News / 2 April 2013

World Water Day 2013: cooperation is more important than ever

Competition over water access is growing. With water as the key to sustainable development, it is very important that in de coming months clear agreements are made about world wide water cooperation. On World Water Day, held on March 22nd in The Hague, important decisions were made and goals were set.


Earlier this year Tobias Schmitz attended a UN meeting in Geneva, which discussed water in the post-2015 development agenda when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) end. Last month, Tobias was present in The Hague at World Water Day, where the debate continued and where important leaders expressed their support for the ideas that have been proposed so far. The UN consultation proces will continue until September, but the decisions made on Friday will very probably not be reversed.


Cooperation after the MDGs

“It’s a special year. We are talking about what comes after the MDGs, but it’s also a  time in which fierce debates are raging in The Netherlands about the role of development aid. We are living in a time of crises –financial and environmental - and the competition over water access is growing, increasing risks of conflicts”, Tobias explains. “Cooperation is now more important than ever!” The UN agrees on this, choosing ‘Water cooperation: a foundation for peace and sustainable development’ as the theme for this year’s World Water Day.


The invitation to participate in the World Water Day panel came from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). On the 6th World Water Forum in 2012 Both ENDS, together with 86 other NGOs formed a global alliance, the ‘Butterfly Effect’. The goal of this alliance is to put pressure on international and governmental agencies for genuine participation of local actors in the negotiations about water management. For Tobias Schmitz, being a member of the management group of the Butterfly Effect alliance, World Water Day 2013 was an important opportunity to advocate for this.


“It’s great news that the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and waste water were included in the negotiations that we saw in the last months. Finally, measurable targets have been set in the MDGs regarding sustainability and sustainable development. It was the first time that these issues were put on the international agenda, and I consider it very unlikely that these targets will be thrown overboard in the coming months. This is what the Netherlands and Switserland strongly advocated for,” says Tobias. “During the consultation proces we did our best to convince donor organizations to involve the local population in decision making processes,  and we succeeded.”


Role of the local population

“Also on Friday I advocated for a more inclusive role of the local population. I sat on a panel during a thematic sessions about water as a key to poverty reduction, social equity and gender equality.” The other thematic sessions were about the economic benefits of water cooperation, conservation of water resources and environmental protection through cooperation to achieve peace.   


In recent months, many different dialogues have taken place to send out a message to the UN. Last Thursday a dialogue took place in The Hague: ‘Wings for Water’, in which leaders from different background took part: social and political leaders, businessmen and clerics, young professionals and experts. The input came from the results of the UN consultation and from an online debate that was held earlier on the  platform of The Broker.


On Friday a High Level Forum  was organised with representatives of the UN and other organizations. The goal of this forum was to give water cooperation a higher place not only on the agenda of policy makers and but also of the wider public. This was done by pointing out a positive link between improved water cooperation and a water-secure world.

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