This Declaration states that by 2015 the number of people living in extreme poverty must be halved (1990 is taken as year of reference).
The Millennium Declaration was translated into 8 goals, the so-called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with 18 targets and 48 measurable indicators. MDG 7, that aims at "guaranteeing the sustainability of the environment", includes two targets (9 and 10) that are related to the theme of water and sanitation. These targets are:
Target 9: “Integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reversing the loss of environmental resources.”
Target 10: “Reducing by half the number of people without durable access to safe drinking water or essential sanitary provisions by 2015.”
In spite of the clear international commitments, during the last two decades the number of water-poor has not decreased in absolute number. In order to still meet the Millennium Goals by 2015, access to safe drinking water has to be guaranteed for more than an additional 220.000 people each day and sanitary provisions have to be guaranteed for 450.000 people each day.
However, five years after the international community engaged this commitment, there still isn’t any change of tendency or concrete progress. In recent years only a handful of Asian and African countries have increased their efforts for better drinking water supplies. Nonetheless, despite the ever-returning international conferences and forums on water, no consensus is reached with regard to strategy and working methods. Three important related discussions thereby continue to stipulate the agenda and to slow down progress:
The general vision on water: water was recognised as a human right by the expert commission of the UN, is considered common heritage in a lot of cultures and communities, but is equally approached as an "economic good" by more and more international organisations and governments.
The role of the different actors, in particular of the central government, the local authorities, the organised water users and the private sector: here the principles of "good governance" are mostly interpreted differently according to the place one attributes to the free market, public governance and citizen participation.
The financing mechanisms, whereby one notices that:
in many countries the water-poor population is not able to carry the costs of minimum drinking water supplies by itself.
the burden of debt on governments in the South is a restraint on clearer commitments, whereas drinking water is increasingly becoming a responsibility of local governments who do not have the necessary financial resources for it.
the private sector is not interested in investments for the water-poor given the low profitability and high risk.
the international community does not seem willing to raise solidarity nor to adapt the mechanisms in order to go along with the changed role of local governments and organised users.
To meet the Millennium Goals concerning water and sanitation one urgently has to do something about:
*A change in mentality
Water is a common heritage that must be fostered by each individual and by the international community. Moreover, pure drinking water is a scarce and vital resource which each individual has a right to for his or her minimum needs, irrespective of his or her economic, social or geographical situation. Local governments and states have the task to guarantee this right, and the international community has the duty to offer them support. This approach of rights and obligations must be the frame of reference for the Millennium Goals, and not the approach of water as an economic good or a commodity.
*A more efficient management
A good management of the water sector and water infrastructure is important. Weak management of drinking water supplies especially hit the poor, who do not have any alternative. Leaving this management to the private sector, however, is no sustainable solution, given the specific character of this public service and service obligation.
On the contrary, a more efficient management must be pursued by:
a strong input of the water users;
efficient management methods in the public water companies;
efficient control- and governing mechanisms from a regulating government.
The international community must support these processes by among other things:
abandoning the obligation for countries to “privatise” the sector before international support of the sector has been made available.
investing in research, exchanges and capitalisation of experiences regarding other models to raise the efficiency of water companies (public-public partnerships may be an example here).
also paying sufficient attention to and reserving enough means for the social and organisational component when investing in drinking water infrastructure.
*An increase and a more efficient deployment of financial resources
New mechanisms must be developed to be able to deploy the available resources more efficiently for the drinking water supplies in the third world. International organisations and bilateral cooperation programmes must seek methods to directly support local authorities, local communities and their water companies. Solidarity contributions by the (large) water users in the rich countries can free important funds for investments in the South.