Timeline of international conferences

2009 Fifth World Water Forum, Istanbul, Turkey

The fifth World Water Forum focused upon bridging divides for water. The forum was divided into 6 themes and 24 topics. The topic Implementing the Right to Water and Sanitation (RTWS) for Improved Access was included in the ‘Governance and Management’ theme.

2006 Fourth World Water Forum, Mexico

The Right to Water received unprecedented attention at the 2006 World Water Forum in Mexico City. There were four sessions specifically devoted to discussing the right to water, focusing on its practical implementation at a national level, the need to codify the rights and responsibilities incurred at an international level.

Despite the efforts of Ministers from Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela and Uruguay, the right to water was not mentioned in the World Water Forum’s Ministerial Declaration. However, water was recognised to be of “critical importance for sustainable development”.

Please see the further pages on the World Water Forum and the Alternative Water Forum.

2003 Third World Water Forum, Kyoto, Japan

The third World Water Forum Adopted a Ministerial Declaration and launched Water for People, Water for Life’, the first edition of the UN World Water Development Report

“Prioritizing water issues is an urgent global requirement. Each country has the primary responsibility to act”

The Third World Water Forum, organised by the World Water Council, was intended to build on the outcomes and commitments made at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and identify strategies for their implementation.

The Conference included a two-day Ministerial Conference, which resulted in a Ministerial Declaration dealing with a range of water issues.

It also launched the first World Water Development report, part of an ongoing collaborative project involving many of the UN agencies, aimed at assessing progress towards the attainment of previous commitments on water.

Launch of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life 2005-2015”

The goals of the Water for Life decade are to ensure that water issues gain visibility and strive to guarantee that women participate in water-related development initiatives. It also aims to promote co-operation at all levels, to achieve the MDG and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (Agenda 21) on water and sanitation.

2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, Rio + 10, Johannesburg, South Africa

The World Summit on Sustainable Development adopted The Plan of Implementation

“The provision of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation is necessary to protect human health and the environment. In this respect, we agree to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water (as outlined in the Millennium Declaration) and the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation”

The main objectives of this summit were to assess progress made in implementing the commitments of Agenda 21 and to provide strategies for their implementation.

The Plan of Implementation affirmed the commitments made by governments in previous conferences, such as the Millennium Development Goals.
Section II, on Poverty Eradication, stresses the importance of prioritizing water and sanitation in national sustainable development strategies and poverty reduction strategies where they exist.

The conference called on states to: “Adopt policies and implement laws that guarantee well-defined and enforceable land and water-use rights and promote legal security of tenure …”

2001 New Partnerships for African Development, NEPAD framework document

The framework document adopted by NEPAD set out Water and Sanitation Sector Policy Objectives as being to:

  • Ensure sustainable access to safe and adequate clean water supply and sanitation, especially for the poor
  • Plan and manage water resources to become a basis for national and regional co-operation and development
  • Systematically address and sustain ecosystems, biodiversity and wildlife
  • Co-operate on shared rivers among member states
  • Effectively address the threat of climate change
  • Ensure enhanced irrigation and rain-fed agriculture to improve agricultural production and food security.

2001 International Conference on Fresh Water, Bonn, Germany

Through this conference the The Bonn Recommendations for Action were adopted:

“concerted actions are needed to enhance capacities and knowledge, secure rights, develop leadership, overcome local inequalities ensure that local communities have access to the technologies and financial and other resources that they need to turn choices into actions”

The Bonn Recommendations for Action call for states to take action in three main areas:

  • actions in the field of governance agreed include securing equitable access to water for all people, ensuring that water infrastructure and services deliver to poor people and promoting gender equity
  • actions in the field of mobilising financial resources, including both public and private investment and development assistance
  • actions in the field of capacity building and sharing knowledge agreed include a focus on education, training, research, information management and strengthening water institutions

2000 The Second World Water Forum, Ministerial Conference on Water Security in the Twenty-First Century, The Hague, Netherlands

Adopted The World Water Vision: Making Water Everyone’s Business and a parallel Framework for Action in achieving this vision

The World Water Vision was the product of extensive worldwide multi-sectoral consultation. It outlines the three primary objectives of integrated water resource management as empowering women, men, and communities to:

  • decide on their level of access to safe water and hygienic living conditions
  • decide on the types of water-using economic activities they desire
  • organise to achieve them.

2000 Millennium Summit, New York, USA

The Millenium Summit led to the adoption of The Millennium Declaration and subsequent Millennium Development Goals.

One of the Millennium Development Goals refers specifically to water. The target is to:

– reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015

The Millennium Summit brought together many of the goals and targets adopted at previous conferences and identified key development priorities for the 21st Century.

The Summit established a comprehensive Millennium Project aimed at promoting and assessing their implementation. For information on the progress made towards these goals see Meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

1997 The First World Water Forum, Marrakesh, Morocco

The first World Water Forum adopted the Marrakesh Declaration, which recommends:

“action to recognize the basic human needs to have access to clean water and sanitation, to establish an effective mechanism for management of shared waters, to support and preserve ecosystems, to encourage the efficient use of water, to address gender equity issues in water use and to encourage partnership between the members of Civil Society and Governments”.

1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China

This conference adopted The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

“Women’s empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society… are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development and peace”

This Conference consolidated existing policies for the advancement of women and promotion of equality between men and women. The Declaration stressed that governments should “Ensure that clean water is available and accessible to all by the year 2000 and that environmental protection and conservation plans are designed and implemented to restore polluted water systems and rebuild damaged watersheds.”

By the Platform for Action, states committed themselves to tackling key areas of concern, such as the increasing burden of poverty upon women and inequalities in access to services.

1995 World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, Denmark

Adopted the Copenhagen Declaration and Plan of Action:

“Absolute poverty is a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.”

This Summit highlighted the need for the eradication of poverty through a multidimensional and integrated approach.

It stressed that an essential element of poverty reduction was the necessity to meet the basic needs of all people, including the need to provide, on a sustainable basis, access to safe drinking water in sufficient quantities, and proper sanitation for all.

1992 International Conference on Water and the Environment, Dublin, Ireland

Adopted The Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development:

“it is vital to recognize … the basic right of all human beings to have access to clean water and sanitation at an affordable price.”

Recognising the importance of participation and the role of women, the conference established four guiding principles for water policy:

  • fresh water is a finite and vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life, development and the environment
  • water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy-makers at all levels
  • women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water
  • water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognised as an economic good.

1990 World Summit for Children

This Summit was the largest gathering of world leaders in history. Adopted The World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children, and the World Summit for Children Plan of Action

“We will promote the provision of clean water in all communities for all their children, as well as universal access to sanitation.”

The Declaration adopted stressed the problem of child mortality due to a lack of safe, clean water and inadequate sanitation.

In a 10-point commitment programme, governments committed themselves, inter alia, to promoting ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to promoting universal provision of clean water and sanitation.

The Plan of Action reaffirmed the importance of water for human health and well-being and stressed the desirability and feasibility of achieving, through concerted national action and international co-operation, universal access to safe drinking water and to sanitary means of excreta disposal by the year 2000.

1990 The Global Consultation on Safe Water and Sanitation

This international conference adopted the New Delhi Statement, with the principle:

‘some for all rather than more for some’

which reflects the fundamental human rights principle of universality.

It advocates four main principles:

  • Protection of the environment and the safeguarding of health through the integrated management of water resources and liquid and solid wastes
  • Institutional reforms promoting an integrated approach, including changes in procedures, attitudes and behaviour, and the full participation of women at all levels in sector institutions
  • Community management of services, backed by measures to strengthen local institutions in implementing and sustaining water and sanitation programmes
  • Sound financial practices, achieved through better management of existing assets, and widespread use of appropriate technologies

(source: The New Delhi Statement adopted at the Global Consultation on Safe Water and Sanitation for the 1990s, held in New Delhi 10 – 14 September 1990).

1977 United Nations Water Conference, Mar del Plata, Argentina

This conference confirmed that :

“[a]ll people have a right to have access to drinking water”.

The main concerns at the UN Water Conference were:

  1. serious health consequences due to lack of safe and sanitary water supply; and
  2. the need to give priority to the needs of the poor, the less privileged and to water-scarce areas

1972 The UN Conference on Human Environment, Sweden

This conference was the first attempt to move from a sectoral to a comprehensive approach to water, including all aspects of environmental protection. The conference emphasised the mutual relationship between man and the environment, expressing concern about man-made harm to the environment such as dangerous levels of pollution in water and calling for assistance to developing counties in promoting, inter alia, sanitation and water supply.