Programme introduction

I. Responding to the call for action to eradicate poverty

“Eradicating poverty is the greatest challenge facing the global community as we move into the 2nd Millennium”. This was the assessment by 188 heads of state when they met at the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York, September 2000. At the meeting eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and a call for action was formulated under the overall goal to: “Reduce by half the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015”.

Commitment to poverty eradication was reconfirmed by world leaders at the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg 2002. The fact that the earth is facing a serious water crisis, and that the poorest are most vulnerable to the effects of this crisis, underscores the need for action. The water crisis is one of governance, essentially caused by the ways in which we mismanage water. At Johannesburg, the Millennium Goals were amended and a Plan of Implementation approved, particularly considering how inextricably poverty eradication and access to water resources and services are linked. The goals and plan provide a framework under which development progress will be promoted and measured.

Water related challenges posed by the present global status of poverty are daunting:

  • In 2000, 1.1 billion people were without adequate water supply. More than twice that
    number – 2.4 billion – were without basic sanitation. Estimates suggest that deficient drinking water, sanitation and hygiene cause widespread ill-health and close to 5000 premature deaths per day. A high proportion of the deaths are children under the age of five.
  • Funds for investments and capacity for sustainable water management and service
    provisions to ameliorate the plight of the poorest are inadequate. The World Water Commission estimates that a doubling of investment is required in developing countries. For drinking water, sanitation & hygiene, and municipal wastewater treatment, this means an annual increase from the present level, to approximately USD100 billion more.
  • Present investments are mainly aimed at large-scale solutions in urban and peri-urban areas,
    and do not sufficiently reach those who are in the greatest need. It is estimated that out of 400 million unserved poor in Africa, 330 million live in rural areas where smaller scale approaches are needed.

The “Water for the Poorest”- Conference in Stavanger in November 2003 aims to contribute to moving the poverty and water agenda forward in cooperation and multi-stakeholder dialogue between developing country politicians, donor country politicians and officials, water and aid professionals, civil society organizations, and bilateral and multilateral aid agencies. Discussions will be directed towards action on the ground.

The Conference will concentrate attention on the hardest-hit countries in Africa and Asia with a focus on integrated water resource management and small- and medium scale water supply and sanitation solutions, using local or other appropriate and affordable methods and technologies. We offer a contribution to overcome obstacles to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals by addressing these in three topical tracks where we invite your participation:

  • The Governance Challenge: How to strengthen the water and poverty focus in
    development strategies.
  • The Financing Challenge: How to improve financial mechanisms, resource
    mobilization and the tracking of progress.
  • The Empowerment Challenge: How can we develop effective strategies for
    empowering the poorest?

The focus must be on local, national and international commitment to action. The conference output will feed into the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) current process of overseeing and advising on progress in MDG implementation.

II. Conference Objective and Process

The Conference Objectives are to:
Identify priority actions for reaching the Millennium Development Goals and Johannesburg targets on water management and water supply and sanitation, thereby contributing to the overall goal of poverty eradication.

Strengthen the commitment to water as an integral part of national strategies for poverty reduction and development and its operationalization through better management and expanded and accelerated delivery. The focus will be on the responsibilities of local authorities, national governments, international donors, and roles of civil society and the private sector in delivering concrete results.

Make a contribution to the 12th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) by providing key recommendations on the overarching theme of water as priority area.

Conference Process
The Conference will be conducted under the supervision of the Conference Chair, Professor Dr. Jan Pronk. The output of the Conference will be a Chair’s Summary.

Multi-stakeholder dialogues relating to the objective will be pursued in three topical tracks centered on the challenges of governance, finance, and empowerment. Crucial for reaching effective results is the active participation and exchanges in multi-stakeholder dialogue around the key questions outlined in the agenda on the next pages. This requires involvement of key decision-makers and representatives of civil society and water resources and services expertise in Track Session Panels consisting of:

  • Ministers from developing countries
  • Ministers from donor countries
  • Leaders from UN and International Financing Institutions
  • Civil society/ the poorest
  • Humanitarian organizations
  • Private sector/the business community
  • Water and aid professionals

Each track consists of 3 sessions, the two first to consider and debate issues, the last session for summing up findings and recommendations. Each of the two first track-sessions will deal with one or two key issues/questions. Each session will have a panel of selected ministers, leaders of international organizations and the other stakeholder groups. Separate Track Chairs and Co-Chairs will for each track guide the multi-stakeholder dialogues. The substance of the issues and questions posed in the agenda on the following pages will motivate the selection of Track Chairs, Co-Chairs and Panel members.

Three track papers are under preparation for setting the scene and providing focus for track discussions and outputs. The papers will be distributed to participants in advance of the Conference.

The plenary programme will contain presentations from leaders representing world organizations and countries committed to combating poverty and contributing to reaching the time-bound 2005 and 2015 Millennium Development Goals and Johannesburg targets. Final recommendations will be submitted to the CSD-Chair.