Over 60,000 people from all over the world converged in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, WSSD, to discuss issues relating to the environment and development. This was ten years after the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This issue of AFRICANEWS focuses on what transpired at the WSSD and pays a special interest in water and sanitation as a recipe for sustainable development.
Bob van Dillen of Cooperation Internatioale Pour le Development la Solidarite, CIDSE, and one of the civil society 'advisors' in the EU delegation commented in the Eurodad/OneWorld Online forum that the final outcome was very disappointing. He also quoted Jan Pronk, Kofi Annan s special envoy to WSSD as saying: There is a huge gap between what the delegates have managed to achieve here and people s expectations.
So, was the Summit just another talk shop? Did the Summit meet its goal and did it offer any window of opportunity for African countries in their struggle to solve the myriad of challenges relating to sustainable development and environment?
AFRICANEWS special correspondent, Francis Rangoajane, highlights pertinent issues of concern affecting the African continent, some of which turned out to be contentious. He reports that the failure of the delegates to take a decisive stand with regard to poverty eradication, agricultural subsidies, global warming and climate change, are among the stumbling blocks towards sustainable development in developing countries.
But he is also concerned about the commitment of the current leadership in Africa in implementing the 2002 World Summit Plan of Implementation. And with the endorsement of the recently launched New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD), Rangoajane is skeptical that it will stand firm independently for the interest of the African continent
Find the two final documents that make up the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development at http://www.iisd.ca/linkages/2002/wssd/0409_l6rev2_pol_decl.pdf and http://www.iisd.ca/linkages/2002/wssd/0409_l6_rev2_corr1.pdf.
According to a Framework for Action on Water and Sanitation document prepared for WSSD, over one billion people in the world do not have access to water, and at least 2.4 billion do not have proper sanitation. In Africa, half the people in rural areas have no access to safe water and 52 percent of the rural population lack sanitation. Two stories from Kenya illustrate this scenario. Zachary Ochieng, AFRICANEWS assistant editor, cites recent reports on water and sanitation. According to the reports, access to clean water and a habitable environment for residents in low - income households, slums and informal settlements is but a dream. The water crisis in the country, as Eric Maino reports, is as a result of carelessness and poor planning and management by the municipalitie s water departments. However, a national Water Bill now awaiting debate in parliament provides a ray of hope in this desperate situation.
Related to water is the looming drought in the Southern Africa countries. From Swaziland, the problem is not lack of water as the country has many rivers and streams but poor land and water management policies, James Hall reports.
And during the WSSD conference, Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing said that though privatisation of water is seen by some governments as the solution to water management problems, it does not work. From Ghana, an action group has taken the government head on in its bid to pivatise the water, Santuah Niagia reports.
Other stories not related to the main theme are on gender violence in Zimbabwe, the looming strike by Kenyan teachers over government s refusal to honour a pay deal agreed upon in 1997.