Monday, 21 December 2009

Debt cancellation, schools and latrines - how campaigning can make a difference

Tom Baker

Tom works for Tearfund, an End Water Poverty member, and is a long-time campaigner. Here he writes about the impact campaigning can have for developing communities...

Most people would have just driven past the words 'HiPC benefit' on a recently constructed school building down a dusty, rural, Ghanaian road. But to see those words on the side of a school fired me up when we trundled past on the way to a field visit. Why? Because it's evidence that campaigning really can change things, that signing a petition, sending a postcard, attending a demonstration really can work.

The school is one of the many hundreds that have been built in Ghana as a result of debt cancellation. Jubilee 2000, the campaign to cancel the unpayable debt of the world's poorest nations, was the first campaign that I was ever really part of. I was one of millions of people who signed petitions and sent postcards calling on G8 leaders to drop the debt. Together our actions mattered as leaders listened and acted, which means Ghana is one of many governments in Africa that is now spending money on schools and healthcare facilities to transform communities.

I saw the building on the way to a field visit to an 'open defecation free' community, which was part of the programme of the End Water Poverty global planning meeting last week. Talking together as campaigners from around the world, we've shared in country actions and have been able reflect and celebrate just how far we've come as a coalition in the last few years. Together we've played a vital role in establishing a Global Framework for Action on water and sanitation. An initiative that we believe will start to lead to real change on the ground, for the many millions globally without access to clean water or a decent loo.

In the years to come, we probably won't see signs on the sides of VIP latrines that show it was built as a result of our campaigning effort, but seeing those words 'HiPC benefit' will remind me that our campaigning really does work.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Off to Amenhi

Now, don’t get me wrong, four days in a conference room with End Water Poverty global campaigners is actually a lot of fun – sharing plans, playing energizer games and getting to meet people I usually can only talk with over the telephone. But when we were given a chance to leave the conference centre and travel into the Ghanaian countryside to see a total sanitation project, I couldn’t say no.

Our colleague Lamisi organised the trip to Amenhi, a large village of 405 inhabitants two hours outside Accra. We met the Chief and learnt why they decided to embark on an ambitious plan to eradicate open defecation and adopt the mantra “One house, one toilet”.

Nana, the village Chief, told us that the intervention by local NGOs had made a massive difference. They take an intervention approach called Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) that aims to raise awareness of sanitation and disease control and support the community in deciding how to deal with their sanitation needs.

I talked with Amenhi resident Alumesi, and she told me of the changes she’d seen in the health of her children and family since she invested in a toilet five years ago – “Before we were getting ill in our stomachs often, and not well enough to work and our children were always sick. Now we’re far healthier and more comfortable”.

Alumesi shares her toilet with others in the community who can’t yet afford a latrine, and the children we met were happy to show us the toilets in the village… as well as showing Steve (International Campaign Coordinator) how to play football.

And we also made time to try out a World’s Longest Toilet Queue! (Check out the pictures in the slideshow from a previous post). Wonder if this will be the most remote location of a Queue? A challenge for everyone I reckon!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Four days to change the world

End Water Poverty global campaigners have just got back to their respective towns, countries and continents after a very busy week in Ghana. It was brilliant - lively discussions and planning, sunshine and lots of Jollof rice!

We got together to discuss our successes, plans, strategies, direction and priorities over the next two years. It's amazing just how far the Global Framework for Action has come over the last year, and we're going to carry on campaigning to make it a complete success.

A key focus point in the near future is the Global Framework's first big step - the first High-Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation, being held in April 2010 in Washington DC. We'll be working hard to ensure key governments attend and take action to stop the crisis, including mass mobilisation across the world just a month later - The World's Longest Toilet Queue.

After that we'll be working with wider networks including GCAP to ensure the G8 and G20 make real progress, and then we'll have an opportunity to make change happen at the MDG Summit in September in New York. We'll also be working on water and sanitation as human rights.

It wasn't all looking forward into the future though, we took some time out to make a field visit to see the impact clean water and safe sanitation can have on a community - full blog report coming this week.

Here are some shots of the week - click through to find out more information about the pictures...and enjoy!

Launching the Queue in London

Tom Baker
Tom works for Tearfund, an End Water Poverty member, and is helping to organise an event for the World's Longest Toilet Queue on 22nd March in London. See how his plans develop here, and get involved too...

Fortunately London isn't short of great locations to serve as a backdrop for the UK's contribution to the Worlds Longest Toilet Queue, and at the moment, the group planning the event in the capital are salivating at the possibilities.

Should we hold it on Tower Bridge, in the shadow of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, outside Buckingham Palace (perhaps we could persuade the Queen to join the queue) or in Trafalgar Square with Lord Nelson on top of his column looking down on us?

We're negotiating with various authorities about the location, but whatever happens, we're going to do our best to try to win a prize of the best backdrop for a toilet queue! But what's in the background isn't the only thing that matters. We've also set a number of other objectives, here are two explained:

1 - It needs to have a political impact

With 2.5 billion people still waiting for the loo, we need to ensure our message reaches those who have the power to do something about it.

The 22nd is a Monday, and it isn't a great day to reach UK politicians, with many MPs still in their constituencies, so we need to be extra creative in coming up with way of ensuring they get the message. Add to the mix that it's likely we'll have a general election soon after the queue, so many politicians will be focused on getting re-elected.

But these are just obstacles to overcome and as a group we're determined to ensure that those representing the government at the High-Level Meeting in Washington are clear what the UK public want to see: Action on taps and toilets.

2 - We want to get our message out.

People directly taking part are important, but so are the thousands we plan to reach through the media.

Getting the attention of the UK media is notoriously difficult, and we know on 22nd March we're going to have to compete with a whole host of other stories, from celebrity arguments to political announcements. We're undeterred.

We're busy brainstorming ideas to come up with that 'special something' that will captivate the photographers and TV cameras, ensuring that our queue makes the headlines. Got any tips? Share them here...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

An invitation to Advocate and Participate!

Saskia Castelein, Programme Officer for Advocacy, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council

Greetings from Geneva!

The World's Longest Toilet Queue campaign is underway, and the WSSCC is proud to be partnering with End Water Poverty and Freshwater Action Network to support this momentous initiative. The WLTQ is not only a day of solidarity and support for safe sanitation and clean water for those in need, but also the start of a full campaign to urge politicians, governments, and key leaders to change the status quo and make better choices for citizens worldwide.

The WLTQ will be launched on World Water Day: 22 March 2010. The theme selected for this year is ''Communicating Water Quality Challenges and Opportunities", in order to raise the profile of water quality at the political level. This theme fits well with the ambitions and goals set forth by the WLTQ, especially regarding the first annual High-Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation in Washington D.C. on 23 April 2010.

It is time to prioritize sanitation and clean water, and encourage others to do the same. With the help of our dedicated members, our National WASH Coalitions in over 30 countries, and concerned partner organizations globally, we will make the WLTQ a success. Join the queue and advocate for these basic human rights!

For more information, visit our website at

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Action on World Toilet Day

Happy World Toilet Day to everyone!

It's a day organised by the World Toilet Organisation - and aims to bring attention to the 2.5 billion people around the world without access to a safe and sanitary toilet. And the 4000 children dying as a result.

Today has seen activism from End Water Poverty members all over the world - from flash squats in Singapore, to a 'makeunder' of men's loos in London, to inspiring lobbying done in India towards politicians.

We've also had a letter published in the Guardian from doctors across Europe, outlining that good sanitation is the key to child health.

End Water Poverty is also joining in with a 'twitter petition' - do go along to the website and get involved by signing and promoting to your followers. If you don't have twitter then you can sign a petition on the main website.

Hope you can join in and make a difference!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

World’s Longest Toilet Queue – get involved!

Ceridwen Johnson - Communications Manager, FAN
Freshwater Action Network

FAN members across the world are working in very different contexts but facing similar challenges. Whilst they are working tirelessly to make governments more responsible and to ensure recognition and protection of the fundamental human right to water and sanitation of all people, 4,000 children are still dying every day from diarrhoea related diseases. This shocking statistic is entirely preventable.

I’m really excited about the World’s Longest Toilet queue as it’s a fantastic opportunity to take part in a global activity that unites all of our members in solidarity. Whilst taking part in this campaign action, groups can tailor their local or national activities to suit their own issues and demands to government around the water and sanitation crisis whilst knowing that others, all over the world, are doing something similar on exactly the same day.

This combined effort should increase pressure on policy-makers. As footage of the queues and news of lobbying activities is cascaded through word of mouth, newspapers, TV, radio, social networking sites like twitter and facebook and websites all over the world, it will be impossible to ignore the scale of the global crisis and the spotlight will be firmly focused decision-makers to take action to respond.

Success relies on community and NGO mobilization. So please do get involved!

Friday, 13 November 2009

A true sprint to April starts now

Africa Water Week draws to a close today and I’m catching my flight back to wintry London. Brrr! Just time to sum up some highlights of the week:

Traffic lights paper: Produced by WaterAid, WSP and UNICEF, this paper was shown to delegates for the first time. It measures whether African states are implementing their eThekwini commitments – and it looks very promising. What’s largely missing is the funding – and that’s where the Global Framework for Action can really help to accelerate progress.

Strong civil society presence: Many civil society organisations attended the whole week – taking opportunities to lobby Ministers and build networks. A civil society statement was also read out as part of official proceedings. I really enjoyed meeting with so many members and networks from all over Africa – and am really excited to see plans taking shape for the World’s Longest Toilet Queue – including South Africa, Benin, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Burkina Faso and Ghana!

Global Framework for Action: some really important and progressive ‘corridor’ meetings took place through the week – and new donors and developing country governments attended a dedicated jam packed side meeting. A panel of speakers from the South spoke about the benefits of engaging with the Framework, and a real momentum of action has taken flight – with a true sprint to April and the High-Level Meeting in Washington.

And finally, being back in South Africa: brilliant – we enjoyed great hospitality and warmth from people in Johannesburg, and with the South African Minister for Water taking the chair of AMCOW, we are sure to be engaging with this great country more in the near future.

And now to catch that flight, and find my woolly cardigan...

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Global political platform of support for water and sanitation

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia, has been appointed the first African WASH Ambassador.

In a glittering ceremony and initiative organised by ANEW, AMCOW and WaterAid at Africa Water Week, the President gave a video address on why she took the role:

Great words, and a massive coup: Johnson will take the voices of her nation and Africa to world leaders and the global political platform, highlighting the Africa Water Week’s call – ‘No Water – No Life’. Congratulations!

Mamma Mia, here we go again

Phew, Africa Water Week is brilliant, but it sure is gruelling! Sessions, plenary, debates over coffee and its been peppered with great conversations and meetings with many members and partners. Not to mention surprise conversations with a Water Minister on his love of Mamma Mia.

The official opening was on Monday– with speeches from dignitaries and a group of Masai who proclaimed "We need water now! We want water now!" The week is focused on implementing prior commitments such as eThekwini, and the African Development Bank set the tone, demanding, "I ask you – do not make more commitments – take action". Something reiterated by civil society present at the meeting.

Clarissa Brocklehurst of UNICEF presented the current situation facing the water and sanitation sector, with the clear statement that we’re still facing a crisis in Africa. 58 countries are off track on the sanitation MDG round the world, with a startling 39 of them in Africa – meaning 315 million people who should have been served by 2015 won’t have been. It’s hard to hear for people working so hard, but drives us forward to achieve more – there’s a real need to focus donors, the public and developing governments onto sanitation, and it’s part of our job to do just that.

I’ve attended ‘Closing the Sanitation Gap’ sessions including a talk regarding future advocacy and campaigning opportunities following the successful UN International Year of Sanitation. The presenter, Jon Lane, gave The World’s Longest Toilet Queue as THE activity to get involved with next year! It was great to see that, and has got me thinking of the potential for the event to reach out to many NGOs and give us a joint global moment to push sanitation back on the agenda.

Then followed a hilarious conversation with a Water Minister (to remain unnamed!) on his love of Mama Mia (the West End version is better than the Broadway). Couldn’t comment as I haven’t seen them, but did discuss End Water Poverty – a great lobbying opportunity!

Will write up what’s happened since – including an extraordinary and groundbreaking commitment to water and sanitation from one of Africa’s leaders.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Starting off with a bang of thunder and strong words of action

Writing this amidst brilliant thunderstorms in Johannesburg from the 2nd Africa Water Week. Governments, donors, the private sector and civil society under one roof for a week – it’s bound to get interesting.

Sunday was great – a pre meeting civil society consultation which was organised by our friends at ANEW – the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation. It was a chance for NGOs working on water and sanitation to come together and discuss the themes set for Africa Water Week and write a position statement on them.

I was really pleased to be asked to share news about End Water Poverty and developments on our policy platform – the Global Framework for Action. I also got a chance to let people know about the World’s Longest Toilet Queue – an event we’ll be launching soon – and give the guide it’s first viewing!

Even better though was participating in discussions on the themes – including transboundary waters, addressing the sanitation gap, climate change adaptation and financing of the sector.

In forming our joint statement, not only did we make strong calls to our governments to deliver on their commitments, we also outlined actions we will take ourselves following the meeting– from lobbying and advocacy activities to monitoring implementation of projects. You can read the final statement here.

A great meeting on the Global Framework for Action also happened on Sunday - with positive discussions and developments, and we also have a meeting on the Framework to which all delegates are invited on Wednesday - updates to follow.

So a great start to the week – with much more promised for the next few days. Updates on Day 1 and Day 2 coming shortly!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Will you make a stand for sanitation and water next year?

Serena O'Sullivan
End Water Poverty

Exciting times! End Water Poverty is getting ready to launch ‘The World’s Longest Toilet Queue’- a mass global event on World Water Day next year (22 March 2010) that will call for action on water and sanitation from the world’s politicians. It’s a massive Guinness World Record attempt and needs you to get involved and make it a success.

The timing of the event is crucial – just one month after our mass global action, politicians will gather in Washington DC to discuss what they’re going to do to tackle the crisis claiming 4000 children’s lives every day. And it’s up to us to make sure they know that the world expects action.

So we’re challenging people, groups, organisations – in fact everyone – to organise groups of at least 25 people to queue at a toilet (real, fake – even someone dressed up as one!) on World Water Day. It’s up to you what happens in your Queue – perhaps you’ll do it in the style of a flash mob, or you’ll gather a petition from participants, or you’ll ask your local Parliamentarian or even leader to attend and listen to the demands of your Queue.

Get loads of ideas on the special World’s Longest Toilet Queue, including press templates, case studies, a toolkit, and posters. You'll be able to join an online Queue there too - and share this with your supporters, friends and contacts. Read ideas from other advocates and get involved by commenting, suggesting and sharing ideas. Already got ideas? Post them up here, right now!

This is truly anyone’s event to own – and we’re really excited to share it with you. Let’s make a stand together and make sure those politicians hear our voices loud and clear.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Putting the poor first in 2010

2010 is set to be a pivotal year in fight against poverty and climate change. And Canada, as hosts of both the G8 and G20, are set to be at the centre. And so I've spent the week in Ottawa with campaigners from all around the world planning the corresponding strategy for civil society action.

2010 is not only the year when Africa hosts the World Cup for the first time, it's also when the landmark 2005 G8 commitments to the continent - such as providing $ 50bn of additional aid - can truly be judged. And it will be done with a backdrop of crisis that is creating a real shift in global power.

The rising cost of food has pushed the number of hungry back above 1 billion, the financial crisis and recession has plunged millions into poverty, and a deal to protect the world's climate seems stuck in committee. These crises were caused by rich countries, yet most of their victims count amongst the poor.

In 2010 the answer to the question "Who rules?" will change - the global economy is seeing a radical shift. The G8 will be eclipsed by a new grouping - the G20 - which includes emerging power houses like China, Brazil and India.

So more voices from countries where many of the poor live, yet ultimately still a system where the poorest countries do not have a seat at the table to demand their rights or steer the global economy to meet their needs. And the G20 may prove to be as self-serving as the G8.

But we do know that, as power shifts, a time has appeared to bring the voices of the poor to the fore, and to make sure that their human rights - such as accessing clean water and safe sanitation - are on the table and at the heart of global debate.

For us, obviously there are huge opportunities in 2010 to push up the water and sanitation agenda - not least the global campaign to form the World's Longest Toilet Queue (20-22 March) and to influence the High-Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation (22 April) - but also a need to work together to push on all issues relating to global poverty.

Global campaign plans are crystallising and emerging soon, so more on that to come, but its worth noting that just a few weeks ago 173 million people stood up around the world to call for an end to poverty.

That's the biggest mass movement the world has ever seen, so using it to get food, water and a seat at the table for the world's poor should be well within our grasp.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Voice of Africa, from the Kingdom in the Sky

I’m on my way back from an inspiring trip to Lesotho – ‘the Kingdom in the Sky’- where I attended the General Assembly of the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW), who are proud partners of the End Water Poverty campaign.

Representatives from over 40 countries across Africa took part in three days of learning and planning (and an evening of inter-region ‘dance-offs’), as this dynamic and truly Pan-African network makes strides in bringing grassroots voices from across the continent to the region’s leaders.

Logistically remarkable in itself that such a diverse crowd was gathered in a tiny mountain kingdom, and yet more impressive is the progress that has been made in so many places in opening doors and holding Governments to account on water and sanitation.

In just a few years ANEW has established relationships with, successfully lobbied and secured declarations from continental institutions such as the African Union to AMCOW (African Ministers’ Council on Water).

Yet big challenges remain – too many networks are squeezed by their governments, who may fear the contestation advocacy may bring, and too many great minds and organisations are prevented from achieving all they could due to a lack of human or financial resources.

Much to do, but a real confidence that there are civil society voices in Africa willing to make sure it gets done. And if it can be done with the vigour and style of those dance-offs, I pity those who take them on.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Expert recommends recognition of sanitation as a human right

Some great news from the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva just recently, with a statement from Catarina de Albuquerque (left), the Independent Expert on human rights obligations related to water and sanitation.

In her post for under a year, she was reporting to the Council on her findings from trips to Costa Rica and Egypt. She declared that she is 'convinced, now more than ever, that sanitation is a matter of human rights ...we are in the midst of a sanitation crisis.'

This statement is a historic recommendation that sanitation be recognised as a distinct human right. Groups such as End Water Poverty and the Freshwater Action Network have been pushing for the UN to recognise sanitation as a human right - after the successful push to recognise the Right to Water in 2002. Let's keep pushing these issues up the political agenda and achieve real change together.

Read her statement in full here. (thanks to Kolleen from the Freshwater Action Network for providing this).

Read WaterAid's paper 'Sanitation: A human rights imperative'

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Reflections on World Water Week

Mid August saw water and sanitation experts from around the world gather in Stockholm for World Water Week. It was both fascinating and exhausting taking part, as you may know from following our tweets. And it was great to see sanitation climb in profile, with Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India, being named the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate.

Amidst all the formal discussions on transboundary waters and climate change, there were an array of key meetings with governments, organisations and institutions working to realise End Water Poverty's call to establish a
Global Framework for Action on Water and Sanitation.

While working on these meetings with colleagues from Liberia, Kenya and Asia, a few things became really clear to me:

  • We've come really far as a campaign. At the same conference last year, we were struggling to get any government to back our demands; and now there is a real momentum of support, with more institutions, governments and organisations championing us each day.
  • End Water Poverty is benefiting from a wide spectrum of support from organisations across the Global South, allowing us to show a truly global perspective on the issues.
  • There is still much to do. Some governments remain ambivalent and need pressure, and we must make sure our work delivers tangible and ambitious results for the world's poor.

In April 2010, political leaders from across the world will meet in Washington, USA to discuss water and sanitation at the first ever High-Level Meeting on the issues.

And what's the difference we're hoping for between Stockholm and Washington? One word: action. The High-Level Meeting is the opportunity for the world to act on water and sanitation, and it seems to me that mass mobilisation and campaigning in the next few months could ensure real change is achieved for those denied their rights to toilets and clean water.

Monday, 13 July 2009

G8: Time to save others to save yourself

The circus is over and the clowns have returned home. A few days reflection (largely spent sleeping) on the G8 summit, and how does it look? What does it mean for our campaigning efforts, and for the G8 itself?

Well, the outcome still looks the same, and a little too true to form. Even where progress was supposed to have been made, for example in climate change and tackling hunger, it is so obscured by smoke and mirrors that noone knows whether it is genuine.

On other areas, like water and sanitation, even the G8 struggled to say they had done much. I even read officials being quoted as saying it was a major step forward that such a “controversial” issue was being discussed at the G8 at all.

The lack of such basic things as taps and toilets cause 30% of all child deaths, so seems to me to be about as controversial as breathing.

Was it all doom and gloom? Well there were a few personal highlights outside the formal business. Berlusconi’s interview with Bob Geldof was simply extraordinary and well worth a read. Obama’s alleged faux pas at the Junior 8 caused a real stir (only later shown to be a camera trick). End Water Poverty rep Khumbuzile’s cornering of South African President Jacob Zuma showed us how brlliant lobbying is done. And the best campaign slogan around – ‘Yes, we camp’, used by the homeless of L’Aquila to highlight their plight following April’s tragic earthquake.

And in the formal business, perhaps if we are extremely generous we can see something. The political declaration to make progress on a partnership with African governments by November 2009 might provide a window of opportunity for something more concrete. Of course, this is flawed, watered down and vacuous in so many ways already discussed. But it is a renewed mandate that we could try and exploit to finally, maybe get somewhere.

What does it mean for our campaigning? It means we keep going. Change takes time – far too much time, of course – but in 2 years we have seen our issue rise from nowhere on the international agenda, to one of much greater prominence, even if that is yet to translate into firm action as yet.

Having expectations frustrated is the first step to having them realised – we are in a process of building a mandate for change and this G8 was only one small point on the way. We are right to be annoyed, but not to shrug our shoulders and give up. We’ve made a good deal of progress, especially in countries outside of the G8 and also with some of the G8’s more progressive members.

What is obvious is that we have to keep showing how failure to act on water and sanitation is undermining the broader fight against poverty, ill-health and malnutrition – areas where political will appears higher, but which cannot progress without taking a more comprehensive approach that includes taps and toilets. No good saving a child of malaria if they are going to die of diahrroea.

We have two clear opportunities to work towards. November sees Africa Water Week, when the G8 promise to announce progress on their partnership, as well as where countries and institutions involved with the Global Framework for Action – an initiative strongly championed by End Water Poverty – meet. We need these to come together and get working for real.

And then April 2010 is when UNICEF are convening political leaders for a global high-level meeting on water and sanitation as part of the Global Framework initiative mentioned above. This is aimed at bringing real political focus on this issue for once, as opposed to having it only featured on the agenda as ‘Any Other Business’. So the next 9 months leading up to then is key to ensuring it actually does something.

And what next for the G8 itself? The world’s poor are undoubtedly the biggest losers from this G8 summit, but I think the G8 should have cause for concern too.

In a fast-changing world with challenges that go well beyond the reach of just 8 countries, their role is questioned as never before, with groupings like the G20 in the ascendancy. And they are not doing themselves any favours.

By failing to act in a way that shows any solidarity, honesty or effectiveness – and by failing to deliver on its promises to the poor – the G8 are undermining their own claims to global leadership. Perhaps a conclusion worth considering is that in order to save themselves, they need first to keep their word to save others.

Friday, 10 July 2009

In one end, out the other

That’s it. Over. Finito. Another year, another G8, another farce.

As you can see from the press releases of other NGOs, noone was too happy about it.

And nor were we, as you can see from our press release today. The joint G8-Africa statement contained nothing new, nothing concrete, nothing of worth to a community lacking access to clean water or sanitation. Nothing that could be possibly described as the “enhanced implementation plan” promised at last year’s summit.

Nothing to tackle a crisis that is responsible for 30% of child deaths.

I don’t know how they could have sat through those meetings with African leaders and not feel embarrassed and ashamed.

I never understand how you can so much power and never bother to use it for good.

The big news today was a pledge of $20bn to fight hunger for the 1 billion people without enough to eat. Hugely important, but as with every G8 deal noone knows where the money is going to come from, or if it really will. Let’s hope this time it is different.

Either way, fighting hunger – as crucial as this is – without also providing clean water and sanitation is akin to a fish riding a bicycle (I wasn’t allowed to put this in the press release so I am putting it here...). Its not going to go as far as you'd like when 50% of child deaths from malnutrition are caused by diahrroea.

More thoughtful analysis soon as I'm too knackered not to be a grumpy old man.

But one quick upbeat note for now - our spokesperson from South Africa, Khumbuzile Zuma, has done a great job highlighting our disappointment to the press.

Interviews with Italian newspapers, BBC, Sky, Reuters, Voice of America, Nile TV and others, as well as being a GCAP spokesperson, all helped to shape the media reaction to the summit. I have not met a journalist yet who is impressed with the outcomes.

And not only that, she did the best bit of lobbying I’ve seen in a while by hijacking President’s press conference (Jacob Zuma, no relation…). After demanding South African leader step up to the plate, and do more on water and sanitation, she got a commitment to do so, a follow up meeting, and even a hug…

See a couple of photos and video here

Great work, and many thanks to the Mvula Trust for her participation.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Surge in aid to Iraq masks weak G8 action on water and sanitation

Increased aid for water and sanitation driven by politics not need

Following a G8 statement released late last night, End Water Poverty reveals that reported increases in aid for water and sanitation since 2002 have been dominated by reconstruction efforts in Iraq, and other regions of political and economic interest, rather than to reaching poor communities across Africa and South Asia.

The surge in funding to Iraq has masked the fact that the G8 have failed to make sufficient investments in water and sanitation services, failing to tackle a crisis that kills 4,000 children every day.

Oliver Cumming, from WaterAid, member of the End Water Poverty campaign, said:

“It is Iraq, not Africa, that has received the bulk of increased funding for water and sanitation - something that is cold comfort for the poorest people in the world who are still waiting for significant action by the G8. The scandalous result of the G8’s priorities is the continuation of a crisis that kills 4,000 children every day. “

Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the two regions of most critical need, together receive just 30% of G8 funding for water - significantly less than in 2003 when the G8 launched its Water Action Plan for Africa at the Evian Summit.

According to OECD, in 2005 and 2006 more aid went to Iraq for water and sanitation than for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa whilst Malaysia – where 99% of people have access to clean water - receives 26 times more per head than Congo, Angola or Togo.

Water and sanitation was meant to be a centrepiece of this year’s summit, but yesterday’s communiqué failed to deliver a concrete deal. Tomorrow, G8 leaders are to sign a joint declaration with the African Union outlining a partnership to further implement the Evian Plan. Despite promises, however, few tangible commitments are expected.

Khumbuzile Zuma, South African spokesperson for End Water Poverty said:

“Action to provide water and sanitation in Africa is long overdue, but as the figures behind this report show, we cannot trust that words will be enough. In 2003 we were promised action to deliver these most basic services in Africa, but we are still waiting while the destination of extra money is driven by politics and not need.

So far, all we have seen at this summit are delays and broken promises. Tomorrow, leaders from both Africa and the G8 simply must deliver decisive action. Otherwise it will mean nothing to those who have lost children, or who have been denied an education, because they cannot drink clean water or use a safe toilet.” 


Oliver Cumming and Khumbuzile Zuma are both at the G8 Summit and available for interview. For all media requests contact Chloe Irvine +44 75 1494 1577 OR +44 777 1654 544 OR Steve Cockburn +44 79 2008 0855 (all based in L’Aquila) 

Could food poisoning spark the Road to Damascus?

As the G8 leaders tucked in to their stately dinner and discussed action on Iran, Burma, piracy and other delights we in the media centre tucked into our cold pasta and stale bread to have a good old moan about Berlusconi and chums.

Given the chequered history of the G8, and the apparent reluctance of richer countries to stand in solidarity with poorer ones as the global recession hits, yesterday’s announcements generally came as no great surprise. Once again the G8 flattered to deceive, and failed to provide the sort of emergency response poorer countries need to get through an economic crisis not of their making. Nor, as you see from our press release in our previous blog, did they maintain their promise to deliver an "enhanced implementation plan" to drive progress in achieving water and sanitation for all. All they could do was give themselves another 6 months to think about it.

That is not to say a political commitment to work in partnership with African Governments is not important. It is. But this was essentially what happened last year – this year was supposed to be about action and about delivery for communities who need to drink clean water, not vague promises. 

A further statement – made jointly with African leaders – is due tomorrow, to outline their common desire for a partnership. We shall see if further tangible commitments are given in this statement, and plead for a sudden bout of sense.

What could cause that sudden flash of inspiration, what could be that Road to Damascus moment that convinces the 8 most powerful people in the world that it was time to act for the 2.5 billion people who have no access to a safe toilet  and the 900m people without clean water?

Popular support, media focus, peer pressure, and a suddent emergence of conscience would all surely help. Or a nasty bout of diahhroea perhaps, especially if coupled with having to use the not-so-sanitary portaloos on offer to media and NGOs. Though I imagine they have nicer ones. Oh, and the water was cut off yesterday too. Though I imagine they have nice bottles of Evian to see them through…

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

G8 on poverty and water: No big deal

Watered down promises and moving targets, poor to count cost of G8 failure

Global campaign group End Water Poverty slammed the G8 failure to stand by poor communities in hard times as they released their official summit communiqué.

Among a host of failures at the Summit, the G8 have broken last year’s promise to finally tackle the global water and sanitation crisis. Since the G8 last met in Hokkaido, over 1.4 million children have died from diarrhoea as a result of a lack safe water and toilets - a scandalous human cost that is set to continue after today’s neglect and inaction.

Khumbuzile Zuma, a South African spokesperson for End Water Poverty said,
"This year's G8 has confirmed many people's worst fears that so  many of the world's richest countries are prepared to run away from their commitments to the poor, such as those on aid and safe drinking water, at exactly the time they are needed most.”

“This year they had finally promised to tackle the global water and sanitation crisis that is responsible for almost 30% of all child deaths, but in reality nothing has been done that will make a difference to the lives of people in Africa. The best they could do was give themselves another six months to think about it.”

“How long must Africa wait for the right to use a safe toilet and drink clean water? Without addressing this we will never make the progress needed on ending hunger, reducing child deaths or getting children into school."

An “enhanced implementation plan” to deliver water and sanitation in Africa was meant to be a centerpiece of this week’s Summit, but instead the G8 merely announced they would aim to “make progress” on a partnership with African governments by the end of the year. Draft documents in the run up to the summit show just how much ambition has been watered down, and the final proposal contains no specific actions or commitments.

Oliver Cumming from WaterAid, a key supporter of End Water Poverty said:

“It is shocking that the deaths of 1.4 million children do not warrant immediate action from the G8. But it is truly scandalous that in the year they committed to address the water and sanitation crisis they have abandoned people in poor countries to continued indignity, poverty and ill-health.”

Paul Cook from Tearfund a key supporter of End Water Poverty added

“How many of these leaders would have been happy to come here if there were no toilet facilities or drinking water?”

End Water Poverty also warned leaders that their neglect of water and sanitation would have serious consequences for any other development initiatives announced at the summit including health, education and agriculture.


Notes to editors

Oliver Cumming and Khumbuzile Zuma are both at the G8 Summit and available for interview. for For all media requests contact Chloe Irvine +44 75 1494 1577 OR +44 777 1654 544 (based in L’Aquila) OR Steve Cockburn +44 79 2008 0855 

Lurking around the toilets...

After a long trip to L’Aquila, a surreal night in a half built ‘athletes village’, and police escort to the summit, Day 1 of the G8 has begun.

Or kind of. It has been a day of waiting for the G8 leaders to arrive like blushing brides, walk down a red carpet one by one and be courted by their proud host, Senor Berlusconi.

But possibly the most hectic waiting possible – NGOs flying round left, right and centre to corner journalists and tell their story, with impromptu press conferences and bribery with espressos. Some guerilla action from us has plastered all the G8 toilets with a poster highlighting the campaign, and got me some very funny looks as I hover from cubicle to cubicle…

The main anouncements are due soon. After discussing the world economy (done and dusted in an hour or so), leaders are now talking about ‘global issues’ (again, sorted in about an hour). The communiques should be released soon and everyone has their releases at the ready in eager anticipation…

Watch this space (or twitter for quicker reaction) to see if the water announcement will be done today (it may not be until African leaders arrive on Friday, noone seems to know…), what it will say, and what we think of it. We dont expect to be overwhelmed, but maybe somewhere those lovely G8 folk will surprise us.

Other crucial news. Carla Bruni, wife of President Sarkozy, is not attending the G8 wives' trip to Rome. Perhaps last year's kimono-folding extravaganza was just too much. Maybe, like Chancellor Merkel's husband, she's not too fond of stroking kittens while their spouses sort out the world (in an hour). Vive l'égalité!


Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Pope demands action on eve of G8 as campaigners sweat it out

A short note while trying to escape the heat, humidity and tourists in a hectic Rome. Today sees NGOs and media travel out to L’Aquila to prepare for the arrival of G8 leaders tomorrow.

As you may know, L’Aquila suffered a tragic earthquake in April this year, killing 300 people and making 40,000 people homeless. Many are still living there in makeshift accommodation with basic facilities, in the midst of the rubble, while the clear up and rebuilding takes place.

The location of the summit was a controversial one. This is not only because it spolied the holiday plans of those looking forward to working at the previously chosen location - a luxury island resort near Sicily - but more importantly some believed it was playing politics with people’s lives, and also putting G8 leaders at risk. Tremors were felt in the area as recently as this weekend, and you can't imagine Obama's people being too delighted about that…

Whether a welcome act of solidarity with people struggling to recover from disaster or a political charade is your own judgement, but it has caused enough alarm in some quarters to provoke suggestions that Italy should be expelled from the G8 itself. Step up Spain, some are saying - probably not the reaction Mr Berlusconi was hoping for…

Other news while we wait for things to kick off ?

The Pope released a statement calling on the G8 leaders to listen to the voices of Africa and to stand by the poor.

Bob Geldof undertook an extraordinary interview with Berlusconi, berating him for stealing food from the mouths of the starving, while the Italian Prime Minister claimed he would keep his promises if he could, but it was out of his hands…

The UK Government claimed it would push the G8 to keep its aid promises as it announced its new strategy on international development (though surely they could push the water and sanitation part more strongly too...).

And there was time for another GCAP photo stunt in sunny and stunning Piazza del Popolo, calling on the Italian public and media to ‘Press the G8’.

Now off on an undoubtedly very sweaty bus journey…

Monday, 6 July 2009

G8 can't fight poverty without water and sanitation

Today we launched an appeal in the press warning that the G8 leaders will fail to keep their promises to fight poverty, and undermine their initiatives on combating related isues like the food crisis, unless they fulfil their commitments to tackle access to water and sanitation.

This is the same argument I have been making at the G8 Alternative Summit today. When a lack of water and sanitation is responsible for 30% of child deaths, 443 million missing school days each year, and 5% of GDP lost in Africa, its a no-brainer that the G8 just can’t claim to be serious about eliminating poverty if they fail to tackle this issue.

At last year’s G8 they claimed action would be taken this year. Meaningless on the ground, and too late for millions, but at least a mandate to act this week. Quite simply, they have to do this. Just like they have to meet their promises on health, education and aid. And just like they must not use the economic crisis as an excuse to abandon their commitments to the developing world, at the very time those commitments are needed more than ever.

But worryingly, the Italian Government seems to be sticking to its guns about slashing its budget for international cooperation by 56%. Hard to see where leadership is coming from here…

So maybe a bit of an uphill battle ahead but campaigners are doing their best to be heard and hold leaders to account. A couple of days ago campaign actions taken all over the world to support End Water Poverty reached over 1 million in two years. And just last week GCAP Italy presented over 1.5 million petitions to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

And a bit of light-hearted fun too. Oxfam had a G8 toga party to highlight what these little Emperors and Empress need to do on climate and development. Don't they look regal.

G8 2009: What have the Romans ever done for us ?

Welcome to my first post from a very sweaty Rome, where NGOs are gearing up at the G8 ‘Alternative Summit’, getting ready to try and hold G8 leaders to account.

Its wonderful and tragic to blog from Rome a few days before the 8 most powerful people in the world (David Beckham doesn’t count) gather to decide the fate of billions across the world.

Wonderful not just because of the outrageously stylish people buzzing around with ice creams and man-bags, but becuase if you are vaguely obsessed with sanitation and water facilities you get to wander round a city that brought water and sanitation to Europe.

Tragic though because as you see the ruins of aquaducts and sewers that served Romans around 2000 years ago, you realise how basic these things are, and how unconscienable it is that these could exist so long ago but are still denied to about 40% of the world’s population today.

This week I’ll be reporting back on the highs and lows of the G8 Summit and giving some quick analysis on the outcomes. I’ll also undoubtedly be making major spelling mistakes, poor puns, and unwittingly reinforcing insulting stereotpes. So please keep reading….

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