Monday, 25 June 2012

High-Level Meeting: The view from France

Kristel Malegue is Coordinator at Coalition Eau, an alliance of 31 French NGOs committed to promoting sustainable access to water and sanitation for all and a member of End Water Poverty. Here, she shares her thoughts on the commitments made by France at the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting in April 2012.

The Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting was an important milestone in the global campaign for safe drinking water and basic sanitation for all. As a coalition of NGOs in the water and sanitation sector, we watched proceedings closely, and waited to hear what commitments would be made by the French government.

We were pleased to hear the government reaffirm its commitment to the universal right to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and that it would be working to strengthen international solidarity in order to implement this right. We also support the commitment to improve the effectiveness of the development instruments used by the French government. We welcome both of these pledges as a step in the right direction.

However, we observe a gap between the real needs of the sector and the resources allocated by France. In order to make real progress towards the provision of water and sanitation for all, we believe that the French government should:

1. Promote the effective implementation of the human right to water and sanitation
Whilst the UN General Assembly has recognised the right to water and sanitation as a fundamental human right, the challenge today lies in ensuring its practical implementation. France needs to promote the incorporation of the right to water and sanitation in national legislation as a fundamental right and push for the adoption of finance mechanisms for the most disadvantaged to ensure that everyone has affordable access to drinking water.

  • 2. Help finance universal access to water and sanitation, prioritising the most 
  • disadvantaged
  • Although France is the third largest provider of bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) for water and sanitation, it makes extensive use of loans and provides very little aid in the form of grants. This heavy reliance on loans leads to France targeting its aid towards projects requiring major investment (water supply networks and treatment plants in large urban centres) and towards financially solvent states (mostly middle-income countries). As a result, the poorest countries, namely those facing the greatest challenges as regards access to water and sanitation, and populations living in rural areas, where needs are greatest, are left on the sidelines.

    In order to uphold its commitment to focus on the most disadvantaged countries, France therefore needs to reverse the current trend and prioritise donations. Coalition Eau thus expects France to increase French bilateral aid grants for water and sanitation in the 2013 budget to a total of 100 million.

    In view of the fact that new sources of finance are required to supplement Official Development Assistance and given that commitments are behind schedule, France should introduce a financial transaction tax to meet these financial requirements. 

  • 3. Increase the effectiveness and quality of cooperation policies and instruments
    As outlined in France’s Statement of Commitments, coordination among major donors could be improved to ensure greater effectiveness. To this end, France could initiate discussions to determine ways of measuring sector aid effectiveness and to ensure improved coordination and harmonisation of the aid allocated to the most disadvantaged populations. 

    With a view to improving the effectiveness, coherence and quality of French cooperation within the water and sanitation sector, France needs to increase the effective participation of citizens in decision-making processes.

    It is also important that these commitments and their implementation are strictly monitored and evaluated using specific and inclusive information, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

    You can read more about Coalition Eau at our website:

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