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Statement on behalf of the NGO
presented by Ms Malini Mehra, Friends of the Earth International
Ad-Hoc Intersessional Working Group (CSD Intersessional)
in preparation of the Commission on Sustainable Development 6th Session,
Tuesday, 24 February, 1998
We welcome both the Secretary-Generals report as well as the
Harare document as excellent contributions to the debate on freshwater. We also very much
welcome the European Unions draft intervention on freshwater, industry and
technological transfer and hope that this approach can be further discussed at the
industry segment next week. However, with respect to the above documents, the NGOs would
like to comment on some of the gaps that we feel need to be addressed. The gaps we have
identified include the following areas:
2. Gender equity
3. Institutional follow-up to CSD-6
With respect to participation, while we recognise what has been written about
participation in the reports, we would like to stress that every effort towards rational
water management has to be based on a participatory approach, especially at the local
level. Programs to raise awareness and to integrate traditional knowledge of the issues
are very important. Participation of all stakeholder groups, especially of women, should
be encouraged to ensure the quality and the successful implementation of good water
management strategies. We recommend striving for participatory, integrated approaches, as
opposed to an exclusive reliance on either top-down or bottom-up processes. We would hope
that this would be done, where relevant, through Local Agenda 21 processes.
2. Gender Equity
With respect to gender equity, we very much welcome and support the comments made by
the distinguished delegate from Namibia on this subject. We would like to further add that
good water management must give appropriate priority to the issue of gender differences
and the special roles, responsibilities and burdens of women with regard to fresh water.
Fresh water is a womens issue - for several reasons, and therefore, specific goals
have to be targeted and specific methodologies have to be implemented. For example:
a) Women are the ones who ensure their families supply of
freshwater, in the household, and often in the agricultural activities of families,
particularly in developing countries and among the rural population. It has to be
acknowledged that as fresh water continues to become scarcer in many countries, the
workload of women supplying water for their families and farms will continue to grow
enormously. Governments, local authorities and the public, in general, have to be made
aware of this increasing workload, and appropriate steps to alleviate it must be taken.
b) Public awareness raising and educational efforts which deal with
water management at home, reduction of waste, rational water use, safe reuse of water and
waste water have to be targeted, especially for women and youth who (often literally)
carry the responsibility of ensuring water supply for homes and farming activities. Women
should be encouraged to develop and share appropriate methods of monitoring their water
usage, and reduction of wastage should be rewarded as well as shared within local
c) Local authorities, NGOs and other major groups should be encouraged
to integrate participatory approaches to fresh water management, especially with women,
into their Local Agenda 21 activities.
d) The development of technologies and devices for efficient, cheap and
easy usable fresh water transportation for short distances should be encouraged and
rewarded to alleviate the workload of women and to utilise their local knowledge and
3. Institutional Follow-up to CSD-6
With respect to institutional follow-up to CSD-6, we would like to make the following
a) UNEP should be asked to convene a meeting of the relevant Convention
Secretariats that deal with fresh water issues to look for overlaps and gaps, by the end
b) There should be a review of progress toward implementation of CSD-6
decisions on fresh water, in 2000.
c) UNEPs fresh water work program should be expanded to deal with
the outcome of CSD-6.
d) The ACCs Fresh water Sub-Committee should review the work of
UN agencies to ensure that they are fulfilling the outcomes of CSD-6 by the end of 1999.
e) UN Regional Commissions should be asked to review the outcomes of
the WHOs European Environment and Health conferences decisions on a
legally-binding instrument for water-borne diseases to determine the need for each region
to adopt a similar model.
f) The CSD Secretariat should be asked to convene a meeting in 1999 to
review indicators on fresh water issues which would report to the CSD by 2000.
We believe that one of the possible areas of difficulty over the next ten years may be
in areas of conflict over transboundary water courses. We believe that UNEP should conduct
a study of current legal arrangements concerning transboundary water courses with the
intention of bringing recommendations to the UNEP Governing Council meeting in 2000, on
how to develop a generic approach to assist countries in arriving at their own regional
We recognise the importance of the statement on finance in the Harare document, and
would expect it not only to be included in the Chairmans text but expanded. It
should also include the identification of financial mechanisms and funding sources for the
timely implementation of a programme of action by national governments and, in particular,
by developing countries and countries in transition.
In conclusion - as has been emphasised by many delegations already - our concern regarding
fresh water issues does not minimise the importance of food security, agriculture and the
eradication of poverty as overriding objectives.