Conclusion of the last World Water Forum of 2009
The 5th World Water was held in Istanbul in 2009 under the theme “bridging divides for water”. In spite of its goal, the Forum ended with mixed conclusions and showed a significant divide in opinion. But the true scope and urgency of the world water crisis became recognized and many engaged to solve water related issues.
Water scarcity is among the main problems to be faced by many societies around the world in the XXIst century. Furthermore, water resource management is administratively complicated because it involves legal, environmental, technological, economic and political considerations. The goals of the World Water Forum are to « raise the importance of water on the political agenda, to support the deepening of discussions towards the solution of international water issues in the 21st century, to formulate concrete proposals and bring theirimportance to the world’s attention and to generate political commitment ». However, differentiating views on how water resources should be managed divided the different actors of the WWF concerning the following main debates :
- Is access to water a human right or a need ?
- Who is legitimate to hold the Forum ?
- How to include access to water rights in national legal frameworks ?
- Is the privatization of water systems the best way to manage water ?
To answer those questions, among others, the 5th WWF theme was explored through more than 100 thematic sessions, seven regional sessions, and a series of political processes. Here are its main outcome.
Overall challenges emerged
From all sectors, continents and backgrounds, participants identified six challenges :
1. Global Changes, Disasters and Migration
2. Advancing Human Development and the MDGs
3. Managing and Protecting Water Resources and their Supply
Systems to Meet Human and Environmental Needs
4. Governance and Management
6. Education, Knowledge & Capacity Building
A broad range of region-specific issues.
The regional discussions emphasized the need to enhance transboundary cooperation on water resource management, and to build adaptive capacities of institutions in each region to manage emerging challenges, particularly those related to climate change.
For the first time in the World Water Forum’s history, a Heads of State meeting was organized. They adopted the Heads of State Appeal, promising to put Water Security at centre stage.
In addition, the outcome of meetings between the Ministers and Heads of Delegations resulted in the “Istanbul Ministerial Statement” and the “Istanbul Water Guide”, a list of 140 recommendations, which provide guidance on how to improve water security and water management.
Also for the first time over 250 Parliamentarians from around the world jointly started to address water issues. The “Parliaments for Water” meeting ended with series of proposals on water-related policies. The document also indicates the necessity to create a “Parliamentarians Helpdesk” in the upcoming year to aid political cooperation on water legislation and its implementation.
Finally, local/regional elected representatives produced the “Istanbul Water Consensus”, a compact for Local and Regional Authorities willing to commit to adapting their water infrastructure and services to the emerging challenges they are facing.
The Youth Declaration
The document signified the stance of youth on water crisis emphasizing the importance of global cooperation for a better future.
The forum’s conclusions showed a significant divide in opinion when the “right to clean water” was acknowledged only as “a necessity for life” : “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”. But, since then, a great deal of progress has been made and the United Nation, following an intense negotiation, adopted a resolution recognizing that the human right to water and sanitation are a part of the right to an adequate standard of living. Many other progresses have been made over the past three years and the objectives of the 6th WWF will be to “build on previous fora and move forward”.