International UN-Water Conference. Water in the Green Economy in Practice: Towards Rio+20. 3-5 October 2011


As a contribution to the Rio+20 process, this Conference will provide an opportunity to showcase how water is a key factor in the green economy and how different tools can promote CHANGE. This will be illustrated through specific practical examples of the use of the tools to facilitate change in different regions of the world. The aim is to focus on those tools that support the transition, reflect on lessons learnt from practical implementation experiences, and highlight the importance of the specific context.

This will support the preparation process of moving towards Rio+20 and contribute to the compilation of the toolbox or best practice guide for actions which promote water in the green economy.

The focus of the conference is on how these tools support the change processes related to four specific issues: agriculture, cities, industry and watersheds.

Chart with the green economy tools


Issues Focus issues for green growth
Agriculture Water and food security
Improve efficiency and nutrition per drop
Improve efficiencies through the food value chain
Challenges for Small farms in LDCs (occupation of marginal land, 85% of the farms worldwide, potential exporters)
Cities No excuse MDGs – basic water and sanitation services
Changes in water consumption patterns in cities (direct and indirect)
Improve effectiveness and quality of urban water services
Reduce externalities of cities to the water environment
Industry Change production patterns
Improve efficiency and reduce pollution
Promote innovation
Challenges for small and medium enterprises in LDCs
Watersheds/aquifers Scarcity management
Climate change and extreme events
Transboundary courses
Protection of biodiversity

Concerns of least developed countries and transition economies

The conference considers the concerns of developing countries highlighted for the upcoming UNCSD (A/CONF.216/PC/7). It also builds on the recommendation from the First Intersessional Meeting for the UNCSD Conference 'Synthesis Report on Best Practices and Lessons Learnt on Objectives and Themes of the Conference' (A/CONF.216/PC/8, Jan 2011), which highlighted that international preparations for UNCSD should strengthen support for sustainable development by providing a platform for exchanging best practices and lessons learnt.

The concerns of developing countries include: utilising the environment for trade protection; gaining market access through the guise of environment; the subsidizing of production in the developed world without developing countries being able to implement corrective measures; reduced possibilities for developing countries to develop their own green economy sectors; technical standards that developing countries exporters cannot meet; new conditionalities imposed for aid, loans, debt rescheduling and debt relief; and equity dimensions.

According to UNDESA (A/CONF.216/PC/7), developing countries have the following concerns:

  • They oppose the introduction of any new conditionalities in connection with a green economy that might generate 'unjustified restrictions in the areas of trade, financing and official development assistance'.
  • There are concerns about the near-term transition costs from loss of competitiveness, worsening terms of trade, economic dislocations and unemployment.
  • While there is a need to remove environmentally harmful subsidies, environmentally helpful subsidies also risk becoming a growing focus of trade disputes.
  • The capacities of national governments to deal with adverse impacts of (green economy) adjustments differ widely. In developed countries, the welfare state works partially to compensate losers from the trade-adjustment process, e.g. through unemployment benefits.
  • Some countries have developed highly effective retraining schemes for unemployed workers. In most developing countries, however, such mechanisms are partial or non-existent.
  • There is need for a strong social component to accompany the transition to a green economy, which considers the impacts of adjustments on broader social outcomes such as access to education, health and basic services.

For these reasons, developed and developing countries have common but differentiated responsibilities in the transition to a green economy. Generally, the focus in developed countries is on improving their consumption and production patterns, whereas the focus in developing countries is on maintaining development goals while adopting sustainable practices. Developed countries have a responsibility to enable and support the transition in developing countries through finance, technology transfer and appropriate reforms to the global economic and financial structures.