Why water?

The roadmap towards Rio+20 involves a long string of meetings and conferences where people can discuss the objectives for the conference and the solutions needed. At the second Preparatory Committee Meeting in March 2011, UN-Water and the Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) organised an official side on ‘How the green economy depends on water’. This event set out to discuss the linkages between water (drinking water and water resources management), sanitation and the multiple aspects of the green economy. It also provided a forum to discuss how water issues should feature on the Rio+20 agenda. Information about the event can be found here http://www.unwater.org/rio2012/index.html. Here are some highlights:

  • Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, argued that the green economy needs to value ecosystems services. Water is currently only priced at the point of consumption, with the full economic costs of pollution not captured by our current economic system.
  • Jean-Pierre Thebault, French Ambassador for the Environment, highlighted the urgency of the water and sanitation issue. Water and sanitation interacts with poverty, food security, health and many other sustainable development issues.
  • Julia Bucknall, Manager of the World Bank’s Water Anchor, stressed that no country can meet its development objectives without improving the way it manages its water. She said that countries may be able to avoid over-allocation of water (and politically difficult re-allocation processes) by learning from policies that failed in the past in industrialised countries.

Water management is essential to achieving the shift towards a green economy because it is interconnected to so many other policy areas (energy, food, health, education, rural/urban development etc). This side event emphasised the importance of demonstrating the centrality of water to the green economy. The Zaragoza conference, organised by the UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication (UNW-DPAC), will build on these important discussions.

We’d like to hear from you. How can the water community ensure that the political engagement around Rio+20 gives due attention to water issues?

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