Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Taking the Queue to the politicians

Jack Palmer

Jack is an intern at Tearfund, and helped to organise the London Queue - which was a brilliant success. Campaigners were then invited to meet Mike Foster, the UK minister responsible for DFID's work on water and sanitation:

After being part of the record-breaking World’s Longest Toilet Queue to mark World Water Day, I jumped at the chance to meet Mike Foster and take the Queue's demands straight to him.

This was an exciting opportunity to talk about our concerns around water & sanitation, and to ask how DFID have been, and would continue to work towards ensuring that every person on the planet has access to clean water and a safe toilet.

Worryingly, the commitment to tackle the sanitation MDG is in danger of not being met. The Minister agreed that concerted action needed to be taken to dramatically improve the situation. He pointed to the High-level Meeting taking place in April and the MDG Progress Meeting in September as two key points when sanitation must be a high priority.

Failing to tackle the water and sanitation crisis means progress towards other goals is being jeopardized. Health and education improvements will be undermined if water & sanitation continue to be neglected. The Minister suggested that a number of the more popular development issues (e.g. maternal health, education) could be discussed through the lens of water and sanitation, to get more people talking about the sanitation crisis.

Being part of The World’s Longest Toilet wasn’t just fun – it also sent a message to our leaders that they need to take a lead on water & sanitation at a global level.

My Q: What will the UK Government be doing to ensure that other countries follow the leadership that the UK has shown?

A: The UK will do all it can to encourage others to take this crisis seriously, especially at the UN meeting in September, but it’s sometimes difficult to get it on the agenda, with so many areas of development competing for focus.

We took some pictures with the Minister and the giant toilet roll petition, signed by people at the World’s Longest Toilet Queue, which we were able to present to him.

Jack (L) with other End Water Poverty campaigners, and Mike Foster (centre left).

Mike Foster clearly has a passion for the work that he is doing, but also recognizes much more needs to be done to ensure that people around the world are not denied their dignity because they lack access to clean water and decent sanitation.

Following our visit, Mike sent us this message:

“I was pleased to meet with friends and supporters of End Water Poverty this week and I congratulate all involved in the World's Longest Toilet Queue for their efforts to raise awareness of the sanitation crisis... The interest shown by campaigners … demonstrates their commitment to securing real action on water and sanitation for poor people. My department has worked hard to broaden support for the initiative … and we look forward to the first high-level meeting later this month.”

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