Calling all stakeholders

October 14, 2013

REC Executive Director concludes Budapest Water Summit with recap of Civil Society Forum recommendations

POINTING TO THE FUTURE: REC Executive Director Marta Szigeti Bonifert addresses BWS participants. Photo: REC archive

At the close of the Budapest Water Summit (BWS), held on Oct. 8-11, 2013, REC Executive Director Marta Szigeti Bonifert addressed the chairmen, high-level representatives and event participants. The purpose of the address was to summarise the results of debate around five water-related topics within the REC-organised Civil Society Forum (CSF). The CSF brought together speakers and contributors from Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe, as well as representatives of governments, academia and the business sector.

"The Forum emphasised that the availability of water is a tipping factor for both ecosystem health and human dignity and peace," said Szigeti Bonifert. "Thus water deserves its own ambitious Sustainable Development Goal [SDG], and should be taken into account, where appropriate, when establishing targets related to health, food and energy."

The Executive Director then listed the results that SDGs on water are expected to deliver, namely: access to water and sanitation for all on a human-rights-, gender-sensitive basis; sustainable, catchment-based, participatory management of all freshwater resource systems, and at both national and transboundary level; protection of human health and the environment from pollutants; efficient water use with multiple recycling, and wastes turned into resources in both urban and rural settings; and, social resilience through innovative, soft and resilient water infrastructure and appropriate social programmes.

Szigeti Bonifert then relayed a few key messages from the CSF. What follows here is the full set of recommendations, arranged by topic. (Click here to view a YouTube video of the address.)

Topic 5.1: Universal and sustainable access to safe water and sanitation

  • National constitutions should recognise the human right to water, shelter and access to basic infrastructure to safeguard life in dignity.
  • The SDGs should address all issues pertaining to access to water and sanitation, such as affordability, quality, cultural and gender adequacy, etc.
  • The special considerations of indigenous people must be properly taken into account.
  • Rural and slum areas should be areas of special focus, as well as schools and educational institutions for WASH policies.
  • Universal access to water supply and sanitation by 2025 requires regional commitments and leadership, a proper legal framework, and capacity-building systems.

Topic 5.2: Integrating technical, environmental, social and political aspects into water, including wastewater management

  • All water resources need to be managed in an integrated way concerning economic and health needs alongside the needs of the environment.
  • With regard to transboundary basins, dialogue and cooperation between riparian countries is now of strategic significance.
  • Prevent and limit the impact of water-related crises by taking a precautionary approach, and by anticipating risks and consequences.
  • 'Participatory Planning' is a process that includes reconciliation, agreement between and pledges from every interested and potentially affected entity, and should precede permitting and implementation.
  • Research and implementation of projects of sustainable management and utilisation of rain as a water resource should be included in national development plans.
  • The establishment of appropriate basin organisations between riparian countries should be considered where large transboundary rivers and aquifers are concerned.
  • IWRM should involve joint work between engineers and environmentalists to solve potential conflicts between sustainability and demands on service quality and quantity.
  • The quality and quantity of agro-systems can and should be secured without destroying ecosystems.
  • Legal instruments at local and national level are needed to ensure against the sealing of surfaces.
  • The public should be made familiar with the location and property of their freshwater sources - for example, through public education.

Topic 5.3: Good and efficient water governance

  • The ultimate aim of water governance is to protect and restore good ecological status of all water-providing systems.
  • We need powerful public authorities with reinforced capacity to provide good water resources managements, to control PPP arrangements and tax policy, and to enforce regulations.
  • Universal change in behaviour and attitudes at all levels is the key to supporting good governance.
  • Agents of communication (including youth and women) can use the media to produce encouraging, convincing and hard-hitting messages.
  • Private-sector accountability must be strict, and this involves clear rules, implementation of the rules, and transparency.
  • Tax dodging, avoidance and arbitrage must be ended in order to secure public resources to implement needed changes.
  • New institutions, such as independent monitoring and watchdog agencies at local, national and global level, could be important promoters of progress towards SDGs.
  • Measuring and sharing data and information is necessary for monitoring purposes and providing universal access to water information systems.
  • Water should receive adequate treatment before being returned to the environment.
  • Women, being the majority users and managers of water, should also be involved in the governance of water.
  • Precaution and prevention must prevail over end-of-pipe solutions.
  • Transparent and participatory decision-making processes and responsible stakeholder participation must go hand in hand;
  • Enforce transboundary environmental requirements for all sectors.
  • Concerted and coordinated actions are needed from all spheres of government in order to avoid potential water-sector failures.
  • Training and capacity-building needs must be assessed and met via formal and informal programmes (WASH, including MHM, should be a part of educational curricula).
  • Vocational training for skilled workers in WMA, as well as training for journalists and the media in WMA questions is of special urgency.
  • Provide teaching aids for horizontal education in water issues.
  • Governments should act as stewards of water management.
  • Governments must have the political will to make necessary changes to regulations and institutions, and existing laws should be enforced.

Topic 5.4: Using water to create and support green economies

  • While there is great need to invest in advanced technology, locally appropriate technologies are needed for efficiency, recycling and waste utilisation.
  • Encourage regional and cross-regional knowledge and technology hubs for the development and dissemination of sanitation and water treatment-related technologies, and to exchange experiences between developed and developing countries.
  • Strengthen commitments to the adoption of centralised and decentralised management systems in urban and rural settlements, respectively.
  • The transition to a green economy involves skilling labour, inclusive education, and defining the role of formal and informal training for new forms of green economy.
  • Precaution should be exercised when using any technology to protect water, especially groundwater.
  • Adequate information must be provided on resource needs of consumption and production, such as green labelling and water footprint indicators.
  • A 'green economy' should involve a cross-sectoral approach.
  • Accurate accounting is needed to measure the impact of resource extraction (e.g. efficiency, productivity, scale).
  • The wording of the Rio document should be applied with regard to the issues of green economy and poverty eradication.
  • Any move to establish accounting for ecosystem services must guard against financial speculation.

Topic 5.5: Funding mechanisms for water management

  • Ensure universal access to clean drinking water at a fair and affordable price.
  • The ultimate financial obligations and responsibilities to provide for adequate water and sanitation lie at state level.
  • Significant, innovative and locally appropriate investments in the water sector are needed to avoid potential crises.
  • Design and prioritise cost-effective investments in freshwater ecosystems.
  • Lasting funding is vital.
  • Justifications for water pricing and water-related tax rates should be elaborated.
  • Enable a diverse range of financing modalities based on multi-stakeholder collaboration and by using outcome- and income-based approaches.
  • Introduce economic, social and environmental accounting methods.
  • Affordability is context-driven, and its criteria should be region-specific.
  • Support is needed for data-collection systems to achieve results-based monitoring and assessment of investment needs.

"Clean water cannot be subject to compromises," Szigeti Bonifert concluded her address. "The future of water resources hangs in the balance. Possible scenarios depend on the adequacy of local, national and international policies and actions, but involving all stakeholders. We believe that by working together we can really give the future a chance!"