Coming together to turn a triple crisis to a triple win: the 2022 Sector Ministers Meeting

Lesley Pories, GWP’s Coordinator for the Global Water Leadership Programme, participated in the 2022 Sector Ministers’ Meeting (SMM) in Jakarta, Indonesia, on May 18-19. The event, convened by the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership (SWA) in collaboration with UNICEF, was hosted by the Government of Indonesia. Lesley serves as Co-Chair of the SWA High Level Political Dialogue Working Group, which oversees content development for SWA high-level events. Here she offers reflections on the event.

This event was the first of its kind. I say that not because it was the first SMM – it definitely was not! – but because this SMM was the first to look outside the WASH sector and invite ministers from non-traditional sectors such as environment, climate, health and economy to join them in their discussions. United under the theme Building Forward Better for Recovery and Resilience, this SMM sought to engage a full array of ministerial stakeholders in discussing how to turn the triple crisis of a global pandemic, subsequent economic downturn, and ongoing climate change into a triple win.

350 people from 51 countries attended the meeting, including over 53 ministers and two vice presidents from 35 countries. Instead of focusing on WASH for traditional WASH goals of universal access and meeting SDG6 ambitions, the carefully crafted plenaries and intimate ministerial dialogues focused on topics that resonate across ministries – the role of political leadership in establishing national priorities, governance and finance reforms for recovery and long-term resilience, and accountability.

An essential feature of the SMM is always the Ministerial Dialogues, when ministers are divided into small breakout rooms and seated together at a roundtable with one facilitator and a few others. The roundtables are intentionally small and adhere to Chatham House Rules, enabling ministers to confidentially converse with each other about the issues (although some will always feel more inclined to share than others). While bringing the ministers together in this way is always beneficial for cross-country learning, in this case I sometimes observed ministers from 3-4 different ministries of the same country participating in a dialogue. When we think about how seldom these ministers might come together in their home country, much less talk about issues related to water and sanitation, you begin to see how invaluable this event really is.

The inter-related nature of our chosen topics was always known, but became increasingly apparent as the ministers spoke. “Transparency triggers trust,” observed one minister, “and trust triggers finance.”

The issue of reframing WASH came forward in a number of conversations. “How do we move as a society from treating WASH as an emergency into treating WASH as an economic enabler?” asked one minister. Techniques such as renaming key WASH programmes such as “One Borehole per Village” to the “Presidential Development Programme” help assign importance to initiatives – but of course depend on having national leadership that supports such efforts.

The intertwined reality of WASH with climate change was emphasized repeatedly, with multiple ministers indicating that they no longer talk about WASH without talking about climate change. This reflects the reality that many of the ministers present are experiencing at their respective homes: roughly 74 percent of all-natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 were water-related, and 40 percent of the global population is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change (IPCC 6th Assessment Report).

One always leaves high-level meetings and events such as this one questioning whether the level of effort and resources that it took to produce it will lead to change on the ground. Among other things, ministers committed to increasing prioritization of climate-resilient water and sanitation in national budgets, and developing financing strategies and investment targets which support sustainable, safely managed, and resilient access to water and sanitation; and bringing these conclusions to key global processes in 2022 and 2023, such as the UNFCCC’s Conference of the Parties (COP) 27, the G20, the U.N. 2023 Water Conference, and the 2023 SWA Finance Ministers Meeting.

They will not be able to achieve these commitments alone – it will depend on the many partners that comprise SWA (and undoubtedly others!) to help them achieve these goals at the national and global levels. I’m proud to know that GWP is lending its bench strength to the fight, and that the Global Water Leadership Programme I coordinate has an integral role to play in connecting that local action to global stages.

Posted in Climate change, Development, Sustainable Development, United Nations, WASH, Water financing, Water resources management | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Running out of time

What motivates an international affairs student to dig into scientific data, learn how the climate works, and discover the disaster that sea level rise can cause? One word: people. The student, Luca Jendrek, earned her Master’s in International Affairs and Security Policy from Peter Pazmany University in Budapest, Hungary. She volunteered for a Mallorcan NGO protecting and conserving the Mediterranean before she joined the transboundary team at GWP. Here she outlines the connection between her studies and her traineeship at GWP.

Photo: Ernie Penaredo Ndo

We constantly bump into threatening news about climate change, natural disasters, record high or low temperatures, and ecosystem degradation. But we hear less about climate migrants or environmental refugees – hundreds of thousands of people who have already been forced to leave their homes because of climate change, or the millions who face the same destiny.

What migration patterns are provoked by sea level rise caused by climate change? Is there any national and international legislation to protect these people? These questions came to mind when I decided to write my Master’s thesis on this topic. I did not expect that one day I would combine this knowledge with my work at GWP.

Ninety-nine per cent of scientists agree that climate change is due to human activities. In the 20th century, we used more and more natural resources and slowly but surely overexploited our only planet, leading to the rise in emissions of the three most harmful gases (carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane), resulting in global warming. One of the most alarming consequences is sea level rise which is happening at a faster pace than we expected.

According to the World Bank, 800 million people in 540 low-lying coastal or delta cities will be threatened by sea level rise by 2050, and this figure will likely increase. Most of these cities are in Asia – Mumbai, Kolkota, Dhaka, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Tokyo. However, other cities – New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Rio de Jainero, Rotterdam, Dar-es-Salam, to name a few – will also face rapid sea level rise in coming decades.

The 1951 UN Refugee Convention reached a milestone in the protection of refugees after World War II. Along with several regional and national treaties, it ensures protection and rights to people who are forced to flee because of various well-founded fears. However, the Convention does not consider environmental factors that trigger relocation. An extensive global framework is missing which would recognize, support, and protect climate migrants.

Nevertheless, legal frameworks are beginning to recognize and assist persons who flee because of climate change and natural disasters:

  • Internally displaced persons, according to the UN Guiding Principles and the Kampala Convention, give a wider interpretation of refugee and covers those fleeing natural or human-made disasters. The UNHCR established an Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility to work on solutions for climate refugees;
  • The Nansen Initiative addresses the needs of people displaced across international borders in the context of disasters and climate change effects;
  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to the Cancun Adaptation Framework which recognized climate-induced human migration;
  • For the first time, climate displacement was mentioned in the document at the climate conference in Paris in 2015;
  • The International Organization for Migration leads climate migration programs in more than 40 countries.

The UN Guiding Principles on internal displacement need to be expanded to cover these situations, the Nansen Initiative needs to be enhanced, and climate migrants need to be recognized as a category of people requiring protection and entitled to human rights, as suggested in the Paris Agreement.

When I joined GWP as a trainee in July 2021, I was assigned to work on the transboundary team. Here I discovered that because climate change and its effects are diverse and multidimensional, it affects transboundary water systems and poses challenges for every water user – citizens, industry, government, and nature. No state can deal with these challenges on its own; wider cooperation between stakeholders and countries is key.

As more regions experience water stress, uneven water distribution, lack of fresh water and sanitation, and climate change impacts, more people will opt for the immediate solution: migration, posing further socio-economic-political and environmental challenges and putting migrants in danger.

Another similarity between environmental migration and transboundary water management is the pace and extent of the development of new legislation, policies, and regulations: they happen much slower than the rate of environmental degradation or disasters.

Future sea level rise depends on three factors:

  1. greenhouse gas emissions;
  2. the response of air and sea surface temperatures greenhouse gases; and
  3. thermal expansion and the level of ice melt.

While sea level rise is less dramatic than disasters, and happens relatively slowly, time is not on our side given the slow pace at which we are making – or not making – changes to policies and laws. We need to hear the voices of those directly experiencing climate change, sea level rise, and water stress so we can take collective and urgent action on mitigation, adaptation, legal, infrastructural, and institutional measures, and do so with a broad, all of society participation.

Posted in Climate change, Oceans, Partnership, sea level rise, Transboundary | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Wellspring: “Getting Hired: A Programme Associate’s Journey through the Hiring Process at the Global Water Partnership”

Getting hired is the ultimate goal shared by all jobseekers, no matter the particular job or path. While landing a new position is an exciting and necessary milestone in one’s career journey, how does it happen exactly? What is the mix of skills and circumstance that help people navigate this career step successfully? To help answer these questions and more, Josh’s Water Jobs collaborated with GWP to bring you the story of a recently hired staff member. From the observations and reflections of those directly involved, there are many transferable pieces of advice and valuable insights to anyone looking for a new job.

Sandra Bruehlmann recently moved from Peru to join the GWP team in Stockholm, Sweden, as a Programme Associate, dedicated to monitoring and facilitating progress on SDG 6. In this interview she tells her story on how she ended up with GWP, and we also hear from Colin Herron, Global Coordinator of Water Solutions for the SDGs and Sandra’s boss; from Jacqui Gogo, the GWP Human Resources specialist and administration focal point to Cap-Net, UNDP; from Darío Soto-Abril, the Executive Secretary and CEO of GWP; as well as from a member of the hiring panel, Rianna Gonzales, GWP’s Youth Engagement Specialist. Read their stories here.

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Earth Day was my ‘Aha!’ Moment

Alessandra Giolo is completing Masters degrees in Global Environmental Politics and in Environmental Science at Sodertorn and Stockholm University. Her dissertation is on Transboundary Water Management. She is an intern at the GWP global secretariat, and this blog is her story of how Earth Day triggered her interest in the environmental sector.

Alessandra Giolo

My primary school was one of the first in Italy to have “Environmental Education” on its curriculum, thanks to a dedicated teacher who introduced us to what now is one of the most important and talked-about subjects in politics, society, and academia. In that class I wrote my first essay, “Earth Day: the relationship between humans and nature.” The essay was a collection of themes and works we had studied, and it was from this early age that my interest in the environment was born.

Nature and environmental politics took time to gather academic attention, but during my Bachelor studies in International Relations an inspiring professor taught us the limitations of the earth’s resources and her concern for the speed of degradation and exploitation humans were posing to the planet. That motivated me to pursue my first Master’s in Environmental Science and a second one in Global Environmental Politics, in order to have a comprehensive understanding from both the scientific and the political sides.

Today, in 2021, environmental awareness is very different, with most people having heard of environmental protection and restoration, mitigation of climate change, and the need to transition to clean energy sources. These are not only at the top of political and policy makers’ agendas, but there are targets that humanity must meet to ensure our survival. There is little doubt anymore that human interference on the planet has reached such invasive levels that we are officially living in the Anthropocene, the “unofficial” era where human activities have impacted the earth’s geology, climate, and ecosystem delivery.

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, which so far has claimed over 3 million lives and changed nearly every aspect of human life, shows us just how much nature is more in charge than we are. This invisible enemy put humans and their activities on pause and in some ways healed parts of the environment that we had exhausted. It also showed that recovery is possible.

How did it all start

The first Earth Day was held in 1970, eight years after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published. The book exposed how destructive trends were affecting the sustainability of the planet, raising awareness for the first time of the link between pollution, public health, and every living organism. In 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin (U.S.A.) took the environmental cause to heart, determined “to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda.” On April 22, 1970, millions of people gathered on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other American cities, guided by the inspirational passion of Danis Hayes, a Stanford University student appointed as Earth Day’s national coordinator.

“Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organise 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organised itself,” said Hayes.

Since that day, Earth Day went global. Activities range from a talking drum chain in Gabon, Africa, to a gathering of hundreds of thousands of people at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Earth Day Network (EDN) collaborates with more than 17,000 partners and organisations in 174 countries. According to EDN, more than 1 billion people are involved in Earth Day activities, making it “the largest secular civic event in the world.”

GWP is involved in raising awareness and enhancing the knowledge and skills of professionals and youth on water issues – after all, water makes up 70% of the earth! My internship has taught me so much about water and governance, about collaboration, mutual understanding, respect, and showed me how all of us – through hard work and a vision – can contribute to a better world. Global changes are needed to ensure a future for humanity. GWP is showing its dedication, passion, and commitment to enhance this sustainability. To extend our stay on the planet for as long as possible, ensuring the long-term sustainability of water resources is essential.

Earth Day was born because individuals understood that change was needed. Passion, leadership, and vision are key to making global change happen. Marking this day is an opportunity to bring millions of people together to discuss and share knowledge and solutions to problems that involve the whole of humanity without distinctions of color, country, and religion. As is often said, there is no Planet B. This earth is our only home, and our survival depends on making changes today to how we treat this home.

Click image to enlarge it
Posted in Climate change, Development, Earth Day, Ecosystems, GWP, IWRM, Partnership, Sustainable Development, Water resources management, Water security | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Monika Weber-Fahr

Monika Weber-Fahr penned these personal reflections before her last day as GWP Executive Secretary and CEO on June 30, 2020.

“So where is GWP going, now that you are leaving?” When announcing my departure from GWP, I got this question a lot, as well as three others: “Anything you regret?”, “What did you achieve?” and, my personal favorite: “You are leaving for family reasons. Does this mean women can’t hold leadership roles? Is it too much, leading an organization and being a Mum?”

GWP at extraordinary times.  I am writing these reflections at an extraordinary time.  The world is reeling in the pain inflicted by COVID – to people, families, lives, and to entire countries, both through the death sentences brought by the virus and through the economic fall-out from measures taken as we try to protect ourselves, particularly those most at risk.  The coming years will bring developments that we have never seen before:  enormous recovery packages that may or may not lead to more climate (and by extension: water) minded policies, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and dramatic changes across multiple sectors that we are only beginning to understand.  In the meantime, global temperatures keep rising, populations and their needs for water for drinking, hygiene, and for their food and other consumption keep growing, and industrial processes that waste and pollute water are changing way too slowly. Both the pressures on water – and the opportunity to negotiate a “re-set” of how we use it – are unprecedented. Never before have we seen as much attention to providing access to water to the poor. Will GWP partners around the world take advantage of this opportunity?  I would expect so!  Certainly, the regional and the global GWP teams stand ready to support with advice and input – wherever our partners and stakeholders will manage to engage in national or local decision making processes.

Where is GWP going?  Where we are going should be clear – we have a good, jointly developed, broadly consulted on and well owned strategy, with clear targets and relevant focus areas. “Mobilising for a Water Secure World” should enable us to effectively address global crises related to water security in the COVID-19 context.  Indeed, our Regional GWP Chairs and Coordinators have confirmed: our strategy gives us the right focus to act – in particular now.   As countries and industries begin to figure out how to “build back better”, our focus on water solutions for SDGs, on climate resilience through water, and on transboundary solutions all provide a solid framework to engage with the many non-water actors that will shape the post-COVID recovery.  Our unique value is in bringing ‘voices of water’ together and to the attention of political and economic decision-makers, while mobilising action that will address the ensuing water crises.  So let’s make sure we do this, with the continued help of so many enlightened donors: mobilise more and new partners, while valuing each other and our shared journey on this road, and find ways to negotiate water-relevant solutions even in uncomfortable spaces!

Anything you regret?  An obvious one first: I do regret leaving GWP way “before my time.” Leaving early means that I will not be able to be part of and support many initiatives and steps that I truly care for: The 25th Anniversary Year in 2021 – a fabulous opportunity for the entire Network to showcase what we have achieved and what we can do more of;  working with our regional teams to learn how we can be stronger in our regions and countries and building true “Network Effects” in how we connect GWP partners – making sure each and every partner who joins increases the value of the Network; and helping the Water ChangeMaker Awards grow – a unique mechanism to bring attention to the experiences and voices that make concrete and positive change for water happen, and bringing these into the GWP ToolBox.  My biggest personal regret though, is that I had to let people go, early on in my tenure, when GWP’s finances required retrenching.  And I am glad to say that we are now on better financial footings, enabling us to weather some of the storms ahead.  Finally, a regret that I am taking with me is that I did not get to spend as much time with the team in Stockholm as I would have wanted, getting to know my host country only cursorily, and leaving with only a few words of Swedish.  The Swedish art of Lagom is something I still have to learn about a lot.

What did you achieve?  Well, there is an official list of things, shared in the announcement, coming with kind words from our Chair, Ambassador Howard Bamsey,  noting “tireless efforts to put GWP on more secure footing” and the “energy and entrepreneurial leadership” with which I had been able to “turn the organisation around.”  And then there is my more personal list of things that I feel particularly blessed by: first and foremost the personal relationships and friendships with so many so wonderful people around the world and of course in Stockholm; the magic of the two “follow the sun” Network Meetings that more than ever connected our partners around the world; speaking to the climate community at CoP25 about the “Voices of Water” and how they should matter more;  bringing to GWP the notion that our work can support water security AND be gender transformative when launching the first fully-gender focused water, climate and development program, under the auspices of AMCOW and funded by ADA and SIDA; and, of course, signing the first grant agreement with the Green Climate Fund in support of Zambia’s GCF readiness, in a fully virtual environment, using media that some of my originally skeptical GWP colleagues now feel comfortable to use.

“You are leaving for family reasons: Does this mean women can’t hold leadership roles – is this just too much, leading an organization AND being a Mum?”  Some of the younger women on the global team asked this question quietly but quite immediately after I announced my departure – and also others seemed to wonder.  Indeed, it is true: I am leaving GWP so that I can re-join my family – my teenaged sons, my husband, and our dog – who live in Vienna, Austria, and whom I saw for much of the past two years only on weekends, if that.  Commuting between work and family – with separations of weeks or months at a time – is something that many parents do: anyone working in the military, in transport (shipping, trucking, aviation), in off-shore work or in construction would be all too familiar with this and know that it often can work just fine.  So, first to remember is that having the choice to step out and to do something else is a choice that not everyone needs – but also a choice that not everyone has. Contrary to what Foreign Policy Professor Ann-Marie Slaughter originally said in her then famous “Why Women Can’t Have it All” article:  For me the choice is not between career and family, and it is not about “stepping down” but about “stepping out” into something else.  Choices like this are about building the important and precious dimension of caring into one’s life, and there are times when this matters more or is specifically needed than at other times.  This is the same for anyone – whether you are a mother or father, daughter, or son.

One last observation: the Global Water Partnership is unique: We may not see this “from within” – but in its workings and design, as a partnership and network, GWP stands out among many other similar set-ups I have seen and worked with across multiple sectors in my professional past. And in this, we all stand on the shoulders of giants – the people who built this partnership and created its knowledge over the years.  Many stand out – Ismail Serageldin, Maggie Catley-Carlson, and Letitia Obeng, the early Global Chairs; the late and greatly missed John Briscoe; the Technical Committee Chairs Torkil Clausen, Roberto Lenton, Mohamed Ait Kadi, and Jerry Priscoli; the authors of influential Technical Background Papers, in particular No. 4, No. 14 and No. 22, and, of course, of the outstanding GWP Gender Action Piece – so many were part of shaping how the world sees and works on integrated water resources management, climate adaptation, and the SDGs.  This work is carried on now by the many leaders engaged in Regional Water Partnerships and Country Water Partnerships, in the global and regional Technical Committees, and in the Global Team.  As a network, we are as good as our relationships and values.  Together, with respect and solidarity with each other, we can and do get things done.

Oddly enough, no one has asked me what I am grateful for – when gratitude is the dominant feeling for me as I leave.  The list of people and experiences I am grateful for is long.  Most of all, I am grateful for – and humbled by – the opportunity that I had in being part of the journey of the many leaders that come together through this extraordinary Network.  So many of you are driving positive change, often with little or no means – but built on unique knowledge, relationships, and motivation. You are an inspiration – thank you all for this!

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Mobilising the agriculture and water sectors to address climate change

GWP Technical Committee Chair Dr. Jerome Delli Priscoli attended and spoke at the Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA) annual conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, on November 9, 2019. Here are his reflections.


The focus was on agriculture and adaptation policies necessary for meeting climate change. The overall purpose was to facilitate dialogue among the technical, Ministerial, and donor communities, and to identify relevant issues and to share experiences.

One of the sessions in the scientific advisory meeting was focused on water. Thankfully, it was clear that the panelists understood the importance of water management – perhaps not surprising since, globally, 70% of water withdrawals are taken by the agriculture sector.

Speakers elaborated on how soils need carbon and the role it plays in carbon sequestration. Other speakers called attention to soil degradation and its role in civic unrest. Other topics included:

·         the need for new maps of food insecurity and the need for world-level systems analysis

·         how Africa is facing the scourge of variability, esp. droughts and floods

·         a focus on eating habits and obesity and on how food is wasted along the value chain

Discussions on the use of precision technologies based on the digital revolution were most interesting. The presenters showed how such technologies and spatial temporal data is applicable even for the small farmer. The “Dry Arc” initiative of CGIAR was described and how it is attempting to inform decision makers. The countries in the Dry Arc will likely suffer the most from climate change.

Groundwater, water harvesting, and watershed management and their link to soil management was discussed, as well as the link to migration – a subject addressed by GWP and FAO.

Mark Smith of IWMI reviewed the new GCA paper “Climate Change and Water” and its five components: information and learning; action frameworks to build resilience; system diversity; infrastructure; and technology. FAO spoke of parallels of land tenure and water tenure and access to rights.

There was an excellent discussion on insurance. It seems French reinsurance companies have been partnering with local African insures of crop insurance in several countries. To meet tariff levels, countries must subsidize the gap between what people can pay and the required tariff. I asked: if governments are subsidizing, could that public money be better used on investing in prevention measures? This prompted the following response from the insurers: insurance will not solve the climate change problem. I highlighted the GWP Technical Committee Perspectives Paper “Climate insurance and water-related disaster risk management” which attracted interest: much of the discussion revolved around residual risk as the place where reinsurance fits.

The results of the scientific advisory groups and the donor’s groups were brought to the Ministers of Agriculture and to leaders of selected multinational and IFIs. I was most struck with several ministers who politely but explicitly said that there is too much focus on mitigation and what Africa and their countries really need is more focus on adaption: ‘the world must deal with the imbalance of mitigation and adaptation.’ From my own work on water and civilization, I would say they are on the right side of history. Thus, the great interest in infrastructure investment which of course is not a new theme in Africa. This observation was also backed by the World Bank. Some estimated a cost of around $200 billion will be necessary in next decade. The African Development Bank mentioned that 60% of employment in Africa is in agriculture even if urbanization is rapidly increasing.

The agriculture community is similar to those of us who work in water: they say agriculture is central to all the other SDGs, just like we say it about water! Same with wanting our respective sectors high on the political agenda; same with the need for training in the use of digital/smart technologies; same with the need for more research and knowledge sharing, esp. south-south; and that SDG 17 on partnership is essential. And finally, that Ministers of Finance should be at these meetings.

All that sounds like a call for an integrated (holistic) approach to solving the world’s development challenges!

Posted in Agriculture, Climate change, Food security, Water resources management | Leave a comment

How to turn an internship into a new career

Karen González Downs joined the GWP global secretariat in Stockholm, Sweden, in Spring 2019, for what she thought would be a three month internship. But nine months later, she is many experiences richer – and has a new Master thesis, and a new job! This is her story.

Karen blog post pic_fixed

Karen Gonzáles Downs (2nd from the right) with her fellow interns.

When I moved from Nicaragua to Germany in 2017 to pursue my Master’s degree in Environmental and Resource Management at the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, I had a relatively easy plan to graduate and move back home. However, coming from a country with limited opportunities for young professionals, I decided I should take advantage of living in Europe and gain as much professional experience as possible. So, after several months of looking and applying for internships, I was selected to join GWP as an intern for what initially was going to be three months.

I joined the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Unit, with a focus on the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, especially Central America. When I arrived, I had a different vision of what the organisation was about. I had never worked for an international organisation, let alone its global office. However, I was pleasantly surprised by GWP and its uniqueness. It is an organisation that works in 13 regions worldwide, but the team in the Stockholm office is quite small, allowing for less hierarchy and more teamwork.

My experience as an intern ended up being different than the experience of my fellow interns. A few weeks after I started working with the team, I got the opportunity to stay longer, to write my master thesis with my GWP supervisor as my thesis supervisor. Because of this opportunity I ended up extending my three months internship to a nine-month internship/master thesis placement.

The title of my thesis is “Alignment between the Nationally Determined Contributions and water-related sustainable development goals in six Central American countries”.  It aims to provide an analysis of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama and its links with water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

To be honest, it has been a challenge. I have been working on my thesis while continuing as an M&E intern part-time; this has not been easy and sometimes with all that stress and frustration I felt defeated. But what I appreciated the most has been the constant support and encouragement from the team, my fellow interns and my supervisor.

Writing and developing a Master’s thesis can be a slow and challenging process that can be quite lonely. My thesis placement at GWP has been a very enriching experience, I have learned to work independently and on my own terms. I was also able to challenge myself and choose a topic outside my comfort zone and above all, I learned how important it is to ask for help in difficult and frustrating moments.

Yes, my internship in GWP has been a lot of desk work, but it wasn’t boring, and I got to work with and learn from an incredible team. I learned how an organisation like GWP functions and its value contributing to water security and Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) implementation. I took the lead to develop a new M&E tool in the form of country factsheets that will allow for an easier understanding of the work that GWP has done for the last 25 years.

All GWP interns got to go as part of the GWP delegation to this year’s Stockholm World Water Week and I never felt like just an intern; we were there as part of GWP and that was encouraging.  We also got to attend the monthly staff meeting and quarterly business meeting, and we got to learn what GWP is doing worldwide.

As my last day in GWP is approaching, my first day in my new position is also around the corner. In the next weeks I will leave Sweden for Switzerland to join the Ramsar Convention Secretariat as Assistant Advisor for the Americas. Throughout the whole application process, I have been backed up by constant support from the GWP team. I have had my CV reviewed with great and useful feedback, I received valuable advice on how to best present myself during the interview process, and above all I have had unconditional and uplifting support during the stressful waiting days before getting a positive response from my new employer.

Overall, my experience at GWP has been challenging and rewarding, and living in a beautiful, modern and international city as Stockholm has been a great extra advantage. In the future, If I could change one thing in GWP, it would be the inclusion of more interns from least developing countries. I happened to be the first one from Central America and I hope that I opened the door for more students like me, because yes, we come from less privileged countries and that makes our point of view different than other young professionals – we have unique knowledge and life experiences to share and an international and multicultural organisation like GWP needs that uniqueness.

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Innovation and IWRM in Central American communities

Civil Engineer Axel Martinez, 26, from Nicaragua, spent five months as a Young Professional Development Initiative Intern under GWP’s Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP)He worked in GWP Central America’s regional office from August to December 2018. In this blog post, he shares reflections on his activities. 


Central America is a narrow strip that unites the two great Americas. Despite its small size, it is one of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet, dreamlike landscapes, happy people, diverse cultures, and abundant natural resources – especially water resources. However, it is one of the most vulnerable regions of the world to climate change. To address that challenge it is crucial to implement the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach. GWP Central America is working to promote IWRM and strengthen local capacities in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

I was fortunate to be selected as an intern for WACDEP’s Young Professional Development Initiative. As part of the internship I had the opportunity to travel through the region and work with experienced professionals, as well as young professionals, who like me, work every day for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6): Clean water and sanitation for all – with the important pledge of leaving no one behind.

I was tasked to document success stories in the implementation of IWRM in WACDEP pilot projects, and write case studies. The stories had to include the different points of view of the actors involved in the project, as well as their lessons learned – the knowledge they considered useful and valuable for successful interventions.

Central American extremes

The effects of climate change in Central America are reflected in more intense, recurrent, and prolonged hydro-meteorological phenomena that are manifested in two extremes of the same spectrum: floods and drought. Other variables such as rapid environmental degradation, lack of territorial ordering, institutional weaknesses, a polarized political scenario or lack of resilient infrastructure make this challenge more complex.

My investigations focused on the Central American “Dry Corridor” and Panama’s Arco Seco (dry region). The drought, boosted by “El Niño” – the Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon – put the region in jeopardy, causing severe damage to the agriculture, hydropower, and WASH sectors. The drought put the water and food security of a large part of the population at risk, especially of dispersed rural communities that, due to the nature of their condition, do not have the means to face extreme situations of this type. These were the communities that the pilot projects were for. While the common challenge faced by these communities was drought, innovation was the common response. GWP Central America articulated the efforts of its members and connected them to benefit the communities, by bringing dispersed sectors together.

In places where water services are not available, rainwater harvesting systems have been an effective alternative. In Honduras, a geomembrane storage technology was developed that reduces costs by 75% versus other methods such as plastic tanks. GWP Central America saw the opportunity to extend the technology to the rest of the countries in the region, and to implement IWRM and a gender approach.

In a youth-led project in El Salvador, women were trained to implement the systems, thus enhancing their role in community decision-making and demonstrating that equality in community water management is possible. This project included other actors: the national government, municipality, private sector and international cooperation. The young professional who led this project put this solution on the global map, winning funds at an international level. The project will go on to a second phase in El Salvador. And today this technology is offered in the regional market and the Honduran government is interested in adopting it into public policy in response to droughts.

In Panama, innovation was also key, but this time through clean and renewable energy for the extraction of water in a community of “Arco Seco”. They used a pump powered by wind energy. The academic sector led the project – the Technical University of Panama (UTP) coordinated, with the support of the central government, for the necessary studies and the community gave on-site support. It is noteworthy that the students were fully committed to the project and were able to put their skills into practice at the service of their local context in an investigation that continues to look for ways to improve future projects. The initiative is also an example of solutions focused on the Water-Energy-Food nexus. It was awarded the UTP “Cuásar Prize” of Social Innovation.

During the internship, Alex also supported GWP Central America in preparing for a regional SDG6 event, workshops on incorporating IWRM in risk management planning, and in integrated drought management, as well as youth events. Alex also highlights the work of volunteers of the Central American Youth Water Network for Water, and community-based water management organisations that work every day to conserve the world’s resources. A Spanish version of Alex’ blog is available on the GWP Central America website.

Posted in Climate change, Drought, Floods, Gender, GWP, IWRM, Partnership, SDGs, Youth | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Empowering communities on implementing IWRM in South Asia

By Paridhi Rustogi, a Young Professional Development Initiative Intern under Global Water Partnership’s flagship Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP). Paridhi was an intern with the GWP South Asia (GWP SAS) Regional Office from September 2017 to July 2018, working on developing knowledge products and capturing success stories from the region. These are her reflections.


Faced with a rapidly changing climate regime and severe environmental challenges, Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) is being championed by rural communities across South Asia. By consolidating resources – natural and economic – communities are able to fortify their water resilience and as a result augment their food and water security. These efforts are strengthened and led by the GWP SAS  Regional Office, which operates through six Country Water Partnerships based in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

As a Young Professional Development Initiative Intern under GWP’s WACDEP, I explored South Asia’s water resources and vulnerabilities in-depth and captured success stories through case studies that explored implementation of IWRM at the grassroots and watershed level.

Population growth and an unwavering dependence of agriculture on rainfall necessitates interventions that safeguard access to quality water resources even in periods of lean rainfall. Access to water in southern states of India – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu was accomplished by GWP India and the DHAN Foundation through reviving traditional water harvesting structures with the support of rural communities who contributed in cash and provision of labour services. In targeted communities, Water User Associations (WUA) and Farmer’s Federations – Vayalagams – have actively managed small-irrigation schemes; by providing them ownership, projects costs reduced and programme efficiency increased by fostering stakeholder engagement.

However, rising temperatures and torrential rainfall – manifestations of climate change – threaten to stall progress that is already delayed in most parts of South Asia, bringing adaptation activities to the forefront. In Pakistan’s desert areas of Tharparkar and Cholistan, a severe drought has hindered the livelihoods of local residents. GWP Pakistan’s solution was to provide aid, capacity development opportunities like soap manufacturing and garden kitchen concepts, and to reinvigorate local ponds and wells to support cattle rearing. This desert development approach relied on community-based water supply and management. Community members were handed over the management of village ponds, nurseries and wells.

Guided by national policies pertaining to climate change adaptation, GWP Pakistan’s interventions aimed to bridge the gap in the practical application of existing policies. Using both a top-down and bottom-up approach by enabling Training of Trainers (ToTs) at the village level, community participation was encouraged. IWRM was used as a guiding policy and local authorities were involved in decision-making and project implementation.

Reeling from the damage of a large landslide in central Sri Lanka, GWP Sri Lanka expanded its work in the Ma Oya basin by engaging local community members in rehabilitation work and awareness raising on climate change adaptation. The complexity of this disaster highlighted the need for speedily operationalizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in future activities and highlighted a decided shift from disaster relief to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Engaging with the community helped identify the most important form of DRR – a model that involves and is supported by local communities, particularly women.

One of the key activities was raising awareness among schoolchildren on water and sanitation and providing rainwater-harvesting tanks to store water to fulfil the daily needs of the school. By enabling regular access to water, female student enrolment improved, leading to a step in the right direction for active student engagement. Students can be the most important conduit of DRR information in their communities. Emphasis was laid on creating a connection between children and their environments.

While Pakistan’s deserts suffer from droughts and Sri Lanka’s Central province from poor water management, in Bhutan, despite plentiful water resources, uneven spatial and temporal distribution of water bodies makes them hard to access. This limits the growth opportunities of farmers in the Lingmutey-chu Basin who struggle to tap sufficient water for successful irrigation. Implemented by GWP Bhutan, the Bajo Siphon project best demonstrates a successful low-investment climate adaptation initiative.

Conflict management to pacify various stakeholders was a key part of cultivating access to siphon irrigation for farmer communities. By improving access of affected parties to irrigation water, mutually beneficial arrangements were set up. Public authority had a key role to play in this process of providing water supply and sanitation services while it was the community members had to maintain and reap its benefits. The success of the Bajo project has improved the livelihoods of local farmers through a simple application of technology. This project also demonstrated the successful collaborative efforts between the community, government, and non-governmental agencies.

GWP’s IWRM ToolBox identifies the various tools that can be used to carry out successful IWRM in the field and greatly influenced the thought process behind these interventions. By connecting communities to IWRM resources and capacity building, fruitful solutions to withstand climate change and rising environmental pressures can be sought. South Asia, home to a quarter of the world’s population provides a neutral platform for water and climate development initiatives. GWP South Asia’s work in the field has created significant lasting contributions in the lives of targeted communities.

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The SDG Knowledge Hub: Communications for SDG Action

GWP Central America (GWP CAM) recently worked with journalists to highlight the importance of communications around the landmark 2030 Development Agenda and, in particular, the Sustainable Development Goals. GWP CAM invited IISD’s SDG Knowledge Hub to submit an article to an issue of Entre Aguas that focused on this subject. It is written by Lauren Anderson, Writer/ Editor, SDG Knowledge Hub.


In 2015, the global policy community adopted the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as its roadmap for sustainable development. The Agenda is wide ranging, with 169 targets spanning interlinked objectives related to the social, economic, and environmental prosperity of the world’s people.

Since the Agenda’s inception, stakeholders have stressed that development gains can’t be made in isolation. There has been an emphasis on understanding how the SDGs interrelate, and how multiple development objectives can be achieved in tandem; as well as how to avoid a zero-sum game, where one Goal is achieved at the expense of another. For instance, the ‘Synthesis Reports’ on water and urbanization just released for the July 2018 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) highlight how achieving objectives on water and sanitation (SDG 6) and on sustainable cities (SDG 11), respectively, requires and spurs progress on multiple other SDGs. The reports offer the joint position of relevant UN agencies, which ask for their respective issues to be treated as cross-cutting.  This means they should be considered in every possible facet of policy making and implementation.

Yet, given the historically fragmented approach to sustainable development – by the UN with its separate agencies, by the Member States with their separate treaties, by national governments with their separate ministries, and by numerous other stakeholders – the need to now capitalize on linkages, to mainstream issues across and within sectors, and to take the broad-based approach the SDGs demand – presents an enormous challenge. Think of a government ministry on agriculture suddenly tasked with water conservation priorities. Or a UN agency addressing conflict incorporating biodiversity conservation into its agenda.

These are not small jumps to make, but make them we must if we are to achieve the SDGs as they are intended – all of them together, with no one left behind. To do this, we have to knock down the color-coded towers and rebuild rainbow style. We have to share, and we have to exchange. We have to communicate.

The SDG Knowledge Hub

This is where platforms like the SDG Knowledge Hub have an important role to play. The Hub, managed by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), reports across the continuum of SDG implementation. It is a virtual space that tracks and analyses progress on the SDGs, so stakeholders can gain an understanding of the linkages between the Goals as well as the policy and processes that influence their implementation. The Hub does this through weekly SDG Updates that feature news written by policy experts as well as commentary authored by experts external to our organization. We strive for fact-based reporting that keeps the pulse on the development agenda, its influencers and its implementors.

It is this well of knowledge, which spans the Goals and the globe, that supports implementation of the development agenda. Sound reporting – on who is doing what and why to achieve the SDGs – provides stakeholders the ability to traverse the Goals; to see what is working as well as what is needed. We’re knocking down the silos, and we are handing out bricks of knowledge in every color to our readers. By doing so, we are bringing the development community closer and encouraging collective responses to vast global challenges.

The SDG’s resounding and primary objective is “no one left behind.” In the context of what we do, this means assuring transparency. Achieving 17 Goals with 169 targets by 2030 is a mammoth undertaking, and no single entity has the capacity to follow everything that is unfolding. This is where transparency is compromised. For instance: governments may lack the resources to place delegates in every negotiating room of a Climate or Biodiversity Summit, but they need to know what is happening. Similarly, civil society organizations may not have the staff to patrol the numerous side-events launching research results and initiatives, but they need to be apprised of outcomes. And many others – with varying roles and responsibilities – need to know, so they are not “left behind.”

The SDG Knowledge Hub helps to address this challenge by lifting the veil on international policy fora and bringing our readers a synopsis of the initiatives, events and outcomes that are influencing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Our contribution to leaving no one behind is assuring that anyone, regardless of their location or status, can get the best information possible on the development issues that affect them.

We believe our approach is working, as stakeholders have told us that the SDG Knowledge Hub has inspired them to act. In one instance, our example led to the establishment of a regional knowledge hub for agriculture, food security and natural resources. Others have used our reporting to find new stakeholders working within their field of practice and taken a more interdisciplinary approach as a result of the Hub. This is evidence that communications beget action.

Communications also drive behavior change, and this is critical when it comes to progress on the Goals. Many of the SDGs, if not all of them, require each of us to think and act differently – to stop using single-use plastics, to stop buying illegal wildlife products, to stop wasting food, to seek peaceful resolutions to conflict, and so on and so forth. The success of the 2030 Agenda depends on all of us making better choices, and sound communications can arm people with the information to act and the will to change. Just look to initiatives like the #CleanSeas campaign to stop marine plastic pollution, the #WildforLife  campaign, which addresses consumer demand for ivory that fuels elephant poaching, and the Eat.Think.Save campaign, which tackles food waste. Each of these raises awareness and encourages people to make small changes that have big impacts.

In this regard, the SDG Knowledge Hub is one more foot soldier on the ground, helping to spread the word, through our two-million+ page views per year, our calendar of events, and through our social media engagement. While we will never know the true reach and impact of the Hub, we will keep working towards the knowledge provision, transparency and communications on which, we believe, achievement of the SDGs depends.

The SDG Knowledge Hub is indebted to our contributors, our readers, and our funders – the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). For more information please visit or follow us @IISD_SDGs.

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