|Addressing the Water Crisis - Healthier and more Productive Lives for Poor People (DFID, 2001, 58 p.)|
|4. Meeting the challenge|
4.6.1 International concern for water resources and the environment has now reached an unprecedented level, as demonstrated by the recent spate of major conferences. Now we must put the talk into practice. The international community must support people, civil society, the private sector and, most of all, the governments in their work. That work has been described in some detail in sections 4.2 to 4.5 above, and this should provide the basic agenda for support by the international community. Out of all that work, there are certain areas in which international involvement has particular advantages, and these are highlighted in the following paragraphs.
4.6.2 International political processes can be especially helpful in mediating between competing country interests for water resources, for example agreeing the allocation of water between upstream and downstream countries. The World Bank and the regional development banks are well placed, by virtue of their political access and financial influence, to play active roles in dispute resolution. Other international agencies can work alongside them to provide technical expertise and financial support so as to achieve long-term solutions to water sharing problems. It is essential that the international community develops a coherent and mutually supportive approach.
4.6.3 In private sector participation, the international community should support good practice and provide guidance on efficient and sustainable service provision for all. This will include supporting the development of appropriate agreements that neither government nor the private sector, will come to regret in the longer term. Regulation and bench-marking the performance of both public and private service providers can also appropriately be supported by the international community.
4.6.4 The national governments, in their work to set policies and allocate water, will need comprehensive, accurate information about water to be compiled and made widely available. The international community, with its expertise and resources, can help with this work. Often the collection, storage and retrieval of such information is the responsibility of different organisations; they must work together better to share the data and information they have and to ensure that other people can access it easily.
4.6.5 As a more general issue, the international community should share more effectively the existing knowledge that can contribute to meeting the various water challenges. We also need to generate, evaluate and share new knowledge about diverse subjects such as population growth, allocating water resources between different uses, potential areas of conflict over water resources, demand for food, environmental resources, pollution levels, environmental change, and the linkages between water and people's livelihoods. The international research agenda should respond to demand for knowledge on particular subjects, and should address the problems and issues of poor people, not the interests of researchers in the rich countries.
4.6.6 The current information technology revolution has enormous implications and potential in many areas. In water, as in all areas, we need to ensure that knowledge is available in a form accessible to all those who need it. Electronic media can provide an opportunity for some catching up, but they can further marginalise the people who lack access to them. The international community should work to achieve equity in people's access to information on water globally, nationally and at local levels.
4.6.7 To generate knowledge more effectively, we must support the institutions that generate and share that knowledge, particularly those in developing countries. We must also be aware of the types of people who will use that knowledge to develop policy and implement work programmes. For example, if local communities will be taking increasing responsibility for their own water services, training and education initiatives must reflect this change, balancing new community-based approaches with more traditional professional networks. In the latter, enhanced education and training curricula can create a new generation of stakeholders with a stronger understanding of interdisciplinary issues and water resources management concepts and options.
4.6.8 The global water problems are too big and complex for individual countries or international agencies to tackle alone. The international community should foster new alliances between groups around the world and with local and national governments, within which policy-making and implementation can be more transparent and consensus can be built. This will be particularly important for implementing policies that require significant behavioural and financial changes. As the users make an increasing contribution to the cost of water services, the international community should support groups that give a voice to those users, particularly the poor.
4.6.9 To be consistent with their own advice to other people, the large number of international organisations and networks must also coordinate their own work better and reduce duplication. In this regard, the UN's Development Assistance Framework, the World Bank's Comprehensive Development Framework and the increasing importance of Poverty Reduction Strategy Plans (PRSPs) being developed by the countries themselves, are of particular note. Bilateral donors, such as DFID, that fund the various international networks have a strong role to play in this work.