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Best Practices voor een duurzame toekomst
24 september 2005

Dutch water sector welcomes new Budget plans

According to the Millennium Development Goals the amount of people without proper sanitation and water should be reduced by half in the year 2015. But over 80 percent of them live in rural or unplanned urban areas without any traditional system for piped water supply or sewerage. "What we need is innovation, and we are glad to find that spirit in the Budget", says Jeroen van der Sommen, managing director of the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP). The NWP is an independent body, set up by the private and public sector to coordinate water activities of the Dutch water sector overseas. Van der Sommen praises the fact that 'Water' is one of the priority themes of the newly installed Innovation Programme of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. "In the water sector economic and social values are intertwined, and an integral approach asks for innovation." The Minister of Development Cooperation announces a special programme to provide five million people with safe water and sanitation next year, mounting to fifty million people by the end of 2015. She has invited the NWP to help construct this programme, a work that has already been started. Maarten Blokland, deputy-director of Unesco-IHE, Institute for Water Education, discerns in the Budget many lessons learned from the past. "Like the emphasis on capacity building, and not just on providing infrastructure. Of course everybody knows that is makes no sense to build pipes and pumps, without seeing to it that they are well maintained and managed. But it is an often forgotten lesson, as is the lesson that providing water should not go without providing sanitation. In the present Budget, we see this integral approach, which is quite important." Sjef Ernes, heading the Aqua for All foundation, that brings together Dutch water enterprises, authorities and relief organisations, welcomes the promotion of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the Budget. "But," he states, "given the fact that water and sanitation is primarily a government task, it remains important to invest in the 'public' partner. If the local government is weak, unreliable, or too distant from the population, a PPP will not succeed." He also warns that another partner, the NGOs, being representatives of the local population, should not be neglected: "They need support, as they are critical for success or failure." Ernes fears that the Millennium Development Goals will become a 'number game'. "It is not a matter of counting taps and latrines. The government admits that capacity building, institutional development and a gender balanced approach is needed, but this supposes investing in people." A similar comment comes from Paul van Koppen, director of the International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC): "We appreciate the quantitative targets, but we worry about their sustainability. If fifty million people have to be provided with water and sanitation on such short notice, the programmes risk neglecting qualitative aspects, such as gender specificity, reaching the poorest, and local empowerment." As for the emphasis on PPPs, Van Koppen fully admits that the private sector is essential for development, but he would rather see the participation of local enterprises. "We believe more in their strength than in those of large multinationals." P+ Webtip: Dutch Government
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