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Can service delivery approaches help deal with the interrelated threats of climate change, water security and disease outbreak?
That water is essential to life goes without saying. Still, that doesn't devalue those instances where this basic truth is reaffirmed and the danger clearly spelt out. The need for such an affirmation seems ever more urgent after having listened to the opening plenary speeches at World Water Week 2016 - Water for Sustainable Growth in Stockholm.
Threat, stress, depletion and climate change were common themes that ran through the speeches of all those invited to take the stage at the opening plenary of WWW 2016, from the Mayor of Stockholm, Ms. Karin Wanngård, to the Secretary-General of the OECD, Mr. Angel Gurría.
Threat, in the form of increased hostility between states, and stress and depletion as a result of climate change were shown to be inextricably linked and increasing. By 2050, 40% of the World's population is predicted to live in areas of extreme water stress. Add to that the increasing threat of disease outbreak highlighted by the Stockholm Water Prize Laureate Professor Joan Rose and the picture could not appear bleaker. We know these things are happening but in the oasis of systems change theory and collaborative efforts at capacity building, these global forces are not often explicitly mentioned.
The Plenary was a wakeup call to the concerns of the wider water sector. I left the hall in a rather downbeat state.
That these warnings were taking place in the well-appointed space of the main congress hall made them feel abstract and distant. Could that have added to their impact rather than reduced it? I lamented with a colleague as to why climate change does not occupy a more prominent position in the thematic approach of IRC's work. After some discussion, I found myself coming round to their point of view: that the water crisis is already here, that strengthening systems is only going to assist efforts to combat the negative effects of climate change and that IRC's work in this respect is vital and important.
2030 is less than 15 years away. Much can and will happen in that time. A cause for hope is that these threats being so clearly articulated will motivate serious action across a wide range of institutions way beyond the WASH sector.
With the USA and China now ratifying the Paris Climate agreement, some form of consensus is emerging on the need for urgent action rather than just talk.
IRC is joining the Global Coalition for Good Water Governance and the Global Round Table on Water Finance, led by the World Water Council and DGIS, which were announced as major initiatives at the Opening Plenary by the OECD.
As the Plenary clearly illustrated, the stakes could not be higher.
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