WWWeek: Seeking synergies between SDGs can boost water action
‘Climate on Monday, health on Tuesday, water on Wednesday, food on Thursday, confusion on Friday', said Nigel Topping, High Level Champion for global climate action during the session at the World Water Week that took a broad look at 2030-agenda and Paris agreement.
Topping called for all sectoral experts to seek more synergy and to not shy away from taking momentum in each other’s domains on water, health, food production and climate change.
The online session SIWI High Level Panel: Strengthening synergies, accelerating action took place on 25 August.
Quadrupling of action on water
It was often said at this year’s edition of the Stockholm world water week that the achievement of the SDG6 goals on water are off track. To achieve the goals by 2030 actions have to quadruple many speakers said. The global water community is aware of this and one of the ways is to seek synergies with other SDG-goals where the presence of water plays an important role. Such synergies can play an important role to accelerate action and faster build resilient and fair societies.
The session zoomed in on the creation of synergies between SDG2 on hunger, SDG3 on health, SDG6 on water, and SDG13 on climate.
Better use multiple values of water
Kitty van der Heijden, director general international cooperation of the Dutch government, set the scene and placed the urgency of more water action in the perspective of the upcoming UN Water Conference in New York in March 2023.
‘Climate change manifests itself the most through the water cycle. We are seeing more droughts, more floods, melting glaciers, and storms. But water is not our enemy. It underpins many of our social and economic activities’, she pointed out.
‘If we embrace water’s multiple values in the most inclusive way as much as possible, we can make water an enabler. The leverage. The entry point for the resilience we seek’, Van der Heijden said.
She gave an example of synergy between water and health by mentioning the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of clean water for billions to wash their hands. ‘In our post-Covid response we must prioritize access to water for personal hygiene. Learning to value water will unlock the synergies and accelerate the action we are all working on. It will bring about better health, improve food security, more effective climate action and less migration’, she predicted.
According to Van der Heijden there is little time left for the development of integrated approaches, new partnerships and a long term strategy. ‘The governments of the Netherlands and Tajikistan will co-host the UN Water Conference in March 2023 for a mid-term review on the progress on SDG6. In the preparations of this conference we hope to give a voice to all stakeholders’.
The high level UN conference is seen as the last change to accelerate water action and to put policies in place to overcome major hurdles.
‘If you think in silos, there is only the game of net zero carbon emissions’, Topping told in his role as animator for the discussions at the COP26. ‘There are win-wins everywhere. Let us be radically inclusive. The water sector can help by getting their water supply and waste water treatment system to net zero by 2030’, he advocated.
‘We learned to think of climate change as wrong because of carbon emissions, but mayor and citizens care more about health. If you tackle carbon emissions, you get better air quality. The same goes for agricultural productivity. Be generous about how you can take your water expertise to create momentum in other areas.
'We need to become radically inclusive’, Topping urged.
Representing the global health community, Maria Neira, public health director at the World Health Organisation, talked about the top priorities in her sector and showed high expectations from the climate agenda. ‘The biggest health revolution is about to take place when the combustion of fossil fuels comes to an end’, she expects. ‘Today 7 million people die from air pollution every day. So the implementation of the Paris climate treaty has a huge priority’, said Neira, linking SDG3 on health and SDG13 on climate.’
Neira called upon the global water community to cooperate with the health community to tackle the issue of access to water. ‘It is frustrating to see that we are confronted with a global pandemic and the most logical and best recommendation is to wash your hands. Yet, three out of ten people around the world lack the necessary facilities.'
'The water and health community must make very clear this is an absurd and frustrating situation’, Neira provoked.
Global food summit
Agnes Kalibata participated in the session as UN’s special envoy for the Food Summit that will take place in September in New York. In her contribution, she challenged the global water community seek synergies on new, innovative ways to make food production more resilient.
‘I am tired of addressing the problems of today’s food systems’, Kalibata said. ‘We have to seek synergies with environmental and health issues and walk together’.
As an example Kalibata gave the example of the 1,000 days initiative that aims to improve the nutrition of children up to three years. ‘My government of Rwanda decided to invest in this initiative and we are now building a food production plant so children in hospitals, in refugee camps and in highly vulnerable areas, receive better nourishment. This plant shows the real costs to produce such food’, Kalibata added.
Local water governance
Kalibata made plea for the creation of water communities in rural places. ‘At national level ministries often get lost with what is actually happening at local levels’, she explained. ‘In Africa there is no improvement of livelihood possible without addressing the issue of water. Most farmers depend on rain fed agriculture. So if we do not act on climate change, we have no water.’
According to Kalibata it is important to implement local water governance that builds on a good understanding of water systems. ‘Water is not like land, it's not stationary. It moves between people, so please help us to address the issue that helps prevent conflicts that may arise around the access to water’, she messaged online.
The online Stockholm World Water Week 2021 lasts untill Friday 27 August and participation is still possible by registration. With a free ticket it is possible to join all sessions through the virtual Pathable platform. Joining the networking requires a fee.
Every session at World Water Week is recorded. This recording is posted on the SIWI-Water YouTube channel after the conference ends.
See the full SWWW-programme and the registration options on www.worldwaterweek.org.
More information on Dutch involvement in the Stockholm World Water Week 2021 can be found on this website.
Also, stay tuned for more news items on this website during the whole week.