Last week, the third Budapest Water Summit (BWS2019), took place in Budapest, Hungary, from 15-17 October 2019, under the theme ‘Preventing Water Crises.’ Focusing on key water issues, such as water security, and promoting solutions, it served as a platform for political decision-makers, private sector representatives and the academic community in formulating messages and guidelines for the international community.
President of Soroptimist International (SI) and Women for Water Partnership (WfWP) Mariet Verhoef-Cohen spoke on a panel at a side event on the first day of BWS2019 with the title ‘Realising the agenda for water action – transforming water policy into action on the ground’.
The side event, organised by Lesha Witmer – WfWP steering committee member and SI President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen began with an interactive session introducing the work of both organisations, SI and WfWP, and framing concerns relevant to policy action at grassroots level.
Mariet introduced the theme of the side event and explored the lack of participation of women at ground level – and how this is still not happening across the board. She discussed the difference between what is taking place in cities and how this is not mirrored in more rural locations. She called for national and basin orientated plans that can translate global policies into concrete actions.
Mariet highlighted a missing link between policy makers and people on the ground, questioning how big conceptual solutions may translate into appropriate local actions. Are those who need to know, in the know – are policies and guidelines already in place understood? She looked at investment and resources and questioned how funds are disseminated in such a way that people are able to act.
To the audience, Lesha asked how organisations or countries were embracing gender strategy, particularly in relation to water; questioning how these strategies were being implemented. This initiated an interesting discussion.
SI and WfWP President Mariet explained that both organisations have found that often, there is no money for raising awareness, for capacity building, or for participation. There is a lack of operational knowledge and experience, or the capacity to implement policies on the ground; showing a demand for increased vocational training, particularly for women and girls.
Both Mariet and Lesha expressed the willingness of SI and WfWP to work with other organisations represented at the event, to support each other in finding and implementing more gender-balanced solutions.
With more than 2400 registered participants representing 118 countries in attendance at the Budapest Summit Mariet described it as “an inspiring and significant” event, however, she noted that “men dominated the majority of the panels” signifying a lack of equality in representation and adding that “we need more women’s participation, there are expert women available and they need to be included.”
A key question addressed by BWS2019 in the final session was “Is Our Institutional Architecture Capable of Supporting Transformation?” How do we move forward? Can we transform the world into the future we want and need with the current institutional Architecture? Here facilitator Maggie White, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), invited panelists to reflect on what is needed to move from “a paradigm shift to an institutional shift” in IWRM.
During the High-Level Panel Discussion, Lesha Witmer, WfWP, recalled that SDG 6 was one of four goals identified by the UN General Assembly as lacking a dedicated “institutional home,” meaning there is no dedicated intergovernmental negotiating mechanism or science-policy interface for water. Lesha urged for a new cooperation mechanism to address the entire cycle of water management, and to deal with critical issues such as how to value water, including virtual water.
András Szöllősi-Nagy, Chair of the BWS2019 International Programme and Drafting Committee, presented the outcome of the Summit, the Budapest Appeal, describing a set of recommendations on water security. He noted the aim is to recognize the value of water in the fullest sense, to create a water-secure future, and to build on opportunities presented by technologies. He said the aim in its drafting was to bring together the political and technical community to raise the profile of water with a view to major international events and increasing political will.
He said much of the world is still moving along an unstainable trajectory and that we all have to realise that there are not years or months to come up with solutions, but rather days or hours only.
Closing remarks can be viewed HERE
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Lead image (from left to right): András Szöllösi-Nagy, Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, Maggie White, Lesha Witmer