Helene Komlos Grill, Senior Communications Officer at the Global Water Partnership, attended the Budapest Water Summit 8-11 October 2013. These are her reflections about the Summit.
“Close your eyes and listen”, my colleague Dr Danka Thalmeinerova, GWP Senior Knowledge Management Officer, said to me at the recently finished Budapest Water Summit, organised by the Hungarian government 8-11 October 2013. “If you listen carefully to the young people talking at the Youth Forum, you will hear that there is no difference to what the High-Level Panel is saying”. I was told that this is because young people will not be listened to if they do not speak the language of the already established water community representatives.
The Budapest Water Summit was a big success for the water community and the hosting country Hungary. A call for a dedicated sustainable goal for water was clearly communicated at the highest level in the Budapest Water Statement, endorsed by the participants. “Water holds the key for sustainable development, and therefore it needs a dedicated sustainable development goal”, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his inauguration speech.
A participatory approach with multi-stakeholder involvement, cooperation, improved governance structures, and capacity building of people and institutions was repeated as being the solution to moving to a more sustainable future where water is better managed and used.
However, many questions still remain. If the consensus is so big that an integrated approach to managing water resources is the best solution, how come that water is not valued higher? “Why is a country’s wealth expressed in gold, diamonds and oil and not by its water resources?” was a question asked at the event. The importance of water is not reflected in the investments made.
IWRM is about change. It is a process which aims at improving how we manage water, and in order to do so, we need to do things differently than we do today. IWRM provides the tools: it educates the people and institutions engaged, it invites stakeholders to discuss and have a say, it pushes us to talk and compromise, rather than to fight over the same resource. It provides a platform for cooperation.
If we say that we should do things differently, is it equal to inventing new terminology? Why not use what we already know and improve it? “The food-energy-water nexus and IWRM reinforce each other” said GWP Technical Committee Chair Dr Mohamed Ait-Kadi in a session at the Summit. If IWRM is the working model, new names for it only reinforce the fact that the cross-sectoral approach is what we need to use to make the necessary trade-offs to make change happen.
“The water crisis is mainly a governance crisis”, said GWP Chair Dr Ursula Schaefer-Preuss in a high-level panel. We therefore need to focus on educating the managers, the users, the decision and policy makers, to make sure they understand the true value of water, and how to manage it better.
And, we need to listen and be able to take on new ideas from the younger generation, even if they may not say what we have already heard before. The knowledge of what we know now has to be fed with new thinking so that the process of change does not stop. All the MDGs will not be achieved by 2015, and the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals therefore needs to take on from what has not been achieved, and make sure that the process of change continues.
“Do not only invest in hard infrastructure projects, but also in the soft management of water, such as capacity building and multi-stakeholder dialogues”, GWP Executive Secretary Dr Ania Grobicki said at the Civil Society Forum, focussing on the people using and managing water.
Allocation of finances is crucial. Without investments in people, education and knowledge, nothing will happen, and no new ideas will be taken on board. Talking is good, but acting now is essential. Money talks so I will finish by quoting a famous movie line, “Show me the money!” Invest in water now for a sustainable future.