UN reiterates centrality of water to post-2015 agenda

During its 6th Session, which took place last week at the UN headquarters in New York, the  Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals reaffirmed the worldwide necessity and commitment to define a global goal on water.

Amidst talk of harnessing a global partnership to achieve a sustainable future and securing the means to implement the newly-defined Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the 6th Session of the Open Working Group on SDGs (OWG-SDG) last week, one side event stood out: entitled ‘Towards a global goal on water: targets, indicators and data requirements’, it emphasized the role water plays in development and identified the need for a water-related SDG. The importance of water was also referred to in the concluding remarks of the session and in a number of technical briefs.

Although on the sidelines of the work by the Open Working Group, the side event on water was no less important. It has long been acknowledged that water is fundamental to development and that the looming water crisis, which threatens to deprive close to 3 billion of access to clean water and sanitation, according to the World Health Organization, may have consequential effects on the abilities of low-income countries to achieve development objectives. At the Budapest Water Summit earlier in the year, Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the UN, had acknowledged that “water holds the key to development” and that, as such, advocacy for a dedicated water goal was crucial.

The report submitted by members of OWG-SDG participating in the UN-Water-sponsored event  underscored the importance of ensuring water security in water-scarce countries and of the need to ensure universal access to water to improve the standard of living of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Proposals for a water-specific SDG were presented during the event and, although a final version has not as of yet been agreed to, substantial progress was made on the matter. The finalized list of SDGs, which must be presented to and approved by the UN General Assembly, will be decided by the OWG-SDG.

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 commit 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 definition of SDGs, which has been identified as an urgent priority for the international community, will set a framework for the next 15 years from 2015-2030 in moving towards a more just, fair and sustainable world.

The proposed water-specific SDG identifies lessons learned from both the successes and failures of the MDGs. Among the items to be included in a dedicated global water-related objective are: guarantee universal access to clean water and sanitation; putting an end to open-air latrines; emphasizing the water-food nexus and highlighting the link between water and development; including provisions on climate change adaptation; and having clear, realistic, achievable and technical goals.

No water security without cooperation

The UN-Water side event also acknowledged the importance of international water cooperation in achieving these aims, and that water security involved state collaboration over shared water resources and watercourses.

This has also been the position of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). At a recent workshop dedicated to defining a sustainable development goal relating to water, Sven Alkalaj, UNECE executive secretary, declared the benefit of having an SDG focused on water, one that “involves simple, clear targets [...] which address all issues related to water scarcity and quality”.

But, Mr. Alkalaj continued, “it will not be possible to reach an SDG on water without [...] cooperative management of transboudary waters”. He went on to urge states to accede to global treaties regulating the use of shared watercourses, such as the UNECE Water Convention (Helsinki Convention) and the UN Watercourses Convention (New York Convention), share information and cooperate closely over the management of international water sources

The statement by the head of the UNECE is significant because it links international cooperation over watercourses and securing universal access to water. y doing so, it acknowledges the importance of cooperation between states in achieving human rights, and that policies should not be conducted domestically and in isolation, but through collaboration and exchange with other states and relevant actors.

The other implication of Mr. Alkalaj’s remarks is that treaties relating to the management of international watercourses not only changes the relations between states regarding shares watercourses , but can have wider consequences that can affect the well-being of their populations.

 

Application for the 2014 GWP- University of Dundee IWL scholarship programme open

Scholarships will be given to thirty participants to participate in the International Water Law module at the University of Dundee, UK, which will take place June 9-20, 2014.

Applications are now being accepted for the scholarship programme run jointly by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the University of Dundee, UK, as part of the continuing efforts by GWP to support its partners.

Recipients of the scholarship will take part in the module in International Water Law (IWL) taking place at the University of Dundee from June 9-20, 2014.. The scholarship covers all tuition costs for the module.

The module, a two-week course taking place on the campus of the University of Dundee, aims to teach individuals interested in water issues about the main issues surrounding international water law. In particular, the module is intended for professionals working in the environmental or energy sectors and wishing to learn more about transboundary watercourses and aquifers and the international legal framework surrounding them, as well as academics from social and environmental sciences doing research on transboundary water issues.

The first week of the module comprises lectures, debates and group exercises. Conceived as a participatory and interactive, it is designed to teach participants as much as possible about the fundamentals of IWL and raise questions about its most topical issues and controversies. The group exercises, which take place at the end of each day, are meant to enhance the participants’ understanding of the notions and issues discussed and foucs on their capacity to reason and respond to challenges they are faced with.

The second week, which is optional, takes a more hands-on approach. During a week-long group exercise, participants will be assessed on their ability to conduct legal research and present legal arguments. The second week is built to consolidate their knowledge about what they learned during the first week’s lectures. During the group exercise, participants will be given the opportunity to show their understanding of the fundamental rules of IWL and of the legal issues related to international watercourses; their ability to identigy and analyze relevant legal sources abd provide legal opinions. At the end of the second week, students will be asked to make a short presentation and write a position paper based on the work they will have provided throughout the week.

Following the module, participants will, if they so wish, have the possibility of writing a research paper on the topic of their choice (albeit one related to topics discussed in class).

Participants who successfully complete the module assessments will receive a transcript from the University of Dundee which entitles the recipient to claim 20 SCQF (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework) credits, the equivalent of 10 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits. A certificate of attendance ratified by both GWP and the University of Dundee will also be given.
The scholarship will not cover living expenses (estimated at £650) and travel expenses to and from Dundee, and participants must secure funding through other means.

Potential applicants must fulfill the following requirements:

- Applicants must be recommended by a GWP Partner organization to receive a scholarship

- Participants are required to be proficient in English, either as native speakers, or to an IELTS score of 6.5

- Applicants must possess a university degree in Hydrology, Environmental Science, Law, Agriculture, or a related field

To apply, candidates are asked to:

- download the application form at the following address:  www.gwp.org/GWP-Dundee-2014

- Send the following documents (in either Word or PDF format) by e-mail to Mr. Keng James Gunya (Kenge.james.gunya@gwp.org):

* Transcript of university courses with grades, and copy of diploma

* Updated CV

* Contact information of two references

* Letter of motivation

* One letter of recommendation from a GWP partner institution

Applications will be accepted from November 20, 2013 to February 15, 2014.Notifications to successful candidates will be given in early March, 2014.

 

For more information about the scholarship and the International Water Law module, please visit: www.gwp.org/GWP-Dundee-2014

The scholarship programme brochure and additional information can also be found here: http://www.gwp.org/Global/Events/GWP-Dundee%202014/GWP-Dundee%20Scholarship%20Annoucement%202014.pdf

 

Please send all application documents by e-mail to Mr. Keng James Gunya: Kenge.james.gunya@gwp.org

For more information about the International Water Law module, please contact Mr. Hugh Gunn at the following address: H.J.B.Gunn@dundee.ac.uk

 

 

‘Red-Sea-to-Dead-Sea’ agreement bolsters water cooperation in the Middle East

Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) sign a water pact meant to combat the contraction of the Red Sea and provide much-needed drinking water to the region.

The water crisis facing the Middle East is no secret. Analysts believe that the current shortage of freshwater faced by the region may soon escalate into an international crisis, with some ominously predicting that the next war in the Middle East will be over water. A recent report published jointly by American intelligence warned that the Middle East, “the most water impoverished region of the world”, will soon by susceptible to water wars.

Red Sea to Dead Sea

Source: Daily Telegraph

But nowhere in the region is this crisis as acutely felt as it is in the Dead Sea and the Jordan river. The water level in the Dead Sea has dropped by more than one meter, or three feet, each year in the past decades. The main reason behind the withdrawal of the Dead Sea has been the overuse of the waters of the Jordan river for irrigation and domestic purposes. As a result, the flow of the river, which on some sections forms the border between Israel and Jordan and Israel and the West Bank, which is claimed by Palestinian residents as part of a future Palestinian state, dropped from 1.3 billion cubic metres per year to just 20 to 30 million cubic metres per year.

According to Friends of the Earth Middle East, an environmental advocacy group, the diversion of the Jordan river by Syria, Jordan and Israel is dangerously reducing the water flow of the river below a threshold point, and may have serious consequences on water supply and political stability in the region.

On December 9, the governments of Jordan and Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed a deal in an effort to diffuse a potentially disastrous situation. The deal was described as the result of “strategic cooperation of diplomatic significance between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority” by Silvan Shalom, the Israeli energy and regional development minister.

Under the agreement, 22,000 gallons of water will be pumped northwards annually from a desalination plant to be built at the Gulf of Aqaba in Jordan, near the mouth to the Red Sea. Some of the water will be distributed by a 180 km pipeline to Israel, Jordan and the occupied West Bank, while four pipes will pump the rest to the Dead Sea.

The agreement was signed despite signs that negotiations for a wider peace deal between the PA and Israel are stalling, signaling that states are recognizing the importance of cooperation over freshwater issues and raising the hopes that more cooperation agreements may be signed in the region in the coming years. The signing of the ‘Red-Sea-to-Dead-Sea’ water pact would then be a watershed moment and could potentially be the first step towards broad water cooperation in the Middle East.

A number of reasons lie behind the current Middle East water crisis, including high population growth (aggravated by the recent Syria crisis), rapid depletion of water supply, climate change, and poor water management, according to the report by US intelligence agencies, leading some analysts to worry that the region’s water stress will intensify in the next few decades and create a situation that could lead to the outbreak of war.

The deal has been criticized by environmental groups, which have opposed it on the grounds that water from the Red Sea would upset the ecosystem of the Dead Sea through the introduction of alien plant species and that the proposed amount of water pumped will fail to replenish the Dead Sea, returning only 10 percent  of the amount of water lost through diversion and evaporation, according to Eli Raz, a geologist and biologist at Israel’s Dead Sea and Arava Science Center.

UNESCO Publishes New Report on Water Security and Cooperation

‘Free Flow: Reaching Water Security Through Cooperation’, published jointly by UNESCO and Tudor Rose, explores the complexity, and urgency, of a finding a sustainable solution to the issue of water scarcity and emphasizes the importance of cooperation at the grassroots, policy, and science levels. The report brings together a broad range of water professionals and stakeholders to share their knowledge and experiences and reflects the progress and challenges encountered in the fields of water management and cooperation around the world.

From Unesco.org:

Today more than ever, cooperation is needed to meet the water-related needs of a growing population for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses. Whether and how users cooperate in the protection and use of these water resources has a profound impact on society, the economy, the environment and on the water resources themselves. While achieving water security for all demands cooperation from every sector of society, water cooperation demands changes of attitude —a transformation in the way we use water and view our interests, and an evolution in the way we govern the management of this essential resource. This can only be nurtured through dialogue and mutual understanding, in order to create a solid basis of trust.

Examples of cooperation abound throughout the world, some spanning generations and even centuries, while others emerged in recent decades, when increasing demands and pressure from rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change could have exacerbated tensions.

Water cooperation in action

In the Lake Titicaca basin shared by Peru and Bolivia, the Building River Dialogue and Governance (BRIDGE) project contributes to foster dialogue between the two countries through agreements on knowledge and information, thus facilitating the protection of biodiversity and stability in the region.

The participation of the civil society to the water management decision-making is also of crucial importance. In 2006, the first regional forum of Niger basin resources users allowed for the first time the congregation of civil society organizations to discuss issues of common interest with the states and partners.

In Australia, whereFree Flow: Reaching Water Security Through Cooperation the transboundary water issues are domestic, the National Water Initiative (NWI) has contributed to an increased recognition of the cultural values of water resources. Last year, an Indigenous Water Advisory Council was formed to provide a vehicle for Aboriginal voices and to ensure that their water aspirations are heard.

These are a few of the many concrete examples used to present the multifaceted aspects of cooperation  in a new publication, Free Flow: Reaching Water Security through Cooperation. Over 100 authors from more than 50 international institutions share their work in water management and cooperation at international, regional, national, municipal and local levels of activity in this publication. Their articles draw upon experiences from around the world and reflect how people are cooperating and changing their interaction with water to improve the sustainability of their development.

Conceived on the occasion of the International Year of Water Cooperation, coordinated by UNESCO on behalf of UN-Water, this joint publication by UNESCO and Tudor Rose was launched officially during the Budapest Water Summit on 9 October 2013.

‘Water cooperation is about fighting poverty and hunger, and protecting the environment’ said Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO. ‘It is about saving children from disease. It is about allowing girls to go to school instead of walking kilometres to fetch water. It is about providing women and men with access to sanitation, wherever they live. Fundamentally, it is about peace, on the basis of dialogue between States and across regions. When we talk about water security, we are really talking about human rights and human dignity, about the sustainable development of all societies.’

The publication, and the real life experiences presented in its pages, bear testimony to our collective commitment to foster a lasting culture of cooperation among water practitioners, scientists and policymakers.

- See more at: http://en.unesco.org/news/free-flow-reaching-water-security-through-cooperation#sthash.syukR1XQ.dpuf

UNESCO Website: http://en.unesco.org/
Get the PDF version of the report: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002228/222893e.pdf
You can also order a hard copy of the report here: http://publishing.unesco.org/details.aspx?Code_Livre=4999

Hashimoto Action Plan III launched by UNSGAB

UNSGAB logo_bis

The UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) outlines its water and sanitation strategy for 2013-2015. With the expiry of the Millenium Development Goals, the Hashimoto Action Plan (HAP) III endeavors to define water and sanitation objectives for the post-2015 world. One of the commitments of HAP III is the promotion of the UNWC.

The UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) on  October 9th unveiled the Hashimoto Action Plan (HAP) III, which defines activities to be undertaken in the period 2013-2015. The end game of these activities is the shaping of global water and sanitation policy, and, more importantly, the definition of water and sanitation targets for the post-2015 world, date at which the Millennium Development Goals are set to expire.

HAP III was developed following the recognition, during the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, that water and sanitation challenges continue to be one of the most serious struggles the world has to deal with. The goal of the Hashimoto Plan, therefore, is to strive for universal access to clean water and sanitation. With this, and the acknowledgment that there is unfortunately still a long way to go before this objective is achieved, HAP III outlines the pursuit of the activities undertaken by the previous two Hashimoto Plans for the period leading to 2015 and the expiry of the MDGs.

HAP III plans on tackling the issues it identifies mainly through advocacy. The Plan describes the actions it commits to and details the ways in which it will do so. These include: the ‘Sanitation Drive’, an advocacy advocacy to convince stakeholders of the importance of setting sanitation and health as a priority  on the policy agenda; advocacy for better wastewater management; promoting the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) model for more efficient water-use; and pushing for increased financial resources and collaborating with partners to overcome obstacles to local-level financing.

In an encouraging maneuver taking place amidst growing support and momentum, the UNSGAB commits to promote the UN Watercourses Convention (UNWC) and persuade potential state parties in an effort to secure the remaining necessary ratifications for its entry into force.

The first Hashimoto Plan, entitled ‘Your Action, Our Action’, was adopted in 2006, and was thus named to commHAP III_picemorate the passing of its first Chair, Ryutaro Hashimoto, who made it his life’s work to set a framework for global action on water and sanitation challenges.

The activities that HAP III plans for are part and parcel of the holistic approach adopted by UN organs and agencies to tackle the problem of clean water and sanitation. They are meant to shore up momentum and support for a global final push to achieve the MDGs.

In addition to these activities, HAP III underscores the imperative of following through with the MDGS once they expire. It thus asks relevant actors to secure a dedicated water goal in the post-2015 development agenda, by defining a water-specific Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Because the MDGs that affected water issues are those that are the farthest from hitting their target, the Hashimoto Plan puts a strong emphasis on the need for a forcible commitment to meet the objectives of universal access to clean water and sanitation. The importance of water for sustainable development and to help each individual reach an adequate standard of living had already been insisted upon in the Rio+20 Conference.

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 commit 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.

As stated in HAP III, “the Board calls for a global post-2015 goal on water that includes targets on at least three essential objectives:

1) Achieve universal access to sustainable sanitation and to drinking water that is really safe

2) Increase wastewater management and pollution prevention

3) Improve integrated water resources management and water-use efficiency

Targets and indicators need to be designed and monitored in each of these three areas.”

The UNSGAB recommends these three aims become objectives in a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). To achieve these aims, the Plan calls for regional bodies and national governments to prioritize water and sanitation and endorse a water SDG; increased capacity building to support IWRM planning; continued donor support, including on monitoring progress; and partnerships with international institutions.

The UNSGAB concludes by stating: “UNSGAB recognizes that water challenges cover a wide spectrum. Making progress on access to safe drinking water and sanitation is impossible without due attention to the larger water cycle underpinned by an ambitious global water vision.”

 UNSGAB logo

UNSGAB website: http://www.unsgab.org/

The text of the Hashimoto Action Plan III can be found here: http://www.unsgab.org/content/documents/hap3.pdf

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