World Water Day 2019 Symposium: The World’s Water in the Era of the SDGs

Prof.Yamaguchi, Hirai (D3), Uemura (M2), and Fatemeh (M2) attended the symposium ‘World’s Water in the Era of the SDGs’ at United Nations University (UNU) held on March 22, the World Water Day. The symposium was organized by the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Tokyo. In being an honor, prince Naruhito participated. He is well known as an expert in water and sanitation field.

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David Malone, the rector of UNU and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, gave the opening remarks, saying the aim of the symposium is to deepen our understanding of what is happening in the path of water development in different regions and foster collaboration to address the issues in the water development. Given this aim, Mr. Malone welcomed water, sanitation, and human rights experts gathered from different regions to think aloud about water and sanitation for sustainable development for all.

Following Mr. Malone’s opening remarks, Shozo Kudo, Vice-Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan gave, and Michelle Bachelet from United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights gave remarks. Mr. Kudo mentioned that Japan had played important roles in collaborations for achieving SDG6 with different countries based on its accumulated knowledge of water and sanitation through Japans’ experience of recovering from natural disasters. Ms. Bachelet highlighted that although world water access has been improved since 2000, 3 in 10 of the world population still lacks access the safe water at home. 6 in 10 are without safely managed sanitation services. SDG6 cannot be achieved without addressing inequality affecting women and children, minorities, referees, and indigenous people.

Keynote speech for the symposium was given by Taikan Oki, Senior Vice-Rector, United Nations University. The speech title was “How to Achieve the Global Targets for Drinking Water: Applying Lessons Learned from the MDGs.” Dr. Oki showed findings of his recent studies. According to his study, access to drinking water was successfully improved between 1999 and 2015. However, half the achievement was seen in China and India, where rapid economic growth contributes to improving access. These findings indicated that, although economic growth is one of the major contributing factors for improving water access, we need to have strategies to expand the benefit of economic growth to ensure access to clean water and sanitation all over the world.

Following the keynote speech, Panel discussion was given by six experts, Ms. Nemoto from United Nations Information center Dr. Kumamaru from UNICEF, Ms. Michiyama from NGO, Plan International, Dr. Fukushi from UNU-IAS, and Ms. Yariuchi from JICA.

Experts explained the global trend in water development and local practices in different areas. For example, Dr. Fukushi explained findings from his recent research, which showed that the development of the world’s water getting more difficult in the future. As population growth and climate change, water quality will get worse by 10%, the frequency of flood will increase 19%, and frequency of water-related commutable decease will increase 98% by 2030. Dr. Kumamaru shared his experience of water development projects in Zambia. He stressed localized solution is essential. For example, in Zambia where population density is six people per square kilometer, appropriate strategies for water supplies and indicators are different from that of the huge population area. Reflecting the different conditions in different areas, UNICEF has supported with focus on appropriate technology, capacity development for local government, financial mechanism and policy development.

 As the conclusion of the panel discussion, Mr. Hada from OHCHR summarized that to ensure water and sanitation. We need to think about strategy for service provision, which is safe, available, physically accessible, equitably affordable, and culturally acceptable through a bottom-up approach to fit into local contexts. Ms. Nemoto, moderator of the discussion referred to commonly shared ideas of business in Japan, “Sanpo-Yoshi (business good for three dimensions)” which means business should be beneficial for seller, buyer, and also society. She proposed the idea of “Goho-Yoshi (business good for five dimensions)” which adds good for earth and good for future for development of world’s water.  

Insights:

Fatemeh: The symposium was interesting for me because water scarcity and climate change are a quite big issue in Iran. The solution for this issue needs cooperation and partnership, especially with neighboring countries, to solve it. When the neighboring countries have faced conflict, solving the problem is getting more difficult.

Uemura: Through the symposium, I understood that SDGs and their problems were interconnected. For example, water problems such as lack of access to drinking water and dirty water arise from SDG13 of climate change like flooding, and SDG11 of social change like urban water shortage. It may be impossible to achieve one SDG without considering other SDGs. We must make an effort to achieve all the SDGs with a strong partnership.

Hirai: The symposium was quite informative, with a lot of research findings and actual field cases. For me, it was interesting to think about water issues about different sectors, such as economy, urban planning, rural development, and gender. For example, although economic development was a major reason for achievement of MDG7, rapid urbanization caused more severe impact on water issues. Also, successful solutions for water issues are not necessarily applicable to different sites. Regarding these characteristics of water development, as experts repeatedly emphasized, multidisciplinary partnership is essential for achieving the 2030 agenda. As doctoral student in a research university, it was good practice to see how research helps constructive discussion and collaborations.

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