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Africa NGOs petitions AU on access to water

Open Letter to Africa Union Chairman on the Occasion of 11th Ordinary Session of the Assembly

Friday, 06 June 2008

Dear President,

1. We are a coalition of social movements, NGOs and trade unions working on water and social justice with international solidarity would like to take the opportunity on the occasion of the Africa Union Summit to draw your attention to the poor people’s access to potable water and its resultant consequences on the citizens of the continent. According to the 2006 Human Development Report 1.1 billion people across the globe have no access to potable water and majority of them who are concentrated on the African continent where 1 out of 5 people have no access.

This has translated into massive cost to the continent; diarrhoea and parasitic infections 1.8 million child deaths per year, simply put 5,000 die per day. By the time the pre-summit and summit will be done, 50, 000 children will have died from water-related causes, making it the second cause of child mortality. We are concerned that Africa is seriously lagging behind achieving the MDG on water, it will take a whole generation (30 years) for Sub-Sahara Africa to meet the MDG target.

Inimical Policies

2. With these catastrophes hanging around our necks, our governments are promoting policies which are deepening the crisis; Introduction of Full Cost Recovery is hiking prices of water out of the reach of poor citizens, hence denying access to potable water. Equally dangerous is the demand driven water schemes in Africa for rural areas whereby they are made to contribute 5% of the cost of water facilities. This has been a big barrier for access to potable water by the rural citizens.

3. The introduction of restrictors and pre-paid water meters targeting the urban poor in South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda has been linked to cholera outbreaks and poor sanitation. These technologies automatically cut off the poor when they do not have money to pay for water instantly.

4. Despite monumental failure of the private sector to provide water to the poor and needy in South Africa, Guinea, Ghana, Mali, Tanzania to mention a few the World Bank and donors are still bent on promoting water privatisation on the continent, through a number of mechanisms, including the Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF[1]), whose main agenda is to dismantle public utilities for the promotion of the private sector. Equally worrying is the EU push for opening up waste and wastewater management of ACP countries in the current negotiation of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA). This when signed would lock-in Africa into the hands of private concerns from Europe.

5. Promotion of water rights and water permits in national water policies being sponsored by the EU and the World Bank is opening the floodgates for the commodification of water and absolute control of water resources by the private sector for profit. If these policies are allowed to take root, water would be the flashpoint for conflict on the continent as already is happening between mining concessionaires and communities competing with them for the same water resources.

Our request

6. Instead of donors helping to destroy public utilities which delivers 90% of global water supply, they should support public utilities by building on their strengths and reducing their weaknesses. There are strong public utility companies on the continent who have the capacity to facilitate the restructuring of weaker ones with Public-Public Partnerships (PUPs), on a not-for-profit basis. The Global Water Operators Partnership (GWOP[2]) created by the UN is a window of opportunity which could be used to achieve this goal.

7. AU should lobby EU and WB to fund public utilities instead of the Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) which are not working. Currently our network has engaged the EU Africa Water Facility[3] to shift its focus from funding private sector and NGOs to funding public utilities. The African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) should put more effort into building strong public water utilities as a priority over the promotion of PPPs, and encourage member countries to spend at least 3% of GDP on the provision of water and sanitation services. Our governments cannot ignore this obligation to our citizens.

8. The Assembly should recognise water as a human right and encourage member nations to pass legislation to instil the rights in national constitutions. Water permit regimes which promote commodification should be discarded and in place, we should promote water commons.

9. Full Cost Recovery should be abolished and in place explore alternatives such as solidarity tariff structures. And also recognise water as a social good which needs social investment to meet the needs of the continent’s citizens.

10. The AU Assembly should demand from countries that have introduced pre-paid water meters and flow restrictors to immediately remove them. And implement the provision of at least 50 litres of free water per person per day. And also commend the South African judiciary for ruling against pre-paid water meters in Johannesburg.

11. We believe that if the AU Assembly is able to get its members to implement the above recommendations, it would go a long way to reduce the continent’s health budget, increase productivity, reduce poverty and improve human dignity. It has been known that access to clean water and sanitation can reduce the incidence of child mortality by 50%.

12. We hope that Mr President would use his office to submit our request to the AU Assembly

Signed Members

1. Africa Water Network

2. National Society for Human Rights-Namibia

3. Campaign for Good Governance-Sierra Leone

4. Naional Coalition Against Privatisation of Water-Ghana

5. Friends of the Earth-Togo

6. Bread of Life Development Foundation-Nigeria

7. Nigeria Civil Society Network for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN)-Nigeria

8. Pan African Vision for the Enviroment-Nigeria

9. Tanzania Water and Sanitation NGO-Tanzani

10. Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church-Ethiopia

11. Wetlands Programme, East African Wild Life Society-Kenya

12. ORCADE-Burkina Faso

13. Association Sénégalaise pour la Protection de l’Environnement-Senegal

14. Sustainable Development Institute-Liberia

15. Coalition Against Privatisation of Water (CAWP)-South Africa

16. Kenya Local Government Workers Union-Kenya

17. Amalgamated union Public Corporations, technical

and Recreational Services (AUPCTRE)-Nigeria

18. Coalition Malienne de Defense de l` Eau (CMDE) –Mali

19. Public Services International-West Africa

20. Public Services International-South Africa

21. Public Services International-North Africa

22. Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN)- North Africa

23. Habitat International Coalition (HIC)- North Africa

24. Water Employees Trade Union of Malawi-Malawi

25. Association Pour la Défense des Consommateurs (APDC)-Cameron

26. Tanzania Gender Networking Programme-Tanzania

27. Consumer First Network-Kenya

28. ACORD-Uganda

29. Water Dialogue-South Africa

30. Center for Civil Society-South Africa

31. WESDE-Cameroun

32. African women’s Economic Policy Network-Uganda

33. Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM)-Lesotho

34. CCFMC/FRACODEP-Kenya