Thursday, 23 September 2010

Africa’s WatSan Progress

I’ve just come across the Africa Progress Report 2010From Agenda to Action: Turning Resources into Results for People” published in May by the Africa Progress Panel in Geneva. If, like me, you’ve not come across the Africa Progress Panel before, here’s what it has to say about itself:

The Africa Progress Panel brings together a unique group of leaders under the chairmanship of Kofi Annan. The Panel monitors and promotes mutual accountability and shared responsibility for progress in Africa. Its three focus areas are economic and political governance; finance for sustainable development, including ODA [Official Development Assistance]; and MDG achievement – notably in light of climate change. The work of the Panel aims to track progress and draw attention to critical issues and opportunities for progress in Africa.

The Africa Progress Report 2010 (page 30) has this to say on access to water and sanitation:

Remarkable advances have been made in several African countries, including Angola and Botswana, but overall progress on the continent is insufficient. … At current rates, Africa will achieve the targets only in 2040, with some of the poorer countries not meeting them before 2050.

The challenges are enormous. Despite an increase of 11 per cent since 1990, only 60 per cent of Africans have access to improved sources of drinking water and more than half still do not have access to improved sanitation facilities. In 14 countries, more than a quarter of the population still takes longer than 30 minutes to make one round trip to collect water. Disparities between rural and urban areas have also been growing fast.

Most African countries have established national task forces and developed plans to reach the MDGs on water supply and sanitation. But plans are often neither country-owned nor actively implemented. Despite increased activity on the intergovernmental level, including through meetings of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), the establishment of the African Water Facility (AWF), the dedication of the 11th AU Summit to water and sanitation, and the institutionalization of an annual African Water Week, African leaders have been slow to act at the national level. Many of the recommendations and commitments enshrined in documents such as the African Water Vision (2000), the Tunis Ministerial Declaration on Accelerating Water Security for Africa’s Socioeconomic Development (2008), and the Sharm El-Sheikh Commitments for Accelerating the Achievement of Water and Sanitation Goals in Africa remain unfulfilled. The 2010 targets included in the eThekwini Declaration, including the allocation of 0.5 per cent of GDP for sanitation and hygiene, will also be missed by most countries.

So political will is lacking and the main reason why Africa’s so far behind on the MDGs, not external aid as Jeffrey Sachs claims (see blog of 17 September).

And here’s an excerpt from the speech by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, at the ‘High-Level Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals’ which has been taking place this week in New York:

There is one thing that we all have to accept: the primary responsibility for development lies with the governments of the developing countries. It is in their hands whether aid can be effective. Therefore, support to good governance is as important as aid itself. Today's emerging economies show that development policy can ultimately only be successful if there is national stewardship and national implementation. This also applies to mobilising the necessary resources. ODA funding can, apart from emergency situations, only be a contribution to national resources, never a substitute for them.

[I’m waiting to see what the outcomes of this ‘High-Level Plenary Meeting’ (better known to most of us as the UN MDG Summit) might be. Just more weasel words? We’ll have to wait and see − at least Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been making the right sort of noise: Lack of access to safe water perpetuates poverty (to be fair, he did mention sanitation)].