• Richard

WaterAid's 2.5% challenge

Pleased to have been able to catch-up with WaterAid's 'Blueprint: financing a future

of safe water, sanitation and hygiene for all'.

The Introduction explains that 'there has been limited progress in scaling

up finances, and as a result many of the SDG targets are off-track in LICs and lower middle-income countries (LMICs). The COVID-19 pandemic and accelerating climate

change add to the challenges facing humanity. It is therefore imperative that there

is a tangible shift in emphasis globally towards scaling up the necessary finance to

achieve the SDGs."

I find it to be a very useful and sophisticated analysis of the challenges facing the sector. But I caught myself out by my reaction to Section 7 'Blueprint: financing SDG6 and Agenda 2030' where WaterAid recommends: "The current conjunction of crises is so perilous and time so short that we believe that 2021 needs to be the year in which mobilisation of finance on this scale begins. It should focus on two key areas: first, a drive to strengthen DRM and public financial management in developing countries, with enhanced transparency through parliamentary and civil society oversight; and second, an annual grant transfer from high-income countries of 2.5% of Gross National Income (GNI) to developing countries from 2021-2025—a new target for our times." My emphasis.

My initial reaction was to say 'that's impossible', particularly in the context of the UK government's recent pull-back from achieving the 0.7% target to a 'pandemic' 0.5% of GNI. So how is asking for five times that amount going to be delivered??

But then I realised that I have been suggesting something similar - though without being so explicit, I have to admit. My point for a while has been that if 'we' (the rich world/the water and sanitation sector) want a level of service beyond society's 'effective demand' (ability to pay and willingness to pay) then 'we' will have to pay for it. In an earlier blog I have shown the slow take-up of water and sanitation in a 'secondary city' in UK, taking two hundred years and a progression from something like $2,000 GDP pc (2020 prices) to $25,000 in order to get universal watsan service coverage. If 'we' want to shorten that process in today's low-income countries then the logic has to be that 'we' (high-income country taxpayers) have to pay for it. No amount of 'innovative finance' and 'involve the private sector' can deliver sufficient resources .... it could only be through massive transfers.

Congratulations to WaterAid for spelling it out so clearly.

But the next challenge is, recognising that no country is going to deliver 2.5% GNI in the foreseeable future, what to do next? Have yet another expensive (though less so since we all went online) international conference to discuss it? Yet more workshops?

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