Strengthening public water

Published on Pambazuka News, by Samir Bensaid, June 7, 2011.

While both North–South partnerships and South–South partnerships have strengths and limitations, linking these in networked models is an effective way to mobilise expertise and funding and achieve success, writes Samir Bensaid, with reference to the example of ONEP (Morocco) and SNDE (Mauritania).

While both North–South partnerships and South–South partnerships have strengths and limitations, linking these in networked models is an effective way to mobilise expertise and funding and achieve success. Such a networked partnership, involving six public water operators from Europe and two from Africa, was developed to improve access to water in Mauritania. The partnership rests on a solid basis of shared public service principles. A crucial factor in the partnership is the contribution of the Moroccan state water company ONEP (National Drinking Water Supply Company), one of Africa’s best performing public water operators. 

THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT:

At the United Nations’ Millennium Summit held in September 2000, the world’s leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration aimed at reducing extreme poverty and setting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). One of the objectives of the MDGs was to halve the number of people with no access to clean drinking water and sanitation by 2015.

Various evaluation reports[1] have underlined the fact that the countries of the South are far from achieving the MDGs on safe drinking water and sanitation; for the most part they are not even on the road to doing so. This is particularly true for the sub-Saharan African countries.

Certain recommendations were made to support countries of the South. These included the involvement of the private sector (commonly public–private partnerships (PPPs) or private sector participation (PSP)), essentially by delegating the public services’ mission of providing drinking water supplies. This approach was emphatically presented for many years as the magic solution to all the problems.

THE LIMITS OF PPPS: … //

… CONCLUSION:

The success of an initiative of this scope essentially depends on political support at the highest level from the government of the recipient country. Institutional aspects and governance of both the quality of human resources and their organisation are also important, even more so perhaps than the financing and implementation of the investments and infrastructure for water and sanitation.

Successful implementation involves setting clear strategic and political objectives to mainstream access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and thinking outside the box rather than opting for ready-made solutions. It involves creating tailor-made solutions that are concrete and designed for each specific situation.

The ultimate aim is to upgrade the level and develop capacities of public operators specifically in countries of the South, so they can deliver efficient, high-performing services that make general access to safe drinking water and sanitation a reality. This can be achieved by promoting South–South public partnership models that are supported by a broad network from the North and managed according to principles of shared know-how and solidarity. (full text and Notes 1 – 6).

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