CRUCIAL AFRICAN WATER CONFERENCE CALLS FOR CONCRETE STEPS

To Cut Numbers of Those Without Water by 75 Percent by 2025

Released from ACCRA, Ghana and from Washington, DC

AFRICA’S WATER PROBLEMS HAMPER DEVELOPMENT

ACCRA, Ghana (April 17, 2002) — The Accra Water Conference, Africa’s most ambitious attempt ever to solve the continent’s severe water crisis, issued a declaration at the end of its three-day meeting calling for a series of concrete steps that would cut the portion of Africans without access to safe water by 75 percent by 2025.

Africa has the worst water situation of any continent. Only about 60 percent of Africa’s 680 million people have access to safe water supplies. People in the worst-off 40 countries, at least half of them in Africa, must try and meet all their water and sanitation needs on an average of 30 liters or less per day (8 gallons), far less than the 50-liter (13.2 gallons) per day level that the United Nations says constitutes the absolute minimum for water needs. The daily per capita water requirements include 5 liters for drinking, 20 for sanitation and hygiene, 15 for bathing and 10 for food preparation, per person.

Globally, more than one billion people do not have access to safe drinking water, and half of the population lacks adequate sanitation. More than two million people die annually from water-related diseases,

HRH Prince of Orange of the Netherlands, a special advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, spoke at the opening session on April 15th and helped to preside over the closing session Wednesday. The Prince served as Chair of the 2nd World Water Forum in The Hague in 2000, and has decided to focus on water issues as Kofi Anna’s advisor.

Some 300 delegates attended the Accra Water Conference. The delegates included government officials from all sub-Saharan including 10 government ministers in charge of water, representatives of industrial countries, international organizations such as the World Bank and United Nations, private industry and non-governmental organizations.

Most important water conference in African history opened Monday in Accra, Ghana with the release of a new plan to make the African water crisis a priority global issue, especially at the upcoming “Earth Summit” in South Africa later this year.

Delegates met in both general sessions and in specialized meetings in working groups on such subjects as “water-food security and international agricultural trade, and “water and sustainable developing in Africa: Regional Stakeholder’s Conference.”

“Water is the basis of life and development and its use and protection must underpin the rejuvenation of African and the achievement of all the goals established by African Heads of States in the Millennium Declaration of 2000,” the Conference’s final declaration said.

African countries sent high-level representatives to the Accra Conference because the aim is to lay the groundwork on Africans solving their problems themselves, though in cooperation with the industrial world and international organizations.

The Accra Conference strongly backed another African initiative that seeks to have Africans leading the continent to economic development, including on water issues. “The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is a bold initiative whose success will require the application of all of Africa’s human, economic, technological and natural resources,” the Accra Declaration said.

“We have concluded that water can make an immense difference to Africa’s development if it is managed and used wisely,” the Declaration said. “Given clear priorities and strategies and real commitments to implementation, we can use water to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development in Africa.”

The Declaration listed the steps to be taken to achieve these goals as:

  • Improved access to potable water services and sanitation;
  • Water use to address food security and income generation;
  • Integrated water resource management (IWRM) in national and shared water basins;
  • Water-related disaster prevention, mitigation and management;
  • Empowerment and capacity building focused on improving equity and gender;
  • Pro-poor water governance and water supplies.

The Declaration said all of the above steps must be “undertaken in a manner designed to protect the natural environment.”

“The 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Kyoto Third World Water Forum offer the opportunity to report, evaluate and account in a structured manner on progress made since the Hague World Water Forum in 2000 at which Frameworks for Action were established,” the final declaration said. “We recommend that these events be used to review both global and African progress and identify and propose actions to bridge any gaps that may appear between commitments, delivery and goals.”

The delegates said that Africans had to develop specific action programs to meet the challenge, so that the proportion of Africans without access to basic water supply and sanitation is reduced by 50 percent by 2015 and 75 percent by 2025.”

“Water is crucial to development, which can be seen by the fact that while the world population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources grew six-fold,” the Prince says. “We have seen that no single type of intervention has had greater overall impact upon economic development and public health than does the provision of safe drinking water and proper sanitation. In health alone, improved water and sanitation can reduce morbidity and mortality rates of some of the most serious of water-related diseases by up to 80 percent.”

The Accra Declaration also praised the document that the Prince of Orange presented to the Conference, which is entitled: No Water, No Future.”

In his speech, which he based on the proposals in No Water, No Future,” the Prince called upon the world community to establish three water targets, two of which are new.

“My three recommended targets start with the one adopted by the Millennium Summit on safe drinking water, stating that the world community should cut in half the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water resources by 2015,” the Prince says. “The second calls for the establishment of a similar target, to cut in half the proportion of people who are unable to reach or afford sanitation by 2015.”

“I propose a new target focused on water for productive use,” the Prince says. “We should increase productivity in agriculture, both rain-fed and irrigated, to bring food security for all people, without increasing water diverted for irrigated agriculture over that used in 2000.”

The Prince’s recommended action to reach those targets would be to mandate the World Water Assessment Programme of the United Nations to establish a baseline and monitor progress towards these targets and report to the Ministerial Conferences associated with the World Water Forum series.

“I expect that at this conference you will develop a strong statement from African water stakeholders that will help to put the African water issues high on the agenda of the Johannesburg Summit,” the Prince says. He points out in No Water, No Future that, “Water storage infrastructure per capita in Ethiopia is less than 1 percent of that of North America and Australia. Hydropower development in Africa is less than 5 percent of its potential, versus more than 70 percent in OECD countries. Development of water resources remains a major development opportunity in Africa.”

“Africans themselves have created an initiative to help guide the continent out of poverty, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD),” said Albert Wright, a Ghanaian water expert who served as Chairman of the Accra Water Conference. “It is a bold and unprecedented initiative, but its success depends upon the extent to which Africa’s human, economic, technological, and natural resources can be applied to this new vision.”

NEPAD is a vision and a program of action for the redevelopment of the African continent in a partnership between Africa and the rest of the world. Conceived and developed by African leaders under the auspices of the Organization of African States (OAU), it was endorsed by leaders of the G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on 20 July 2001.

“Water is to NEPAD as blood is to humans, absolutely necessary,” Mr. Wright says. “None of the goals of NEPAD can be achieved unless Africa successfully addresses its water problems.”

Mr. Wright says the principles of NEPAD include:

  • African leaders should assume ownership of and responsibility for the development process and will work with a new partnership of developed nations for technical and financial aid;
  • African leaders will bring good governance to development, seek to avoid wars and other conflicts, and institute the necessary infrastructure;
  • Many of the new programs will be instituted at a regional level, whether continent-wide or in one of Africa’s five economic zones (Western, Southern, Eastern, Northern and Central Africa), in order to support action at the national level.

“This regional approach is crucial for success,” Mr. Wright says. “Water development projects and regulations have to be put in at the river basin level in order to be workable, but every single one of Africa’s river basins are multi-national because of the continent’s colonial past.”

A cooperative program for the Nile River Basin, which includes 10 nations, has been producing positive results in recent years and can serve as a template for the rest of the continent, Mr. Wright says.

Africa remains one of the poorest and least developed continents of the world, with 340 million of its people, half its population, living on less that US$1 per day. More than 200 million Africans are chronically undernourished. Chronic weakness and mortality from preventable communicable disease like malaria, HIV/AIDS, and diarrhea are high. The mortality rate of children under five years is 140 per 1000, and life expectancy at birth is only 54 years. The rate of illiteracy of people over 15 is 41 percent.

Africa’s water problems are particularly serious,” Mr. Wright says. “The incidence of the water-related vector-borne diseases appears to be increasing on the continent, especially malaria. According to the World Bank, malaria results in over 900,000 deaths and up to 450 million cases annually in Africa, with children and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. Malaria accounts for an estimated US$1.7 billion annually in treatment and lost productivity.”

The substantial investments in the development of water resources in OECD countries and Asia have made major contributions to food security, to electricity production and economic growth in general. It is now Africa’s turn to make these investments, in cooperation with other countries.

NEPAD provides a platform for a comprehensive integrated development plan designed to address Africa’s key social, economic, and political priorities in a coherent and balanced manner. It is also a commitment by African leaders to African people and to the international community that they have resolved to place Africa on a path of sustainable growth and accelerated integration into the global economy. It is a call for support of African development on the basis of Africa’s own agenda and program of action. Finally, it is a call to the people of Africa to assume ownership of their own destiny. The long-term objectives of NEPAD are to eradicate poverty and place African countries on a path of sustained growth and development, halting the marginalization of Africa in the globalization process.

Africa’s environmental resources are considered to be among its most valuable assets. African forests alone are believed to contain 45 percent of all global bio-diversity. Forest-related activities account for an estimated 10 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of 17 African nations. In counties like the Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Liberia, forest product are believed to account for over 10 percent of trade.

Africa’s environmental assets also include vast water supplies. It has 17 rivers with a total estimated catchment area of over 100,000 km2, 160 lakes larger than 27 km2, and vast wetlands, and a limited but widespread groundwater resource. In addition, it has a huge potential for energy production through hydropower production.

“Sadly, the reality is that Africa is, perhaps, the continent most at the mercy of the dangers posed by the excess and scarcity of water,” Ghanaian President John A. Kufuor told the delegates in his opening address to the conference, held at a beach-front hotel in the capital city of Accra.” This is because the knowledge and technical know-how need to manage and develop this vital resource have been in very short supply. Needless to say, the required investment have also been negligible.”

“Africa has therefore been reduced to a continent of natural disasters alternating between droughts and dehumanizing famine, and deluges that sweep away everything in their wake, like homes, infra-structure, livestock and even human life.

The urgency of taming and harassing the crucial element for sustained development and improvement of life in Africa cannot be overemphasized. And it is because we must get mastery over water that Ghana and her neighbors must seek capital, technical know-how, management and committed partners.”

It will not come cheap. The African Development Bank estimated at the conference that Africa would need $20 billion annually in water investment between no w and 2015 to reach the goal of water security for everyone.

“There will be many, many issues competing for attention at the Johannesburg Summit and there is a risk that attention will be so divided that concrete results are difficult to achieve. It is therefore important to focus the attention of the world’s leaders clearly on the priority of Africa’s water issues, and recommend a small number of high priority actions. I am pleased to see that the African leaders have given a prominent place to water issues in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development — or NEPAD — initiative.

The African Development Bank is serving as hosts of the African Water Conference in collaboration with the Ministry Responsible for Water in Ghana. The purpose of the meeting is to deliberate the final version of an African Position Paper and Declaration on Water in the continent under the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the preparation of a program to ensure a high profile for water issues in Africa during the Earth Summit in Johannesburg scheduled for August/September 2002; and proposals for effective African participation at the 3rd World Water Forum and Virtual Water Forum.

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