Consolidating the WGSIni and looking ahead

Water, Growth and Stability Initiative (WGSIni) gains traction as stakeholders gather in Tunisia and new features are introduced.

July 20, 2016 | By Valerio Ponzo

Over 170 participants, representing central and local governments, academia, CSOs and gender-focused organisations across the MENA region, met on July 11–14, 2016, in Hammamet, Tunisia, for the second Water, Growth and Stability conference, “Water, Growth and Stability in MENA”.

Among the topics addressed by the conference were good and inclusive water governance, water security at local level, and regional cooperation for the sustainable use of available water resources and a robust approach to climate change adaptation.

H.E. Saad Seddik, minister for Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries of Tunisia, set the event in motion and was subsequently joined on the opening High-Level Panel by H.E. Zoltan Szentgyorgyi, ambassador of Hungary to Tunisia, high-level officials from the national authorities of Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia, and Dr. Radoje Lausevic, deputy executive director of the REC and WATER SUM project director. All the panellists underlined how instrumental a broader framework such as the WGSIni is in supporting countries and stakeholders to meet and discuss opportunities and build cross-cutting skills and capacities in the water sector.

The High-Level Panel set the stage for the conference's working sessions, during which three WGSIni forums were officially launched: the Municipality Forum, Civil Society Forum, and the Women’s Forum. Each forum explored several key needs and priorities from the standpoint of its members before presenting the results of the discussions to the final plenary session on July 13. The initial contributions of the forums to the WGSIni are summarised below.

The Municipality Forum fostered the exchange of knowledge among municipalities, focusing on local water security action planning (LWSAP), a tool that enables local communities' active participation in water management and governance, and in Sustainable Development Goal 6 (on water) and other water-related SDGs.

The Civil Society Forum placed an accent on the role of citizens in water governance and water security, and on how awareness-raising activities that involve multiple water actors can contribute to addressing needs and priorities through a harmonised approach.

The Women's Forum initiated a dialogue on the role of women in water resources management and water governance, water security, sanitation, agriculture and adaptation to climate change, and on facilitating women's empowerment and engagement in decision making and strategic planning for sustainable and efficient water management.

Over the three days, the eight working teams (WTs), made up of well-established local water security action planning teams from Jordan and Tunisia, worked with the project team and learnt how to identify, prioritise, implement, monitor and evaluate the actions that will be an integral part of the local water security action plans currently under development. The action plans will be developed based on an original methodology comprising seven interrelated activities, some supported by a separate tailored methodology, which cover stakeholder analysis, public opinion assessment, local water security assessment, and problem analysis and prioritisation.
In between the hands-on working sessions, the Water, Growth and Stability Network (WGSN) was launched. The WGSN will support the framework of the WGSIni by enabling interaction among WGSIni members, in particular water experts and practitioners. The project team also presented public campaigns for awareness-raising on water, growth and stability during a get-together evening reception, spiced up by traditional Tunisian music. The first public campaign will be a drawing competition on the relationship between water and people, which will be officially launched during World Water Week in Stockholm in August 2016.

On the last day of the conference, a study visit was organised to the ancient water engineering marvel, the Temple of Water in Zaghouan. From there, participants returned to Tunis following a path marked by the old aqueduct system, visiting other waterworks in order to gain an insight into both ancient and contemporary water management techniques and solutions.

The second WGS conference was organised by the REC with the support of the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries and the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation.

The Water, Growth and Stability Initiative (#WGSIni) is a framework for the creation of a knowledge-based platform; a dynamic network of water experts; and an e-learning tool for capacity building and the dissemination of lessons learned. The WGSIni was launched in April 2016 as an output of the multi-stakeholder conference “Water, Growth and Stability: Transboundary Water Cooperation for Sustainable Growth and Stability in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)", organised in the framework of the project Sustainable Use of Transboundary Water Resources and Water Security Management in the MENA Region (WATER SUM).