries to contribute to food security and the overcoming the hunger challenge faced by 950 million people worldwide.

See GRET’s positions

On Tuesday, March 15, the ministers took turns presenting the solutions that emerged from the 16 round tables in the ministerial process; on Thursday, March 17, it was the members of parliament’s turn to report on outcome of their reflections. As a reminder, GRET had spoken the previous January at the 6th Parliamentary Meetings on water to promote the position taken by French NGOs on international cooperation and finance.

See the talk by GRET’s director

GRET’s Partners Carry Peoples’ Voice

“No, the MDG on water has not been achieved,” GRET stated on Monday, March 12, in a press release. In the field it is clear that 89% of the population do not have access to improved drinking water. “This figure does not take into account several parameters,” explained Frédéric Naulet, head of GRET’s water and sanitation program. “In addition, just because technical access to water exists, that does not mean that people have real access from both the financial and practical standpoint. Also, water quality is not taken into consideration, nor is the sustainability of the systems set up. We therefore completely reject this declaration that the water MDG has been attained, whose announcement at the opening of the Forum in Marseilles may be counterproductive and may generate a risk of weak pledges.”

Approximately fifteen of GRET’s partners from Cambodia, Laos, Madagascar, Mauritania, Senegal and Haiti attending the Marseilles Forum can testify to this situation. Tuesday, March 15, during a day of homage to Haiti’s vitality at the Maison du Citoyen, and throughout the week in the Projection network’s shantytown space, the Haitian partners (national drinking water and sanitation directorate, head of the Port-au-Prince water committees, member of the federation of water committees) discussed the situation in the Haitian capital: an insufficient quantity of water that does not reach the population in precarious settlements, and the still sharp consequences of the earthquake in 2010 such that a population boom in precarious settlements coexists with a reduction in the quantity of water available. The solutions set up with GRET (network of standpipes managed by democratically elected water committees, in conjunction with the public water company) were explained to the Forum to help promote suitable solutions and raise awareness of the importance of social innovation in the responses.

Agricultural water was not left out, and GRET’s partners in Cambodia in particular defended smallholder farmers’ access to water for food security. On Monday, March 12, Yim Boy, representative of the Prey Nup polder users’ community (PUC) in Cambodia, attended a side event on “water and food security in the face of global change: what challenges, what solutions?” for the official release of the report on the same subject to which GRET contributed its field experience in Cambodia, Ethiopia and Myanmar. Yim Boy discussed the history of the project to develop 10,000 hectares of land and set up autonomous water users’ associations and said: “What made this project a success, increasing agricultural production and farmers’ incomes considerably, was the synergy between farmers, collective organization and the State.”

Nearly thirty talks by GRET—at official and side events—are planned for the Forum through the end of the week. We are hopeful that decision-makers worldwide will hear the voice of fair development so that the World Water Forum does not become a useless catalog of 1,200 solutions but makes a real contribution to international policies on water, food security, energy and sanitation, with respect for the United Nations framework, the only guarantee of representativity for all countries.