Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

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FAN and the International Conference on Freshwater in Bonn

In December 2001, Germany hosted the International Conference on Freshwater in Bonn, also known as Dublin+10, to take stock of progress made on water issues and sustainable development and to prepare the international community for the Johannesburg WSSD agenda on water.

In recognition of the cross cutting nature of water, the theme of the meeting was Water a Key to Sustainable Development. 

The overwhelming success of Bonn was due to its very participatory nature, this provided a supportive, open and transparent atmosphere where civil society's voice was heard along with that of government.

FAN and the Multistakeholder Dialogue Sessions

FAN coordinated the preparations of the NGO background papers to the Multistakeholder Dialogue Sessions (MSD). The MSD was a process of bringing together all major stakeholders to promote better decisions by means of wider input on particular issues. It was the principal means of ensuring the participation of broader society in the conference. The stakeholder Dialogues were the first sessions at the conference and went some way towards setting the tone of the government discussions. 

FAN's daily NGO strategy meetings

We also facilitated daily NGO strategy meetings to ensure effective NGO participation in the discussions and to nominate NGO speakers for the plenary sessions. FAN members at Bonn were successful in putting the following issues on the agenda: 

  • Prioritise water and sanitation in national development planning, poverty reduction strategies and in the use of debt relief. Debt cancellation is a prerequisite to increasing national expenditure on water supply and sanitation.
  • Call for a multi-stakeholder review of donor policies in water and sanitation sector, including the promotion of the demand responsive approach and private sector participation. The review should focus on the impact of these policies on water and sanitation provision to the poor. 
  • Private sector participation in the water and sanitation sector should not be imposed as a conditionally for loans, aid and debt relief. 
  • A free lifeline supply of water to the poor and cross subsidisation mechanisation such as rising block tariffs. 
  • Cost recovery, if implemented, must not be a barrier to access water.

Stakeholders were also invited to participate in all the working groups and plenary sessions. In the end the Bonn Recommendations are considered by NGOs to be an important milestone for open, intergovernmental decision making which has lead to some of the most progressive and integrated international policy frameworks for water by governments.

Bonn Recommendations

The Bonn Recommendations maintain that there is enough water for everybody, but only if we change the way we manage it.

Priority areas


  • Participation and joint action were recognised as essential for changing and improving the current situations of mismanaged resources. The involvement of local people, workers, NGO's and private sector in 'new partnerships' was a focus of the governance debate. These new partnerships can not only deal with service delivery, but also alliances can be built against corruption (an important issue at Bonn).
  • Ensure that water infrastructure and services deliver to poor people.
  • Sharing of upstream/downstream benefits (governments cautious about this).
  • Protection of water quality and ecosystems via better governance. 
  • Manage risks to cope with variability and climate change by incorporating risk management into water policies thus decreasing vulnerability.
  • Combating corruption effectively.

Water resources continue to be public goods

  • All sources of funding must be strengthened from public to private Water services based on cost recovery objectives, but must not be a barrier to access by poor people. Use social targeting if needed.
  • Cost recovery should focus on those who use the most water.
  • Inefficient subsidies should be reduced and eliminated.
  • Self-help potential of communities should be more widely used.
  • Capacity Building

Importance of shared knowledge as foundation for decision-making

  • Educating formally and non-formally that water is finite, vulnerable and valuable.
  • Importance of mass media to foster public awareness.
  • Importance of enhancing the skills of the poor, especially amongst young people and women.



Ministerial Declaration adopted by ministers meeting in the Ministerial Session of the International Conference on Freshwater Bonn, 4 December 2001 (upload pdf) ">NGO Statement at the Bonn Conference on Freshwater

Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue Sessions Background Paper of NGO Major Groups on: 

  • Equitable Access and Sustainable Supply of Water for the Poor Developing Strategies for
  • Sustainable Equitable Management of Water Resources

Bonn recommendations

The Bonn Keys

Multi Stakeholder Dialogue (MSD) conclusions 

Highlights of the ministerial declaration, the Bonn keys and the recommendations for action


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