06.09.2013 - ODG

Responsible Water Consumption is the solution to the Water Crisis - Swedish National Televisions debate forum

Article published in the Swedish National Televisions debate forum on 6 September 2013, on the occasion of World Water Week.

Today the World´s largest annual conference on global water policy issues is opened in Stockholm – the World Water Week. Sweden, UNESCO and the week’s organizer the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) join hands to highlight the need for increased and improved water cooperation globally.

Water is a basic human right and access to safe drinking water is a universal need. Today 780 million (ca 11%) people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 million to adequate sanitation. Rapid changes to economies, population, and climate, coupled with increasing competition between users for access to water, will put further strains on already stressed systems. This is due to the lack of investments in water supply and sanitation, the fragmentation of water governance, the increasing need of water to produce enough food and energy to a growing population and to satisfy the unsustainable life style, as well as the pressures from increasing urbanization as well as from the increasingly pollution  of water in industrial production. It is all the more clear

Across the world, we all depend on the same finite and vulnerable resources to sustain life and well-being on our planet – and we are squandering it them.

And things are set to get worse. By 2050 the world population is projected to pass 9 billion citizens. Securing water supply for all, we must seek new ways of using and protecting water. By cooperating around water resources, we must find new smart ways of efficiently using and  reusing our water resources but also depolluting and safely returning water to the environment

The dependency on water may also be a fundamental risk for the private sector. And investors are increasingly starting to look at water consumption in business' production and supply-chains and the risk there off. Businesses must be responsible for their own impacts on communities and ecosystems, paying for wasteful water use and undue pollution. At the same time, there are tremendous business opportunities. The investment needs to provide and maintain water services delivery in industrialized and developing countries are huge. 

The market potential for new products and services in more efficient water usages is estimated to 50-60USD billion annually the coming 20 years, Therefore, collaboration efforts are needed to strengthening cooperation between the private sector, civil society and governments. We need new innovative partnerships, to provide a semblance of coherent governance to this essential resource.

This calls for recognizing water both as a resource in itself and as a means to improve other global development challenges such as poverty reduction and health improvements.

We must raise the flag for water cooperation across the globe, and make sure it has a central place in the post-2015 development agenda.

This is why the 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation is so important. This year’s World Water Week seeks to inspire participants from different communities across the world to engage, discuss and develop solutions needed in response to the multi-sectoral challenges posed in achieving water cooperation as well as cooperate in achieving water related targets.

Water is a development imperative –it is also a peace imperative, especially in regions where this resource is scare and shared across borders. The dangers are there for tensions – but there are many examples of cooperation. In the Middle East, Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians cooperate over their transboundary waters. In South Asia, Pakistan and India have cooperated over the Indus River even during times of high tension. We are not saying it is easy, but we can build on these examples and bring transboundary cooperation to other regions.

Both Sweden and UNESCO have promoted water cooperation for a long time and have  supported   sustainable cooperation over transboundary waters in regions such as the Nile, the Zambezi, the Mekong and the Jordan Basin. Sweden is committed to supporting political cooperation over transboundary waters with a long-term and process oriented perspective. It is also of great importance to develop and promote increased understanding and research around water cooperation as well as promote capacity building globally on the issue. Along with UNESCO, the Swedish Government will continue to support, explore and form new partnerships with public and private stakeholders on developing innovative solutions for water related challenges.  

Our shared goal is clear -- through the promotion of water cooperation, we seek the definition of an aspirational sustainable development goal dedicated to water at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.

While few oppose cooperation in principle, we still do not see enough of it in the world nor in the water community. Cooperation in transboundary basins has the opportunity to unlock economic and social development potential as well as to increase global stability. We believe more attention and resources should be directed at this important area of work. This is our commitment.


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