WASH as part of institutionalised emergency aid

Post WO II: Bretton woods institutions Worldbank and IMF

On July 1st 1944 the first United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference was held in Bretton Woods, in the United States. This became known as the Bretton Woods meeting. It laid the base for the establishment of two key institutions, namely the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, later to become known as the World Bank).

In this period after WOII the UN was also established and awareness arose on the de-colonisation of Africa and Asia. The Independencia movements in Latin America gained momentum while awareness grew regarding poverty, inequality and its tragedies. Emergency aid was the answer at that time. During 1950-1980 aid was largely connected with the cold war (USA/Europe-USSR) against this background of de-colonisation. Also a more economic motif came into play, such as in the Food for Peace Program (starting in 1954, where food-overproduction from USA was shipped to developing countries).

In 1970, by UN proclamation, several UN-member countries made a commitment to contribute 0.7 of their Gross National Product for development assistance, or aid. This ODA/GNI target was adopted by the G20 largest donors.This norm has been repeatedly re-endorsed at the highest level at international aid and development conferences but only six countries have ever met the target, including the Netherlands. In 2005, the 15 countries that were members of the European Union agreed to reach the target by 2015. The 0.7% target served as a reference for 2005 political commitments to increase ODA from the EU, the G8 Gleneagles Summit (2005)  and the UN World Summit (in 2005).

UNICEF started in 1946 as UN International Children Emergency Fund, initially to provide relief to children in countries that were devastated by World War II. After the 1950s it expanded its work to developing countries, initially in Sub-Saharan Africa, starting with vaccination related efforts, followed by environmental sanitation from 1953 onwards, and village water supply in the 1970s. UNICEF's time line can be accessed here.

"Originally, its loans helped rebuild countries devastated by World War II.  In time, the focus shifted from reconstruction to development, with a heavy emphasis on infrastructure such as dams, electrical grids, irrigation systems, and roads.  With the founding of the International Finance Corporation in 1956, the institution became able to lend to private companies and financial institutions in developing countries.  And the founding of the International Development Association in 1960 put greater emphasis on the poorest countries, part of a steady shift toward the eradication of poverty becoming the Bank Group’s primary goal." REFERENCE

World Bank timeline

The 1960s also marked the beginning of UN-led monitoring of international targets and actions with regard to water and sanitation, initially by the World Health Organisation (WHO), but later on jointly by the WHO and UNICEF through their Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP, from the 1990s onwards).

The Bihar (India) drought disaster (1966), the Concert for Bangladesh (1971), the Biafra War and Famine (1967 - 1970) and the Sahel droughts (1970s and 1980s) are incentives for the global community to take action.

Emergency Aid was institutionalized in the Netherlands in the 1950s.

Summary overall concept developments in this period: 

A very emergency-aid driven period, politically under pressure of the newly formed United Nations, the de-colonization movements and the Cold War between West and Russia.  Concepts are developing, taking into account that the global population can be divided in 4 categories. Ranging from low-dense (rural) to middle-dense (fast growing settlements above 2000 people) to high-dense cities (50.000-1 million) and mega cities(> 1 million, with toppers like Jakarta 18 million ao). These four categories have their specific WASH challenges, in terms of volume and infrastructure as well as affordability and availability of appropriate resources and in impact on economy-environment and well being, apart from geographical and demographic-cultural context specific issues.

Please note that the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation sector is explored in detail in a separate timeline. Developments around peri-urban/rural WASH, largely characterized by so called non-piped services, are included in this timeline.