29-30th of November 2006, Paris
Background and objectives
Achieving the water-related Millennium Development Goals to halve the proportion of people without access to safe water or basic sanitation by 2015, will require substantial investment and improved technical and managerial performance by water utilities. In the 1990s, there had been a widespread expectation that the private sector would have a critical role to play in improving access to water services because of its know-how, efficiency and investment capital.
However, in recent years many international operators have been disengaging rather than increasing their involvement in the water sector in most developing countries. Various factors are responsible for this such as political opposition from civil society, contractual disputes between governments and private operators and unclear legal, policy and institutional frameworks. In short, international private operators perceive their involvement in the water sector as carrying increased risk and have become more cautious in entering any contractual arrangement, particularly if it involves any financial commitment.
At the same time, new domestic private operators have emerged in some developing and transition economies, as well as innovative business models in rural areas. These developments suggest a new and different dynamic of public-private partnerships in the water sector may be emerging.
This meeting will bring together private operators and government representatives from the OECD and developing countries to discuss the current status of public-private partnerships in the water supply and sanitation sector. The meeting will also examine the possible policy measures that could enable the private sector to play a greater role in helping to achieve the water related MDGs. It will focus in particular on the possible role of new domestic private sector players that have been emerging in some parts of the developing world, as well as on possible ways to involve the private sector in the delivery of water services in rural and peri-urban areas, where the challenges posed by the Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation are the most daunting.