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Africa: Global Apartheid Update
Nov 24, 2006 (061124)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Speaking at the global launch of the 2006 Human Development Report
in Cape Town, South African President Thabo Mbeki called for the
world to fight "domestic and global apartheid in terms of access to
water." The report documented high levels of inequality both within
and between nations, with sub-Saharan African countries losing some
five percent of GDP annually as a result of the water and sanitation
crisis, far more than the region receives in international aid.
In South Africa, the right to water as a human right has been
included in the constitution and in policies mandating the free
provision of 6,000 litres of water to those unable to afford it.
But the government has also come under criticism and protest from
urban townships for promoting inequality by privatized water
schemes that disadvantage the poor.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two press releases on the report
from the United Nations Development Programme, the agency
responsible for the Human Development Report series, one focused on
water and the other on inequality as shown by the latest Human
Development Index. AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from an
interview with lead report author Kevin Watkins by AllAfrica.com.
For the full report, as well as additional articles and an
extensive collection of previous Human Development Reports at world
and country levels, visit the UNDP's Human Development Report
For an analysis of the concept of "Global Apartheid" as it applies
to today's global inequality, see the article by Salih Booker and
William Minter in The Nation, July 9, 2001
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
World Water and Sanitation Crisis Urgently Needs a Global Action
United Nations Development Programme (New York)
November 8, 2006
A Global Action Plan under G8 leadership is urgently needed to
resolve a growing water and sanitation crisis that causes nearly
two million child deaths every year, says the 2006 Human
Development Report, released here today.
Across much of the developing world, unclean water is an
immeasurably greater threat to human security than violent
conflict, according to the Report, entitled Beyond scarcity: Power,
poverty and the global water crisis.
Each year, the authors report, 1.8 million children die from
diarrhoea that could be prevented with access to clean water and a
toilet; 443 million school days are lost to water-related
illnesses; and almost 50 percent of all people in developing
countries are suffering at any given time from a health problem
caused by a lack of water and sanitation. To add to these human
costs, the crisis in water and sanitation holds back economic
growth, with sub-Saharan Africa losing five percent of GDP annually
- far more than the region receives in aid.
Yet unlike wars and natural disasters, this global crisis does not
galvanise concerted international action, says the 2006 Human
Development Report (HDR). "Like hunger, it is a silent emergency
experienced by the poor and tolerated by those with the resources,
the technology and the political power to end it," says the Report.
With less than a decade left to reach the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs) by 2015, this needs to change, stress the authors.
G8 countries must take action
"When it comes to water and sanitation, the world suffers from a
surplus of conference activity and a deficit of credible action.
The diversity of international actors has militated against the
development of strong international champions for water and
sanitation," says Kevin Watkins, lead author of the 2006 Human
"National governments need to draw up credible plans and strategies
for tackling the crisis in water and sanitation. But we also need
a Global Action Plan - with active buy-in from the G8 countries to
focus fragmented international efforts to mobilize resources and
galvanize political action by putting water and sanitation front
and centre on the development agenda," he says.
The Action Plan would act as a 'virtual mechanism,' says the
Report, which cites the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and
Malaria - run by a small secretariat with minimal bureaucracy - as
a useful reference point.
"I fully support the call for a Global Action Plan to tackle the
growing water and sanitation crisis," said UNDP Administrator Kemal
Dervis. "As the 2006 Human Development Report highlights, each one
of the eight Millennium Development Goals is inextricably tied to
the next, so if we fail on the water and sanitation goal, hope of
reaching the other seven rapidly fades.
"Either we take concerted action now to bring clean water and
sanitation to the world's poor, or we consign millions of people to
lives of avoidable poverty, poor health and diminished
opportunities, and perpetuate deep inequalities within and between
countries. And we have a collective responsibility to succeed," he
Governments should spend 1% GDP on water and sanitation
The HDR 2006 recommends that in addition to creating a Global
Action Plan, the following three foundations are crucial for
1. Make water a human right - and mean it:
"Everyone should have at least 20 litres of clean water per day and
the poor should get it for free," says the Report: While a person
in the UK or USA sends 50 litres down the drain each day by simply
flushing their toilet, many poor people survive on less than five
litres of contaminated water per day, according to HDR research.
The Report advocates for all governments to go beyond vague
constitutional principles in enabling legislation to secure the
human right to a secure, accessible and affordable supply of water.
At a minimum, this implies a target of at least 20 litres of clean
water a day for every citizen - and at no cost for those too poor
to pay, stress the authors.
2. Draw up national strategies for water and sanitation:
Governments should aim to spend a minimum of one percent GDP on
water and sanitation, and enhance equity, the authors urge: Water
and sanitation suffer from chronic under-funding. Public spending
is typically less than 0.5 percent of GDP. Research for the 2006
HDR shows that this figure is dwarfed by military spending: In
Ethiopia, for example, the military budget is 10 times the water
and sanitation budget - in Pakistan, 47 times.
The Report's authors urge all governments to prepare national plans
for accelerating progress in water and sanitation, with ambitious
targets backed with financing to the tune of at least one percent
of GDP, and clear strategies for overcoming inequalities.
3. Increased international aid:
The Report calls for an extra US$3.4 billion to $4 billion
annually: Development assistance has fallen in real terms over the
past decade, but to bring the MDG on water and sanitation into
reach, aid flows will have to double, says the Report.
It states that progress in water and sanitation requires large
upfront investments with a very long payback period, so innovative financing strategies like the International
Finance Facility are essential. This would be money well-spent,
according to the authors, who estimate the economic return in saved
time, increased productivity and reduced health costs at $8 for
each $1 invested in achieving the water and sanitation target.
What could progress mean for the poor?
The 2006 HDR estimates the total additional cost of achieving the
MDG on access to water and sanitation - to be sourced domestically
and internationally - at about $10 billion a year. "The $10 billion
price tag for the MDG seems a large sum - but it has to be put in
context. It represents less than five days' worth of global
military spending and less than half what rich countries spend each
year on mineral water," says the Report.
The human-development gains would be immense, stress the authors.
The Report shows that closing the gap between current trends and
the MDG target on water and sanitation would save more than one
million children's lives over the next decade and bring total
economic benefits of about $38 billion annually. The benefits for
Sub-Saharan Africa- about $15 billion -would represent 60 percent
of its 2003 aid flows.
As it now stands, the world is on schedule to reach the MDG on
access to water - largely because of strong progress in China and
India - but only two regions, East Asia and Latin America, are on
track for sanitation. Moreover, this global picture masks real
problems: On current trends sub-Saharan Africa will reach the water
target in 2040 and the sanitation target in 2076. For sanitation
South Asia is four years off track, and for water the Arab States
are 27 years off track.
Measured on a country-by-country basis, this means that 234 million
people will miss the water target, with 55 countries off track, and
430 million people will not reach the sanitation target, with 74
countries off track, says the Report.
"Can the world afford to meet the costs of accelerated progress
towards water and sanitation provision?" asks lead author Watkins.
"The more appropriate question is: Can the world afford not to make
Cost of the crisis
"Delivering clean water, removing waste water, and providing
sanitation are three of the most basic foundations for human
progress," says the 2006 HDR. But 1.1 billion people do not have
access to water, and 2.6 billion do not have access to sanitation.
The Report adds: " 'Not having access to clean water' is a
euphemism for profound deprivation. It means that people walk more
than one kilometre to the nearest source of clean water for
drinking, that they collect water from drains, ditches or streams
that might be infected with pathogens and bacteria that can cause
severe illness and death."
'No access to sanitation' means that in slums like Kibera, outside
the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, people defecate in plastic bags -
known colloquially as 'flying toilets' - and throw them into open
sewers in the street because they have no other option.
And the poorer you are, the more you pay for clean water, according
to HDR research: The poorest households of El Salvador, Jamaica and
Nicaragua spend on average over 10 percent of their income on
water. In the United Kingdom, spending three percent of family
income on water is considered the hardship threshold.
Indeed, HDR 2006 highlights huge disparities in the prices that
people pay for water. People living in urban slums typically pay
5-10 times more per litre than people living in high-income areas.
And people living in the poorest parts of cities like Accra and
Manila pay more than the residents of London, New York and Paris.
One-third of all people without access to water fall below the
$1-a-day absolute poverty threshold. Another third live on no more
than $2 a day. In sanitation, the poorest two-fifths of households
in the world account for more than half the global deficit,
according to the 2006 HDR. These figures are not evidence of
causation - people might lack water and sanitation because they are
poor, or they might be poor because they lack water and sanitation
- but the numbers do signal a strong two-way relationship between
income poverty and deprivation in access to water, the authors
And the public-versus-private debate on water is not helping the
poor, argues the 2006 HDR. "The debate over the relative merits of
public and private sector performance has been a distraction from
the inadequate performance of both public and private water
providers in overcoming the global water deficit," says the Report.
Beyond the household
The poor need 'water for life' - for drinking, cooking and washing
- as well as water to grow food and earn a living, says the Report.
Yet poor farmers face a potentially catastrophic water crisis from
the combination of climate change and competition for scarce water
resources, stress the authors.
The great majority of the world's malnourished people - estimated
now at 830 million - are small farmers, herders, and farm
labourers. Climate change threatens to intensify their water
insecurity on an unparalleled scale, with parts of sub-Saharan
Africa facing crop losses of up to 25 percent. At the same time,
competition over water to produce food is escalating at an alarming
rate in developing countries, with political and economic power,
not concern for poverty, acting as the driving force, says the
Shoring up the rights of the rural poor, increasing their access to
irrigation and new technology and helping them adapt to inevitable
climate change will be imperative to ward off disaster, contend the
Faced with these challenges, need for increasing cooperation across
national borders to ensure water security for the poor is more
tangible than ever, as by 2025, over three billion people could be
living in countries under water stress, says the Report.
That said, the 2006 HDR challenges predictions that increasing
competition for water will inevitably provoke armed conflicts. The
Report finds, in fact, that cross-border cooperation over water
resources is already far more pervasive and successful than is
commonly presumed. India and Pakistan, for example, despite two
cross-border wars and constant geopolitical tension, have for half
a century jointly managed shared watersheds through the Permanent
Indus Water Commission.
"Managing shared water can be a force for peace or for conflict,
but it is politics that will decide which course is chosen," says
Watkins. The 2006 HDR stresses that the right political choices on
water and sanitation could in fact hold the key to solving the
global crisis, as history demonstrates.
History shows the crisis can be fixed
Just over 100 years ago, infant mortality rates in Washington, DC,
were twice what they are today in sub-Saharan Africa, write the
authors. Water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery and typhoid
fever accounted for 1 in 10 deaths in US cities in the late 19th
century, with children the primary victims.
The Report recounts that in the UK and elsewhere, people were
getting wealthier through the industrial revolution, but not
healthier. The poor moved from rural to urban areas to benefit from
the boom while overwhelmed cities turned into lethal open-air
sewers, and epidemics of typhoid and cholera regularly swept
through cities like New Orleans and New York.
In the hot summer of 1858, the UK Parliament was forced to
temporarily close during what became known as 'The Great Stink,'
caused by sewerage flowing into the river Thames.
For the rich, it was a nuisance. For the poor, who got their
drinking water from the river, it was a killer.
By the end of the 19th century, governments recognized that the
diseases associated with water and sanitation could not be
contained in the cities' poor tenements; it was in the greater
public's interest to take action. In the UK, US and elsewhere,
massive investments were made in effective sewerage systems and the
purification of water supplies to great effect. No other period in
US history, for example, has witnessed such rapid declines in
This change reflected a rare instance in history where a major
social ill was successfully resolved. And it could happen again,
says the 2006 HDR: "Resolving the water and sanitation crisis could
be the next great leap forward for mankind," says Watkins. "We
urgently need history to repeat itself - this time in developing
Widening Inequality Takes a Toll on Global Human Development
United Nations Development Programme (New York)
November 8, 2006
The gap between the richest and poorest countries in the world is
growing, as human development in sub-Saharan Africa stagnates and
progress in other regions accelerates, according to the pioneering
UNDP Human Development Index (HDI), released today as part of the
2006 Human Development Report, Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and
the global water crisis.
After a costly setback in human development in the first half of
the 1990s, Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of
Independent States (CIS) have recovered strongly, and progress
since 1990 in East and South Asia continues to accelerate. But
sub-Saharan Africa shows no sign of improving, principally because
of the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS on life expectancy.
The Index analyses 2004 statistics from 175 UN member countries
along with Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region, China), and
the occupied Palestinian territories.
The HDI rankings this year do not include 17 UN member nations,
among them Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, due to insufficient data.
Introduced with the first Human Development Report (HDR) in 1990,
the HDI assesses the state of human development through life
expectancy; adult literacy and enrolment at the primary, secondary
and tertiary level; and income, based on the most recent reliable
data from UN partners and other official sources.
The HDI statistics reveal that life expectancy in sub-Saharan
Africa is actually lower today than it was three decades ago. In
the 31 countries at the bottom of the list, 28 of which are in
sub-Saharan Africa, a person can hope to live on average only 46
years, or 32 years less than the average life expectancy in
countries of advanced human development, with 20 years slashed off
life expectancy due to HIV/AIDS, according to the authors.
Less visible though equally disturbing has been the significant
impact of HIV/AIDS on the lifespan of women in the same region. Due
to the feminization of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in Botswana, Lesotho,
South Africa and Swaziland the life expectancy of women will be two
years less than that of men in the five year period between 2005
and 2010; between 1990 and 1995, by contrast, women in those
countries lived on average seven years longer than men.
The countries at the top and bottom of the rankings in the 2006 HDR
are unchanged from the 2005 HDR; Norway ranks highest, while Niger
is last of the countries for which sufficient information is
available. People in Norway are more than 40 times wealthier than
people in Niger and they live almost twice as long. They also enjoy
near-universal enrollment in primary, secondary and tertiary
education, compared with an enrollment rate of 21 percent in Niger.
Figures in the 2006 Report make clear the entrenched inequality
across the globe: The combined income of the 500 richest people in
the world now exceeds that of the poorest 416 million people, for
example. One of the central human-development challenges ahead, the
authors stress, is to diminish tolerance for the extreme
inequalities that have characterized globalization since the early
1990s, and to ensure that the rising tide of prosperity extends
opportunities for the many, and not just the privileged few.
The 10.8 million child deaths in 2004 bear testimony to inequality
in the most fundamental human challenge - staying alive, says the
Report. "Being born on the wrong street in the global village
carries with it a large risk in terms of survival prospects," write
the authors, who note that only three sub-Saharan African countries
will reach the goal of cutting overall rates of child mortality by
two-thirds by 2015. Reaching that goal on time would save the lives
of 4.4 million children who will otherwise die that year.
"Globalization has given rise to a protracted debate over trends in
global income distribution, but we sometimes lose sight of the
sheer depth of inequality - and of how greater equity could
dramatically accelerate poverty reduction," said Kevin Watkins,
head of UNDP's Human Development Report Office.
Same country, different worlds
This year's HDI also provides a snapshot of the disparities between
income groups within countries. Children born into the poorest 20
percent of households in Indonesia, for example, are four times
more likely to die before their fifth birthday than children born
into the richest 20 percent of families, says the Report. In
Nicaragua and Peru, approximately 40 percent of child deaths occur
in the poorest 20 percent of households.
In Bolivia, the richest 20 percent of people rank in the upper
echelons of human development, alongside Poland, while the poorest
20 percent equate to the average HDI for Pakistan. Poland and
Pakistan are separated by 97 places on the global HDI ranking,
illustrating how the vast inequality within countries can mask the
true extent of human development.
The same trend is found in affluent countries, says the 2006
Report. While the richest 20 percent of the United States
population tops the list of human-development achievements,
alongside Norway, the poorest quintile ranks considerably lower -
slightly below the HDI for Argentina and on par with Cuba.
Reading the HDI
"People are the real wealth of nations," said Watkins. "That simple
truth is sometimes forgotten. Mesmerized by the rise and fall of
national incomes as measured by GDP, we tend to equate human
welfare with material wealth. But the ultimate yardstick for
measuring progress is people's quality of life," he stressed.
Due to shifts in how countries report the statistics from which the
rankings are calculated, the Index is subject to constant
adjustment, stress the authors. This year, for example, several
countries, including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil and the United
Kingdom, have seen their HDI scores drop not because of a change in
underlying performance, but because of a change in how education
statistics are reported.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with
a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
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