The session on Human Right to Water has led to constructive debate and dialogue. More interestingly, discussion on whether the human right to water implies providing water for free is no longer part of the mainstream debate. We have moved beyond this dichotomy and are now focused on figuring out how to make it work, while recognizing the costs involved.
There were many take-away messages. We need to operationalize the definition of the human right to water, develop more specific indicators and targets for each dimension that makes up the human right to water, and work to ensure that targets and indicators are relevant for different country contexts. Questions such as How affordable is affordable?, How safe is safe?, and How available is available? will differ between countries.And more: We must also work to ensure that water supply is affordable for customers but also for service providers. We must focus on the sustainability of service providers in order to meet the human right to water over time and keep pace with changing settlement patterns. And we need to stress the importance of applying an equity lens while implementing existing policies and norms-- if applied fully to what is already on the books, we would move a long way towards the goal of human right to water.
This has been an intense week with 20,000 plus participants moving between hundreds of sessions that ran from morning until night. But more significantly, the quality of the discussions was equally intense. On aggregate, at least 18 hours were dedicated to each topic and this does not include the animated dialogues taking place outside sessions! Most, if not all, sessions focused on identifying solutions to minimize purely rhetorical arguments and posturing.
This hasn´t been easy. Planning each session has involved many, many months of preparation. I remember having our first audio conference with three colleagues from a bilateral agency, an association of private sector utilities, and a European NGO for the human right to water) in November or December 2010. And while the process was not perfect, it was certainly very participative. We built and benefited from a wide virtual dialogue with contributions from all regions in the world.
While forums such as this will never be everything to everyone, Marseille has set the bar a bit higher for future global forums in terms of looking forward and moving towards solutions.