Readers of my blog will recall that it was my privilege last month to chair a discussion on the post-2015 development agenda, Water Resources Management, and the role the private sector can play. The discussion also explored how the Millennium Development Goals can be combined with the Sustainable Development Goals.
As I wrote at the time, the event, organized by the 2030 Water Resources Group at the World Bank headquarters in Washington DC during the Annual World Bank and IMF Meetings, brought together more than 40 senior stakeholders from governments, UN, multi- and inter-Governmental organisations, the private sector and NGOs to participate in the roundtable discussions. Michael Anderson, Director, DFID and Special Envoy to UK Prime Minister Cameron, Sirodjidin Aslov, Ambassador of the Republic of Tajikistan to the UN, De Lyle Bloomquist from Tata Chemicals Limited, my long-time friend Maggie Catley Carlson, Member of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water & Sanitation, Mahmoud Mohieldin, the World Bank’s President’s Special Envoy, and Thomas Stelzer, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs were the panelist for this half-day event.
Discussions on whether public water supplies should be privatised or not have reached epic proportions. Yet it is important to see this in context: less than 3% of the water supply to people in developing economies runs through “privatised” pipes (actually schemes run in highly regulated public-private partnerships); 97% of supply still runs through pipes fully owned by municipalities and other public structures.
For me, however, the real issue is not who owns the pipes; it is whether the schemes providing water to urban and rural populations do it efficiently and sustainably, i.e., the quality of the management of these schemes. Singapore provides an excellent example of such efficiency and sustainability in one of the best managed public, i.e, state-owned supply schemes worldwide. Dr Cecilia Tortajada, President of the Third World Centre for Water Management in Mexico just published a book on the Singapore water supply story – a book I can strongly recommend. For those who prefer a shorter version of the main points, Cecilia kindly agreed to write for my blog the guest post below.
As usual, I invite my readers to share their own insights and comments in response to Cecila’s excellent piece.
Many of you have asked me questions in recent days about my views on the human right to water. I want to thank you for taking part in this discussion and encourage you to keep engaging on the important issue of water scarcity.
In my role as Chairman of the Water Resources Group, I have just visited the World Bank headquarters in Washington DC in the United States for 2030 Water Resources Group meetings and a high-level discussion on a water goal within the post-2015 UN Development Strategy, combining the Millennium Development Goals with the Sustainable Development Goals.
Water is one of the biggest challenges for sustainable development over the coming decades. Its effects can be felt right across all three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economic. There is one important dimension of the social pillar of sustainability that must be kept in mind: water for survival is a human right.
18 April 2013
water, human right
From time to time on the internet a video clip from a TV programme made in 2005 about food is posted in which I am talking about whether water is a human right. It seems it has surfaced again, and people are using it to misrepresent my views on this important issue.
Let me be very clear about this again here on the blog, because I think the video clip, which took my views out of context, isn’t clear about the point I was trying to make. The water you need for survival is a human right, and must be made available to everyone, wherever they are, even if they cannot afford to pay for it.
Over the past few months, the 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG) has been frequently mentioned in the media, usually by third parties with little knowledge of its goals and activities. In Switzerland, some journalists have picked up on some critics’ interpretation that the WRG is essentially a way for private companies to gain a foothold in the area of municipal water distribution. On German TV, a journalist developed, at great length, a complaint lodged by a wealthy South African that the WRG is not getting involved in improving municipal water supply.
I believe that we need to sharpen the profile of the 2030 Water Resources Group, better communicate its great potential and correct some of the misperceptions and politically biased conclusions reached by some media personalities.