VISION 21 TO END GLOBAL CRISIS
VISION 21 is an initiative to put an end to a global crisis. Despite enormous achievement over the past two decades, an estimated one billion of the earth`s citizens still lack safe drinking water while almost three billion have no adequate sanitation. More than two million children die each year from water-related diseases. These factors compound the suffering of more than a quarter of the developing world`s people who are denied a healthy environment for living. VISION 21, brought out by partners in the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council, offers a practical picture of a future in which this shameful scandal is brought to an end.
VISION 21 is directed to achieving a world by 2025 in which each person knows the importance of hygiene, and enjoys safe and adequate water and sanitation. The futuristic scenario describing a better world explains how this can be achieved. “Following the turn of the 20th century, governments and civil societies accepted access to water and sanitation as basic human rights, and linked water, sanitation and hygiene needs with broader development goals and poverty reduction, using them as an entry point for development work. The real breakthrough came when all agencies recognized that the most effective action came from the energy of people themselves. Quality leadership and democratic governance provided the environment within which 20th century visions become 21st century realities”.
The essence of VISION 21 is to put people`s initiative and capacity for self-reliance at the centre of planning and action. The foundation is recognition of water and sanitation as basic human rights, and of hygiene as a prerequisite. Together they form a major component in poverty reduction. Such recognition can lead to systems that encourage genuine participation by men and women, resulting in the acceptance and practice of hygiene, coupled with safe water and sanitation at the household level. These factors can improve living conditions for all, and most particularly for children and women. They can contribute significantly to sustainable and self-reliant patterns of human development and wellbeing.
Attractive, Inspirational, and Eminently Achievable
“The year is 2025. Almost every man, woman and child on the planet knows the importance of hygiene and enjoys safe and adequate water and sanitation. People work closely with local governments and non-governmental organisations to manage water and sanitation systems so as to meet basic needs while protecting the environment. People contribute to these services according to the level of service they want and are willing to pay for. Everywhere in the world, people live in clean and healthy environments. Communities and governments benefit from the resulting improved health and the related economic development.”
The enticing picture of the future painted by VISION 21 is more than a dream. Already, the thousands of people who contributed inputs to its development have become powerful advocates for its realisation. What began as an exercise to gather views from affected people on their ambitions and hopes for the future, rapidly demonstrated that this empowering process is also the key to bringing those hopes to reality. In more than 20 countries, VISION 21 continues as a movement. With only small inputs in terms of seed money (the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council has contributed an average of $5,000 per country in the consultation process so far), highly focused and cost-effective plans are being produced. Invariably these plans are less costly, more equitable and significantly more sustainable than the centrally produced master plans. In many cases, the central agencies have recognised this reality and in several countries, the VISION 21 consultative process is now being institutionalised as a part of the planning process for community water, sanitation and hygiene improvements.
For VISION 21 to succeed that is exactly what needs to happen. The concepts and principles outlined in VISION 21 are sound common sense. They can be readily accepted by anyone who has worked closely with communities in developing countries. The difference in VISION 21 is that when the package is put together and its implementation guided by the people themselves, there is a new energy commitment and ownership. The momentum of the process in the participating countries has even taken the promoters by surprise. There is now a pent-up demand for follow-up, and indeed in many cases activities are already underway to convert the visions into action.
The VISION 21 process began with a local consultation (one of more than 100 held around the world) in the Indian State of Gujarat. Guided by a VISION 21 facilitator, participants from local NGOs and community groups met to visualise how they would like to see their water, sanitation and hygiene situation change in the next generation. The process was extended via meetings and visits to communities and individual households, and the ideas were combined into a recommended action programme for the whole state (with a population of 44 million, Gujarat is bigger than many countries). The result is a comprehensive set of targets and goals accompanied by means of implementation. Among the highlights: a plan to reduce per capita spending from 2,000–2,500 rupees per capita to 1,000–1,500 over the next ten years, by using lower cost technologies and mobilising community resources; an immediate priority to install separate latrines for boys and girls in every school in the State by 2010; and natural resource management groups, managed by women, established in every village (with the State remaining an active partner).