Mr. Olav Kjørven
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
New York, 29 April 2004.
RELEASING THE ENERGY OF ENTREPRENEURS AND PARTNERSHIPS
We, as the international community, have established ambitious targets for alleviating the plight of the poor through the MDGs. If we are to stand a chance of succeeding we must learn from our past mistakes and shortcomings. This is in fact a key reason for putting today’s topic on the agenda.
According to the Water Supply and Sanitation Council (WSSCC), we must trust local communities, their organisations, and those who work with them.
And, we must create space and build local capacity by providing the kind of support that does not undermine confidence or take away initiative.
So far this is what we too often have failed to do. Too often we – recipients and donors alike - have believed in top-down, supply-driven solutions. This has not worked.
This lesson has, I believe, given us the key to get to where we want to be - and where we have committed ourselves to be - by 2015.
Improvements in the lives of slum dwellers and adequate supplies of water and sanitation services for the poor can only be achieved if the voices, priorities and capacities of local communities become part of the process - and part of the solution. The financial needs can only be met and the necessary ownership can only be created by mobilising local resources and actors. In short, our goals and targets can only be achieved by bringing into play the energy of local entrepreneurs and partnerships.
The primary responsibility for this rests with governments. It is national and local governments– through their priorities and policies - that decide how, and to what extent, to involve community-based organisations, user groups and the local private sector, for example in the management, operation and maintenance of services. However, I would dare to claim that we exclude these actors at our peril, and certainly at the peril of those we are in government to serve.
We need to see small-scale or community-level private sector involvement in order to reach our goals. Poor people must be allowed the opportunity to mobilize their own assets to improve livelihoods and infrastructure. By reforming the informal economy in urban areas and taking on the complicated task of setting up simplified and assessible formal systems for registry and titling of property and dwellings, governments can empower citizens to transform their assets into working capital. Likewise, an enabling environment for small entrepreneurs is needed. This is not voodoo economics. It has been tried and tested – with success. It is high time we pay attention and learn, not least from the developing countries that are currently moving forcefully ahead. In addition we need to make other sources of capital more readily available and in accessible formats. We need more and better microfinance and other tailor-made financial services, such as community banks. Even remittances might be an avenue worth exploring in some cases.
By improving public sector legal and regulatory mechanisms, service delivery and private participation, governments can ensure that the interests of the poor are safeguarded.
Donor countries and organisations can and should stand ready to assist in building the relevant institutional capacities of developing countries. The aim must be to have a supportive, not a hostile regulatory and legal framework from the perspective of the poor communities and the small-scale private sector, both at the local and the national level.
We all have a common responsibility for getting our priorities right and finding the right points of entry for targeting the poor. We have to make sure that there are funds available for supporting water and sanitation services in poor settlements. We have to make sure that approaches are applied that do not create additional bureaucracy and are as high as possible in impact. We must support infrastructure delivery, capacity building and reforms that benefit the poor, side by side.
Government financial resources are limited compared with the enormous needs of rural and urban settlements. We must pave the way for partnerships with the private sector that can offer much-needed investments and cost-effective solutions. Such partnerships must be sought at all levels: local, national and international. We need both the big companies and the small entrepreneurs on board. We also need more effective partnerships with local governments. Norway welcomes the renewed focus on this at CSD12.
Our starting point must be that governments are responsible for providing basic services to the poor, services they are entitled to. However, how these services are provided must be the government’s decision. If the government’s priorities are right, and the legal framework is in place as regards access, affordability and sustainability, the question of whether services are provided by private or public contractors need not be an issue. The focus must be on results, not on actors.
We cannot afford to exclude any actors who are in a position to provide competence and capital. On the contrary releasing the energy of both local entrepreneurs and partnerships is a key to succeeding in the implementation of the commitments we made at the Millennium Assembly and in Johannesburg.
Thank you for your attention.