Water Week opened in Tunis
The First Water Week of the African Development Bank (ADB) Group began in Tunis on Thursday, with the formal launch of two major initiatives and a road map for the development of water resources in Africa.
"Water is Life", the ADB President, Mr. Omar Kabbaj, said, citing an age-long African adage in an opening speech that spelled out how the Bank Group intends to scale up its intervention in the water and sanitation sector. "Perhaps, more than any other sector, water and sanitation impacts on all the main themes of the development agenda - poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, private sector growth, education, participatory development and good governance," he emphasised.
The three-day event was being held on the theme: Building Partnerships for Water in Africa. Seventeen African ministers are among more than 300 participants representing governments, multilateral finance and development institutions, private enterprises, NGOS, the civil society and journalists from about 100 countries across the globe.
The meeting sought to strengthen partnerships in support of the Bank's new initiative to develop the African Water Sector: the Rural Water and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI), which was formally launched at the plenary of the Water Week on Thursday. The African Water Facility (AWF), a regional initiative the ADB Group will manage, was also launched on the first day of the Water Week.
Other Regional initiatives include the 2000 Africa Water Vision and Framework of Action, the NEPAD Water Programme, the African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW), the Nile Basin Initiative, the UN Water Africa Forum. These initiative underscore the central role played by water and the challenge that its development continues to pose in Africa.
"The absence of access to safe water supply and sanitation services undermines human dignity, contributes to the poor health statistics in the continent and may lie at the root of many of the continent's current social, economic and political problems", the ADB Group President told the delegates. "Lack of access to WSS [Water and Sanitation] is a poverty trap as efforts to improve the lot of the under-served population are frustrated by frequent illness and make it imperative to spend inordinate amounts of time and money in trying to meet their potentially affordable needs."
Mr. Kabbaj said that in implementing these initiatives, the Bank will give high priority to deepening relations with all its development partners, especially the World Bank, UN agencies and the European Commission.
Additional measures would be taken to enhance the effectiveness of the Bank's interventions in water resources development. This will include giving special emphasis to the promotion of public and private sector partnerships to attract both concessional and non-concessional resources.
"We will review and introduce new lending instruments - such as non-sovereign guaranteed loans - as well as lending directly to local communities and municipalities," he stated.
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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