SIWI at the Budapest Water Summit
Mr János Áder, President of the Republic of Hungary, welcomed us all to the city of Budapest and the summit, urging for all participants to cooperate in addressing water related challenges now, not later; “There comes a time when every glass spills over”, thus calling for immediate action, so that we do not “pull our heads out of the sand to realize that we are surrounded by a desert of despair.” His rather personal approach set the tone for the Opening Ceremony where, on a later stage, H.R.H. Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, Chairman, United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, made the audience laugh with his vivid descriptions.
Mr Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations stated that water is the very key for sustainable development, and that a water secure world will need active cooperation from all sectors to be successful. He addressed waste water, the necessity to let water be the catalyst for cooperation instead of conflict, the water and food interlinkages, as well as water coupled to climate change. On sanitation he insisted that we need to scale up action, as diarrhea is causing the deaths and stunting of children, and said that it is very sad that as many as 1 billion people practice open defecation. Mr Ban Ki-moon lifted the various reports including the report of the High Level Panel and his own report, A life of dignity for all, among others, in which water has a predominant role. In this context, he touched upon the discussions on a dedicated goal on water. Thirsty after his long flight, he drank his glass of water saying that we need to be but very humble to the fact that water is indeed life.
The list of speakers gave promise to an interesting session, with among others, Dr Kandeh K. Yumkella, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and CEO – Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, Chair of UN-Energy, Ms. Irina Bokova, Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Ms Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization and Mr Michel Jarraud, Chair of UN-Water and Secretary General of World Meteorological Organization.
Mr Benedito Braga, President of the World Water Council agreed with the Secretary General that cooperation is the only solution, for which we all need to reach “outside the box” for common strategies. Mr. Braga wanted to see a holistic and transformative development agenda where water is recognized as the thread tying the important pieces of the sustainability puzzle, realizing that water must have a dedicated sustainable development goal.
For the following days, the plenary sessions together with the Science-, Civil Society-, Business Leaders- and Youth Forum will compete over the participants’ attention. My initial impression is that of a very well organized and successful conference where the central role of water in our development objectives will be discussed. Representing International Processes at SIWI I hope to engage in the dialogue on the role of water within the Post 2015 framework, and to interact on the policies, processes and coordinated efforts related to the development of a Sustainable Development Goal on Water.