Bright ideas

October 9, 2013

REC hosts Student Forum prior to Budapest Water Summit

BDStudFarm2The Budapest Water Summit (BWS), held on October 8-11, 2013, aims to contribute to the elaboration of the water-related Sustainable Development Goals and to provide concrete guidance on the most pressing water issues (drinking water, sanitation, wastewater treatment, integrated water management, international water cooperation, innovative water technologies, etc.) with a view to defining priorities for post-2015 global development policy. The event involves the participation of UN member states, competent UN agencies and bodies, as well as all concerned economic and social partners.

The BWS Student Forum, which took place on October 6 at the REC in Szentendre, Hungary, comprised a group of Japanese, Hungarian and international students who were invited to discuss the BWS Declaration. The learning institutions represented by forum participants were the University of Tokyo (Japan), National University of Public Service (Hungary), Eotvos Lorand University (Hungary) and Central European University. The BWS Student Forum was organised by the REC with the support of Sumitomo Chemical Co. (Japan) within the framework of the Tom Garvey Young Environmental Leaders Programme.

TGLogoThe forum began with an introduction to the REC's activities and a presentation about the UN process of creating and implementing its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This was followed by a summary of the BWS itself.

Afterwards, participants expressed their points of view and offered recommendations on five specific water policy areas to be considered and debated in the BWS. In addition, some students presented water management case studies from their countries. The forum was divided into sessions, according to the specific issues defined in the BWS Declaration.

Student contributions and recommendations

In Session 1, Striving for universal access to water and sanitation, participants recommended the following:

  • Give more relevance to those topics having to do with dignifying human life through universal access to water.
  • Water sources should be available and closer to communities, allowing people who currently fetch water and walk about 3.5 miles (particularly women and girls) to study.
  • Address the subjects of health and hygiene into educational curricula in developing countries to prevent water-related diseases, as well as sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Developed countries should assist developing countries to accomplish the SDGs.
  • In some developing countries (such as Kazakhstan) there is access to water but it does not meet quality standards, as facilities and infrastructure are not suitable to meet targets. The UN standards and definition should be less rigid, allowing governments to invest in the water sector and make progress towards the SDGs.
  • Paragraph 4 of the BWS Declaration should stress the aspect of responsible use of water in developed and developing countries.

In Session 2, Integrated water resources management for the 21st century, participants recommended the following:

  • Quantitative data are needed in order to have reliable climate models, permitting authorities to make the right decisions.
  • It is necessary to consider investigating extreme weather events.
  • It is important to share knowledge on water management and the development of SDGs, and to cooperate across fields of study fields that underpin the reliability of disclosed scientific results.
  • Preventing water pollution is a key aspect in taking corrective measures, and should be included in this thematic discussion.
  • Adaptation to changes in the hydrological system should be highlighted, as well as protecting forests.
  • Flexible solutions and optimisation should be emphasised, and long-term vision should not be focused on growth.
  • Long-term trends and data should be incorporated to assess current and future use of water; water policies should also reflect a long-term perspective.
  • Groundwater shortage should be considered as an overuse of resources.

BWStudFarm1In Session 3, Good water governance, participants recommended the following:

  • Emphasise speeding up the resolution of recent and on-going bilateral water conflicts.
  • People from different countries sharing river basins should take responsibility for their activities, no matter if they are upstream or downstream.
  • Incentives for upstream parties should be considered and developed in order to improve transboundary cooperation.
  • Shared river basin systems require good governance and well-coordinated institutions for effective water management.
  • Add to Paragraph 19 of the Declaration: "decentralisation, participation and cooperation and goal-based progress are needed for effective water governance."
  • Participatory management is a key component for successful inclusion of all stakeholders in the process of creating and implementing water policies.
  • Access to water should be regulated on the basis of a "river basin approach" and the principle of subsidiarity, which will allow affected communities to have a say.
  • Include the following topics in Paragraph 20: the principle of joint responsibility, shared institutions (from data collection to implementation), and catchment-based planning (internationally).
  • Government should put more effort into law enforcement and adopting realistic sanctions that positively influence the state of water resources.
  • Concerning international water governance, positive and negative experiences should be re-evaluated.
  • The development international river norms with quantitative and qualitative parameters should be considered, as well as a common records database and shared water data for management.
  • In order to incorporate stakeholders in transboundary water management, an opinion study on cross-border industrial water use and groundwater impacts should be established.

In session 4, Green economy for blue water, participants recommended the following:

  • In Paragraph 23 of the Declaration, the word acceptable could be subject misinterpretation; thus it is suggested to change it, possibly to efficiency or appropriate technology.
  • In the interest of using water to create "green economies" it is necessary to conduct feasibility studies to successfully integrate socio-cultural, economic and environmental dimension in the development of water policies.
  • The concept of appropriate technology (locally relevant technologies) is a very important factor in achieving good results.
  • Universities and research centres should work more closely with businesses that can fund innovative ideas.

In Session 5, Investing in and financing, participants recommended the following:

  • Communication between stakeholders should be enhanced, as currently there are conflicting needs and a lack of cooperation between players.
  • It is important to consider large infrastructure investments, all the heavy costs linked to construction and environmental sensitivity studies, as well as which stakeholders are willing to invest in these sectors.
  • Identify the most important tasks and the impacts of activities that favour creating private and public financing mechanisms to achieve water- and sanitation-related SDGs.
  • A combination of best practices, research and innovation should be promoted, and different disciplines should be involved to achieve integrated water management.
  • Intergenerational equity should be mentioned at the beginning of the Declaration, and not only in Paragraph 27.
  • The focus of the Declaration should not be on specific methods to finance water and sanitation, but rather on setting principles, allowing flexibility and encouraging implementation of the SDGs.
  • More attention needs to be focused on incentives to improve water resource management.
  • Efficiency and water quality are omitted from the topic of innovation, but these concepts should be included.
  • Debate should focus on how to establish a global system to calculate investment in water and sanitation to reach SDGs.