Friday, 20 April 2012

SWA High Level Meeting Press Release!

Washington, DC, April 20, 2012 – World leaders from 40 countries commit to ending water and sanitation crisis at historic meeting

End Water Poverty welcomes the commitments made at the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting. More and better targeted funding is needed if these ambitious goals are to be reached.

An unprecedented number of Ministers of Finance, Development and Water from 40 countries, along with development banks and civil society, came together today for this historic meeting to accelerate efforts to bring clean water and safe sanitation to millions.

Ministers of Water, Sanitation, Environment and Health from across Africa and Asia announced that in each of their countries they will strive to decrease open defecation by 15%, improve access to water by 5% and increase access to safe sanitation by 7% by 2014. These promises would provide 56 million people with safe drinking water and 78 million people with sanitation over the next two years (WaterAid figures).

Rudy Amenga-Etego, from the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW) who represented civil society at meeting said: “We’re pleased to see ambitious commitments being made to get water and sanitation to our citizens. We now need to see new funding, clear plans and better targeting to make sure these promises can be kept.”

Yakub Hossein, from the Freshwater Action Network South Asia (FANSA) said: “Only by working together, can we ensure that we start to see real progress for the poorest and most vulnerable communities. As civil society we commit ourselves to working together with governments and communities to tackle this crisis as well as ensuring that world leaders keep the promises they made today.”

Some developing countries went even further. Benin committed to increasing its budget allocations for 2013-2014 by 100% per year for basic sanitation, whilst Burkina Faso committed to allocating at least US$35m to water and sanitation annually and promised to eradicate open defecation by 2015. Kenya pledged that a further 20 million people would gain access to drinking water and sanitation by 2015 and Nigeria promised to progressively increase the budget allocation for water and sanitation over the next three years.

Crucially, developing countries called on donor countries to support them in reaching these ambitious targets by increasing resources and expertise for water and sanitation and better targeting aid to the poorest countries and communities.

Donor countries responded by making commitments of their own, with the UK announcing that they are doubling their commitment for water and sanitation over the next two years from 30 to 60 million people globally.

Dutch Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation Ben Knapen announced a new initiative between the Netherlands and UK to bring water and sanitation to an additional 10 million people in nine countries in West and Central Africa. In all, the Netherlands intends to scale up its assistance to reach 25 million more people globally over the next four years.

Knapen said: “In the current economic climate we are not taking this decision lightly. We are giving a significant amount of money to UNICEF to help in this work, but when you count the health and economic benefits, and in particular the lives of children, the government of the Netherlands believes this is unquestionably the right call.”

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, said: “For too long, water and sanitation has not received the priority it deserves from the international community. That is why the Coalition Government will commit to helping over 60 million people access basic services, such as communal water pumps.”

Other donors followed suit with Germany committing to reaching 30 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa with water and sanitation by 2015, focusing on “the poor and extremely poor population… and the most vulnerable, such as slum dwellers and children.”

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah announced that USAID will join the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership. Australia will also join the partnership.

End Water Poverty welcomes these commitments but emphasises that there is still a funding shortfall if countries are to reach these ambitious targets and get water and sanitation to those most in need.

Rolien Sasse, CEO of Simavi in the Netherlands and End Water Poverty civil society representative on the SWA steering committee said: “Civil society now has a crucial role in both supporting governments to deliver and holding them to account on these commitments –End Water Poverty members will be leading the way.”

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