Water for Life: Europe Day at the World Water Forum

The 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto, convened from March 16-23, offered a platform for 10,000 participants to exchange their ideas and experiences, and discuss the global water crisis.

Mar 25th, 2003

March 25, 2003 -- The 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, convened from March 16th to March 23rd, 2003, offered a platform for 10,000 participants to exchange their ideas and experiences, and discuss the global water crisis.

Building on the 2002 EU Water Initiative launched at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the Commission will reinforce the EU's commitment to cutting by half the number of people living without drinking water and basic sanitation.

During special sessions at Europe Day in Kyoto delegates have the opportunity to learn about a series of issues relating to sustainable management of water resources as well as the European Union's achievements in international scientific and technological development co-operation on issues relating to water, on a global scale.

The events offer an opportunity to hear about progress in implementing the Water Initiative, to discuss with partner regions (Africa, Newly Independent States (NIS) and Mediterranean) and explore research, innovation and further development of EU action programmes.

The EU Water Initiative

The EU's Water Initiative "Water for Life", a comprehensive partnership designed to help countries achieve water and sanitation targets, was launched successfully at WSSD in Johannesburg and saw the conclusion of specific agreements between Africa, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The EU is currently developing and/or finalising similar agreements in the Mediterranean region and in Latin America.

The actions of the EU Water Initiative are developed in a multi-stakeholder process together with the partner regions and partners from the NGO's and the private sector. This is a key factor in the initiative since ownership by the partner regions and the wider stakeholder community is essential for success. Close working relations with the partner regions have been established in order to ensure that the initiative is shaped by a response to demand (rather than being pre-determined.)

The design phase of the EU global water initiative will continue until the end of 2004 and has a three-step approach:

* To assess the current situation in the different regions and countries and analyse the biggest issues and financial deficits;

* The preparation of co-ordinated action programmes reflecting a long term financial strategy covering the period until 2015 detailing concrete steps and milestones.

* The establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism as a means of measuring the degree of implementation and of steering further action

The World Water Forum provides an opportunity for the EU, together with its partners, to explore different ways of improving the efficiency of existing financing mechanisms and means of developing new approaches founded on public/private partnerships. The involvement of the private sector is fundamental to the delivery of the targets agreed at the WSSD.

The EU regards the roles of the WTO/GATS discussion and the water services as integral to the facilitation of greater investment in water supply and water treatment infrastructures. It is also necessary to ensure that water supply and sanitation are provided to the urban poor and to rural communities.

However, it is recognised that the greater involvement of the private sector and their access to markets in developing countries, gives rise to legitimate concerns about governance and regulation. The intention is not to open up markets simply to provide commercial benefits for EU companies.

EU companies can deliver high-quality services at competitive prices and with full awareness of their wider social responsibilities. Nevertheless, private companies should operate within a framework allowing the countries concerned to retain full control of water policy to ensure that water resources are managed in a sustainable manner compatible with the achievement of the targets agreed in Johannesburg.

The Water Initiative will ensure investment in areas of greater need and in particular Africa. The Initiative will take place within the context of NEPAD (New Partnership for African Development) and the African Council of Water Ministers.

The EU is already investing over €1.4 billion a year in water-related development aid and scientific co-operation. The Initiative will not only focus on water supply and sanitation. The European Commission has committed €10 Million to promote co-operation as regards the management of water resources, between countries which share river basins, with primary focus on Africa. Europe's own experience shows that such co-operation stimulates economic development and regional integration as well as preventing conflict over water.

The vision is that the initiative continues to grow into a major driving force in the achievement of targets and that it will contribute significantly to the fight against poverty, increased economic development, and peace and security throughout the world.

For further information on EU Development Policy:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/development/index_en.htm

For further information on NEPAD:

http://www.nepad.org/

Research and Development

Key to the development of the EU water policy and the EU Water Initiative is the strong link with the EU's research programmes. The European Commission has therefore made the Water Initiative a priority in its research programme and will provide substantial additional resources for targeted research, technology transfer and scientific training opportunities.

The Commission has just published "Water for Life", a report setting out how successful European scientific and development co-operation can help combat water problems through partnerships with other regions and countries and support global sustainable development. The report offers answers to a range of issues relating to water and its impact on the environment, food production, health, climate and ecosystems.

It summarises past and on-going Commission efforts to meet the EU Water Initiative objectives supporting the water-related Millennium Development Goals. Application of existing scientific knowledge could already upgrade efficiency e.g. in relation to improved hygiene, irrigation, water purification, supply and sanitation. Scientific and technological knowledge and joint research efforts with developing countries are indispensable for the successful tackling of the global water crisis.

Because problems are interconnected, they need to be tackled in an integrated way, including research on public policies, resource management and technologies. This document sets out EU research and development co-operation initiatives on water issues, how they affect our food production, health, climate and the ability of ecosystems to survive.

Examples of EU water-related research projects

how low-cost natural treatment of urban wastewaters in Shenzhen improves the water quality of the reservoirs from which Hong Kong draws its drinking water;

the obstacles to sustainable private investment in the urban water services sector in Africa and Latin America;

how we ensure that investment in improved water supply infrastructure can improve children's life chances and prevent their early death; and

how information on hygiene and basic health can be disseminated to help health organisations and citizens prevent and fight water-related diseases.

The document "Water for life" is available in the following web site:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/water-initiative/

More information about EU Research projects is available in the following web site:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/index_en.html

EU Water Framework Directive

Discussions on Europe Day also focused on the sustainable management of water resources in the EU. Water is not a commercial product like any other but, rather, a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such. This acknowledgement is the cornerstone of the EU's water policy. Integrated water resource management based on a river basin approach is the focus of the new EU Water Framework Directive ("Directive 2000/60/EC).

The objective is to achieve the improved status of all surface, ground and coastal waters in the European Union and the candidate countries by 2015. The involvement of the citizens in the implementation of the river basin management plans as well as the co-ordination of the measures with other policy areas such as agriculture policy are important elements in the new EU policy. Water quality in the majority of European Rivers has improved significantly in the last decade demonstrating that, at least in relation to water pollution, economic growth and environmental impact can be decoupled.

More information about the Water Framework Directive and EU water policy can be found at this web-site:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/water/water-framework/index_en.html


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