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The Cape Town Declaration

Recalling the Habitat Agenda adopted by the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) held in Istanbul, Turkey, from 3 to 14 June 1996, which addressed water resources management in human settlements as an outstanding challenge for sustainable development.

Recalling also the Habitat II Conference which has called for a strong political commitment, cooperation across disciplines and sectors and an active partnership of all interested parties to meet this daunting challenge.

Taking note of the Political Statement issued by the Ministerial Conference on Drinking Water and Environmental Sanitation held in Noordwijk, the Netherlands on 22 and 23 March 1994.

Taking note also of the United Nations System-wide Special Initiative on Africa, launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in March 1996, which has set a goal of enabling as many African countries as possible to provide access for at least 80 per cent of their population to safe water supply and sanitation in the next decade or earlier.

Taking note also of the forthcoming sixth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development which will address the issue of freshwater, including drinking water supply and sanitation, as a priority.

Recognizing that:

  • Cities act as engines of growth driving the region's economic, political, social and cultural developments and that important complementarity exists between cities and rural hinterlands;

  • Special emphasis is needed for the protection and local management of urban water resources, including the management of catchment areas, and the equitable apportioning of that water to various urban needs;

  • Increasing population and rapid urbanization in Africa pose a serious threat of depletion, pollution and degradation of freshwater supplies, especially in the fragile environments of high density areas which are already slowing down development in water-scarce countries in this region;

  • Prolonged civil strife and armed conflicts have ravaged several countries in the region and the resulting loss of human lives, refugees and internally displaced persons, has drastically reduced the human and institutional capacity in these countries for water resources development and management;

  • A large part of urban populations in the African region live in a delicate health- and life-threatening situation. Many are without adequate access to safe drinking water and environmental sanitation, resulting in an increased burden of health care, a lowering of the quality of life and reduced productivity as well as depriving them of the opportunity to fully contribute to social and economic development;

  • Current inequities in providing access of safe drinking water supply to all segments of civil society and the growing competition among agricultural, domestic and industrial consumers could lead to major social and political conflicts and pose a challenge to peace and prosperity in the region and urgently requires a water demand management approach for better conservation and reduction of costs;

  • Investing in future generations is critical to sustainable development. School-orientated, water and sanitation programmes that equip children with skills and behavioural changes will contribute to this objective.

  • Despite efforts by national and local governments to increase outlays in the provision of water and sanitation services, there is a growing gap between available resources and the rapidly rising costs of service provision, and several factors impede the flow of international funding resources to the region;

  • Current approaches to service provision with emphasis on facilities rather than a focus on services, and emphasis on public provision rather than on effective approaches to complementary partnerships of all actors of the civil society, have proven to be inadequate and call for a thorough review of existing institutional and legislative arrangements for necessary reforms.

  • The critical role of women, as consumers, service providers and decision makers, both at the community level and in civic structures, must be recognized and promoted in the planning, provision and management of water supply and sanitation services.

We, the Ministers in charge of Water Resources, Urban Development, Community Development and the Environment, reaffirm the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda and state that securing for all the basic human need of a reliable supply of safe drinking water and environmental sanitation and meeting the competing demands of productive enterprises are crucial to sustainable urban development, economic growth and social stability in the region, requiring priority action of governments of countries in the region and their partners. For this purpose, we solemnly undertake to:

1. Adopt and implement policies and programmes that pursue an integrated approach to urban water resources management taking cognizance of the links between water, sanitation and health, between economy and the environment, and between urban and rural areas.

2. Promote partnerships among countries and among all actors within countries from public, private, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, with a view to harness the resources of the civil society based on mutual strength and comparative advantages.

3. Provide the enabling environment for such partnership-building through:

  • Appropriate legislative review, adjustments and reforms that allow the realization of the full potential of the private and community sectors in the provision and management of services;

  • Institutional adjustments, strengthening and reallocation of roles, wherever necessary, to facilitate such partnerships;

  • Supporting initiatives and activities of community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations, including women's groups, to actively participate in the decision-making process.

4. Build capacity in national and local institutions and in the cooperative sector through:

  • Public information programmes including in-school education and training activities that can bring in behavioral changes and increase knowledge of their rights and responsibilities and opportunities for collaboration with other stakeholders;

  • Staff exchange and training programmes for service provider agencies and government regulatory bodies, exposing them to relevant regional and international experiences;

  • Promoting vertical and horizontal integration/ collaboration in the sectoral institutions for sharing of experience in the areas of management, technology transfer and other areas of mutual interest.

5. Facilitate partnerships and collaboration for greater flow of investment and increased efficiency in the sector through:

  • Recognizing the economic and social value of water in all sectoral policies;

  • Promoting the application of realistic tariffs for water and sanitation services, with due social safeguards for the urban poor, e.g. social tariffs, cross subsidies, etc;

  • Promoting public-private partnerships, particularly with the domestic private sector with a view to build local capacity in the water sector;

  • Promoting new and innovative funding mechanisms, and making available affordable credit which enable the poorest of the poor to address their water and sanitation needs;

  • Strengthening the regulatory role of governments by building capacity at appropriate levels with a view to safeguard the interests of the community and investors; and

  • Supporting financial participation of communities in the provision of services through the promotion of flexible funding mechanisms.

    6. Seek enhanced support from the international community, through multilateral and bilateral cooperation, to complement and support domestic resources of the region in the following areas:

  • Mobilization of international financial resources on equitable and affordable terms;

  • Promotion of sound fiscal policies that contribute to sustainable development in the sector, which ultimately reduces the cost of such services;

  • Transfer of technology appropriate to the local needs and capacities of African countries; and

  • Exchange of international experience and "best practices".

7. Endorse the rapid, and time bound, implementation of the action priorities outlined in paras 1 to 6 above.

8. Recommend that these action priorities be considered for adoption by the Council of Ministers of the Organization of African Unity at its next session.

9. Recommend that these action priorities also be considered for adoption by the Commission on Sustainable Development at its sixth session in April 1998.

10. Recommend that these action priorities also be considered for implementation by the Commission on Human Settlements at its seventeenth session in April-May 1999.

11. Recommend that governments at appropriate levels develop programmes of action at national and local levels based on these action priorities and additional guidelines provided in the annexure to this document.

12. Recommend that these action priorities and the attached guidelines be expeditiously translated by external support agencies, including the United Nations Organization and its agencies, into identification, formulation and implementation of programmes and projects of assistance in collaboration with Member States.