NGOs, members of this Coalition possess great field experience, but they are all convinced that setting up projects will not be sufficient to make decisive changes. The Coalition expects to change things upstream : where political decisions originate, where development strategies are negotiated, where crucial financial decisions are made to advance water issues. Above all, access to water is a problem of political willingness, of a change in the mentalities and practices of players involved in water and development problems. The purpose of Coalition Eau is twofold. On the one hand, proposing other ways of ‘seeing and doing’, more socially-focused and concerned about the human being hidden behind these alarming figures. On the other hand, to shake those who could act out of their complacency : decision-makers who are willing to act and who are capable of questioning their own methods.
To Warn. For water issues to move from speech to performance, the Coalition must test the commitments of water players in practice. This means closely monitoring efforts made by France, Europe and international organisations to achieve the Millenium Development Goal n°7. Warnings should be made about any shortcomings in the aid offered, and any incoherence, inactivity or abuse should be denounced.
To Propose. The Coalition’s main concern is to share its experience in order to help reaching greater and more efficient aid. Thus, debates on key issues concerning water should be fed in constructively, involving NGOs field knowledge and experience-sharing (members and non members).
To Connect. Nothing will work out if there is no well-coordinated mobilisation between South and North players. To integrate the viewpoints of both North and South associations in the decision making processes, these very viewpoints need to be supported and expressed more clearly. The Coalition intents to help linking up by multiplying the contacts with networks involved in the struggle for access to water and sanitation in Europe or elsewhere in the world.
To Inform. The pressure exerted by public opinion has always played a leading role in the development of societies. For citizens and media on the look out, information from varied sources is essential. To allow a free and well documented analysis of the situation, the Coalition backs the position of NGOs that act far from the influence of public power or any kind of private interests.
For quite some time now, about ten structures have been working on a regular and continuous basis, particularly to propose ways forward during the G8 of Evian in 2003, the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-13) in 2005 and later on, the official and alternative Water Forums of Mexico in 2006. These mobilisations confirmed the need and value of deepening relations between NGOs on a permanent basis, and to promote our alternative expertise.
Right after the World Water Forum of Mexico in March 2006, the idea arose of creating a permanently coordinated coalition. Little more than a year later, this project has taken shape, particularly through the support granted by agencies and public institutions (MEDAD-French Ministry of sustainable development for ecology and urban planning, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, French Development Agency), who also see the Coalition as a means to encourage dialogue with NGO players.
In order to push water matters, there are four issues on which the Coalition is working to propose other ways of ‘seeing and doing’ (this is done through working groups involving member NGOs) :
How can this public service (water) be made available for everybody ?
How can we make sure that local players are really involved in decision-making and water programmes that directly impact them ?
How can efficient and sufficient funding be ensured for water, bearing in mind that such a challenging issue needs subsequent means ?
How can water resources be protected (quality and availability) ?
Message 1 : We don’t want any more commitments ! Take the plunge : decide, calculate, spend. Without political will, there is no public responsibility. Without responsibility, there are no means.
Announcements made by the international community have multiplied over the years, but they increasingly lose credibility since they are not followed up by funds . As professional NGOs involved in the water sector, we address public decision-makers today who have the power to decide. Money is available, but willingness to assign it to water as a priority is still weak. We don’t want new commitments, we want past declarations to be implemented. For the Coalition, five things must change for a start :
Water is not an expenditure ; it is an investment which serves all other sectors involved in the development of a country. Financing assigned to water has positive effects which go far beyond the water and sanitation sector (particularly on health, education and women). On the contrary, if this sector is not given priority in national budgets, the human and economic costs may be colossal.
Follow up on the action plan recommended by the UNDP (report 2006). To achieve the water and sanitation related goals, a concrete and previously agreed action plan must be in place to enable identifying mobilised forces and means, as well as obstacles to overcome. Follow up and monitoring tools should be set up to help arbitrate both improvements made and shortcomings. All policy makers should become involved : States from the South and the North, international community, local authorities.
Despite general inertia in this field over the last few years, promises have been kept in certain countries. Experience shows that countries which have made progress are not necessarily those that have undergone huge reform programmes supported by organisations such as the World Bank. Rather, the key components have been public authorities’ strong political will, social dialogue and wide involvement of all community players (as occurred in Brazil).
Doubling French public aid for water and sanitation. It is necessary to have more clarity on precise amounts, deadlines, terms and the exact destination of the expected funding.
In terms of international aid, state public cooperation must play a key role. But this is not sufficient and international solidarity remains weak as a whole. We need to appeal to all other possible sources of funding, particularly to decentralised funding (origin and destination), which should be massively raised to support and complement public aid.
Message 2 : Let’s stop what does not work ! For a human approach, anchored in public interest. As NGOs, we propose to share an alternative know-how and experiences.
Access to water is not an industrial challenge and must not be handled as a mere technical matter. Nothing will progress as long as issues such as social priority, democratic challenge and the existing pressure exerted on this resource, are ignored. According to the Coalition, four things must change :
We cannot move forward until public services are efficiently handled on a local level. Slogans about the involvement of local players must be put aside and effective responsibilities assumed. Much greater means should be mobilized to support local players in terms of strengthening their skills and capacities, whenever expressed as a need. We must look out for and support these very weaknesses.
Approaches that place profitability before social interest must be altered, because this constantly excludes those very people that the MDGs focus on as a priority. If there is strong willingness to provide water for the poor, a logical change must occur. “Social” and “economic” are still presented as contradictory terms. Yet when these two concerns are reconciled, they can provide excellent results. But this is only possible when finance is at the service of social welfare, rather than merely serving profitability, world economy or speculation ideals. It is essential that public players finance public services and we must look for solutions that enable wide access to water and sanitation.
Resource availability : what will we do with our public services if we do not have access to the resource ? We cannot hide behind a climate change that would be the one cause to all our problems. Even if we agree that the climate concern cannot be overlooked, we must highlight that the deathblow to water is mainly and directly the consequence of human choices which are today perfectly reversible. Let us put a stop to this schizophrenic behaviour and rather face in a responsible manner the obvious ecological emergency. Only through an efficient integrated management effort can the harm done be reversed. Let us help the IWRM (Integrated Water Resources Management) go from discourse to operational implementation, making more clear its content and meaning for all players.
Water is at the heart of growing tensions all over the world. Whichever side monopolizes this resource, there is an increasing threat around water conflicts, and we are all concerned. Still, we do not see real efforts to prevent this. It is urgent to ratify the treaty on international water courses, thus encouraging further adhesion, and to multiply experiences in regional management of water courses, involving civil society on local and regional levels, as well as promoting cooperation between Nations (such as NBA-Niger Basin Authority).