A major international symposium has called for developing countries to be given easier access to financing in a new drive to encourage sustainable hydropower throughout the world.

The United Nations Symposium on Hydropower and Sustainable Development in Beijing culminated in a consensus declaration to be submitted to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. It calls for action to help developing countries finance sustainable hydropower through loans and grants and recognises the World Bank’s and regional development banks’ plans to re-engage, but called for similar commitments from bilateral agencies to assist in the development of affordable and sustainable hydropower. It also urged developing-country governments to create a favourable environment for co-financing from private investor.

Participants at the symposium noted that some two billion people have no access to electricity, which blights their development prospects. Hydropower is expected to be able to play a major role in meeting this need.

Symposium co-host the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs observed that ‘the majority of the world’s untapped hydropower potential exists in the developing countries’. The declaration noted that only 5 % of Africa’s hydropower potential, for example, has been tapped, compared with 75 % in Western Europe.

More than 500 participants from government and non-governmental organisations, business and industry representatives, environmental and social scientists and financing agencies attended the event.