Summary of Live Forum: HDR 2006 - From the Report to Action on the Ground


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Human Development Report 2006 - Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis
Report Overview | Chapter 1: Ending the Crisis in Water and Sanitation | Chapter 2: Water for human consumption | Chapter 3: The vast deficit in sanitation | Chapter 4: Water scarcity, risk and vulnerability | Chapter 5: Water competition in agriculture| | Chapter 6: Managing transboundary waters | Links to the Millennium Development Goals | Notes and Bibliography | UNDP Fast Facts
Background and issues papers:

(Link to full list of Papers for download)

Related WaterWiki articles:

Water Rights and Wrongs | Summary of Live Forum: HDR 2006 - From the Report to Action on the Ground

External Links:

HDR 2006 Homepage |

Key Downloadables:

 HDR2006 English Summary.pdf
 Hdr2006 - errata 27nov06.doc
 Hdr 2006 presskit en.pdf

This is the summary of the LIVE Forum II: "The Human Development Report (HDR) 2006 - From the Report to Action on the Ground", held on 16 Nov 2006 in the virtual Water Knowledge Fair 2006

The theme for the discussion was based on the following:

  1. How relevant are the issues and findings in the Human Development Report 2006 for the Europe and CIS, and Arab sub-regions? - And how applicable are the recommendations?
  2. How can we translate the findings of the HDR into action on the ground (projects, policy reforms, etc.)?

The discussions were further divided into 3 sub-groups: (1) Water Resources (2) Water Supply and (3) Sanitation. The discussions of these sub-groups are summarised below with the key conclusions and highlights.


HDR 2006

For key findings, highlights and the full report, check HDR 2006 - Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis

The Discussion on 'Water Resources'

This discussion focussed on the following questions:

  1. How relevant are the issues and messages identified by the HDR 2006 for the CIS and MENA ?
  2. What role do the issues of corruption, water governance and participation play in water resource management?
  3. How applicable are the HDR 2006 recommendations and how can we translate them into action?

Summary of Discussion

The Relevance of Issues and Messages identified by HDR 2006

In Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
  • The key recommendation that the water crisis is primarily a crisis of governance rather than a crisis of resources, are of high relevance for MENA.
  • Equitable access to groundwater for Palestinians and Israelis, equitable and poverty oriented pricing of water, balanced cooperation on transboundary rivers as well as political participation of women are very important issues for MENA.
  • Equitable access is also true in terms of sector water allocation in MENA countries. The water allocation to the agricultural sector will limit an equitable access to drinking water for the people of many countries in the region. MENA Governments need to actively tackle this equity problem and come up with mid- and long-term plans for inter-sector reallocation. This needs also to be linked with the price irrigation farmers have to pay for water. Also, for intersectoral allocations within countries should water allocationsbe made on a percentage basis rather than volumetric allocations thus incorporating aspects of uncertainty (climate variability, droughts etc).
  • Virtual water trade is also a very relevant issues for the region.
  • Because these issues are very political and not technical, measures in this field are not easy to implement. How to solve these problems certainly needs a regional perspective, political negotiations and the inclusion of non-water-issues. But The HDR is not specific enough to give answers to these questions. Moreover, the water related discussions in the HDR don’t look beyond the water sector.
  • The HDR 2006 argues that water as a resource itself is not lacking; it is rather poor management, pollution and contamination that render it unavailable for use and consumption. While this fully applies to the Arab States region, one cannot disregard the fact that many countries are already water stressed. With the rate of demographic increase and the projected impacts of climate change on precipitation and temperature, along with poor water planning, this shortage might become even more considerable. As mentioned in the report, the approach favoring increased capture of water resources (mainly dams, cloud seeding and desalination) remain the preferred options in the Arab region instead of wise use of resources and water efficient practices/policies.
  • The cost of water is flagged as being particularly born by the poorest – the situation in the Arab States is quite diverse in that aspect with some countries entirely subsidizing water and in others informal and parallel streams offering water services. Rather than the cost in financial terms, the poorest and most marginalized communities in the Arab States pay the highest cost in terms of access: they often have a limited amount of water and need to fetch it into their household.

The role of corruption, water governance and participation in water resource management

  • Corruption remains one of the main issues to tackle, as it ranges from government levels, to very local levels as well with users illegally tapping into water networks. So accountability and transparency do emerge as necessary means to help resolve the water crisis, and in order to achieve these, governance and governance structures become increasingly important in order to achieve these.
  • Application of transparency, accountability, and stakeholder participation is needed throughout the cycle of water management starting from the planning all the way to the management and implementation. While there have been significant advances at the level of the planning stage, a lot still needs to be done in terms of management and implementation. Some case studies and examples of water users associations in Tunisia or Egypt could serve as basis to transferring experience and extracting lessons and best practices.
Water Governance
  • The growing scarcity and pollution of regional water resources can exacerbate existing competition for water and conflict between riparian states; besides it can threaten the habitats of flora and fauna. Regional water governance could protect natural resources, reduce poverty and prevent crises and conflicts.
  • Effective regional water governance of transboundary water resources depends on strong institutions with adequate mandates. It requires clearly defined and delineated roles and mandates for the institutions in order to make the best possible use of resources and to realise synergy effects. Also agreements between states on transboundary waters is often not enough. They need to be monitored. This raises the issue of power and that power often determines water allocations rather than anything else.
  • Effective governance is needed for sustainable management and financing and can reduce dependence on ODA. We have to press harder for self-responsibility and local investments. Greater weight must be given to capacity development.
  • Development of good and effective water laws - amended and coordinated with other laws is also a function of good governance. Good water laws are essential for implementation of IWRM.
  • "Water Governance", if it is taken seriously, will show immediate effects, which result in significant impovements for the population, in particular for poor communities. Also, water management contains both decentralised and centralised management components and it is important to have a governance structure that can facilitate this.
  • An example of the request to focus on governance issues, is what the Global Environment Facility has recently adopted through their Resource Allocation Framework (RAF). Countries with good governance systems will receive most of the funds, while countries, with possibly greater needs, will receive less.
  • The HDR rightly stresses on the fact that water and its management does not only concern "water people". It affects all constituents of society and hence decision-making in the water sector should "be affected" by all equally. Thus public participation in water management is important.
  • We have to be aware that participation is a long term process to be applied in all stages, including planning, construction, use and management. However, we also have to realize that there is a trade-off between quick provision of infrastructure and sustainable management through participation.
  • The HDR also talks about women’s political participation and of private sector participation (privatization of water).

Translation of HDR 2006 into actions

  • The HDR 2006 argues that governance failure underpins the water crisis. A 'Water Governance Index', integrating the different aspects of water resource management, could be a way to take stock, monitor progress and ensure accountability for improved water governance.
  • Chapter 6 of the HDR discusses the issue of transboundary water resources, conflicts, sharing of resources, cooperation, cost and other issues. Neighbouring countries in this region and many other regions might not have transboundary water bodies to share, but still through regional cooperation they can provide access to water in different forms and shapes. For example in the Arab states, a trans-regional water conduits could be constructed for the purpose of providing water resources to any one country of the region when there is a demand in the other country. This is especially necessary when production of desalinated water for example exceeds the immediate needs of that country, thus surplus can be transmitted to any other country in the region. This could also work nationally. Often in most of the countries of the region, water is available in one part while the need for water is in a distant part of the country.
  • The HDR shows how the different MDGs are interrelated when it comes to water. But the Report also restricts the discussion on water (resources, management, availability et) to the MDGs. The Water Poverty Index can be used to understand the relationship between water and human poverty
  • The HDR is highly relevant for our sub-regions. Translating them into action is our joint challenge and responsibility.


Stakeholder participation in National Water Master Plan of Jordan

The Water for Energy 'Wave Dragon' Project by the European Commission

The Water Poverty Index

Financing the Water Sector

Transboundary Water Cooperation in the Newly Independent States

Transboundary Waters Experience - Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (TWME-ECCA

Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan - Formation of a Chu-Talas Rivers Commission

The Discussion on 'Water Supply'

This discussion focussed on the following questions:

  1. How relevant are the issues and messages identified by the HDR 2006 for the CIS and the MENA regions?
  2. What role do the issues of corruption, water governance and participation play in water service delivery?
  3. What did you think about the proposal of making water supply a ‘human right’?
  4. How applicable are the HDR 2006 recommendations and how can we translate them into action?

Summary of the Discussion

The usefulness of the HDR recommendations and findings

  • The HDR is talking of water but it’s focus is on water supply and sanitation as seen from the main recommendations. It appears that it could be useful to concentrate on water supply and sanitation alone since the chapters on water resources loose impact.
  • The points on WSS, however , are considered to be very useful.

Governance and corruption

  • Good governance is essential. Unfortunately, governance is highly undermined by corruptive practices that jeopardize increased drinking water coverage and cost recovery in existing water supply systems.
  • In particular since sanitation is a multi-faceted issue, often covered by a variety of ministries and institutions covering health, infrastructure, water, education, and more. An effective and efficient national sanitation policy requires the identification of one lead institution. Overlapping mandates, policy gaps or contradictions between policies, lack of coordination and lack of dedicated investments all contribute to less efficiency and effectiveness, and ultimately a breakdown in service delivery.

Access and the right to water

  • It was argued that access does not mean only having a pipe in or close to the house but as well to have water flowing through it. In many MENA countries coverage is said to be 100% but this does not mean a constant service because many systems only run for some days a week.
  • A point was made whether it makes sense to claim a right to water, as long as the water supply systems are not covering the entire population and are not serving water constantly.
  • Another comment was that the issue of right to water is not needs-based but rights-based, and addressing equity, power differentials, accountability,

Translating the recommendations into action

  • Little comments were made on how to translate the recommendations into action. A focus area of several comments target cost recovery. In many countries, especially CIS countries, this seems not to be the case. The necessity of cost recovery through tariffs or any other source is still a challenge. The non-respect of this insight leads to the degradation of water supply installations on many countries

The Discussion on 'Sanitation'

This discussion focussed on the following questions:

  1. How relevant are the issues and messages identified by the HDR 2006 for our regions?
  2. What role do the issues of corruption, water governance and participation play in sanitation delivery?
  3. How applicable are the HDR 2006 recommendations and how can we translate them into action?
  4. Is the stigmatization of human waste a key barrier to address the sanitation challenge? How to overcome it?

Summary of the Discussion

The usefulness of the HDR recommendations and findings

  • A great advocacy tool to highlight that the sanitation issue is extremely important, to raise the profile of the sanitation issue and to multiply the efforts for reducing the sanitation gap. It has to be communicated at all levels, that sanitation is not only about health and hygiene, but that it is as well a question of dignity, equity and economic development. In these conclusions, the HDR 2006 report is very clear and politically helpful.
  • The HDR shows that a paradigm change on how we see sanitation is needed and the report is a great tool to catalyze political dialogue, and its focus on equity, power, and financing issues, and stressing the sanitation issue, is very to the point and useful.

Translating the recommendations into action

  • The first recommendation of the HDR is essential: clear national policies and political leadership. Concretely, this means convincing the political leadership of the need to commit themselves to sanitation; supporting governments in the development of relevant, appropriate and affordable policies and strategies for sanitation service delivery; and stimulating community and civil society involvement in planning.
  • This ties in with the second recommendation, stressing the need for public participation. Local communities need to be empowered to express demand and have a clear opinion on the type of services they want, instead of being succumbed to a supply-driven approach providing them with a standard solution not fitting their desires. In the process, a conscious effort needs to be made to include women at every step of the way. The involvement of civil society organizations to facilitate community participation in decision-making processes is one possible step.

The definition of access

  • It was argued that “access” according to UNICEF definition is very simple to attain and this is the main reason behind high figures for coverage in most developing countries. This definition does not consider quality of the service, household access to water supply or even treatment of disposed wastewater. This makes it necessary to revise this international definition or encourage countries to develop its tailored MDG indicators and targets.


  • Many participants were disappointed that the HDR did not highlight ecosanitation as a useful tool for sustainable sanitation and environmental health and the discussion concluded that ecosanitation should be part of a menu of options of technical solutions

Further Readings - References - Links

Article on Human Development Report

The Human Rights-Based Approach to Development - The Right to Water

2007 UNDP Water Governance Strategy


The official Water Knowledge Fair 2006 website

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