World Water Forum in Istanbul: enthusiasm and disappointment
April 09, 2009
“Population growth, rapid urbanisation and climate change … heighten the pressure on water and sanitation resources, specifically in cities” re-emphasised Kadir Topbaş, Mayor of Istanbul and Co-President of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), at the opening of the Local and Regional Authorities Days of the 5th World Water Forum last week.
More than 250 mayors, vice-mayors and other representatives of cities, towns and regions from 43 countries met on 18 and 19 March 2009 in Istanbul at the invitation of UCLG, ICLEI and the World Water Council to debate key challenges in water and sanitation. “Mayors and local authorities are the pillars of water governance” stated Loïc Fauchon, President of the World Water Council, co-organising the Forum. This was further underpinned by Stephen Kabuye, Mayor of Entebbe (Uganda) and Vice-President of ICLEI, by saying “if there is a concerted effort … tangible improvements can be achieved by actions organised at the local level”.
Cities signing up for the Istanbul Water Consensus – a key outcome of the Local and Regional Authorities Days - have demonstrated their decisiveness to turn words into tangible progress on the ground. The signatories include the ICLEI members of Alcoi (Spain), Baguio (Philippines), Barcelona (Spain), Berlin (Germany), Brisbane (Australia), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Cape Town (South Africa), Entebbe (Uganda), Incheon (Korea), Koprivnica (Croatia), Quito (Ecuador), Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Suwon (Korea).
However, enthusiasm was ultimately dampened following the announcement of the final Ministerial Statement of the Forum. This statement failed to acknowledge the important role of local and regional governments in water and sanitation management. Also all references to the Istanbul Water Consensus were deleted. Further disappointment was caused by the final ministerial documents in which the recognition of ‘water as a human right’ was replaced by, for example, ‘water as a basic human need’. In response to that, UCLG, ICLEI and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, have issued a press release on 20 March.
Local and regional authorities expressed their dissatisfaction and concern at the lack of formal recognition for the local level of government and the principle of subsidiarity in the draft Ministerial declaration of the 5th World Water Forum, distributed today during the high level dialogue between Ministers, Parliamentarians and Local Authorities.
Local and regional governments demand an amendment to this draft declaration which constitutes a significant step backwards in comparison to the Mexico Declaration. In the earlier declaration ministers expressly recognized the “important role played by (…) local authorities (…) in developing access to water and sanitation services”.
They strongly regret that no reference was made to the process developed by the local and regional authorities ending in the 19th of March adoption of the Istanbul Water Consensus before 250 mayors and local representatives of cities and regions. This Pact is above all a call to action which commits local and regional governments to create local plans on concrete objectives to improve the management of water and sanitation
The Istanbul Water Consensus equally reaffirms that access to clean water and sanitation is a basic right for all human beings.
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