COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Water coalition to hold NGO-led global forum

KIRSTEN DOWNER

A global coalition of charities and groups campaigning around water issues are pinning their hopes on an alternative water summit in Johannesburg.

Called the Water Dome, the event will run from 28 August parallel to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa.

The event aims to bring together NGOs and those promoting sustainable water schemes with representatives from the private sector and world governments.

"We'll be showing those with large budgets such as the World Bank, the European Commission and Dfid that the small-scale approaches to water problems can work,

said Danielle Morley, co-ordinator of the Freshwater Action Network.

The event aims to create dialogue between the two camps of the mainstream world summit and its alternative rival, the NGO-led Global Forum.

"It will try to bridge the gap between practitioner-type forums and the political process, putting forward solutions-oriented approaches to problems of sanitation, water supply and resource management,

said Morley.

UK charity WaterAid funds the network and is itself part of the global coalition, along with Tearfund, another UK charity campaigning on water issues. Together with 50 water and sanitation global groups, including farmers, sustainable river basin management experts and anti-dam protesters, they will transform a pavilion adjoining the main conference centre into the First World space, running workshops, policy debates, project demonstrations and networking events.

WaterAid and Tearfund have been campaigning hard to raise the profile of water and sanitation issues ahead of the summit. Water has been described as the number one priority issue at Johannesburg by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, said Sharon Brand-Self, WaterAid's spokeswoman.

The charities' joint briefing argues that £17 billion is needed to prevent a global water and sanitation crisis, about the same as the West spends on pet food and ice cream.

And their campaigning seems to have paid off. The EU has committed to both a global sanitation target and an action plan ahead of the summit, said Brand-Self.

"For the first time, water and sanitation are being tackled on their own, whereas in the past water was tagged onto other issues such as food,

said Morley.

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