The need for action on the implementation the Sustainable Development Goals as well as tracking progress on water-related SDGs dominated the opening plenary of the 2016 World Water Week which began earlier today in Stockholm, Sweden.
“It is time to turn commitment into action.” With these words, the Swedish minister for foreign affairs, Margot Wallstrom, reaffirmed the sense of determination that characterized the opening plenary. According to her, the significance of water issues stretches far beyond being just question about water but also about the potential benefits for women and girls, in terms of health aspects as well as freeing up time for school work and employment.
“I would very much like to see more men in developing countries take part in fetching water as that will start changing things and speed up development” Wallström added.
In his premiere address at the global water event, Engr Gerson Lwenge, Tanzanian minister for water resources and irrigation and President of the African Minster’s Council on Water (AMCOW) drew parallels between the theme of this year’s World Water Week, “Water for sustainable growth” and the outcome of the recently concluded 6th Africa Water Week which firmly established Africa’s roadmap to achieving the SDG-8 as well as other interlinking SDGs connected with water resources management and improved sanitation delivery.
“Our commitment to achieving an Africa where there is equitable and sustainable use and management of water resources for poverty alleviation and socio-economic development, regional cooperation and the environment remains unwavering and that is why we have established a Pan African monitoring and reporting system capable of informing policy and tracking progress on the SDGs in Africa,” Engr Lwenge said.
The AMCOW president who led a delegation of African water ministers to Stockholm declared that “Africa is already linking the monitoring and reporting processes from member-states to sub-regional, continental and even global levels to reduce the burden and duplication of monitoring efforts at various levels by making information generation, assessment and dissemination easy for all stakeholders in the continent.”
The Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and organisers of the World Water Week, Torgny Holmgren, noted that 2015 was a year of several global decisions and agreements that will guide development efforts for decades to come.
“With a Sustainable Development Goal dedicated to water and sanitation, several other goals, which depend on reliable access to water to be achieved and also the Paris climate agreement, water will not only be an integral part of both mitigation and adaptation efforts but will continue to determine the parameters for inclusive, sustainable growth, full and productive employment,” Holmgren says.
Holmgren believes that this year is when efforts to put words into action start as all initiatives, large and small, from all actors, will need to be considered.
“We must be open to unconventional alliances. We can only reach the goals we set for ourselves if we are serious about collaboration, about doing it together and breaking new ground. This is what I hope to see at World Water Week: the creation of new partnerships, the seeds for innovative solutions, the welcoming of out-of-the-box thinking,” the SIWI Executive Director added.
Angel Gurria, the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) touched on financing during his speech, taking the opportunity to introduce his organisation’s recent reports and initiatives, many of them addressing water financing. He also commended the lengthy work leading to water being recognised as a universal concern, most notably as part of the SDGs but stressed that agreeing on that something have to be done is far from satisfying. On what should be the next step, Angel Gurria declared: “implementation, implementation, implementation – although not necessarily in that order.”
Hosted and organized by SIWI, World Water Week in Stockholm is the leading annual global event for concretely addressing the planet’s water issues and related concerns of international development. The 2016 World Water Week which explores the theme “Water for Sustainable Growth” will end on the 2nd of September 2016.