Friday, 20 March 2009



Calls for increasing transparency and accountability for water supply and sanitation have been voiced in different sessions at the Istanbul 2009 World Water Forum. But what does that mean and how can it be achieved?

A key element behind increased transparency and equity is monitoring - be it in the form of project-level monitoring of development impacts, sector monitoring and information systems for measuring access to water supply and sanitation facilities or monitoring of increased aid effectiveness for delivering services.

However, challenges to collecting and making relevant data accessible for public scrutiny are considerable. The national government, who is key for ensuring effective sector monitoring, may face the problem of ensuring that sector data is reliable or of not being able to release sensible information according to Mutaekulwa Mutegeki from the Tanzanian regulatory authority. Miguel Solanes who advises the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean on water law and related public utilities, highlighted that there is a significant relationship between perceived levels of corruption and quality of water and sewerage service delivery in Latin America. He warned that, in countries where corruption is high, citizens tend to be intimidated and, in consequence, participatory approaches such as budget monitoring or citizen report cards may be less feasible.

This notwithstanding, such participatory approaches are the most commonly suggested solutions to increase transparency and accountability of service delivery in the water sector promoted e.g. by the Water Integrity Network who heads the discussion of fighting corruption in the water sector.

It was therefore refreshing to also see new approaches to monitoring presented at the forum. Amadou Diallo from PEPAM presented a pilot study in Senegal where PEPAM together with WSP are exploring monitoring of rural water supply schemes performance through mobile to web services. The company has developed a new mobile phone interface that allows for an easy input of data on bulk water production, balance of current and savings accounts and the days per month that services are available. The information is sent to a website on a monthly basis.

Another innovative approach to monitoring is currently supported by under its H2O Inform and Empower initiative. According to Alix Peterson Zwane, representative of, the organisation is less interested in getting sector monitoring perfectly harmonised but rather wants to explore new ways of thinking about monitoring based on tools available through google. The organisation is supporting UN Habitat and others to pilot projects in East Africa that will enable citizens using the GoogleEarth search engine to enter and find out about service levels in their localities. The initiative hopes to use technological innovations such as GoogleEarth to interact with the multiple sources of data and address the increasing complexity faced in the sector today. The H2O initiative's new and totally decentralised approach to monitoring could go beyond the traditional citizen-government relations. This means that the government cannot hide sensitive data any more and citizens may be able to assess services anonymously.

One important caveat remains though - in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa access to the internet remains limited and applications such as GoogleEarth may be difficult to access particularly for marginalised citizens. It will be an interesting spot to watch.
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Thursday, 19 March 2009


By ANNA WALNYCKI, Institute of Development Studies DPhil student

Having spent a few days at the World Water Forum, many of the conversations I’ve had with people came back to participation in the forum. Beyond the high-profile international NGOs, there has been a noted absence of national and local CBOs outside Europe and Turkey. So, in an attempt to find out more I ventured over to Taxim Square on the other side of Istanbul where the Alternative World Water Forum is being held in parallel to the official event.

As noted in earlier blogs, the alternative forum got off to a dramatic start during the opening ceremony where two supporters were for unfolding a banner of opposition. Over at the alternative forum, feelings are still running high over the incident. A series of talks and a press conference led by Maude Barlow were given today denouncing The World Water Forum as elitist and excluding; failing to incorporate any interests beyond those of the private sector. The focus is rooted in the anti-privatisation movement and is heavily supported by the networks of Latin American NGOs seeking to have water cognised as a human right.

The morning was well attended by NGOs, CBOs and government representatives from Latin America. This it seems is where they have all been hiding out! Overall the numbers attending the alternative forum are much less than those at the official forum, however, as has been seen in recent days, they have a big voice that has dominated the coverage of the main event. While there were several passionate speeches about the need to recognise the human right to water in countries all over Latin America, I couldn’t help thinking that an opportunity had been missed. Government representatives, CBO’s, NGOs, multi national organisations and private companies are all in Istanbul this week to focus on water, but they have decided to camp out on opposite sides of the river.
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This is the first World Water Forum that I am attending - I expected it to be fairly chaotic, not so well organised and buzzing with people from all sorts of backgrounds - government, NGOs and a few people from the private sector from all over the world.

Instead, the logistics around the forum are amazing - one can clearly see that Turkey put a lot of effort into creating a professional, environmentally friendly and water-friendly image - for example, there are no plastic water bottles but there are big water containers and all participants were supplied with re-usable water bottles.

Another surprise is the many Turkish participants in the forum from school children who are having fun around the Learning Centre and the Youth Forum to Turkish participants fromgovernment, the private sector and many Turkish NGOs represented in the Civil Society area.

This, however, takes me to another point - that of where are all the other NGOs, international and from different localities? They seem to be strangely absent from the forum, particularly when looking at the space available for stalls. The private sector and governments have much larger stalls and, altogether, take up far more space than NGOs. The latter can probably be found at the alternative forum or might not have bothered to come altogether. Sadly, this means that their perspective is under-represented although topics at the forum could have accomodated their concerns and would have been enriched by their perspectives. There should be more dialogue between the different groups rather than a continuation of the scism i.e. with regard to public-private debates. With regard to dams and transboundary water issues, however, it is more questionable whether the event would be able accomodate a space for open dialogue on these issues with Turkey as the hosting country. Here is the beginning of my post.
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Wednesday, 18 March 2009


By Lyla Mehta, STEPS Centre Member

The World Water Forum means many different things to different people. For the many so called water warriors and activists attending the event and organising alternative water justice events at Taksim Square, the Forum lacks legitimacy because it is organised by the World Water Council, a private think tank with close links with the World Bank and large French water companies. Their credibility suffered further, due to the way in which a peaceful protest was crushed.

Unpromising start

Indeed, the Forum started with police brutality and repression. Peaceful protests against the commodification of water were crushed by the Turkish police. About 17 Turkish activists are languishing in prison and two foreign activists have already been deported from the country. Their crime: They unfurled a banner saying ‘No risky dams.’ Turkey, like India and China, is a big promoter of large dams and has been clearly against democratic debate on alternatives.

For the more cynical and blasé participants, this year’s Forum is like its predecessors. The same phrases are being repeated and it’s nothing more than a talking shop. This is particularly true of the large sessions which are lacklustre and endorse mainstream discourses and narratives of water and the water and sanitation crisis.

Right to Sanitation?

Some exceptions are the side events and sessions where some new issues are being debated and discussed. It is encouraging to see more attention being given to sanitation, usually neglected in big water forums. Unfortunately, I have not heard many references to community-led total sanitation which has attracted a lot of attention in recent years (see While critics feel that not enough is taking place to endorse the right to water, even less is being done regarding the right to sanitation. For one, it is still very ill defined and its scope is not clear. Does the right to sanitation only encompass having a place to shit and endowing people, especially women, with dignity or does it encompass second and third generation issues such as solid waste management, sewers and so on. What is the role of the state in implementing the right to sanitation when the current discourse is community-based initiatives and organisations, behaviour change and no subsidies? Who should be responsible for this right and which bit of government (e.g. Ministry of Health, Education, Public Works etc) should implement it and provide institutional back-up?

Environmental considerations and climate change

Climate change has also been given a lot of importance. The effect of climate change on water has been the main subject at the ministerial segment of the Forum. Clearly, droughts, floods, storms and rising sea level all impact on access to water and there are increased risks to low-lying river deltas in places like Bangladesh and Holland. Thus, the need to adapt to rapid changes and to create robust water management practices that can cope with variability and new extremes. All these are very important issues`. However, it is important for the water community not to reinvent the wheel and forget all the rich empirical research that has been undertaken on local adaptation and coping with uncertainty and variability. Indigenous knowledge about uncertain environments also needs to be built on and its potential and limitations recognised. It is also important to avoid getting lost in the world of modelling and positing simplistic links about conflicts and the scarcity that climate change is likely to bring about.

Water Footprints

A cotton T Shirt has a water footprint of 2,700 litres of water and a cup of coffee 140 litres. We are now being encouraged to think about the links between consumption in one place and the impacts on water systems elsewhere. The water footprint looks at rainwater (green), surface and groundwater (blue), as well as at polluted water (grey). Researchers from Spain and Holland in a session on water footprints provided us with detailed data on individual and national footprints and have maps with scarcity hotspots charting on the so called environmental water scarcity index. What is the value of this? Clearly, being more aware of the water we consume and the impacts of our consumption on the environment is important. But is gathering all this data merely an end in itself? How useful is this analysis for many poor nations? Is it politically naïve? What about the socio-political dimension of the water footprint? Does this analysis distinguish adequately between high end and low end consumers when it talks about a national footprint? Furthermore, in trying to reduce water footprints, technocratic and market-based solutions are evoked which can generate new scarcity myths.

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By ANNA WALNYCKI, Institute of Development Studies DPhil student

Governance and Management is one of the six key themes running through the Forum this week. Co-ordinated by UN- HABITAT, the Governance and Management sessions have explored the idea that access to water and sanitation is due to ineffective structures of governance as opposed to resource scarcity.

In contrast to previous Word Water Forums, this has brought the contentious questions of what water is and who should provide it to the forefront of the agenda. Several sessions explored the idea of the human right to water and sanitation, moving beyond the idea of water and sanitation as an economic good as well as the role of the state, private sector and the community in it’s provision.

During Tuesday’s sessions, COHRE, OHCHR and UNESCO headed up a session exploring how striving for good governance has leading to the recognition of the human right to water and sanitation in South Africa and Zambia.

Protests over recent days and at previous forums have accused the forum of being for the sole benefit of the private sector. Maude Barlow, founder of The Blue Planet Project was quoted in Monday's Guardian as saying, "It's really just a big trade show put on by the big water companies. There is going to be no mention of water as a human right”.

Whilst the events of recent days have proved that the aims of the conference are controversial, it should be noted that the need to build equitable structures of governance and the concept of water and sanitation as a human right are firmly on the agenda. Read more

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


By JULIA DAY, STEPS Centre member

The fifth World Water Forum got off to an explosive start in Istanbul, Turkey, yesterday with riot police using tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators and campaigners being deported while dire predictions about the world's water supply were made. Photo credit: International Rivers banner at World Water Forum / Nature

The World Water Forum, a seven-day event bringing together an estimated 20,000 delegates,"aims to raise the importance, awareness and understanding of water issues and propose concrete solutions to address global challenges", according to organiser World Water Council event website.

But at the opening ceremony, a protest by two campaigners, Payal Parekh and Ann-Kathrin Schneider, from the California-based campaign group International Rivers set the tone for a difficult first day. The pair were arrested and deported after unfurling a banner reading ‘No Risky Dams’ at the opening ceremony of the World Water Forum, according to Nature's blog, The Great Beyond.

The forum is held only every three years, and this time round anti-riot police were called in to break up a gathering of around 300 demonstratorswho were heading to the venue buildings.

According to news agency AFP: "Protesters, whose rally had been called by unions, environmentalists, and leftist organisations, responded to tear gas by hurling rocks and beating officers with sticks.

They chanted slogans such as 'water is people, it's life, it's not for sale," and "we want to crush this forum which wants to take our water'. "

Meanwhile the dire predictions about the state of the world's water resources began rolling in. Loic Fauchon, president of the World Water Council said humanity was squarely to blame for wasting the precious stuff of life.

"We are responsible," he said. "Responsible for the aggressions perpetrated against water, responsible for the current climate changes which come on top of the global changes, responsible for the tensions which reduce the availability of freshwater masses so indispensable to the survival of humanity."

He added: "At this very time in the history of water, we are faced with a major challenge to use more water resources but at the same time to protect, enhance the value of and even reuse these waters," Voice of America's website reported.

Anita McNaught, Al Jazeera's reporter in Istanbul, is filing daily dispatches from the World Water Forum. McNaught had an interesting conversation with Olcay Onver, head of the United Nation's world water assessment programme after the sobering UN report on the world's water supplies was released yesterday afternoon. Mr Onver admitted on air that one of the foremost problems the UN faced was getting adequate data on how bad the crisis really is.

"The reliable data in many places," Olcay Onver said "is really not there". So does that mean the situation is even worse than the UN says it is? "We don't really have enough data to tell," he replied.

The UN said that among the World Water Development Report 3 findings were: "Demand for water has never been as great as it is today, and it will only increase due to population growth and mobility, rising living standards, changes in food consumption, and increased energy production, especially biofuels."
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By JULIA DAY, STEPS Centre member

As participants gather for the major international meeting in Winnipeg Canada this week to discuss ways forward on the One World, One Health initiative, a series of new papers have been published, documenting country-level experiences of HPAI responses in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia (papers and presentations. Photo credit: Avian flu blood sample / UNSIC.

The papers were discussed at an expert meeting last month - The political economy of the response to highly pathogenic avian influenza: lessons for the One World, One Health initiative - co-hosted by the STEPS Centre and Chatham House and funded by DFID/the World Ban as part of a wider project on avian flu.

A group of 25 researchers and practitioners - both social and natural scientists - met to review the country-level experiences of HPAI response in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia (papers and presentations) and draw out more general lessons for the One World, One Health approach, on the basis of a comparative analysis.

A number of key themes were highlighted, including the importance of a pro-poor and livelihoods approach; the opportunities for learning from local innovation; the challenges of building resilience in response systems; and the broader geopolitics of the response – and the importance of taking into account both local and international political and bureaucratic realities in the implementation of a One World, One Health approach.

A meeting report summary was prepared which has fed into the major international meeting in Winnipeg in March 2009 and a subsequent high level discussion on governance arrangements to be convened by Chatham House, London in collaboration with the STEPS Centre.
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Monday, 16 March 2009


Many people in developing countries use a variety of market-based providers of health services. These can range from highly organised and regulated hospitals and specialist doctors to informal health workers and drug sellers operating outside the legal framework. Encounters with health workers, even within public systems, often involve a cash payment.

Understanding health markets and improving health system performance where markets are a major part of the services people use is central to accelerating the scale-up of coverage and use of health services and delivering improved outcomes. Without this, the health-related Millennium Development Goals and universal access commitments are unlikely to be met.

The latest issue of id21 insights explores some of the ways that the performance of health markets could be improved so that poor people benefit. The issue was produced in partnership with the Future Health Systems Research Programme Consortium – a UK Department for International Development funded initiative that takes an innovative approach to the problem of weak and poorly functioning health systems.

‘Making health markets work for poor people’ covers a variety of issues from the role of informal providers in delivering services to how franchising might alter drug markets in developing countries and contains learning from a number of countries including Nigeria, India and Bangladesh. Many of the articles point to the importance of market regulation and the role of civil society in overseeing health markets to ensure quality, access and equity. The guest editors, Hilary Standing and Gerry Bloom, point out, ‘These types of initiatives are more likely to be scaled up when complemented by strong political leadership and effective support from government systems.’

You can view this issue of id21 insights online or download the PDF version.

To comment on any of the articles in this edition please feel free to contact the authors or or Anna Thompson on

More information about Future Health Systems can be found on our website
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Friday, 13 March 2009


By LYLA MEHTA , STEPS Centre member

Every three years, the water community gathers together for the Water Water Forum. This year’s Water Water Forum is in Istanbul from March 16 – 22. Are such global meetings a big circus or can something meaningful emerge? Photo credit: Crispin Hughes / Panos

My colleagues and I will be in Istanbul to participate in the Forum and will write regular blogs here on The Crossing. Join us to be updated on what’s happening, what the faultlines in the debate are and whether there’s any hope for the billions without access to water and sanitation.

Find out more about the STEPS Centre's work on water and sanitation.
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