Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

A challenging experience for FAN at the 5th World Water Forum

FAN was able to achieve several positive outcomes during its participation in the 5th World Water forum in Istanbul in March 2009.  However, some members also experienced difficulties in gaining adequate financial support and opportunities for networking were quite limited for civil society organizations (CSOs).

PAID programme

Many FAN members received support from the PAID programme, a participant aid programme set up by the World Water Council for participants from developing countries.  The programme specified that all costs would be covered beyond flights to the country and FAN was able to support members by funding the additional cost of their return flights.

Members were very disappointed by this programme as it showed a lack of understanding of the situation of participants travelling from developing countries with limited resources. Members were denied per diems or the offer of reimbursement of travel expenses.  Many covered their own costs with personal expenses.  Many were left hungry and unable to move around the city.  They were situated in hotels far from the forum and had to return to the hotels in time for evening meals.  This did not give them adequate opportunity to fully participate in the forum as they had little opportunity to attend later sessions or side meetings.

Finally, our members were all staying in different hotels which limited their freedom but also the ability for them to network and share learning and experiences with each other in the mornings and evenings.

FAN's exhibition stand

FAN had an exhibition space within the Civil Society Village to promote the work of NGOs on the ground, and Consortium members’ work in influencing policy and programmes.

The space was designed to reflect the Global Consortium. It was a welcoming space used for promotional materials and also as a networking hub for NGOs to get together each morning to plan the day and throughout the day to prepare for sessions, co-ordinate preparation of joint statements and press releases.

We spent a lot of time, money and effort organizing our stand, ensuring it was eye-catching, with plenty of material and members around to staff it at all times.

We felt disappointed at the location of the civil society village in relation to the other main events, stands and centre of activities. One of the purposes was to increase opportunities to network with other stakeholders and promote their work.  However this was impossible beyond civil society as very few people came through the village compared to the other main site. CSOs were not fully integrated into the forum and many complained of being marginalized. This did not convey a positive message as many felt it reflected a much higher priority being given to the private firms and some larger NGOs and UN bodies.