UK to double water aid

The UK government's spending on water and sanitation in the developing world is set to double to £200 million a year by 2020.

The Department for International Development had already pledged to increase funding for water and sanitation to £95 million a year by 2007, but announced this further rise in spending in a white paper setting out a five year plan to tackle poverty in the developing world.

Benedict Southworth, director of World Development Movement, welcomed the extra money, but added: “What we must do now is ensure that these additional funds are spent where they will be most effective. And that means investing in extending and improving the public sector in the developing world.

“Unfortunately the White Paper also represents a missed opportunity for DfID to distance itself from the failed approach of forcing water privatisation on developing countries.”

Making the announcement, the secretary of state for international development, Hilary Benn, drew an explicit link between access to clean water supplies and education, saying that “clean water saves lives and helps more girls to go to school”.

The white paper, published on 13 July, also places climate change at the heart of the UK’s policy on international development.

It warns that a “huge” amount of money will have to be spent on mitigating the impacts of climate change on the developing world, and says that securing an agreement on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol is a major development concern.

It says: “It is a global problem, requiring a global solution. It will affect developing countries most of all because they have the least capacity to respond. All countries will need to work together to tackle global emissions of greenhouse gases, and to adapt to the impact of climate change.”

So far the NGO response to the white paper has been mixed.

Steve Tibbett, director of policy and campaigns at ActionAid, said:

“Climate change and public services are urgent issues for the developing world, and it is good to see them moving up DfID’s agenda, alongside the focus on governance.

“But there are still some significant gaps in their analysis. For example, we would have liked to see more about making British companies accountable for their actions overseas.”

However, the main objective provisions of the white paper are concerned with tackling bribery and corruption and improving access to education. The government has promised to set up a £100 million fund to promote good governance and transparency, which will work with civil society, parliamentarians, trade unions and journalists at a grass roots level.

In addition, the UK will raise the amount of money it spends on education to £1 billion a year by 2010, and will work to help developing countries provide free health care to their citizens.

Gretchen Hendriks

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