Night view of the Gamla Stan (The Old Town) in Stockholm, Sweden

Water for sustainable growth tops agenda as leaders, experts meet in Stockholm

Stockholm (25 August 2016) – As world leaders, development professionals and water experts gather in Stockholm from 28 August to 2 September, water’s role for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals will be discussed, as will water and the ongoing migration crisis, and several other water challenges.

Press contact: Rowena Barber, Communications Manager, SIWI, Tel+46-8-12136039

The 2016 theme for World Water Week is water for sustainable growth. As a global collective, we will not be able to end hunger, ensure good health, build sustainable cities and fight climate change, if we do not have reliable access to the most fundamental resource of all. Water, and wise water management, is central to development, to sustainable growth, and to the overarching goal of lifting people from poverty.

A key objective of World Water Week is tracking water in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Each year at the Week, decision-makers will have the opportunity to take stock of water’s role in the implementation of the water-related SDGs and the Paris climate agreement, with the aim of ensuring water is part of the solutions moving forward.

At World Water Week, today’s complex water challenges will be addressed by some 3,000 participants from more than 120 countries, representing governments, the private sector, multilateral organizations, civil society and academia. Speakers at the opening session on 29 August include Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs Sweden, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General OECD, Charafat Afailal, Minister of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment, Morocco, Stockholm Water Prize Laureate 2016 Professor Joan B. Rose, Michigan State University, USA, and Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Vatican.

During World Water Week, two prizes are awarded, to recognize excellence in the water world.

On Tuesday 30 August, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize will be awarded to one national team out of the 29 competing nations by H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip of Sweden.

On Wednesday 31 August, the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize will be awarded to Professor Rose, for her tireless contributions to global public health; by assessing risks to human health in water and creating guidelines and tools for decision-makers and communities to improve global wellbeing. The prize will be awarded to Professor Rose by H.M. Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, during a ceremony in Stockholm City Hall.

Water is key to a range of issues that will shape the world in the decades to come. They will be discussed in-depth during World Water Week:

Sustainable Development Goals – connection to water. Nearly all the sustainable development goals will require water to be achieved, and implementation will need to be integrated and coordinated. Water can help to facilitate this. For example, energy and food security, as well as economic growth, climate and urbanization (SDGs 2, 7, 8, 11and 13) are directly dependent on the availability of freshwater resources.

High Level Panel on Water. SIWI is actively engaged in the High Level Panel on Water (HLPW). The HLPW aims is to mobilize global support in implementing the water-related SDGs. SIWI is one of the expert organizations supporting the HLPW and World Water Week will be a meeting place for this panel to share and discuss its findings.

Water and migration. The world is witnessing some of the largest refugee flows since the Second World War. Meanwhile, water crises are highlighted as one of the most pressing global challenges in coming years. In this context, migration and refugee flows are increasingly explained in terms of water scarcity – perpetuated by climate change. But such easy answers to these complicated questions should be avoided, and that deeper analysis is needed.

Water and faith. Water has profound symbolic meaning in many religious and local traditions and water stress is particularly acute in many parts of the world in which faith is a central aspect of individual and community identity. However, development is not only about policies and investments, it is also about behaviour change and cultural values. In that respect, the role of Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) becomes crucial given their presence and influence in local communities.

Water and pharmaceuticals. Active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are micro pollutants and are a growing concern around the globe. Manufactured to be stable enough to reach and interact with the relevant organ, many pharmaceuticals are not easily biodegradable and can remain in the environment for considerable periods of time. Patient health and safety overrule environmental considerations, and hence there is a challenge for the relevant stakeholders to balance this dilemma.

Water quality. It is estimated that around 1000 children under five die every day – from diarrhoeal diseases – one of the leading causes of child mortality and only one of the illnesses caused by poor water quality. There are still more than two billion people in the world who lack adequate sanitation, and over one billion lack access to safe drinking water. WHO says that overall, 842 000 deaths from diarrhoeal diseases each year could be prevented by improved water, sanitation and hygiene.

Rainwater harvesting and green water. Better management of rainwater can dramatically improve rural and urban water security across the world as the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events increase. Managing rain will be a key to eradicating poverty and hunger in sub-Saharan Africa and to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially on poverty and hunger. Half of the global landmass consists of drylands where the majority of the water movement is vertical, such as rains and evaporation, with very little runoff generation.

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