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The Luncheon Meeting organized by the United Nations Foundation
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Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I feel honoured and privileged to have been invited by the United Nations Foundation to address this august gathering.

I am truly happy that I could respond to this invitation from my friend Senator Tim Wirth. Tim joined me in Johannesburg during the World Summit on Sustainable Development last year. He brought a clear vision and a rare commitment for Africa to the Summit. I, therefore, owed him this trip. So I broke my leave and came to Washington to be with you today.

I must admit that I was also motivated by another reason to undertake this trip. The intervening months since Johannesburg has given us ample time to reflect on the outcomes of the Summit. One thing came out loud and clear from the Summit – that we all have a stake in the outcome and we can no longer do it alone. We need to work together in partnership – in partnership with the national and local governments, and in partnership with the private sector and the rest of the civil society. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to start a dialogue with you that we may continue as we remain engaged in the implementation of the Johannesburg Plan of Action.

The accomplishment of the World Summit on Sustainable Development will be debated for a long time. Allow me, Ladies and Gentlemen, to begin by sharing my views on what I see as some of the key outcomes of Johannesburg.

  • I come from Africa and I have my own perspective of the dehumanizing aspect of poverty and how it impacts on human development and the environment. I was therefore very glad to see that the discussions at the Summit helped to broaden and deepen our understanding of the inextricable linkages between poverty, under-development and environmental degradation. This, I am confident, will influence policymaking at both national and international levels.
  • I was pleased to see that UN-HABITAT concerns were well reflected in the plan of implementation of WSSD and we were successful in including a reference to adequate shelter in the Johannesburg Declaration. The inclusion of Shelter alongside water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity has made it clear that shelter or “home” is the basis for providing other basic needs.
  • Water and sanitation, undoubtedly, emerged as a key development issue at the Summit. The Plan of Implementation adopted by the Summit ratified the millennium target on safe drinking water and included a similar target for sanitation (to halve by 2015, the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation). The battle for water and sanitation will have to be fought in human settlements, particularly in the slums and shanties of the growing urban areas of the developing countries. At the plenary discussion on Water, I emphasized that water and sanitation for the urban and rural poor remains a central challenge in our straggle for achieving sustainable human settlements. Without safe water and adequate sanitation, there can be no sustainable human settlements; and without sustainable settlements, there could be no sustainable development.
  • I was also pleased to see that Africa and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) were identified for special attention at the Summit in Johannesburg. The Summit gave a clarion call to the international community to better focus efforts to address the development needs of Africa, a continent that remains a challenge to the African’s themselves and needs the goodwill of the rest of the world.
  • Indeed, an important accomplishment of the Summit was to keep its focus tightly on action. It was clear that abstract concepts and high level declarations could not make a difference in the lives of the common man. The important thing was to concentrate on concrete and measurable action. The spirited words of many world leaders still ring in my ears: the time for discussion is now over, the time for action is now here.
  • The United States demonstrated this commitment for action by announcing concrete pledges in a number of areas, the most notable among these was the commitment to invest $ 970 million over the next three years on water and sanitation projects.
  • Important partnership commitments also came from the Asian Development Bank and the Government of the Netherlands, which, together, pledged a total contribution of $10 million in grants and $500 million in loans to UN-HABITAT’s Water for Asian Cities Programme. The programme will build capacity and prepare an enabling environment for fresh investments in water and sanitation, specifically targeted to the urban poor, in a region which is home to 70 per cent of the world’s poor.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Summit discussed many other issues, e.g., production and consumption patterns, energy, chemicals, atmosphere, biodiversity, forests etc. But I would like to concentrate today on three issues, which are related to the Habitat Agenda and central to sustaining development in this planet. I refer to Africa, Water and Cities.

Let me start with Africa. Africa has entered the new Millennium with a sense of hope and renewed confidence. With widening and deepening of political reforms, economic liberalization and a strengthened civil society, an increasing number of African countries are striving towards economic recovery and sustainable development.

But also Africa is a continent of paradox. Home to the world’s longest river, the Nile, and the second largest freshwater lake, Lake Victoria, Africa has abundant water resources contributed by large rivers, vast stretches of wetlands and limited but widely spread groundwater.

Yet only a limited number of countries are beneficiaries of this abundance. Fourteen African countries account for 80 per cent of the total water available in the continent, while 12 of the countries together account for only 1 per cent of water availability. Some 400 million people are estimated to be living in water-scarce condition today. Indeed my home country, Tanzania, claims over 40 per cent of Africa’s water resources from Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganaika and other major water bodies.

Water in Africa is not only unfairly distributed by nature but due to backward technology and underdevelopment, it remains also inadequately allocated by man. At the turn of the new Millennium, over 300 million people in Africa still do not have access to safe water.

But perhaps nowhere is the challenge more complex and demanding than in the rapidly growing African cities. With an average growth rate of five per cent per annum, Africa is the fastest urbanizing region in the world today. Between 1990 and 2020, in many of our life times, urban populations in Africa will rise fourfold from 138 to 500 million.

The ecological footprints of African cities are expanding far beyond their borders. Large-scale inter-basin transfers are becoming increasingly common. Johannesburg is forced to bring its water from sources more than 600 kilometres away in the highlands of a neighbouring country, Lesotho. In regions of water stress with declining per capita water availability, intense competition is developing between cities and countries for shared water resources.

Water scarcity in African cities is fast becoming a potential source of social and political conflict. More than half of the populations living in African cities today are denied access to municipal supplies and the poor are forced to pay to street vendors for a litre of water as much as five to twenty times of what their affluent neighbours pay for municipal supplies.

It is unbelievable but true that a habitant of Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi and Africa, earning less than a dollar a day, pays as much as five times the price paid by an average U.S. citizen for a litre of water. This is also true for water prices in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and other least developed countries.

Those who are connected to municipal supplies are often not necessarily much better off; in summer months, taps may run dry for days together. Traditionally, girls in Africa take the brunt of the burden of carrying water home, missing out on the opportunity of attending school. Increased access to water can considerably reduce this workload of girls, and change their future.

We can not talk of water for cities without the related problem of sanitation. In fact, the focus of the international community on water has often masked the growing problem of poor sanitation which present the most dehumanizing aspect of the daily battle for survival for the urban poor. The poor pay a heavy price for the lack of clean water and sanitation, in disease and squalor. The cholera epidemic that broke out in East Africa in recent years had a devastating effect on both life and the economy of the countries. The affected countries lost in exports, the fishing industry nearly collapsed and the tourism industry plummeted. All these could have been avoided with modest investments in water and sanitation.

Paradoxically, ladies and gentlemen, while the urban poor struggle for water, more than half of the water produced at a high cost to serve the needs of our burgeoning cities is lost even before it reaches the consumers. To give you an example, the volume of water lost as “unaccounted for” in the capital city of Nairobi because of leakages and illegal connections could meet the water needs of Mombassa, the second largest city in Kenya.

There is also little disincentive for wasteful and profligate use. Industry is a growing user for water but seldom practices water recycling or water reuse. To give you one example, the Kenya Breweries alone consumes nearly 6 per cent of the total drinking water supply to the Nairobi city. A large part of this water is used for washing the vessels, which could be easily recycled.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The water crisis in African cities must be recognized for what it really is: a crisis of governance – of weak policies and poor management – rather than a crisis of scarcity, at least in the immediate term. We need a fundamental change in our approach to urban governance if we want to see a meaningful change in our lifetime.

A serious obstacle to making a clear break from the past has been our inability to perceive the economic, social and environmental value of water in all its competing uses. Today, the poor subsidize the rich - a situation clearly absurd and unacceptable. We must put in place a realistic pricing policy that will allow its conservation, discourage waste and will ensure that the poor will be able to meet their basic needs at a price they can afford. The lifeline tariff of South Africa is a clear example of how progressive tariff can be used as an instrument of social equity.

Secondly, there is an urgent necessity to manage the urban water demand onto a sustainable track before it spirals out of control. Unfortunately, much less attention is paid by governments and the international community to demand management strategies than they actually deserve. A wide range of affordable technical solutions are now available. Public information campaigns and water education could go a long way to use water with responsibility and reason. Demand management could “buy precious time” by postponing costly investments to more appropriate times.

Thirdly, we must address with priority the increasing pollution of water sources by wastes generated by cities. Some of the rivers passing through major cities have degraded into open sewers. Cities should put in place monitoring, assessment and forecasting systems that can identify imminent threats to sustainability of water resources.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, now let me turn to action, for at this junction you must be wondering as to what is going on the ground.

I am pleased to inform you of an important regional initiative, which is supporting African countries to establish a new model for water management in African cities.

The Water for African Cities programme is demonstrating in seven African countries (Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia) how to put in place an integrated urban water resource management strategy that could bring three key sectors: urban, environment and water, to work together. Tanzania is the eighth country to have joined the programme recently.

In a relatively short span of time this programme has created a newdemand side focus in water management. By cutting down on wastes and containing excessive demand, several cities have clearly demonstrated how service coverage, especially to the urban poor, could be extended with modest additional investments.

Catchment management strategies introduced by the programme in the participating cities are demonstrating practical application of Integrated Water Resource Management at the local level. The programme provides a unique platform to bring together diverse stakeholders from the urban, water and environment sectors and community groups into action-planning, monitoring and implementation of local environment management of water resources. Some of these community groups have, within a short time, become effective lobbies for bargaining with local authorities with a diversity of issues such as local environmental management, protecting their livelihoods, promoting investment etc.

The regional activities of the programme are extending its outreach and benefits to other cities in the continent through sharing of information and experience on good practices and through policy dialogues and research. Recently, the programme has launched a major water education initiative in African cities and a comprehensive capacity building programme is currently under way.

Last year, we requested Mrs. Margaret Catley-Carlson, the GWP Chair, to evaluate the impact of the programme and to provide guidance on how we should take this process forward. I am very pleased to have received her report, which is not only positive in what has been achieved with very modest resources, but also gives us constructive guidance on how the effectiveness and impact of the programme can be further enhanced. The evaluation also provides us with a forward-looking strategy to move to the next phase to deepen the impact of the programme.

I applaud the timely and vital support given by the United Nations Foundation, under the able leadership of Senator Tim Wirth, helping us to kick start this programme with a seed support of 2.5 million dollars. This support has helped us to leverage three-fold additional support from bilateral donors, notably, the Government of the Netherlands and Sweden. The countries have also demonstrated their commitment to this initiative by committing matching support to the programme.

Ladies and gentlemen, Johannesburg has given us a fresh impetus and mandate to redouble our effort to achieve the Millennium Goals in water and sanitation. Achieving this target in African cities will require providing safe water and basic sanitation to an additional 200 million population in African cities.

According to one estimate, the construction cost alone to achieve this target would be in the region of 35 billion dollars – 12 billion for water and 23 billion for sanitation. This will require a three-fold increase in the current level of investment. Raising these resources will not be easy.. We urgently need to find new and innovative approaches to tap new channels for financing this gap. I am here to ask for your support in mobilizing both public and private sector resources in this common effort.

I am pleased to announce that the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), based in California has contributed 15 million dollars to UN-HABITAT to put in place local environment monitoring mechanisms in 1000 cities around the world, using its GIS software technology.

This initiative will not provide water and sanitation to the poor in these cities, but this will indeed help us in mapping the areas with deficient provision and monitoring improvements in service provision more effectively.

UN-HABITAT has the expertise and experience of what needs to be done in a cost-effective manner to deliver the MDGs and the WSSD targets. What is lacking is resources to translate strategies and policies into action. This is where this distinguished gathering can play its part.

And in saying this, I am encouraged by the initiatives coming from Washington and the United States. The African Growth Opportunity Act, is a generous offer. To take full advantage of this offer, we need to build capacity of the beneficiaries to participate in this effectively. The leadership of President Bush in declaring the Millennium Challenge Account at Monterrey has been widely welcome.

I am pleased to inform you that since September 2000, when I was appointed by the Secretary General to head UN-HABITAT, I have received generous grants from the Rockefeller Foundation to work on a communitybased initiative for African HIV/AIDS orphans who will number some 40 million by 2015.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Soon after Johannesburg, on the World Habitat Day in October last year, I announced the establishment of a new Water and Sanitation Trust Fund. This Fund will assist developing countries in their effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goal for water and sanitation.

The Fund will have a special focus for Africa where the need is greatest. The Fund will enable us to take the Water for African Cities Programme to other countries, and to deepen its impact in the participating countries. The Fund has already been capitalized by advancing one million dollar from the Housing and Human Settlements Foundation. We need an additional 25 million dollars over the next 5 years.

I would like to conclude by making a fervent appeal to all of you here today to join the continuing effort of UN-HABITAT to support, what the world leaders eluded in Johannesburg as “humanity’s best investment to achieve development and sustainability”. I will repeat what was said: “We have the technology and talent. It is achievable. We have to act.”

We must act, and act now.

I thank you for your kind attention.

 
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