Date: 16 November 2011
Organizers: UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication (UNW-DPAC) with the collaboration of UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC)
Venue: Bonn2011 Conference World Conference Center Bonn, Hall F & G
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), 20-22 June 2012, is one of the most important events in the UN agenda. Of critical importance to the success of Rio+20 will be the way in which the needs and concerns of developing countries are addressed. There are concerns about the introduction of new conditionalities that might restrict trade, financing and official development assistance, and limit public policy space to protect the environment, regulate markets and pursue social objectives.
The need to improve the provision of basic water and sanitation services and the management of the world's water resources has been underlined at previous international conferences on sustainable development. Both Earth Summits in Rio (1992) and Johannesburg (2002) called for actions to improve the delivery of services to the very poor and the way water is managed and used. Rio+20 presents a unique opportunity to boost commitment from governments to implement these actions.
Progress is uneven. Today one out of five people in the world – 1.4 billion – currently lives on $1.25 or less a day and almost a billion go hungry every day. The world is facing major and overlapping global crises: the economic and financial crisis, accelerating environmental degradation, water scarcity and pollution, and emerging impacts of a changing climate. Drinking water and especially sanitation services for the poor are lagging behind in key regions of the world. All of these challenges impede efforts to eradicate poverty, promote economic development and achieve an equitable society.
In this session, some of the key expectations that specific Member States have for water and about the role that the UN is expected to play towards Rio+20 were presented and discussed. UN-Water members and partners discussed the UN-Water messages and showcased and discussed key initiatives that have been important in supporting the role of water in the development agenda and what we can expect for water in the Rio+20 conference.
Rio+20 is an historic opportunity to define pathways to a safer, more equitable, cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for all.
Twenty years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, where countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection – the UN is again bringing together governments, international institutions and major groups to agree on a range of smart measures that can reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable and fair use of resources.
The official discussions at Rio+20 will focus on two main themes: how to build a green economy to achieve sustainable development and lift people out of poverty; and how to improve international coordination for sustainable development.
Facilitator: Johan Kuylenstierna. Centre Director, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
In the preparatory process some Member States have supported the idea of water being a key emerging issue to be addressed at the Rio conference. This is an encouraging sign for those keen to see water feature prominently at Rio+20. The opening session served to present some of the key expectations that specific Member States have for water in Rio and their expectations about the role that the UN is expected to play.
Zafar Adeel. Chair UN-Water, United Nations University (UNU)
Momentum has been building to highlight water as a priority issue for Rio+20. UN Water key note speech in the panel presented the main messages of UN-Water for Rio. UN-Water messages to participants of the Rio+20 Summit highlight the importance of sustainable water management and the efficient provision of adequate drinking water and sanitation services, investment in water infrastructure and water-based adaptation to climate change, for successfully achieving a green economy. They emphasize the importance of targeting the poorest to help lift them out of poverty and realize their human right to basic drinking water and sanitation services. The Stockholm statement (agreed in the Stockholm World Water Week 2011) calls for effective water management to help adapt to the impacts of climate change and promote economic growth. Water policy and institutional reform is urged, in order to promote water use efficiency, protect freshwater ecosystems and achieve water, energy and food security. Increasing the water resilience and sustainability of cities is identified as a priority area, as is agriculture where there is a need to increase efficiencies along the whole food supply chain from water use through to reducing food wastage.
The panel showcased and discussed with key UN-Water partners some key initiatives that have been important in supporting the role of water in the development agenda. These include the UNEP Green Economy initiative, the messages of World Water Development Report for Rio, and the Stockholm Statement.
Aspects tackled in the panel discussion included:
Nicolas Bertrand. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Olcay Ünver. Coordinator, United Nations World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP)
Kenza Robinson. Secretary UN-Water, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)
Anders Berntell. Executive Director, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)
Alexander Müller. Assistant Director-General for Natural Resources, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Joakim Harlin. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Josefina Maestu. Coordinator, UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication (UNW-DPAC)
UN-Water has already been contributing to the process of moving to action. UN-Water key note speech presented the main messages from the UN-Water Toolkit on water on the green economy in practice. Although the challenges related to water are unquestionably great, there have been many examples of successful sustainable water management which delivers the so-called 'triple bottom' benefits for economies, people and the environment. Six tools were proposed which can be used to facilitate change and support the transition towards a green economy:
These tools can enable us to 'do more with less', overcome barriers, harness opportunities and change behaviours in order to achieve a green economy; and for this, it is essential to underline that countries are different and are at different stages of development; that some preconditions must be met for successful implementation of this agenda. The first necessary step is to put house in order.
The panel showcased and discussed what we can expect in Rio and the process ahead for Rio but also what key UN-Water initiatives there are explicitly supporting and making the contribution of Water for Rio operational. They discussed what specific actions are most appropriate in agriculture and cities in Least Development countries; how far we have progressed in water resources management objectives and what is the future beyond 2015 for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Aspects tackled in the panel discussion included:
Alice Bouman-Dentener. President, Women for Water Partnership
Bert Diphoorn. Director, Human Settlements Financing Division, UN-HABITAT
Robert Bos. Coordinator, Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health, World Health Organization (WHO)
Peter Bjoernsen. Director, Centre for Water and Environment, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP-DHI)
Ania Grobicki. Executive Secretary, Global Water Partnership (GWP)