The June 2008 Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act (WfP Act) Report to Congress
from the U.S. Department of State demonstrates a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the role the U.S. government (USG) can play in addressing the global water crisis. Signed into law in 2005, the WfP Act calls for the development and implementation of a strategy by the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development “to provide affordable and equitable access to safe water and sanitation in developing countries.”
Starting in 2006, the annual report to Congress has outlined the activities and funding levels of USG water-related projects. While this year’s report does the same—and indicates an increase in spending, to a total of $900 million for water-related projects in developing countries in FY2007—it also develops an overarching framework for addressing the global water crisis (see Annex A). Many of the framework’s components have been mentioned in the previous reports, but this report does a better job of tying them together and setting out goals for a U.S. strategic response. The framework is centered on:
Those involved in developing the framework clearly realize the interconnectedness of achieving these goals. The authors correctly note that growing investments in drinking water supply, sanitation, and hygiene “represent a growing commitment on the part of the United States to reduce water-related diseases and to increase access to safe drinking water and sanitation in countries with critical needs. They also represent a shift away from other water-related investments that are critical for building a water-secure world, such as water resources management and productivity.” The authors clearly recognize the need to ensure that water and sanitation are not emphasized to the detriment of other critical water resource efforts, such as programs to improve water productivity.
- Improving water resources management among competing needs;
- Improving access to water supply and sanitation and promoting better hygiene; and
- Improving water productivity in agriculture and industry.
Key parts of the framework that illustrate a better understanding of the issue are mentions of:
The framework also includes a brief, but essential, section on the importance of collecting data for monitoring and evaluation purposes and for sharing this information with other international players. This framework is a valuable addition to the annual report. What will be more interesting is to see if money is allocated and support is given to this integrated and strategic approach to the global water crisis.
- Regional planning and country-specific development plans for the water sector;
- The crisis-to-development response continuum;
- The need for good governance and management, not just infrastructure improvements;
- The integration of water goals with other development and sectoral goals;
- The need for a participatory and democratic management process; and
- The importance of leveraging activities through partnerships with multilaterals, the private sector, foundations, and international NGOs.