Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Hashimoto II

The United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (which Kofi Annan set up in 2004) released the Hashimoto Action Plan in 2006 − pdf here. Read what it said on sanitation on pages 6−7 of this file. [Actually part of what it said was that it would “call on the academic and scientific community for accelerated research on alternative models and technologies to improve sanitation such as eco-sanitation, the vacuum car and treatment plant system, and urine separation from sewage” – so somewhat odd. Who on earth, you might reasonably ask, advised this Advisory Board?]

I’ve just received an email announcing the release of the Hashimoto Action Plan II which sets out UNSGAB’s “Strategy and Objectives through 2012”. Here’s part of what the email said:

The United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) is embarking on their next strategic phase with the release of the Hashimoto Action Plan II. In only a few years, world leaders will assess progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals, including the targets to halve by 2015 the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Getting the right policies, strategies and actions in place during the next three years is absolutely critical. The Hashimoto Action Plan II contributes to this effort by motivating, convening and galvanizing its partners to achieve objectives in five key areas: financing, sanitation, monitoring & reporting, integrated water resources management, and water and disaster.

The Hashimoto Action Plan II articulates a time-bound vision, targeted actions and clear outcomes aiming to ensure a future where each child, woman and man enjoys clean water and safe sanitation.

The HAP II brochure says that, concerning sanitation, UNSGAB will “Bring pressure and attention to commitments undertaken during the International Year of Sanitation” and “Improve sanitation and water for schools”. There’s to be a new focus on “Building new impetus for wastewater collection, treatment and reuse”. And there’s more:

Since developing countries treat just a fraction of their wastewater, we need to encourage a move beyond toilets to the other side of sanitation — collecting, reusing and disposing of municipal waste as well as storm water. HAP II includes action on wastewater to protect human health, economic development and ecosystems while also alleviating growing water scarcity in many regions.

Isn’t there a major non sequitur here? Is UNSGAB really saying that, because so little wastewater is treated in developing countries, they should be encouraged to collect, reuse and dispose of municipal [solid, presumably] waste, and stormwater as well? And to do everything by 31 December 2015? Not a chance! But UNSGAB is right to keep reminding the world that it has to do more, much more, for sanitation.

A cynical observer (not that I’m one, of course) might look at the list of where UNSGAB has held its meetings (New York, Tokyo, Rome, Berlin, Mexico City, Paris, Tunis, Shanghai, Bogotá, Tokyo again, Riyadh, Sofia) and wonder if most shouldn’t have been held in countries where local watsan needs were [and still are] at least a little more pressing?

In case you’re interested, the Hashimoto Action Plans are named after the late Ryutaro Hashimoto (1937−2006), who was Prime Minister of Japan during 1996−1998 and the first chairman of UNSGAB.