Briefing on WSSD

Water and Sanitation

19 June 2002
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Meeting report


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The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.

water affairs and forestry portfolio committee
19 June 2002
briefing on wssd

Ms B.P. Sonjica

Documents handed out:
The Johannesburg Earth Summit Report
Water Dome and the African Water Village
(please email
[email protected] for a copy)

The Director-General assured the Committee that the Department has a big role to play in the Summit. He said water was one of the important components of sustainable development. The Committee has yet to find out what would be their role in the Summit. It was felt that visitors should be shown different water projects around the country. The Department would also use the Water Dome and African Water Village that would be situated near the venue of the Summit as a marketing strategy.

Presentation by the Director General
The Director-General Mr. Mike Muller briefed the Committee on what role the Department was going to play in the Summit. The Director-General said he would be eager to see how water fits into the WSSD. He said the Summit was about development, poverty and has three legs in the social, economic and environmental sphere. Water was a very important component of sustainable development as it was also very important for people's livelihoods. He added that it would be important for South Africa to showcase what they were doing to in ensuring that water was a basic human right. He said there was a need for South Africans to strategize and speak with one voice in the Summit.

The Chairperson asked whether there was an anticipated involvement of the civil society as a sector in the Summit.

The Director-General said they had structural engagement with the civil society in a number of occasions; their involvement in the Summit is something that still needed to be discussed.

The Chairperson asked what position has been taken on the damming of rivers.

The DG said there was a need to develop a sensible way of dealing with dams; however, the issue of dams was not a major controversy in the conference that was recently held in Bali.

Mr G. McIntosh (DP) said there were five core issues that would be discussed in the Summit and water was one of them. He thought that there could be more than five important issues to be discussed.

The DG said as the African bloc (one of the organized blocs) they suggested that there should be more than five issues, but the UN insisted on five.

Mr McIntosh further asked if the millennium goals were not the main goals of the Summit.

The DG said the millennium declaration was agreed to by all heads of State in the Bali Conference.

Mr McIntosh asked if there were opportunities for the visitors to be shown other water projects around the country.

The DG said it was important to show visitors how far South Africa have gone in realizing that water was an important component of sustainable development.

Mr Ditshetelo asked what happened to the agreements that were always entered summits at regional level.

The DG said in terms of agreement the governments did not want to commit themselves on legal binding agreements. He said water was not an area of controversy, issues of water could be discussed and agreements could be easily reached.

Mr Ditshetelo further asked what role would the Committee play in the Summit.

The DG said their experience in Bali was that in order to participate one needed to have accreditation. He was not sure how many people were going to be accredited in the Summit. He was not yet even sure of whether the committee would be part of the official delegation. However, he said he would like them to be given an opportunity to participate at an official level.

The Chairperson asked how would it be ensured that binding decisions in the Summit are adhered to.

The DG said as he mentioned earlier, governments did not want to take legally binding agreements that would commit them into making targets. What was needed was political commitment to all the agreements taken.

The Chairperson asked whether would there be any benefits for the country and the continent from the Summit.

The DG replied that people should look beyond the Summit; they must look at the Summit as a process and a step towards the right direction not as an end in itself. If everyone adopted that approach, then there would be benefits. But if the Summit was looked at as an end in itself, then there would be a problem.

Ms R. Ndzanga (ANC) asked whether rural people were going to benefit from the Summit. Water for food, how could rural people be helped in this regard.

The DG said the global water fund was there to assist developing countries on issues of water; there were still discussions on the issue of water being privatized. Concerning water for food, the DG said there was also the Water Management Institute that brought awareness about the importance of water for food, and how could agricultural water policies be introduced. He added that the issue of water for food involves other departments, health, finance etc.

Mr Mclntosh asked whether was there any effort to bring the leaders from developing countries into the Summit because he thought their presence would be of great importance.

The DG said there was no indication as to whether leaders from the highly industrialized countries would not come to the Summit. The issue of whether they would come or not was just used as a threat or negotiation lever.
Prof. H. Ngubane (IFP) asked whether was it possible for the Summit to look at other sources of water, she asked if there was any technology to purify and use water from the sea.

The DG replied that energy could be linked to seawater.

The Chairperson asked whether was there a mention of forestry for the Summit.

The DG said there was mention of forestry but there were no formal inter-governmental agreements in the sector. He noted that South Africa was new in the forestry industry. He said there would be a conference that would be held in Congo-Brazzaville to discuss issues of forestry in Africa. However, leading countries in the forestry industry were Brazil and Indonesia, he suggested that these countries should be given the opportunity to lead the process.

Presentation on the Water Dome and the African Water Village
Mr B. Naidoo from the Department said the Water Dome Project was an initiative of the African Water Task Force in partnership with UN system wide organizations, the Netherlands Ministry of Development Cooperation, the private sector and Civil Society. He said the objectives of the Water Dome and the African Water Village were to present water as a high profile issue in sustainable development at the Earth Summit. Also to provide stakeholders in the water sector the opportunity to present their activities, plans and programmes in a coherent and coordinated manner.

Mr Mclntosh asked whether the Water Dome would be opened for the public, for example school children, academics, researchers etc. He said he thought that water and leisure could be linked.

Mr Naidoo said that the idea of water and leisure would be looked at. The Dome would be opened to all South Africans; schools would be closed that time. The Civil Society would also be involved and the Department would also engage in a marketing exercise.

Ms Ndzungu asked what was the link between the Ubuntu Village and the Water Village.

Mr Naidoo said the Ubuntu Village would be making exhibitions and selling of art and craft while the Water Dome would be operating separately.

The Chairperson suggested that members should submit proposals on how they would like the Summit to be organized and those proposals to be handed over to the Committee. She further asked probably how many members from the Portfolio Committee would be accredited.

The DG said accreditation would be organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs; however, he promised that he would find out for them.

The meeting was adjourned

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