Normally each meeting in a series builds on the momentum from the previous one. In the case of the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto, this was always going to be a problem, and not just because the previous Forum at The Hague had been such a dynamic and progressive event. The organisers’ difficulty arose from the sheer number of global water meetings that have taken place during the intervening three years. First the Bonn conference in December 2001 brought the results from the Hague Forum into the UN system, then the World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg last July gave political prominence to water and, especially, sanitation. The adoption of a global sanitation target was one of its finest outcomes, and the Americans’ reluctance to agree it caused media headlines around the world.

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