Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

6th World Water Forum. Will this be The Forum for Solutions?

Just over a week since I returned from WWF6 preparatory meeting, I am  sharing a few further observations and updates from the meeting.

 

We were reminded at the end of this two day preparatory meeting for the 6th World Water Forum of the World Water Vision that came from the 2nd World Water Forum, ten years ago: a world were people have a voice in decisions that directly affect their lives and their livelihoods

High level speeches over the two days outlined ambitious aims for the next forum, to be held in 2012. Ger Bergkamp, Director General, World Water Council, wants to invest in professionalism and good planning so it can become the forum for solutions; a truly participatory forum with clarity of purpose, linked to high level political events leading to international commitments to take action. Political commitment from France was, indeed, demonstrated with Nicolas Sarkosy, President of France himself endorsing the forum and with the announcement from French Secretary of State for Ecology, Chantal Jouanno, that one of the three key aims for the forum for the French Government is to have Right to Water recognised at the International level.

 

Break out session on the right to water

 

As FAN has been significantly involved on work around the Rights to Water and Sanitation (RTWS) and having co convened the sessions on this topic at WWF5, I joined this session. Our group was smaller than some of the other, perhaps more unwieldy, gatherings and attracted a rich and diverse mix of people seemingly genuinely committed to improving the understanding, recognition and promotion of RTWS. We had representatives from NGOs, government ministries and private sector and an in depth discussion led to a proposed way forward to feedback to the WWC. (participant list at the end)

We agreed that a huge effort is required to dispel country fears around the meaning of RTWS and share current learning from implementation. As our sessions in WWF5 aimed to do this, we discussed what else it would take. The main idea that came out forth was a peer to peer sharing event, held well in advance of the next forum. This would aim to be a non-threatening process, to demystify fears and share positive experiences. We envisaged a multi-stakeholder event with policy-makers more involved in discussions and representatives from local municipalities in countries who are opposed also present.

Ceridwen Johnson and Thomas van Waeyenberge, AQUAFED capture the group discussionPledges

Having members of the South African and French ministries in the room helped us to think ambitiously about how to get the right people in the room and both representatives tentatively pledged that a joint invitation would come from the Presidents of South Africa and France to ensure ministerial participation. The meeting would be framed as a preparatory international meeting, hosted by South Africans in Durban 2011. This verbal proposal was tabled by the South African representatives later on to Ger Bergkamp and Ben Braga, Vice President of the WWC, who verbally agreed to take it forward.

We formally requested a pledge from the World Water Council to take up a lead role ensuring that these discussions have adequate support and adequate space to bring into the debates at the 6th WWF as well as the high level political process. Freshwater Action network (FAN) pledged to mobilise Southern Civil Society, along with Action Contre La Faim (ACF), working in partnership with other networks and NGOs. AQUAFED pledged to mobilize operators and to get Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Independent Expert on the Rights to Water and Sanitation, on board.

Our views on the process

We formally stated that

• We would like to see Southern CSOs included in the process with a proposed target of 1,000 active and adequately funded civil society participants.

• The political process must be more robust, multi-stakeholder and participatory with a focus on measurable commitments.

• At the forum, we’d like to see a Ministerial declaration which recognises the Rights to Water and Sanitation sending a clear message to Rio + 20 summit, and linked to other International and regional processes.

 

Throughout the forum, the FAN team were highlighting the fact that true multi-stakeholder participation means including people working on and directly affected by the issues in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We will be asking FAN Governing Council to jointly send a letter to the Forum organisers requesting them to allocate sufficient time and adequate resources required for this to happen and for FAN to be given a role in mobilising an active Southern CSO involved from the preparatory process to contribute to agenda setting and with a key role in the forum.

 

Participating:

• Julie Aubriot, Action Contre la Faim, France

• Laurent Caplat, Ministry of Ecologie, Energy, and SD et de la Mer, France

• Ceridwen Johnson, Freshwater Action Network (FAN)

• Neil Macleod, eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, Water Dept, Durban, SA

• Thomas van Waeyenberge, AQUAFED

• Trevor , South African government

• Celine du Bray, WWC

• Jacques Labres, Suez

• Jean Charles Ladoic, City of Marseille

Next steps – as outlined by Ben Braga, Vice President of the WWC

• The outcomes of the meeting will be consolidated by end of July and worked at international forum committee level.

• Preliminary formulation of the forum by September

• Meeting to elaborate the forum around November 2010 – better design of forum and define roles of collaborating institutions in 2011

• Progressively structure the forum – regions – political – thematic

• Build a bottom up and participatory process

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