World Water Week 2023: Seeds of Change – Innovative Solutions for a Water-Wise World
World Water Week 2023 has seen 15,000 participants from 193 countries and territories online and on-site. Some of the key messages coming out of the conference are:
With the theme Seeds of Change, many speakers emphasised the need to talk more about how to make transformations happen, rather than just listing problems. There was a strong focus on intergenerational dialogues and learning from each other. The critical role of trust and inclusion was also frequently mentioned.
Time to rethink innovation. People still primarily associate innovation with technology. But, as pointed out by Karin Gardes, Acting Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), innovation is a much broader concept, and World Water Week also showcased innovation in governance, finance, values and culture. It also became clear how essential it is to apply a gender lens.
Learning from Indigenous Peoples. For the first time, World Water Week had a special focus on Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, with representatives from some 20 groups present to share their views and experiences. The Opening started with a keynote by Dr Milika Sobey on the role of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge for innovation, and the importance of values such as reciprocity, respect and relations.
An interesting trend this year was that all three winning teams of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize had an ocean focus. To young scientists, it’s clear that it doesn’t make sense to treat freshwater, coasts and oceans as separate entities. The source-to-sea approach is increasingly becoming the new norm.
The future of water governance was discussed throughout the week. The closing What’s Next session also featured Professor Johan Rockström, who is one of the Co-Chairs of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, which will present a report on how we need to change incentives and governance related to water. Why that is needed became very evident when Rockström shared new research on the pressure we are currently putting on the global water cycle, and what the consequences are.
A growing number of convenors use World Water Week to create sessions that prepare for international processes, for example the upcoming SDG Summit in September and the climate meeting COP28 in December. The Week also followed up on the UN 2023 Water Conference in March and analysed progress so far on the Water Action Agenda. This was very much in line with SIWI’s commitment to the Water Action Agenda – to offer World Water Week as an arena for collective action to solve water challenges.
World Water Week 2024 will be held in August 2024.
(World Water Week/pas)