Commission proposes EU Water Fund worth EUR 1 billion

The European Commission has proposed the establishment of a European Union Water Fund, with a budget of €1 billion, to help give people in the 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) signatory countries to the Cotonou Agreement access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

Apr 29th, 2003

April 29, 2003 -- The European Commission has proposed the establishment of a European Union Water Fund, with a budget of €1 billion, to help give people in the 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) signatory countries to the Cotonou Agreement access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

The communication builds on the EU Water Initiative, launched during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in September 2002. The WSSD confirmed the target, set by the Millennium Development Goals, of halving, by 2015, the number of people across the world without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

The fund is intended to be a catalyst - promoting initiatives, providing information, being a clearing-house, building research and management capacity in ACP countries - as well as an instrument which can provide the missing link in financing sustainable projects and activities.

The Commission will now discuss this proposal with the EU Member States and the ACP partners, and give due consideration to the necessary steps to allow the financing to be mobilised from the European Development Fund to set up the Fund.

European Commission President Romano Prodi said: "Our proposal to commit €1 billion to a new EU Water Fund shows our determination make good the undertakings made at the Johannesburg summit. Water is the key to life on earth and far too many people are forced to eke out a living without safe supplies of this most basic resource. We hope that the Member States and ACP partner countries will back this bold initiative and that it will serve as a catalyst to encourage others around the world to take similar measures to ease the plight of those less fortunate than we are."

Welcoming the proposals, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Poul Nielson, said: "Water plays a vital role for sustaining life and human development on this planet. More people die every year world-wide from unsafe water than from war. Over 1.1 billion people on Earth do not have access to safe drinking water and about 2.4 billion people lack adequate sanitation. In Africa, close to 40% of the population are without access to safe water and even more lack adequate sanitation. Over the last 50 years in particular, the world's supply of fresh water has been subjected to increasing pressures and has also suffered quality degradation in many regions. With this Communication, the Commission confirms its determination to deliver on the commitments it made in Johannesburg. We call on Member States and ACP partners to support this initiative."

The World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Millennium Development Goal marked important steps towards ensuring water security for the 21st century, undertaking to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

Meeting these targets will require an extraordinary mobilisation of all those involved: bilateral and multilateral providers of funds, beneficiary countries, public authorities, civil society and the private sector. Unfortunately, the recent World Water Forum in Kyoto did not achieve this global mobilisation, because no major initiative was announced to demonstrate the required determination and no extra money was put on the table.

The Camdessus Report (Financing Water for All) has put a price tag of about €10 billion a year for achieving the WSSD target for water and about €27 billion a year if sanitation is added.

Today's Commission Communication proposes the establishment of an EU Water Fund for the ACP countries with a budget of €1 billion. The money would come from the uncommitted reserve in the 9th European Development Fund. As a first priority, the Fund would be orientated towards achieving the targets on water supply and sanitation, within the framework of integrated water resources management, and would include co-financing with other sources of finance.

The Fund should concentrate its activities in countries which have a sound national water policy or which are strongly committed to developing one, based on good governance principles, and where the priority is given to spending on social sectors, and the relevant indicators have been defined as part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Process (PRSP). Countries which do not satisfy these criteria should be assisted in developing a national policy and associated indicators as part of capacity building projects.

Mobilisation of a significant level of resources is a key factor for the realisation of the Millennium Development Goal. But it will also be necessary to apply a flexible approach to management and implementation. The EU Water Fund should reflect these principles and at the same time respond to sound rules of transparency and accountability. It would thus constitute an effective mechanism to meet a priority objective in an efficient manner.


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