World Water Week: Water central in actualising 2030 SDG Agenda

Participants at the World Water Week, which was held last week in Stockholm, Sweden, have concluded that water must be recognised as the enabler of successful implementation of the entire 2030 Agenda, as well as the Paris Climate Agreement.

Themed ‘Water for Sustainable Growth,’ the Water Week 2016, had in attendance 3,100 participants from over 120 countries, with the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including the goal on water, as one of the key issues discussed by high-level policy makers, development and water professionals, researchers, civil society and private sector representatives.

“Water, the lifeline of our planet will be needed to achieve nearly every Sustainable Development Goal, and to face the challenges that climate change presents,” Director of World Water Week at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Karin Lexen said.

Throughout the week, there was a focus on implementation and action, particularly on local and city level, marking a transition from the global discussions and negotiations that led to the adoption of the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.

“In order to achieve the SDGs, cities and local leaderships are crucial; that is where we will find the drive. It is also important that civil society, businesses and social entrepreneurs are engaged, to learn from each other to create smart, viable and sustainable partnerships. Water is too important to keep inside the water community. Water is a central part of the entire society,” SIWI’s Executive Director, Torgny Holmgren said.

This was underlined by Sweden’s Environment Minister, Karolina Skog, who said “Water is a shared resource and a shared responsibility. The private sector has an important part to play. It has the competence, the technology and the ability to invest. Responsible water usage is an economical advantage and will pay off both for sustainable business models and for new innovations.”

According to a press release, this year, World Water Week offered an opportunity for key actors to meet and take stock of progress towards the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement, from a water perspective.

The week also welcomed representatives of the High Level Panel on Water, which was established earlier this year by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Kim, with the aim of furthering the water-related SDGs. The Panel representatives used the week to get input from the wider water and development community.

“We must continue to focus on water as a carrier to achieve the 2030 Agenda, and to push for better integration of water into the global climate agenda,” said Lexen.

Abdeladim Lhafi, High Commissioner for the upcoming the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the Climate Convention (COP22) and High Commissioner for Water, Forestry and Fight Against Desertification in Morocco, told the closing session that COP21 in Paris was “a historical turning point, a diplomatic success, it was a COP of decisions. COP22 will be the conference of implementation.”

“Climate change is the challenge of our generation. There is a great need to identify risks and vulnerabilities. Preventive measures are much more cost-efficient than re-active ones. Smart water proofed climate investments will give payback in several ways,” Skog said.

During the Week, climate was also discussed in relation to alleviating hunger in sub-Saharan Africa. Professor Malin Falkenmark, SIWI, called Africa’s climate its “Achille’s Heel”, and said that rainwater harvesting and other green water management methods are necessary to alleviate hunger in sub-Saharan Africa and meeting the SDGs. Together with other water and climate experts, she called for a Green Water Initiative in Africa.