The summit, entitled ‘The Role of Water and Sanitation in the Global Sustainable Development Agenda’, will bring together world leaders and experts to discuss the future of water governance. The conference, the keyword of which is ‘inclusiveness’, aims to produce a landmark document, the Budapest Statement, which is to include recommendations and solutions for the major water and sanitation challenges faced by the world today. The summit will also set water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), contributing to the priority objective defined by the Rio+20 Conference of setting an development agenda for the post-2015 world.
On 8 October, the Budapest Water Summit will kick off. The four-day conference, entitled ‘The Role of Water and Sanitation in the Global Sustainable Development Agenda’, will be a milestone in the evolution of the recognition of the importance of water to sustainable development. Global political and institutional leaders and leading experts from a wide range of disciplines will come together in Hungary, the ‘Land of Thousand Waters’, to re-affirm the necessity of including universal access to clean water and sanitation as essential goals of the global agenda for development.
Through a series of multi-disciplinary forums and panel discussions and roundtables, the summit is to substantially contribute to the debate surrounding the future of water management, with the view of producing a final document, the ‘Budapest Statement on Water and Sanitation’, containing concrete and specific policy recommendations to achieve water-related sustainable development goals.
The statement, meant to guide policy-makers towards including water-specific elements in their efforts to build a world viable for future generations, and the summit as a whole, are part of a wider recognition that sustainable development cannot occur without taking into account the need for a better management of water resources.
The conference will concentrate on a number of key themes central to face the challenges presented by the ebbing supply of water, with discussions centering around the following issues: the need to ensure universal access to water and sanitation; the adoption of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) model in water governance; improved institutional arrangements with greater stakeholder participation, capacity development and monitoring; recent developments in the research for new water technologies; and investment in and financing of ‘philanthropic’ business models that strive for poverty eradication and the sustainable development of water resources.
Thus, the summit promises to take a truly innovative approach: it proposes to integrate different disciplines into the discussion and use the input from each one to get to a comprehensive solution that incorporates all facets of the issues.
This inter-disciplinary approach is reflected in the structure of the summit. Alongside the plenary sessions, so-called ‘stakeholder meetings’ will take place. These are meant to discuss the same questions addressed in the panel debates, but from four different perspectives (that of the Youth, Civil Society, Business, and Science stakeholders). These forums are expected to shape the final draft of the Budapest Statement through written contributions, based on the debates that will have taken place throughout the conference.
The shape the summit organizers settled on was chosen to demonstrate that the interests of stakeholders from these frames of reference are not at odds, on the contrary: they can each contribute in their own way to the goals defined by the summit, and are all essential elements to achieving a sustainable world.
The summit is one of the major events of the 2013 UN International Year of Water Cooperation. 2013 has been declared the ‘International Year of Water Cooperation’ by the UN General Assembly. The goals of the series of events, programmes, projects and activities organised throughout the year are to raise awareness of the crisis water supplies are currently facing and of the challenges of building effective water governance. The ‘International Year of Water Cooperation’, part of a wider effort to achieve the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), also aims at bolstering and promoting water cooperation agreements, in the hopes of enhancing access to water supplies and services.
‘Inclusiveness’ is clearly a keyword of the summit. By implicating such a wide range of actors from varied backgrounds, the summit seeks to build collaborations that cut across traditional discipline-driven boundaries and help participants expand their horizons, in the hopes of creating networks to develop successful water projects.
More importantly, this structure gives low-level actors from the scientific and the civil society community the opportunity to make an active contribution to global policy: this shift in decision-making from a top-down process to a more grassroots one responds to the criticisms that have plagued the mechanisms of decision-making in international institutions.
High-level political leaders will deliver keynote speeches addressing the importance of water for the sustainable long-term development, including Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN; Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union; Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General of the OSCE; and ministers from developing countries around the world. the appearance of these high-profile public figures at the summit shows that issues related to water, long overlooked or dismissed, are gaining greater recognition in the public eye and are climbing the ladder of the global policy agenda.
The Budapest Water Summit has the potential to inspire widespread and much needed change in governance and the evolution in perceptions of the role of water in sustainable development.
The summit has been given the responsibility of defining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to water. SDGs are a series of objectives to be achieved for the post-2015 world, and are to replace the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). Under the slogan ‘The Future We Want’, SDGs, when defined,will be targets that every country will strive to hit by a certain date. Similarly to the MDGs, the SDGs are a component of the worldwide drive to build a world in which every individual has achieved a landmark standard of living. The process of defining SDGs was started during the 2012 Rio+20 Conference, which set the process as a priority for the UN policy agenda.
The final documents of the Rio+20 Conference had already acknowledged the importance of water for sustainable development. Participants of the Budapest Water Summit, by being asked to design water-related SDGs, are given the opportunity the shape the agenda that will guide policy for years to come and make water cooperation and universal access to water and sanitation more of a reality, and less of an aspiration.
Budapest Water Summit Website: http://www.budapestwatersummit.hu/budapest-water-summit/news/
Draft of the Budapest Statement: http://www.budapestwatersummit.hu/data/images/Budapest_Water_Summit_Statement___Summit_Draft_24_September.pdf
Detailed Programme of the Budapest Water Summit: http://www.budapestwatersummit.hu/data/images/outline_of_the_BWS_programmes_09_24.pdf
More on the Sustainable Development Goals: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?menu=1300
More on the 2013 UN Year of International Water Cooperation: http://www.unwater.org/water-cooperation-2013/en/