March 29, 2015

Looking ahead of the World Water Forum 2015

Water and its related aspects of hygiene and sanitation will seal the success of many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): access to food, poverty eradication, gender equality and education to name a few. There can be no real absolute improvements in the later if water remains insufficient. Recently, Germany and the World Food Program have pledged to eradicate hunger by 2030.  How can this be possible without water to irrigate, clean and cook food products, not to mention water needed to maintain life stocks? Is this even realistic in poor areas impacted by climate change? Truly, we need to set clear priorities in what must come first on the international development agenda.

Unique in its global political dimension, the 7th Edition of the World Water Forum is organized by South Korea in April 2015. In its previous editions the Forum was often seen as a platform promoting state-run water projects and advertising “best practices” or public development programs. Hence, the Forum has often been viewed as a show room for state actors.  However, in the face of sobering and pressing international water challenges, see for instance the new UNESCO World Water Development Report, the Forum needs to depart from political status quo and take the lead regarding three cardinal points:
Courtesy World Water Council @ worldwatercouncil.org
Courtesy UNESCO @ unesco.org
First, the Forum must actively seek to get those that ultimately provide water services and deliver drinking water to all sectors on board: small and medium companies, water utilities and spare parts producers to share their concerns, co-design and produce tailor-made and low-cost water infrastructure. In fact, the UN and various stakeholders have drafted very ambitious SDGs for water, hygiene and sanitation (Goal 6) to be achieved in no less than 15 years. In order to meet those universal and quantifiable targets, the Forum should launch regional working groups linking up local businesses from the water sector, civil society representatives with public servants to trigger applied discussions on how to best solve local problems and present concrete regional recommendations before, during and after the Forum.
Second, the Forum should be an open platform for testimonies, critics and diverging point of views from water users experiencing the daily water crisis. During the last 2012 World Water Forum, in France, the only place to meet and hear the alarm call of farmers, community representatives, women and minority groups suffering from the water crisis was at the unofficial side event or “Alternative World Water Forum”: a civil society initiative organized for civil society.  For many people around the world the World Water Forum remains a vitrine organized by public authorities for public authorities.  Yet, the Forum must become the place for all water users to voice their concerns on the international stage. 
Courtesy United Nations @ sustainabledevelopment.un.org
Third, the Forum ought to coordinate with other high level environmental summits such as the climate change and sustainability summits. For instance in Lima 2014 and in Copenhagen 2009, member states have pledged financial help for least developed and developing countries to adapt to climate change, via National Adaptation Plans.  As such, part of those adaptation funds will be channelled to non conventional supply technologies (efficient irrigation, flood control, desalination etc.).  The Forum can help to tailor low-cost technologies more systematically and get political commitment on critical issues such as technology transfer and awareness-raising.  This will be of great help to realistically plan and implement the framework agreements of future environmental summits.

Political commitment to fast-track related summits; more openness and inclusion towards civil society and the water industry; those are but a few points to guarantee overall coherence and generate the extra momentum needed for the World Water Forum to effectively contribute to world peace and human development:  without safe drinking water, proper hygiene and sanitation for all, the Sustainable Development Goals won’t be sustainable!

RB

3 comments:

  1. That is some really informative blog and I believe that such forums will be making difference. such forums should focus more on people and how to make water safe for them

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  3. Is there any water forum 2017? I want to participate as well.

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