Waste (water) is a she

This blog post is written by Lesha Witmer, Women for Water Partnership (WfWP) – it is part 2 of an on-going conversation that will be followed up during a one-day seminar “Understanding the Gender Dimension of Water and Waste” on 27 August at World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. The seminar is co-convened by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), GWP, WaterAid, WfWP and SaciWATERS. In addition, the issue will be debated on August 28, during the event “Is wastewater a She? Linking SDG 6.3 (wastewater) and SDG 5 (gender)”.


For the first time ever, with the adoption especially of SDG Target 6.3 ( “by 2030, …, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally”) water quality issues such as waste water (treatment and re-use of used water) has come to the attention of a broader public. Wastewater is not on top of the list when people talk about gender issues and water. But is wastewater gender neutral (as some key players seem to think)?

Women are more affected by the lack of wastewater treatment and responsible management than men. This ranges through all dimensions of sustainable development, both in the developing and developed world.

Women for a start are far more in contact with food and direct contact with feaces (child-care; health-care personally, domestically and professionally). The risk of contamination, when sanitation is not separated from human contact (and even more so if hand-washing facilities, soap, are missing) is very high.

In a lot of big cities around the world waste collection by the local government is missing; most of the time it is local women’s organisations that take the initiative to do so with very little or no support (or even respect). However, their work prevents even more contamination of (ground) water and contamination risks.

Cleaning and emptying toilets is most of the time (unpaid) women’s work. Although some interesting initiatives have been set-up, transferring this into structured, paid jobs in cities in the developing world, then the other “old” issue turns up: they get paid less for this work than their male counterparts (if any).

One of the problems/concerns is the still growing amount of pesticides, hormones, medication, and chemicals in waste water. This can have very nasty longer term effect on the health of people especially women (both older (osteoporosis) and pregnant (blue babies, miscarriages)). This may become an even bigger issue when considering reuse of used water e.g. for agricultural purposes, exposing again mainly women working in agricultural (70%) and affecting food security (when not done expertly).

UNESCO-WWAP and the gender-taskforce proposed the following indicators:

  • Percentage of households connected to sewerage or alternative means of water treatment (6.3);
  • Percentages reported health-incidents/ impacts disaggregated by sex;
  • Percentages of M/F in charge of waste and waste-water management.

It would be interesting to see if, when data on the proposed indicator are collected, there is a gender gap again – most likely so. Common knowledge indicates that especially female-headed households are not connected.

Waste (water) a gender and women’s issue? Absolutely. Needed: More sex-disaggregated data also on this issue, research on solutions for treatment, more women working in the sector, more respect and payment for the women who take over. Come and join us and discuss more ideas, solutions.

This blog is also published on the WfWP website.

Posted in Gender, GWP, Partnership, SDGs, Sustainable Development, Water Pollution, Water resources management, Water security, World Water Week | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can we become more gender equal and inclusive? Water perspectives

Have you ever thought about how good water management can build more equal societies? GWP Programme Assistant Ankur Gupta writes about key areas to work on in order to increase gender equality and inclusion within water governance and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) policies, strategies, and access to services throughout the world. This is part of an on-going conversation that will continue over social media, and followed up during a one-day seminar, “Understanding the Gender Dimension of Water and Waste” on Aug 27 at World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. The seminar is co-convened by UNEP, GWP, World Bank, WaterAid, WfWP, and SaciWATERS. 


Photo: Cleaning Thimphu River on World Water Day 2017, GWP Bhutan

In September 2015, with the landmark adoption of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global leaders placed inclusiveness at the heart of the agenda. We focus here particularly on the interlinkages between SDG 5, which is on gender equality and empowering all women and girls, and SDG 6, on water and sanitation. Gender includes the full spectrum of identities including women and girls, men and boys, transgender, intersex, and non-binary genders. This blog focuses on women as a key group that are gender discriminated but also a source of powerful action. The SDGs provide a global framework and principles that are required to achieve more equality and it is imperative that all actions follow the SDGs.

From Rio and Dublin principles in 1992 to the SDGs, there has been a lot of effort made at global, regional, and national levels. Today, more women are involved in water management and governance than before (Between 1995 and 2015, the gender gap in employment decreased only by 0.6%, Women at Work, ILO 2016) so there is still a lot that needs to be done.

One of the key words that is consistently used is “empowerment”, but what does it mean? Longwe in 1991 developed a ‘Women’s Empowerment Framework’. The framework argues that the progression from practical to strategic gender outcomes depends on the extent to which the intervention has potential to ’empower’. The framework includes five ‘levels of equality’ which are: 1) Welfare; 2) Access; 3) Conscientisation; 4) Participation; 5) Control. The interventions aimed at the welfare end of the spectrum will not fundamentally alter gender relations or increase gender equality, whereas actions focused at the participation and control end of the spectrum can lead to improved gender equality (known as transformative change).

It is therefore necessary that our primary focus is on inclusion, participation, and ownership. The efforts can be placed in two broad categories: Mainstreaming Efforts and Targeted Efforts. Gender mainstreaming is the process of assessing the implications for girls and boys/ men and women of any planned action, including legislation, policies, or programmes. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of all an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies and programmes so that girls and boys / women and men benefit from equality, and inequality is not perpetuated (Action Study, GWP; UTS, to be published soon).

Targeted approaches involve specific strategies to improve gender equality through targeting a particular group/set of individuals – such as women and girls. Examples include providing scholarships for women to study water related professions; quotas for women to take up roles on boards/committees/ministries, etc.; education and training courses provided to women only; and provision of menstrual hygiene management facilities (Action Study, GWP; UTS, to be published soon).

There are certain gaps and opportunities that we can immediately start addressing, such as supporting women leadership in water governance, making institutions accountable for upholding policies on gender equality, and inclusion in governance. If we truly want empowerment, we need to go beyond platitudes and work for real change. The time to act is now, “Yes we can!” If you have more ideas and comments, please engage through the comments section.

Posted in Gender | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We have SDG target 6.5. Now what?

Nisha Midha has been an intern with GWP since the beginning of May 2017. She recently read GWP’s new Technical Committee Background Paper “Measuring transboundary water cooperation: options for Sustainable Development Goal Target 6.5” and found herself fascinated by its content. In this post, she reflects on the importance of thinking critically on how we measure success, the use of indicators for reaching SDG targets, and just how big the SDG targets really are.

E_Logo_No UN Emblem-01At first glance, the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) are daunting. To make the SDGs more tangible and approachable, each SDG has an associated set of targets. Similarly, to help monitor the progress towards each SDG target, each target has one or more indicators. The purpose of these indicators is that they are measurable, can be evaluated, and ultimately, will help us determine – locally, nationally, and globally – when an SDG has been achieved. Sounds simple, right?

Let’s look at SDG 6, which is to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. It has 6 targets, all of which are equally important. However, SDG Target 6.5 is of particular interest to GWP. It states: “by 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate” [1]. There are two indicators for SDG 6.5 which aim to measure implementation of IWRM (6.5.1) and transboundary cooperation (6.5.2), as can be seen below [1].

blog_sdgsGWP published Technical Background Paper No. 23 in June 2017, which specifically examines SDG indicator 6.5.2. As discussed in the paper, it is imperative that the definition of each component of the indicator, such as “operational”, is clearly understood. Otherwise, it is likely that results submitted from country to country will be highly variable and results will not be comparable.

What does indicator 6.5.2 hope to measure? It’s obvious that surface water basins and groundwater aquifers do not respect international borders. This results in shared, or transboundary, waters between nations; 310 transboundary basins and 500 transboundary aquifers exist [3]. In order for SDG 6 to be fully accomplished, nations must cooperate over these shared waters. Indicator 6.5.2 comes to the rescue: monitoring will yield an in-country percentage “of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation” [1], where operational arrangements include joint management plans, information exchange, regular meetings, and joint organisations [4]. But how do we define and measure cooperation? How regular do these meetings need to be? Does information exchange truly dictate better shared management of a transboundary water?

Hopefully at this point you are beginning to see the importance of definitions. The recently published paper I read analyzes three methodologies that approach the measurement of transboundary cooperation through different perspectives. One of the three methodologies has already been planned and developed (by UNECE and UNESCO), but is critiqued by the paper’s author (Melissa McCracken) as being prescriptive and lacking flexibility to capture all forms of transboundary cooperative efforts. The second method analyzed is an adaptation of the UNECE and UNSECO methodology, while the third method is an altogether different approach proposed by Dan Tarlock in GWP’s Technical Background Paper No. 21.

McCracken tests each of the three methodologies by doing calculations using real examples of transboundary basins and aquifers in three countries: Bangladesh, Honduras, and Uganda. She is able to compare and contrast the results of the three methodologies, especially scrutinizing whether the numbers reflect the actual transboundary context in each country. McCracken’s examination reveals some key findings on the best way forward for calculating SDG indicator 6.5.2, which I will leave for you to read. The real reason for this blog post is to zoom out from her paper and examine monitoring the SDGs from a broader perspective.

We have so far been discussing a single SDG indicator, but SDG 6 has 11 indicators. And SDG 6 is just one of seventeen SDGs! In total, these 17 SDGs are represented by 241 indicators. Two hundred and forty-one. Each of these indicators are complex and, similar to 6.5.2, could be highly contested on how to measure them. Though this can be overwhelming, I find reassurance in the recent mobilization of efforts to develop the best methodologies for measuring each indicator. For example, UN-Water, the coordinator of SDG 6 monitoring, involved experts from all over the world to develop and optimize the SDG 6 indicator methodology. Indicator 6.5.2 was recently promoted to a “Tier II” indicator from “Tier III”; this means that while the methodology may be closer to being established, a key and missing component of monitoring transboundary cooperation is that the required data is not being tracked in all countries [6].criteriaUN-Water has now been working tirelessly to pilot test SDG 6 monitoring in five countries by establishing country teams, training them, and collecting indicator data [5]. Ultimately, these first attempts at monitoring will reveal required adjustments in the methodology to improve data outcomes; GWP Tech Paper No. 23 is a key contribution to this effort.

To conclude, I enjoyed the paper because it reminded me that we will need to be critical of how we measure our progress towards sustainable development. While the procedures for measuring SDG indicator 6.5.2 have already been advanced, McCracken recommends certain ‘tweaks’ to the related definitions and methodology to ensure we are monitoring in the best possible way. Achieving sustainable development in 13 years is going to take a concerted global effort of many small efforts just like those made by this paper and the individuals behind it. This is key – there will always be the need for individual actions to accomplish progress. Since countries are responsible for monitoring advancement towards the SDGs, even as citizens we can encourage our national decision-makers to invest and implement the best data collection methodologies possible.

I applaud McCracken and those who work relentlessly to scrutinize our SDG path forward. However, I also believe that eventually we will need to roll up our sleeves, stay positive, lean on each other, and get to work. Next stop: sustainable development!

[1] United Nations. (2017). Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. SDG 6. Retrieved from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg6.

[2] Global Water Partnership. (2017). Measuring transboundary water cooperation: options for Sustainable Development Goal Target 6.5. GWP TEC Background Paper No. 23. Retrieved from http://www.gwp.org/globalassets/global/toolbox/publications/background-papers/gwp-tec_23_measuring-transboundary-water-cooperation.pdf.

[3] Wolf et al. (Forthcoming). Revisting the World’s International River Basins.

[4] United Nations-Water (UN-Water). (2016). Step-by-step Monitoring Methodology for Indicator 6.5.2. Retrieved from http://www.unwater.org/app/uploads/2017/05/Step-by-step-methodology-6-5-2_Revision-2017-01-11_Final-1.pdf.

[5] UN-Water. (2017) Country process for SDG 6 monitoring (pilot). Retrieved from http://www.sdg6monitoring.org/news/country-process-for-sdg-6-monitoring-pilot.

[6] UN-Stats. (2017). IAEG-SDGs. Tier Classification for Global SDG Indicators. Retrieved from https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/iaeg-sdgs/tier-classification/.



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Can hydropower be environmentally friendly?

GWP Senior Knowledge Management Officer Dr Danka Thalmeinerova recently moderated a panel discussion at the ICPDR workshop “Sustainable Hydropower: Progress, Solutions and Remaining Challenges”. These are her reflections from the event.


All Danube Basin countries have committed to the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). It implies the duty to adopt all measures necessary to achieve the “good status” for all waters. One of the most difficult requirements of the WFD is the principle of non-deterioration of water status.

Under the EU Renewable Energy Directive other requirements are aimed to increase the share of energy from renewable sources. In Danube Basin, the hydroelectric power represents the most important component of total renewable energy production. Thus, the conflict arises: how to maximize benefits of hydropower generation and minimize all negative impacts?

The impacts are huge and include altered sediment dynamics and flow regime, disturbance of cemented structures on habitat and river species and disruption of ecological continuity.

According to the first Danube River Basin Management Plan, significant investments are needed to remediate negative impacts of already existing facilities to meet the requirements of EU environmental legislation. In the case of new hydropower installations, cross-sectorial dialogue of water and energy sectors is a must; without a coordinated approach, both sectors are at risk to fail achieving the objectives and legal compliance.

Although all EU countries are obliged to develop strategic documents helping sustainable decision- making on hydropower projects, there are several technical, administrative and legislative challenges. In addition, Danube Basin is international, crossing administrative and territorial borders. Many NGOs in the Danube basin pointed out that the development of hydropower still puts economic over social and environmental benefits.

NGOs also conducted a survey, according which many countries upgraded existing hydropower plants in technical efficiency, while ecological upgrade has been widely missed. In addition, environmental experts in the Danube Basin alert that hydropower projects are being assessed individually without consideration of cumulative impacts and the basin wide perspective. Effective and efficient cooperation between energy and environmental authorities and commitment to integrated transparent planning is lacking and so is stakeholder involvement.

Since 2013, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) has become active in initiating a dialogue with representatives from the hydropower sector. As an essential step in this process, the Guiding Principles on Sustainable Hydropower Development in the Danube Basin have been developed by an interdisciplinary team.

Several working sessions culminated in the organisation of the ICPDR workshop “Sustainable Hydropower: Progress, Solutions and Remaining Challenges”. This was held in Vienna, Austria on 28-29 March 2017. An Assessment Report and a collection of Case Studies and Good Practice Examples were elaborated, accompanying the Guiding Principles – all presented during the workshop and complemented with intense discussions.

More than 50 participants from 12 Danube basin countries, observers to ICPDR and EU took part at the workshop. The participants represented governments, NGOs, academia, and private sector; more important is that that energy sector, although only from Austria and Croatia, was actively joining the workshop.

The key message of the workshop was “Restoration will cost more than strategic planning” – the need to share experiences among Danube Countries and not to repeat mistakes from the past. GWP was invited to moderate the panel discussion, putting the key conclusions and highlighting the way forward.

GWP will continue to support the ICPDR, serving as a neutral platform for exchange of experiences in the application of ICPDR Guiding Principles.

More details: https://www.icpdr.org/main/activities-projects/hydropower

Posted in Development, Energy, GWP, Private sector, Water resources management | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Drugging our water resources

March 22 is World Water Day and this year (2017) the theme is wastewater. GWP offers two blogs about this subject. The first, by Dr. Danka Thalmeinerova, GWP Senior Knowledge Management Officer, explained why she is going to re-think her wardrobe. This is the second blog, by Prof. Igor Bodik of the Slovak Technical University and President of the Association of Wastewater Treatment Experts in Slovakia (a GWP Partner). He explains why he may re-think his diet.


Emerging pollutants (EPs) are chemicals that are not commonly monitored but have the potential to enter the environment and cause adverse ecological and human health effects. These pollutants include a range of organic substances such as endocrine disruptors, industrial additives, siloxanes, disinfectants, hormones, drugs, and antibiotics that are present in small concentrations. In 2005, one scientific database showed about 80 references under “pharmaceuticals and wastewater.” The same database in 2015 counted 550 references.

Another attention-grabbing statistic concerns the concentration and bioaccumulation of drugs in fish. Fish are not known to go to doctors for drug prescriptions. So how is it that a rich cocktail of painkillers, hormones, and drugs appear in fish tissues, river sediments, and groundwater? Researchers are looking into this question and one simple, if not surprising answer is: an increased consumption of both legal and illegal drugs by humans. These are then excreted by urine into sewage systems. Even where wastewater treatment plants are installed, the removal processes are not very effective in eliminating EPs before the water is discharged into rivers and lakes. Several companies are investigating the methods to advance treatment processes, but it often poses excessive cost to the operation of the treatment plants. How paradoxical that the installations that treat wastewater are a source of water pollution!

How can we control the release of EPs into the environment? EPs are currently not included in routine monitoring programmes and their behaviour and ecotoxicological effects are not well understood. They can be released from point pollution sources (e.g., waste water treatment plants) or from diffuse sources (e.g., from crop and animal production), complicating control at the source. Is it a task for engineers? Regulatory control? A change in social behavior and life style? Right now the experts are simply observers of “unexplored” types and amounts of EPs with “unknown” impact to the environment and a “flimsy” arsenal of tools to avoid potential harm to the precious water resources and aquatic life.

Since 2013, Slovak researchers analyzed hundreds of samples from 22 urban wastewater treatment outlets serving a population of 1.4 million (out of a total of 5 million people in Slovakia). The research focused on both legally prescribed and illegal drugs and included statistics on pharmaceutical sales. Four years of results now need to be analyzed to give guidance not only to engineers who design treatment processes but also to decision makers, other sectors (especially health), and the whole society.

Just as textile companies are trying to reduce their impact on water resources (see the accompanying blog to this one, “My wardrobe malfunction and wastewater”), pharmaceutical companies need to figure out ways to make drugs biodegradable. Engineers need to invent new – and affordable – ways (using ozone, nanomaterials, green plants, etc.) of treating water. Governments may need to introduce tighter regulations or more aggressively enforce existing ones (the polluter pays principle). Obviously, we humans are not going to give up our drugs. But we can begin to push for solutions.


Posted in Ecosystems, Food security, GWP, Rivers, Water Pollution, Water security, World Water Day | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My wardrobe malfunction and wastewater

March 22 is World Water Day and this year (2017) the theme is wastewater. GWP offers two blogs about this subject. The first, by Dr. Danka Thalmeinerova, GWP Senior Knowledge Management Officer, explains why she is going to re-think her wardrobe. 

Danka Thalmeinerova

Fortunately, I haven’t had an actual wardrobe malfunction and I hope you haven’t either. But next time you decide to buy a new pair of jeans, a blouse or a shirt, consider the following:

When you buy your jeans, let’s say at a local store in Stockholm (where the GWP global secretariat is located), they have travelled more than the highest frequent flier road warrior. Most probably the cotton came from Uzbekistan, where people suffer from limited water access for drinking and livestock feeding. The cotton may have gone on to be colored in Bangladesh or Pakistan using technology that pollutes local rivers. Skilled Vietnamese or Thai women then tailored those jeans into a “must-have” cut, and a Chinese company finally sold them to the local distributor.

So I decided, reluctantly, to look at my wardrobe. The results astonished me: I have two favorite jeans that I wear frequently, two that are rather chic waiting for nice occasions, two black ones and a red one, and three pairs that are old fashioned. There is another pair from my sister and yet another that was slightly damaged by my dog.  In total, twelve pairs of jeans! Did I really need all of them?

According to Steven Leahy, author of Water Footprint:  The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use To Make Everyday Products (the winner in the scientific category of the 2015 Green Book Festival), it takes more than 7,600 liters (2,000 gallons) of water to make a single pair of jeans.

The textile industry is one of the most chemically intensive industries in each step of the production chain. Pesticides are used for growing fibers, dyes, and additives. Each of these processes involve enormous quantities of water for only a small output of finished fabric. The consumer (you and I) end up contributing to this environmental stress: detergents and other pollutants end up untreated in rivers and lakes. The textile industry is also an engine of economic prosperity, employing millions of people, many of them women, in Southeast Asia and increasingly in Africa.

The days of the “dirty” textile industry are gradually going vanish. The industry is proactive in eliminating dangerous substances and using locally grown or produced raw materials. Many companies are entering voluntary agreements to reduce their water, carbon, and energy footprint. This is promising. However, there also needs to be a shift on the consumer side (that’s right, you and I again). Today I will pack my unworn jeans to take them to second hand shop. And when the spring fashions hit the stores, I will keep my purchases to only what I actually need.

If you want to know more about the “value chain of water pollution”, you are welcome to attend the Stockholm World Water Week 2017 seminar on Water and waste management: the case of the textile industry. The seminar will present possible paths from “field to fashion” to address environmental exploitation and health hazards in the textile industry.

The second blog on this topic will be published on World Water Day 22 March. On the same day, GWP will also conduct a Facebook LIVE interview with Mr. Rami Abdel Rahman, Program Manager at the Sweden Textile Water Initiative/SIWI.  

Posted in GWP, IWRM, Sustainable Development, Water Pollution, World Water Day | 1 Comment

Towards adaptation in Costa Rica

One of the 5 winning contributions to the GWP #YouthLed Projects global contest was a capacity building project for the rural sector in the Canton of Hojancha, Costa Rica. Eloy Mendez is 25 years old and from the province of Guanacaste. He is a business manager and teacher, and has been the director and coordinator of projects of UNAFOR since 2014. Here is his story.


In the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, the National Agroforestry Union (UNAFOR) is working with agricultural producers in implementing development projects that allow producers to improve their quality of life in rural areas.

Today, our province faces one of the biggest challenges: climate change. The increasing effects of climate change, together with “El Niño”, has resulted in severe droughts – the dry season has become longer year-by-year and temperatures are higher than previous years. With climate change, the loss of livestock and crops as well as abandoned farms for lack of water is increasing. This generating large economic losses for the agricultural and livestock sector.

In this context, UNAFOR identifies the needs of agricultural producers so that they focus on mitigating the effects of climate change.

Added to this, we have seen that one of the most vulnerable groups – youth – does not perceive a future in agricultural because if they add up the challenges of climate change along with flimsy markets, the struggle to overcome the difficulties is all uphill.

We can’t remain indifferent and that is why we are implementing a project for the application of technologies to adapt to climate change in agricultural farms. The “Adaptation Fund” channels resources for three years in three different districts for the application of adaptive technologies in 100 farms. This project received the support of Global Water Partnership through the allocation of extra resources as well as the dissemination of what we do and what we have achieved.


The project includes:

  • Plots with crop diversification
  • Construction of natural barriers
  • Establishment of new fodder and protein banks
  • Construction of feeding modules for livestock
  • Establishment of water storage technologies
  • Installation of drinking troughs
  • Protection and reforestation of water sources
  • Construction of water transport systems to tanks, pools and irrigation systems.

We promote the development of model farms that integrate the different technologies for the optimal use of available resources – an intelligent production system – and we provide the technical advice and required equipment.

construccion-reservorio pic2

Each farm needs to use an optimum amount of water through storage systems or wells that allow them to access available water. The water is transported from where it is stored in reservoirs (for example, geomembrane reservoirs) or PVC tanks.

Once the water is stored, it can be redistributed to water troughs built with natural barriers for an appropriate rotation system of livestock. The natural barriers can also be used as extra food and they generate microclimates that avoid overheating of the cattle herd. This water is also used in irrigation systems for agricultural crops and short grasses for cattle feed in the dry season (cane, sorghum, cratylia, Cameroon, hen). Through feed modules that have appropriate roofs and feeders, livestock have the necessary infrastructure and food to keep them without problems during the dry season.

As a final result, the producer has the tools to produce permanently during the dry season, without being affected by the drought, thanks to the intelligent use of water. Our proposal is also aimed at ensuring that the generational change in rural areas is attractive and profitable for youth, promoting family farms as a real opportunity and a way to make a living.

Lastly, as an organization that represents farmers, we want to share what we have learned and our principles:

  1. Organizations should focus on the real and immediate needs of the sector they represent.
  2. Projects should have a direct impact on the beneficiaries. It is important to avoid wasting resources in extensive training plans or consultancies.
  3. Organizations should not be seen as a competition for governmental agencies, rather as entities that support and want to help increase the good work of our institutions.
  4. We live in a world with a crisis of leadership. Organizations should spaces for youth to take relevant roles in decision-making, and we should generate these spaces.
  5. We should strongly voice our concerns and inquiries to our leaders regarding water and future water management plans. It is our duty to be informed and to take action in the matter.

A final word of thanks to Global Water Partnership for providing this space to share our experience.

This blog post is also available in Spanish.

Posted in Climate change, Partnership, Youth | Leave a comment

Communicating SDGs: The Role of Youth Employment?

Emilinah Namaganda from Uganda has been an intern with GWP in Stockholm, Sweden, since September 2016. As her internship comes to an end, she reflects on youth involvement in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


30867038785_76cd83cf3b_z-1Photo: GWP youth event at COP22, Marrakech, Morocco, November 2016.

“Leave no one behind” is the principle on which the historic Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development is grounded. The Agenda sets out 17 sustainable development goals whose aim is to transform the world in areas ranging from poverty reduction to building sustainable cities and communities. The goals are intended to improve the livelihoods of people in all walks of life, including the richest of the developed countries to the poorest of the low-income countries. However, the President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, H. E. Mr. Peter Thomson, emphasized that SDGs can be successfully implemented only if the global public whose livelihoods are to be enhanced is fully aware of the commitments made by their governments in September 2015.

Hence, the role of raising the global public’s awareness of the importance of SDG implementation cannot be overstated. But with such a wide target group how can all relevant stakeholders – especially the “general public” – be reached?

The Office of the President of the General Assembly made several proposals including “inclusion of the SDGs on the school curricula of every country in the world, maximizing the use of traditional media and online communications to bring the message of the SDGs to a new global audience, engaging youth activists in communities around the world and by delivering high-level advocacy at SDG-related events and workshops”.

For me, this statement raises many questions. Will these initiatives be followed through all over the world, given the differences in governance systems, available resources, etc.? Will they be sufficient to reach EVERYONE? For instance, if SDGs are included in school curricula, are there enough people with sufficient knowledge of the SDGs to pass it along to students? In some places, maybe, but in many, perhaps not.

This is where youth come in. In Uganda, youth below the age of 30 years make up over 78% of the population. The country has been recognized as having the youngest population in the world. Although higher than the average for sub-Saharan Africa which stands at 43.2%, many sub-Saharan countries can relate to the opportunities and challenges of such a large youth population. When a large percentage of this population is unemployed and struggling to make a living, it creates a burden on the small sect representing the work force, which inhibits growth of national economies and also promotes low standards of living. On the other hand, young people are innovative, driven, energetic, increasingly more and more educated, and ready to make their world a better place. For instance, research in 2015 revealed Uganda as the most entrepreneurial country in the world.

This is what SDG implementation needs: people interested in making their future better than theirs today, and that of their parents. Youth are curious to find ways to contribute to this vision, and in numbers large enough to reach entire populations. In countries such as Uganda, where young people are almost the entire population, spreading the word of the Agenda 2030 to the general public becomes feasible.

But how can young people be engaged in this vision? There have been several global and regional initiatives where youth have come together to speak out, and communicate ways in which they can be and/or want to be involved. This is a good starting point and necessary to put a face to the desire of youth to be involved. However, this tends to be biased. It is likely that such groups will mostly involve a few, young people with access to platforms at such levels. This does not work, for example, for unemployed youth in Uganda and many from sub-Saharan Africa. It is difficult to spread the word of Agenda 2030 when you are struggling to survive through the month. Not that we are looking for a quick fix or financial help, but instead institutions and governance systems can provide opportunities to implement our innovations and an opportunity to participate in planning our future.

Youth have shown initiative in creating a brighter future for themselves which is in tandem with Agenda 2030. Hence, discussions on SDG communication and implementation should take advantage of this group. However, this can be done effectively only with employed and productive youth. SDG-related initiatives should therefore put a strong focus on how to reduce youth unemployment. More productive and employed youth can contribute substantially to Agenda 2030. No one will be left behind!

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What about Droughts?

Droughts can be defined in various ways and the effects may differ from one country to another. GWP intern Lara Vrtovec reflects on this.


We are about to say goodbye to the hottest year on record. According to the WMO, global temperatures in 2016 were higher than the record-breaking temperatures in 2015[i]. But isn’t this déjà vu? Didn’t we already hear this last year? Floods and heatwaves are becoming more frequent. It may be true that the extreme climatological events that occurred this year were to an extent caused by the powerful El Niño; however, the heat will not stop pursuing us just because El Niño is slowly disappearing.

When I was asked how climate change will affect my community, the first thing that popped in my mind, given that I am a citizen of a European country rich in water resources, was not droughts. Of the 21 major droughts that hit Europe from 1950 to 2012, six occurred after 2000[ii]. Are we having a drought crisis in Europe? But wait a minute, our droughts were not as severe as, for example, the drought in the Horn of Africa during 2011- 2012, which affected more than 10 million people[iii]. Nor do our heatwaves reach exasperatingly high levels of temperature (51°C) as in the town of Phalodi, India, in May.

Still, droughts can be defined in various ways and its effects may differ from one country to another. Meteorological droughts relate to a deficiency in precipitation, whereas agricultural droughts arise as a consequence of this deficiency. Hydrological droughts result from long-term soil water deficiencies, and last, but not least, socio-economic droughts can emerge as a result of all the aforementioned drought types. The latter is characterized by water scarcity that leads to a reduction of water security and potential economic losses. The differences between meteorological, agricultural, and hydrological droughts include their duration, where the longest is the hydrological drought and the shortest the meteorological drought.

Droughts affect at least 11 % of Europeans and 17 % of EU territory annually[iv]. With the warming of temperatures over the past century, the prevalence and duration of drought has also increased. It is estimated that droughts cost an average of 6.2 billion €/year in the most recent years, with an exceptional cost of 8.7 billion € in 2003[v]. However, these estimates encompass only direct economic costs, such as the cost of maintaining hydropower plants on low water flows, the cost of maintaining water treatment plants or the cost to compensate for crop losses. Droughts can have social and environmental effects as well (e.g. loss of lives, impacts on ecosystems, prevalence for forest fires, etc.). Some say that droughts are an underlying cause of mass migration to Europe.

This brings us to the question of whether are we putting enough effort in limiting these negative effects. Most of Europe’s drought policy is crisis oriented and consists of post-impact interventions. Nevertheless, the above-mentioned numbers show us that these policies are not enough and often inadequately implemented.

To make sense of this, we should take into consideration Giddens Paradox: not all threats posed by global warming are tangible, immediate, and visible in everyday life. And because of this, no matter how harmful they seem, many will not do anything concrete to prevent them. On the other hand, when these threats become apparent and urgent, it is already too late to reduce their impact. The question is: how long will it take us to resolve this paradox?

Droughts have the potential to turn into disaster. We are not able to prevent them, but reducing the gap between the impact and the ability to prepare, manage, and adapt to such events should be approached with proactive policies. However, before policies can be drafted, relevant data should be collected.

There are many country specific drought monitoring systems intended for the public. On the European scale, there is the EDO- European Drought Observatory. These forecasting models not only require good data, they need proper governmental backup plans and knowledge from the bottom up to fully evaluate how drought impacts will affect local water and food supplies.

The complex interlinkages between meteorology–hydrology–government–people should be established in a proper manner, with the sole purpose of preventing a drought crisis in Europe. National drought action plans and strategies should be implemented, not because it is a request from the EU Water Framework Directive or the Flood Directive, but because it is the state’s interest to guarantee farmers a secure crop or ensure its citizens’ water safety. We should aim to utilize water supply assets effectively by galvanizing governments to adopt national drought management plans and educating society on how to prepare for droughts. Post-impact drought recovery plans should not be our priority – they only maintain the status quo. The GWP CEE Integrated Drought Management Programme offers methods on how to develop national drought policies and strategies and how to tailor them according to a country’s characteristics and needs.

Now, if you are ever asked how climate change will affect your community, maybe droughts will be the first thing to pop into your mind! And think of it as your opportunity to take action.

[i] http://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/provisional-wmo-statement-status-of-global-climate-2016

[ii] https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/news/european-droughts-set-become-more-prevalent-end-century

[iii] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13944550

[iv] http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/quantity/scarcity_en.htm

[v] http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/quantity/pdf/comm_droughts/2nd_int_report.pdf

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How to Write an IWRM Teaching Manual

It takes a lot of coffee, innumerable flip charts, face to face meetings, long hours of concentration, textual analysis, and sharing experiences. Two GWP interns share their experience of the workshop that finalized GWP’s IWRM ToolBox Teaching Manual.

By Sarah Perrine and Mario Roidt


Over the past few years, GWP’s Knowledge Management Team conducted 12 workshops to show educators how to use the GWP IWRM ToolBox as a teaching resource. Over 170 university lecturers from 61 universities attended the workshops and completed a survey to help GWP improve the IWRM ToolBox. Three findings were unanimous: (i) The ToolBox is widely used in university education already, (ii) the most popular feature of the ToolBox are the case studies and (iii) there is a need for a manual to guide lecturers in using the ToolBox, specifically the Tools and Case Studies to complement curricula and teaching methods.

In response, GWP collaborated with five professors from GWP´s Partner network to create the IWRM ToolBox Teaching Manual. The professors involved come from universities in Panamá, Brazil, China, Zimbabwe, and Kazakhstan and have thorough experience teaching IWRM and using the ToolBox. The concept of the Teaching Manual was conceptualized within GWP, but it’s the professors that contribute their experiences, lessons learned, teaching anecdotes, and sample lectures. The purpose of the manual is to provide a handy, online source of study materials to lecturers teaching water-related courses.

The final Workshop (really, a writeshop) to put the manual together started on a snowy Sunday in Stockholm. We met the professors in the lobby of the hotel before sitting down to breakfast together. While socializing, the names we’d seen so regularly in emails and publications came to life as we connected professional biographies to faces and mannerisms. For the past four months, we had been in regularly contact with five professors to compile their expertise and experiences to create a teaching manual.

The day was long, with conversations on how to break down the complex concept of IWRM into tangible components. We decided on 6: The Environment and Climate Change, Social Aspects, Water Governance, Economics, Planning and Decision Making, and Technical Infrastructure. Within each component we included more detailed Teaching Subjects as diverse as “International Water Law”, “Ecology” or “Assessment Instruments” all connected to the IWRM components. Using this format, a lecturer will be able to easily choose a component and review the teaching subjects to determine what is most appropriate to add in their course. We then continued to review, discuss and adapt already written chapters of the Teaching Manual, streamlining and transforming it into a consistent product.


On Monday, the concepts and texts where becoming clear and tangible. Because the professors are such an erudite group, we picked their brains on IWRM education during the afternoon. We invited GWP staff and external guests to listen to presentations – under the title “Can IWRM be taught?” – which showcased challenges and opportunities faced by professors when teaching IWRM.


Dr. Jean-Marie Kileshye Onema showed how WaterNet creates the opportunity for students to study an IWRM Masters course in different countries in the SADC Region. After students complete their core module in Zimbabwe or Tanzania, students choose a specialized program that continues in one of the other 7 Universities in SADC countries that are part of the programme.

Prof. Dr. Barbara Janusz-Pawletta heads the IWRM Masters course at the German-Kazakh University in Almaty. She is on her way to linking academia, government, and private sector in a new learning philosophy by closing gaps between them.

Prof. Dr. Yiqing Guan provided an overview of Hohai University of China and their role in advancing research and the practice of Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering.

Prof. Dr. Carlos Saito presented Concept Maps, a teaching approach that gives students the opportunity to understand different water related concepts such as IWRM, Water Security, or the Human Right to Water, by connecting them in concept maps.

Prof. Dr. José Fábrega, who is educating hydraulic engineers in Panamá, shared with us the importance of teaching engineering students that technical solutions are never isolated but are interconnected with institutional, political, and social issues – a challenge he solves by using the IWRM ToolBox.

The seminar was informative, providing information about the reality of teaching IWRM in five different contexts. We concluded the workshop with a quick wrap-up, a timetable for further tasks, and final goodbyes. Off we went our divergent ways into the snowy, dark cold of Stockholm with the warm contentment of having had a week’s worth of experiences – although it was only Monday.

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