Featured Speakers: Claudia McMurray, Daniel Reifsnyder
Panel 1: Ian Moise, Lizanne McBride, Peter Lochery, Chris McGahey
Panel 2: Sally Cowal, Judah Ariel, Gordon Binder
Assistant Secretary McMurray started off a sequence of many speakers at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s examination of work accomplished since the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act was signed into law in 2005. The purpose of the conference was largely to draw information from the audience as to how the act is working. She emphasized how in the past year, reaching the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) has been placed as a priority in U.S. foreign aid, though so far the goal to reduce by half the proportion of those without access to water or basic sanitation is the only one to have been written into law.
Asst. Sec. McMurray also brought up two key impediments to the success of the act. The first is governance and governmental infrastructure. Without this vital structure, funding cannot be managed effectively. The second is lack of private investment. By providing dollars to local water companies around the world, we increase the sustainability of water projects and empower communities to help themselves.
Peter Lochery, of the CARE Water Team, followed in the first panel to suggest that water efforts should follow a motto of “do relief, think development” to influence long term development using past structures. By working this way, we can work on more of a middle ground on the relief-development continuum, implement prevention strategies and give power to local communities. We need to create more a more informed perspective on relief because many short term projects have tended too often to ignore long-term learning such as hygiene and sanitation.
Lizanne McBride of the International Rescue Commission particularly highlighted her learning from the ground that recovery work for the large part is done by internationals. If we are to prepare people for sustainable practices, we must include grassroots tactics for institution building, capacity building and conflict-sensitive policies.
In the second Panel, Gordon Binder started off with a challenge for everyone in the government and NGO communities to “do more with what we have”. We must re-think development assistance because pre-conflict development assistance can often avert impending conflicts. The current critique of development efforts is that we are not able to address enough objectives simultaneously to create an effective plan for development. What many development agencies have not fully internalized is that water is a vehicle for moving toward many objectives at the same time. One of the key barriers to this realization is that there is no one at the senior level in a “water” office. If we create a position within the Department of State, we can ensure that water issues are brought to the forefront of development plans and we can make more progress on implementation of the Water for the Poor Act of 2005.
Location & Sponsor: Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars
Date: April 23, 2007
Approximate Number of Attendees: 100
Intern Attending: Elysa Severinghaus