"If climate change is a shark, water is its teeth” - SWA discusses water resilience at SWWW

8 Sep, 2017

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On Thursday, August 31st, the Sanitation and Water for All Executive Chair, Catarina de Albuquerque, was a panellist in a session entitled “Building a resilient future through water“.

Opening addresses were presented by H.E. Mr. János Áder, the President of Hungary, and H.E Mrs Charafat Afailal, Secretary of State in Charge of Water, Morocco. These two speakers spoke about the way in which water connects the SDG and the Paris agreement on climate change. In his lively presentation, the president of Hungary said: “if climate change is a shark, then water is its teeth”. The Moroccan Minister of the environment echoed this by saying “climate is water”.

The panel discussion was moderated by Antony Currie of Reuters Breakingnews. He spoke of his surprise at the discovery that an article on water for a financial paper attracted a great number of readers, and his realization that his readers want to know more about water; this is an issue for financiers who hate uncertainty. In the ensuing panel discussion, the SWA executive chair spoke about the need for robust planning to ensure resilience and protect the vulnerable. The moderator asked the panellists whether there could be anything better for a politician in office than a policy of conserving water, and the SWA Executive Chair agreed, saying “it’s about education – education for politicians regarding the importance of water”, as well as about the financial and political returns from investing in water. She proposed that we must reach out in particular to Ministers of Finance, and quoted the SWA Chair, who says that we must convince Ministers of Finance that attention to water will make them Prime Ministers one day.

Stephan Uhlenbrook, the Coordinator of the UN World Water Assessment Programme at UNESCO challenged stakeholders to look at wastewater differently, as “brown gold” and gave the Synthesis Report he is preparing for the 2018 meeting of the UN High Level Political Forum as an example of how to ensure better coordination among UN agencies working on water. Lars Ronnas, Sweden’s Ambassador for Climate, spoke of the Swedish experience in engaging everyone in setting water policy and underlined that the world does not need new institutions. The SWA Executive Chair called for multi stakeholder discussions in all countries, and stressed that what is needed is to make sure that at the global level we bring together those who are working in the sector at the national level, not “more meetings between diplomats at the UN”. She suggested that we need to make existing institutions work better (not create more).