2015 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference. Water and Sustainable Development: From Vision to Action. 15-17 January 2015

Civil society's contribution to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals related to water

Date: 16 January 2015.
Location: Tryp Hotel (In English)
Coordinators: Alice Bouman-Dentener from Women for Water Partnership, WfWP, and Bart Devos from World Youth Parliament for Water, WYPW

Which civil society?

Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, 1992), there has been a call for the broadest public participation in poverty eradication and sustainable development. Civil society is increasingly seen as a key player in this process, complementing the work of state actors and intergovernmental organisations1.

Civil society is a constantly shifting concept describing the social formation that is intermediate between "the family", "the state" and "the market". Edwards (2000, page 7)PDF document describes civil society as: "the arena in which people come together to advance the interests they hold in common, not for profit or political power, but because they care enough about something to take collective action".

There is no unified definition of civil society, and different organizing principles are used in classifying non-state actors. We follow the classification of UNCED Agenda 212 which distinguishes nine Major Groups in society with common but differentiated responsibilities in implementing the water and sustainable development agenda: 1) Women, 2) Children and Youth, 3) Indigenous People and their Communities, 4) NGOs, 5) Local Authorities, 6) Workers and their Trade Unions, 7) Business and Industry, 8) the Scientific and Technological Community, and 9) Farmers. Agenda 21 includes concrete measures to strengthen these Major Groups so that they can form effective partnerships that make sustainable development a reality on the ground.

In the Conference we are concentrating on the first four categories of Major Groups: Women, Youth, Indigenous Peoples and NGOs, covering the volunteer groups in society that are considered by the World Summit on Sustainable Development as a category of specific importance for implementation3 .


The conference has four thematic focuses. The Civil Society Sessions will have an specific sub-focus reflecting main water-related challenges, which civil society consider specially relevant to collaborate with local communities, countries and the international community:

  1. Water and Sanitation Services, Human Right to Water and Sanitation;
  2. Water resources management, dealing with water scarcity and allocation;
  3. Water quality, including wastewater treatment and reuse;
  4. Extreme events, management of risks and climate change.


The sessions in the civil society-pillar of the 2015 UN Water Annual Conference will shed light on how civil society can contribute most effectively and efficiently to bringing the post-2015 development agenda on water into action.

The different sessions will help to outline – from a civil society perspective - the main challenges concerning the four selected means of implementation: technology, capacity building, governance (including institutions and legal frameworks), and financing.

The sessions will propose solutions for effectively overcoming the obstacles for accelerated implementation with due consideration of the roles of civil society actors.

The sessions will serve to discuss civil society views about the role of other stakeholders In order to enhance the integration of the outcomes of the conference into other international processes, and with valorizing these outcomes, special attention will go to bringing the results of the conference to the Citizen's Forum of the 7th World Water Forum.


For each thematic session, a lead case has been identified from a different part of the world. The cases will be presented by the different civil society actors: Women, Youth, Indigenous People and NGOs. The four thematic panels will reflect on these cases with respect to technology, capacity development, governance issues and financing, and debate their views with the audience. In the closing panel, session conveners and international experts will synthesize the outcomes of the thematic sessions and propose priorities and recommendations for the implementation toolkit.


08:30-09:00 Introduction to the day and the sessions

  • Alice Bouman-Dentener, Women of Water Partnership, and Bart Devos, World Youth Parliament for Water.

>> Civil Society: key contributors to water and sustainable developmentPDF Document

09:00- 11:00 Civil Society and the Human Right to safe drinking water and sanitation

  • Session Convener: Shauna Curry, CEO, Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST), Canada

This session will discuss Financing, Technology, Capacity development and Governance issues for the implementation of the Human Right to water and sanitation. Specifically what needs to be done to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all; end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations; and supporting and strengthening the participation of local communities for improving water and sanitation management.

During the session, some of the issues addressed in relation to the tools for implementation will include:

  • Water-supply projects often turn out to be vulnerable due to concerns in terms of the sustainability of the infrastructure, as well as a lack of sense of ownership by the community.
  • Decentralised financing, whereby financial support is awarded to local communities, turns out to be an effective solution for increasing community ownership, and raising the ability of the community to respond to eventual difficulties or even technical failures which might rise.
  • The success of decentralised financing depends on certain conditions. The presentation of a successful practical example of decentralized financing will allow us to identify these conditions.
  • The most unused resources that must be unleashed in order for communities to achieve water security on the long term are the human resources. Women and youth in particular represent a huge potential, if well trained and well empowered.
  • Furthermore, training young people to contribute to the delivery of basic WASH services can also help addressing youth unemployment. Successful examples exist whereby young people were trained at community-level to build and maintain low-cost toilets, or hand pumps in rural areas.

Overview presentation/Introduction

  • Shauna Curry, CEO, CAWST, Canada

Main case study

  • Eliza Mngale, Tegemeo Women Group, Mweteni Village, Tanzania

Discussion panel

  • Financing: Jerry Van Den Berge, EPSU, Belgium
  • Governance: Mary Rusimbi, Women Fund, Tanzania
  • Capacity development: Emma Anakhasyan, AWHHE, Armenia
  • Technology: Antonia Lorenzo, BioAzul

>> Civil Society and the Human Right to safe drinking water and sanitationPDF document

11:00 – 13:00 Civil Society dealing with water scarcity and allocation

  • Session Convener: Jonathan Lautze of the International Water Management Institute

The session will address the challenges and issues to deal with water scarcity. This will include the need for substantially increasing water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater, and implementing integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate

Civil Society participation in water resources management is essential. Sound, effective and equitable water management requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders at all levels, from high-level decision-makers, through to water managers, utility workers, implementers and technical personnel, as well as policy-makers from governments and the private sector, through to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), indigenous peoples' organizations and citizen water user groups4.

At the national level, all of these stakeholders need to be invited to participate in negotiations around water. When considering the management of transboundary water resources, nations need to sit together as stakeholders in similar processes.

Some key issues to be addressed during the session include:

  • Key challenges, including the need to custom-design systems with communities in order to push the shift of social norms and behaviours and create lasting change, while ensuring equity among communities and citizens. "People must be able to participate in decisions on water and sanitation that affect their lives5." If the devolution of risks and responsibilities to local levels can improve outcomes, it is only with the support of other external institutions6.
  • The realization and implementation of the future vision for water requires extensive water-related capacity-building for individuals and institutions alike7. Participative projects can be auspicious opportunities to foster this capacity, increase trust between stakeholders and enhance resilience.
  • Meaningful participation of civil society (water users, farmers, women, youth, etc.) in water resources management requires adequate information available to the public, public awareness about water issues, and institutional channels which allow the public to have a voice.
  • Civil society organizations and NGO's can play a vital role in building the capacity of civil society through education, creating awareness.
  • True participation of the public requires that the guaranteed possibility to get involved in water resources management is the subject of formal procedures. The institutionalization of such mechanisms is therefore crucial. Success stories relating to this will be presented under this topic during the conference.

Overview presentation/Introduction

  • Jonathan Lautze, IWMI

Main case study presentation

  • Khin NiNi Thein, Ayeyarwadi River Basin Research Organisation (ARBRO), Myanmar


  • Financing: Ohnmar Khaing, Food Security Working Group Myanmar
  • Capacity development: Swe Swe Aye, Ayeyarwady River Basin Research Organisation (ARBRO), Myanmar
  • Technology: Khin Tein Htwe, Water Research and Training Centre (WRTC), Myanmar
  • Governance: Soe Soe Tun, Water Mothers (WMs) Myanmar

>> Civil Society dealing with water scarcity and allocationPDF document

14:00-15:30 Civil Society and water quality and protecting and preserving ecosystem services

  • Session Convener: Stefano Barchiesi, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

The challenges of water quality need to be addressed with the participation of Civil Society. The water quality challenges including those for reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials; improving wastewater management and the recycle/reuse; protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems; achieving environmentally sound management of chemicals and waste throughout their life cycle and significantly reducing their release into air, water and soil to minimize their impacts on human health and the environment; preventing the introduction and significantly reducing the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems, and controlling or eradicating them.

Some issues to be addressed in this session include:

  • Pollution by agricultural water use and the importance of training farmers;
  • Bringing new technologies to the poor. Bringing waste water treatment technology to the poor;
  • Monitoring water pollution and making this information available to the public.

Overview presentation

  • Stefano Barchiesi, IUC


  • Elisa Colom, Eje de Agua de Fundación Solar, Guatemala
  • Marie Teresa Gutierrez, ILO, branch EMP/INVEST
  • Cristina Monge, ECODES, Spain
  • Rudolph Cleveringa, Global Water Partnership (GWP)

>> Civil Society and water quality and protecting and preserving ecosystem servicesPDF document

15:45-17:30 Civil Society and adaptive planning and management

  • Session Conveners: Karin Lexen, (Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Sweden

This session will address the main challenges of the global community, related to water-related disasters, and their consequences for the people and economy, in particular for the poor and vulnerable people. Water crises and extreme weather events such as floods and droughts

Dealing with risks requires the involvement of civil society. This session will deal with the role of community preparedness in flood risk management.

Overview presentation/Introduction

  • Murray Biedler, Deep Blue Consultants, Belgium

Main case study

  • MHD Ali Al-Zein, Aga Khan Foundation, Syria


  • Financing: Ilias Sawadogo, Young Water Solutions Initiative and Réseau des Jeunes pour le Développement Durable, Burkina Faso
  • Capacity development: Wasif Bashir, University of the Punjab, Pakistan
  • Technology: Murray Biedler, Deep Blue Consultants, Belgium
  • Governance: Lydia Cumiskey, Water Youth Network

>> Civil Society and adaptive planning and managementPDF document

18:00-18:30 International Experts Panel

  • Jean-Bosco Bazie, Eau Vive Internationale
  • Tobias Schmidt, Waterlex, Switzerland
  • Nini Thein, Water Research Training Centre (WRTC), Myanmar
  • Rudolph Cleveringa, Global Water Partnership (GWP)


  • Governance: Rudolph Cleveringa, Global Water Partnership (GWP)
  • Technology:  Bart Devos, WYPW
  • Financing and economic instruments: Tobias Schmidt, Waterlex, Switzerland
  • Capacity Development: Alice Bouman-Dentener, WfWP

1Leadership Council, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (2013): An Action Agenda for Sustainable Development; report to the UN Secretary General
2United Nations Conference on Environment and Development; Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 1992. Section III Strengthening the Role of Major Groups
3WSSD Plan of Implementation (2002), paragraph 168.
4Planet Under Pressure, p. 6
5United Nations Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, 2013, p. 7
6Post-2015 Water Thematic Consultation, 2013, p. 14
7United Nations Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, 2013, p. 7

>> Conference Home

About the Conference

>> Conveners and partners
>> Objectives and expected outcomes
>> Conference flyerPDF Document
>> AgendaPDF Document
>> StructurePDF Document
>> ParticipantsPDF Document


>> Accommodation
>> Travelling to Zaragoza
>> Your stay in Zaragoza
>> Map

The vision

>> Rio+20
>> Water and sustainable development
>> Global commitments on water
>> A post-2015 global goal for water
>> Water and the Open Working Group (OWG)
>> The role of actors involved

The action

>> Capacity development
>> Financing and economic instruments
>> Governance frameworks
>> Technology

Action on…

>> Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
>> Water Resources Management
>> Water Quality
>> Risk management

14 January: Pre-Conference Side events and Technical Visits

>> Technical visit: La Cartuja
>> Technical visit: The Ebro River Basin Authority and its Automatic System for Hydrologic Information (SAIH)
>> Technical visit: Expo + Water Park
>> New sources: Wastewater reuse
>> Local level actions in decentralized water solidarity towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals
>> Water Footprint Assessment
>> Technological advances and Water Policy
>> Cultivando Agua Boa Programme
>> CODIA and water and energy in LAC
>> The fulfillment of the human right to water and sanitation

15 January: Setting the scene and the context

>> Achieving sustainable water for all in LAC
>> Achieving water security for Asia and the Pacific
>> Ensuring implementation of the water-related SDGs in Europe
>> Setting the scene

16 January: Whose action?

>> Academia
>> Business
>> Civil society
>> Governments and local authorities
>> Media and Communicators

17 January: Integrating knowledge and the way forward

>> Multi-stakeholder dialogue on tools for implementation


>> Cases
>> Conference daily
>> Conference Communications ReportPDF Document
>> Discussion forum
>> Information briefs on Water and Sustainable Development
>> Interviewing conference participants
>> Overview Papers
>> Presentations from participants
>> Session Reports
>> Tool Papers
>> Toolbox
>> Twitter Activity Report
>> Video recording of sessions
>> Video interviews with conference participants

Promotional materials

>> Conference banners
>> Conference posterPDF document