Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

FAN at the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002

Twenty years after the first global environment conference (UN Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm 1972),

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) or Earth Summit 2002 took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September 2002.  

The 2002 WSSD was a ten-year review of progress made since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The WSSD mandate was to produce 'specific time bound measures to be undertaken'. Unfortunately very few action-oriented words survived the UN negotiations in the preparatory meetings which took place the year before.

With so many issues and not enough time, governments, many of which lacked sufficient vision and political will, did not manage to commit themselves beyond previous meetings of Heads of State. Thus previous agreements made in the Millennium Declaration (2000), Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development (2001) and WTO Doha 'consensus' on trade (2001) were used as the ceiling for countries unwilling to make new political or financial commitments for sustainable development. In some areas, for example, biodiversity and toxic chemicals, the negotiations at Johannesburg WSSD resulted in backwards movement.

FAN activities at the WaterDome

FAN's activities at the WSSD were based in the WaterDome, a parallel event to create water awareness by organising a dialogue between stakeholders which took place over 28 August - 3 September. Here FAN coordinated a large exhibition space and meeting room, called the Thirst World, where 40 NGOs from all over the world came to exhibit, meet and participate in the WaterDome workshops.

The Thirst World was set up for NGOs from across the world to showcase their work in a creative and positive way. It provided a refreshing counter-balance to the large institutional exhibitors at the WaterDome (donors, World Bank, Governments, UN etc) and a space to demonstrate alternative, pro-poor and environmentally sustainable approaches to securing water supplies for people's basic needs, for food security and for ecosystems.

FAN members also held a full programme of interesting meetings in the WaterDome. Download the schedule of activities (PDF 135Kb)

Overall, in terms of civil society participation and awareness-raising, this project was a success in that it managed to bring together a quality group of NGOs, from all regions, and representing both large international organisations to smaller, younger local NGOs. The range of issues represented was diverse and the quality of experience the participants brought to the WaterDome was very high. 

Download a list of FAN members that attended the WaterDome (PDF 50Kb)

Read the WSSD conference out outcomes on UNEP's website

International Civil Society Water Statement from WSSD (PDF 48Kb)

Read WWF's analysis of events:

Outcomes from the WSSD

Strengthening civil society's participation in water policy formulationThe official outcomes of WSSD are:

  • Plan of Implementation, the main outcome document negotiated by all States
    Read more
  • Political Declaration, a short 'window dressing' document signed by Heads of State. Read more
  • New Partnership initiatives [Type II agreements] designed to implement the Plan of Action. The water sector did achieve some successful outcomes in the Plan of Implementation.
  • Sanitation: All governments agreed to a new target to halve the proportion of people without access to basic adequate sanitation by 2015, which includes actions to: (a) Develop and implement efficient household sanitation systems (b) Improve sanitation in public institutions, especially schools (c) Promote safe hygiene practices (d) Promote education and outreach focused on children (e) Promote affordable and socially and culturally acceptable technologies and practices (f) Develop innovative financing and partnership mechanisms (g) Integrate sanitation into water resources management strategies.
  • Safe Drinking Water: States agreed to 'Launch programme of actions, with financial and technical assistance, to achieve the millennium development goal on safe drinking water' (Halve the proportion of people unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water by 2015)
  • Prioritize water and sanitation in national sustainable development strategies and poverty reduction strategies where they exist.
  • IWRM: All governments confirmed they would develop plans for integrated water resource management and water efficiency by 2005 with support to developing countries.
  • Agriculture: (a) Develop integrated land management and water-use plans based on sustainable use of renewable resources and on integrated assessments of socio-economic and environmental potentials. (b) Strengthen the capacity of Governments, local authorities and communities to monitor and manage the quantity and quality of land and water resources. (c) Support the efforts of developing countries to protect oases from silt, land degradation and increasing salinity with technical and financial assistance. (d) Adopt policies and implement laws that guarantee well defined and enforceable land and water use rights.
  • UN: Promote effective coordination among the various international and intergovernmental bodies and processes working on water-related issues, both within the United Nations system and between the United Nations and international financial institutions.

Plan of Implementation failures

The Plan of Implementation has many shortfalls, below is a list of issues that FAN members were campaigning on, but which governments failed to commit to:

  • No agreement on management of transboundary rivers (they were dropped from the text completely)
  • No mention of polluter-pays principle
  • No mention or support for the World Commission on Dams recommendations
  • No agreed indicators for monitoring the use and pollution of water resources
  • No prioritisation for expenditure targeted at the poor.
  • No recognition that water is a common resource
  • No recognition that water is a basic human right

Regional outcomes on water

The EU Water Initiative

The EU Water Initiative was launched by the signing of a declaration between the European Union and the African Ministers Council on Water.

Incomaputo Regional Water Sharing Agreement

Three African countries - Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland signed an historic water sharing agreement governing the use of two rivers along their borders. The initiative, known as the Incomaputo Agreement, will provide 10 000 jobs and poverty relief in an area of limited economic potential.