Last week the International Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) celebrated World Water Week. With the big-picture, multi-disciplinary approach that the Swedes take to almost everything, the city became a showcase for the proposition that problems as diverse as poverty, hunger, illiteracy, environmental degradation and gender inequality can be addressed through water and sanitation projects.
More than 1500 participants from 140 countries met for a program that included workshops, panel discussions and partnership-building events.
This year’s conference theme was “Beyond the River – Sharing Benefits and Responsibilities” and focused on trans-border co-operation over shared sources of water, land and water management and how to cope with weather and climate-related disasters.
The Global Water Partnership (GWP), forged in Stockholm in 1996 and based on adherence to the Dublin-Rio Principles, was celebrating its 10th anniversary at the conference and the Water Integrity Network, a new initiative to fight corruption in the water sector, was also launched this year.
It wouldn’t be a truly Swedish event without a round of prestigious prize giving. This year SIWI has chosen to honor a wide variety of individuals and groups who have made distinguished contributions to water management and conservation worldwide, from fellow fellow citizen financier Björn Carlson for his whopping 65 million dollar charitable contribution toward Baltic Sea projects to a team of Chinese secondary school students who restored a polluted urban river channel in Shanghai.
A special event was the award ceremony for 2006 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate Professor Asit K. Biswas. Indian-born Canadian citizen and president of the Mexico City-based Third World Centre for Water Management, Professor Biswas has worked for concrete progress in conservation and equitable access of water for decades. Founder of the International Journal of Water Resources Development and its Editor-in-Chief for the past 21 years, Biswas has contributed to at least 64 books about water and environmental management and has served as advisor to policymakers in 17 countries.
An international mentor to aspiring ecologists worldwide, Biswas created a 3-year programme to train and empower young potential water leaders from all over the world funded by the Nippon Foundation. To the program´s credit, all of the eight potential leaders he originally mentored now hold very senior positions.
The conference in Stockholm precedes the next U.N. Millennium Development Goals summit, scheduled to take place Sep. 14-16. Anders Berntell, executive director of SIWI, and Sweden’s Environment Minister Prof. Lena Sommestad, have publicly stated that they are not at all satisfied with the low priority given to water issues in the proposed agenda for the upcoming U.N. summit. “In the draft outcome paper that has been presented, a 38-page document, water is mentioned in one tiny bullet point, and what is said there is not new. It only reiterates what has already been said earlier,” Berntell told the participants of the World Water Week conference. “It is obvious,” he told delegates, “that more advocacy is needed from all of us that are here today.”
That advocacy may come from Swede Jan Eliasson, former U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, who is widely expected to be voted president of the U.N. General Assembly when it convenes in mid-September.
For more news about the competing national priorities for the 60th U.N. General Assembly and the Millennium Goals Campaign visit: Inter Press Service News Agency website