05.04.2019 - Natural Sciences Sector

Public session on the WWDR 2019 at the European Parliament

©UNESCO

The Members of European Parliament (MEP) Water Group, UNESCO World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) and the WssTP co-organized a public session on the United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR) 2019 ‘Leaving No One Behind’ on the 3rd of April from 16h30 to 18h30 at the European Parliament in Brussels.

The WWDR2019 seeks to inform policy and decision-makers, inside and outside the water community, how improvements in water resources management and access to water supply and sanitation services are essential to overcoming poverty and addressing various other social and economic inequities. The WWDR is coordinated and published by UNESCO on behalf of UN-Water and benefits from the inputs from many UN agencies and other international organizations.

The main policy messages and findings from the report were presented during the public session, followed by a high-level panel discussion.

The public session was opened by Mr Paul Rübig, Member of the European Parliament within the Group of the European People's Party and by Louise Haxthausen, UNESCO Representative to European Institutions, on behalf of the UNESCO Director General.

After the opening remarks, Ms. Veronica Manfredi, Director for Quality of Life of the DG Environment of the European Commission, intervened to highlight the importance of having a coordinated framework for water management in Europe, with shared rules to ensure the good quality of our river flows. She also remarked the efforts of the European Union to give access to safe water and sanitation services in the Africa, Caribbean, Pacific and European neighborhood regions: “Water is on the top 5 global risks for our economies (as demonstrated by the World Economic Forum annually for the past 5 years) and the European Union has provided more than 2.5 billion euros to improve water and sanitation in 62 countries, over the last decade. Unfortunately, this is still not enough", she said.

Mr. Stefan Uhlenbrook, Coordinator of the UNESCO World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) provided insights from the latest WWDR report. He presented a broad overview of its findings such as that access to safe, affordable and reliable drinking water and sanitation services are basic human rights, as they are indispensable to sustaining healthy livelihoods and maintaining people’s dignity. Yet three out of ten people do not have access to safe drinking water, six out of ten do not have access to safely managed sanitation services, and one out of nine practice open defecation. “People are being left behind for reasons related to their gender, ethnicity, culture and/or socioeconomic status, among others. Exclusion, discrimination, entrenched power asymmetries, poverty and material inequalities are among the main obstacles to fulfilling the human rights to water and sanitation and achieving the water-related goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, he concluded.

During the panel discussion “Leaving No One Behind: sustainable water management and governance from a European perspective”, Ms. Marielle van der Zouwen, senior researcher at the KWR Water Cycle Research Institute stressed on how research and innovation can contribute to leave no one behind when it comes to water and sanitation, “assessments and data collection are important to identify gaps and take concrete actions”, she said in her speech. Mr. Hans Goossens, CEO of De Watergroep, talked about the role of the water utilities to grant access to water for all, offering a comfort tariff to all the population and identifying social tariffs for the poorest. He also highlighted the importance of the sensibilization campaigns to limit the use of our water resources and move toward the concept of reuse and recycle our wastewater.

The panel discussion foresaw also the contribution from Ms. Cynthia Blue-Laine, who discussed about the role of Water Lex in making concrete recommendations based on a well-researched picture of country legal and policy contexts, and from Ms. Raluca Angel, from the Permanent Representation of Romania to the EU, who highlighted the commitment of Romania recognizing water as a key priority during the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The public session was closed by Mr. Durk Kroll, Director of WssTP, who emphasized the productive collaboration with UNESCO WWAP that brought the Report’s themes to the attention of the European institutions, for the fourth year in a row. He looked forward to the future collaboration to sharing very relevant findings of the WWDR series with European policy and decision-makers.

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