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Statement on behalf of the NGO Freshwater Caucus
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-General’s report as well as the Harare document as excellent contributions to the debate on freshwater. We also very much welcome the European Union’s 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:

1. Participation

2. Gender equity

3. Institutional follow-up to CSD-6

4. Conflict

5. Finance

1. Participation
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 women’s 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 communities.

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 managerial skills.

3. Institutional Follow-up to CSD-6
With respect to institutional follow-up to CSD-6, we would like to make the following suggestions:

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 of 1999.

b) There should be a review of progress toward implementation of CSD-6 decisions on fresh water, in 2000.

c) UNEP’s fresh water work program should be expanded to deal with the outcome of CSD-6.

d) The ACC’s 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 WHO’s European Environment and Health conference’s 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.

4. Conflict
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 agreements.

5. Finance
We recognise the importance of the statement on finance in the Harare document, and would expect it not only to be included in the Chairman’s 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.

Thank you.


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