5th Forum Top 25 Highlights - Panels
Ministers Join Forces to Adapting to Climate Change
Environment Ministers and representatives from France, Turkey, the Netherlands, South Africa, Czech Republic, met together with leaders from intergovernmental organisations, local government and civil society, representing different perspectives to bridge the political divide between water and climate. The panel expressed its desire for the climate and water families to work more closely together. Jean-Louis Borloo, Minister of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Territorial Development of France, highlighted the link between climate change, water and energy, and under the authority of the Czech presidency of the EU called for immediate and concrete action on at least 10 major water and energy projects. A Ministerial Action Plan will carry the Forum’s messages on water and climate change into the UNFCCC process and COP-15 discussions.
Water to be Picked up in Financial Crisis
In light of the recent financial crisis, the High Level Panel on Finance provided an opportunity for decision-makers to discuss how to increase the overall funding for the water sector, at a time of increasing social, economic and environmental challenges. Amidst voices from the floor contesting the legitimacy of the panel, international water and financial experts called upon governmental leaders and private institutions to make bigger and more strategic investments in water. The panel recommended that investment in water infrastructure be included in the fiscal stimulus packages currently being developed to address the economic crisis. In fact, the panel optimistically suggested that the water sector can actually benefit from the financial crisis, because it can force greater efficiency and innovation in resource management, stimulate growth, generate jobs and yield high returns against relatively low risk.
Action Plan to Reduce the Number of Victims of Water-related Disasters
In 2008 alone, 321 disasters killed 235,816 people, affected 211 million others and cost US$181 billion. In response, the High-Level Expert Panel on Water and Disaster identified six specific priorities and forty actions guidelines to prevent, prepare for, manage and recover from water-related disasters in its publication, Prevention and Action to Minimize Death and Destruction: Building Resilience Toward Sustainable Development. It called on Governments of all nations to endorse and adopt those measures immediately.
Harmonizing Strategies for Water, Food and Energy
In a unique opportunity for exchange, representatives from the water, agriculture and energy sectors debated for the first time how humankind’s rising demands for food and energy can lead to greater cooperation among the sectors, rather than competition. In view of impending population growth, urbanisation and climate change, it is urgent to create harmonized strategies. Recognising the underdeveloped understanding of this nexus, panellists expressed their desire to continue to work with the World Water Council to develop further guidance for more coordinated management in this domain.
Rising to Diverse Sanitation Challenges
The UN Water Development Report, released during the Forum week made clear that while access to water in much of the world has improved, access to safe sanitation has not. Benefitting from a wide range regional representation, this panel discussed the impact that the International Year of Sanitation had on gaining greater political momentum for sanitation issues. It went on to discuss some of the daunting challenges of megacities and pollution in industrialized areas and coastal zones. Indeed, experts are urging development agencies to move beyond the traditional paradigm of water-borne sewage and flush toilets to explore creative approaches that employ diverse, appropriate technology and policies. It was also evidenced that small investments in preventative measures bear massive returns in health and prosperity.