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After Johannnesburg
Towards the water policies for the 21st century

Mots clés : Forum Mondial de l'Eau, Gestion intégrée des ressources en eau, Kyoto, Objectifs du Millénaire pour le Développement, OMD, partenariats public privé, PPP, politiques de l'eau, water policies, World Water Forum, WWF-3
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Index du dossier
1. Towards the waters policies for the 21st century – Introduction
2. The Water World at the Turn of the Millennium: An Overview of the WWF-2
3. Towards the WSSD: The International Conference on Freshwater
4. Key Concern Areas: WEHAB and the Preparatory Phase before Johannesburg
5. The WSSD: Analysis of Results from Water Resources Point of View
6. Water Policies for the 21st Century: the Legacy of WSSD
7. Background

A review after the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannnesburg

by Janos J. BOGARDI and Andras SZOLLOSI-NAGYInternational Hydrological Programme – IHP-UNESCO

H2o – mars 2003



Water is recognised as a key factor in sustainable development. Its direct links with human life society, poverty, natural disasters and ecosystem functioning render water a prime concern of the 21st century. Climate change, population growth, deterioration of water quality, scarcity and competition for this resource are the key challenges facing humanity. Therefore, comprehensive policies, based on common ethical principles and political will are needed to prepare humankind to face the "looming water crisis".

The 2nd World Water Forum (The Hague, March 2000), the International Conference on Freshwater (Bonn, December 2001) and the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, September 2002) clearly reveals the converging trend towards broadly shared principles and concepts to serve as the basis for national water policies and subsequent strategic and operational actions in national, basin and local levels. The "water world" is now encouraged to take a further step towards implementation. The forthcoming 3nd World Water Forum has a clear mandate: to guide the process from principles through policies to actions.


L'eau constitue un facteur clé du développement durable. Son implication dans les conditions de vie humaine, la pauvreté, les catastrophes naturelles et le fonctionnement des écosystèmes hisse l'eau au rang des principales priorités du 21ème siècle. Le changement climatique, la croissance démographique, la détérioration de qualité de l’eau, la pénurie et la compétition pour sa maîtrise est l’un des plus grands défis que l'humanité va devoir affronter. Des politiques d’intégration, basées sur des principes moraux et politiques communs, seront nécessaires pour surmonter une "crise de l’eau" qui apparaît éminente.



The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) – popularly Rio + 10 – was held in Johannesburg between 26 August and 4 September 2002.

The popular media representation of this mega event reflects a certain weariness with summits, declarations and public commitments. Many critics pre-conclude that targets set in Johannesburg will not be achieved and they are quick to refer to the un-kept promises of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) to prove the point. Yet, human society has not produced more efficient means to reach political consensus, to formulate and adopt policies, other than large, international conferences, summits and meetings. In the series of the serious attempts to secure the sustainable future of the planet and its inhabitants, Johannesburg is thus the last event. Therefore, it is worth analysing, irrespective of the short time passed since its resolutions were negotiated and a declaration published, what impacts we may expect as the consequence of this summit.

The present paper reflects on the influence of the WSSD on water policies for the new century.

Irrespective of the primordial role of water in sustainable development and in the sustainability of life and biodiversity, the WSSD cannot be classified as an international event focusing on water. Out of the 170 paragraphs of the WSSD Plan of Implementation, less than 30 refer explicitly to water or water-related activities such as management, water supply, irrigation and sanitation. Thus, the real impact of the Johannesburg Summit on emerging water policies for the 21st century can only be estimated as part of the sequence of water-related global events in recent years. In fact, in the international context it is more precise to speak about principles rather than policies as these later ones have to reflect national, climatic and cultural aspirations and constraints. Without going back too far in time, the water-relevant contribution of WSSD should certainly be seen as embedded between the 2nd World Water Forum (2nd WWF, The Hague, March 2000), the International Conference on Freshwater (Bonn, December 2001) and the forthcoming 3rd World Water Forum (3rd WWF, Kyoto, March 2003). This last event will ultimately show how far the Declaration and Plan of Implementation of the WSSD influence water resources management worldwide.

The WSSD, while a full UN-led inter-governmental conference and summit, showed clear signs of the development, or better, search for new ways of communication between stakeholders and their respective representatives. The gradual opening of the intergovernmental dialogue to involve other stakeholders (NGOs) can be measured by the presence of several thousand non-governmental participants and the multitude of side events, organised by various combinations of NGO/IGO and government partners.

It is therefore not astonishing that next to the official declarations, Johannesburg can be associated with a large number of stakeholder statements (some much more explicit than the official ones), as well as by the emergence of the so-called type 2 (non-negotiated, yet endorsed) partnerships involving governments, IGOs, NGOs, the private sector and universities. The following paper embeds thus the WSSD into the dynamic reality of the "water world" at the turn of the millennium.

In this paper, the term "water world" will be used to describe the microcosmos of those concerned and dealing with water. In many respects it is not an exaggerated statement that we are all citizens of this "water world".

After a short review of the prevailing issues and the responses formulated by the Ministerial Declaration of the 2nd WWF, the outcome of the Bonn conference as well as the "water" component of the WEHAB (Water-Energy-Health-Agriculture-Biodiversity) position paper will be analysed, prior to an overview of the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development and the WSSD Plan of Implementation. How far would the WSSD influence water resources policies? How do they develop? The paper will attempt to assess the state-of-the-art and outline the development tendencies.

Water policies are very much shaped by international programmes and initiatives. Therefore, a sub-component of the UN-wide World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), the UNESCO-Green Cross International "From Potential Conflict to Co-operation Potential: Water for Peace" (PC>CP : WfP) project will be presented to illustrate how to prepare the ground, secure the knowledge-base to translate conference recommendations like the Johannesburg statements and principles into practical water policies and actions.


Le dossier H2o sur le 3ème Forum Mondial de l'Eau de Kyoto