Last March leaders and concerned citizens came from around the world to the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey. The city, which spans the great Bosphorus, existing in both Europe and Asia, has served as capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire and is the European Capital of Culture for 2010. Touted as the largest ever water related event in the world, the Forum is organized once every three years by the World Water Council.
The Forum had a total of 33,058 participants from 192 countries, including 9 Heads of State/ Governments and princes, 85 Ministers, 14 high level reps from Intergovernmental Organizations, 250 parliamentarians and 200 local authorities.
The goals of the Forum are to raise the importance of water on the political agenda, support deeper discussions toward the solution of international water issues, formulate concrete proposals and bring their importance to the world’s attention and generate political commitment.
This week the Forum released its Global Water Framework Report, the official document outlining the decisions and declarations made at the World Water Forum.
Here are a few of the highlights:
The Heads of State issued a joint statement affirming their desire to work together toward change:
We affirm our political will to take rapid action bearing in mind the key elements of success: Solidarity, security, adaptability and useful dialogue and cooperation on transboundary waters between neighbours.
Agreeing that there needs to be cooperation on transboundary waters between neighbors is critical, as water shared across borders on boundaries like North and South Korea, India and Pakistan and the U.S. southwest and Mexico will all require increased cooperation in the coming decades.
In addition, the 85 Ministers issued a statement of their own. In large part the document serves to declare their support for other water statements and initiatives around the world and sets forth basic premises for the next three years. There has been a lot of debate and controversy in the water world lately from those who believe access to clean water should be declared a human right by the U.N., so it is notable that the Ministers Report says:
We acknowledge the discussions within the UN system regarding human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation. We recognize that access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a basic human need.
They will not be pushing the issue with the U.N. but taking the wait and see approach.
The bulk of the report begins with a description of the Problem, notable for its focus areas. The changes they highlight as affecting the world water situation are population growth, migration, urbanization, and land-use changes. They also mention climate change as a factor but rank it behind all of these as water issues in the next few decades.
From there, the report breaks down into 6 themes: 1) Global Changes and Risk Management, 2) Advancing Human Development and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 3) Managing and Protecting Water Resources and their Supply Systems to Meet Human and Environmental Needs, 4) Governance and Management, 5) Finance, and 6) Education, Knowledge and Capacity Development
There are also summaries of the conclusions from Ministerial Roundtables on topics like: 1) Reducing the Impacts of Water-Related Disasters, 2) Bridging the Water and Climate Agendas, 3) Financing Water Infrastructure and Services, 4) Sustainable Management of Coastal Strips, 5) Sanitation, 6) Water and Energy, 7) Making Water a Tool for Development in Africa, and 8) Water for Food and Poverty Eradication.
Later sections of the report outline both Thematic and Regional Outcomes from the Forum. There is even a section dedicated to the 3rd Children’s World Water Forum and Youth Declaration.