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Published on: 13/02/2020

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17 June 2020
VIRTUAL EVENT | 15:00 - 16:30 CEST

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This virtual edition of WASH Debates seeks to explore and discuss the urgency of climate change in the WASH sector and what different actors in the sector can do in the field of climate adaptation.

The live event will showcase two seemingly conflicting stances. One where climate change is considered a distraction, preventing us from addressing more immediate and arguably more threatening issues. The other, where climate concerns are justified, incentivising the need to build resilience and foster adaptation. Already have a question you would like answered during the debate? Submit it here.

Specific objectives of this WASH debate are to:

• To get a common understanding on the relative level of urgency in adapting to climate change in the WASH sector vis-a-vis the other issues it faces
• To sharpen the type of approaches and activities that the WASH sector needs to undertake to mitigate and adapt to climate change
• To identify the opportunities that climate change adaptation brings for structural improvements in the WASH system

How to attend

This event will be held on Microsoft Teams. Please keep in mind that the virtual space is limited to 300 participants, after which access will be denied. For those interested, will offer an online walk-in session to provide some guidance on how to use the platform starting from 14:45 CET. The event will be recorded.

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More background on the event and speaker bios available below. 


Meike van GinnekenMeike van Ginneken MSc has been innovating in complex environments for over twenty years. Since January 1, 2018, she is CEO of SNV, an international development organisation with specialist expertise in Agriculture, Energy, and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene.




LemessaLemessa Mekonta started his new role as Country Director for IRC Ethiopia in 2019. He has been working with IRC as an associate since 2013, in that role he was involved in a range of projects in Ethiopia, among others he acted as the coordinator of the Self-supply project for the Millennium Water Alliance Ethiopia Programme.



Mayuri WASH debate speakerMayuri Bhattacharjee is a fellow at the Westerwelle Foundation, Berlin and a Climate Reality Leader & Mentor at The Climate Reality Project. She has a Masters in Human Rights from the University of Calcutta and is an alumna of the DO School in Germany, an educational institution for upcoming social entrepreneurs. Mayuri is the 2019 Ton Schouten Award winner.





arjen naafsArjen Naafs is the lead for Water Resources and Climate Change at IRC. He is keen on hydrogeology, passionate about mapping, and eager to share WASH knowledge and facilitate learning. He has 20 years sector experience – including 5 years as technical adviser South Asia and 13 years private sector experience in Mozambique and Uganda.





 Marcel BeukeboomMarcel Beukeboom is Climate Envoy for the Netherlands, a position he holds since 2016. Recurring themes in his 20 year diplomatic career are sustainability, inclusiveness (especially of youth), and multi-stakeholder cooperation. As a generalist he tends to zoom out for the bigger picture, with an eye for those details that help him to connect the dots and people. Being a Dutch diplomat, water has always been part of his DNA.





WASH systems in many (developing) countries already face threats from poor maintenance, uncontrolled abstraction, inadequate financial management, through to political instability. Too often, the water sector is relatively weak, able to increase access to poor-quality water supplies but lacking systems in place to sustain those services. The uncertainty that climate change presents – erratic rainfall and the increased risk of extreme weather events such as floods and droughts – exasperates vulnerabilities. There are signs that the sector is already affected by climate variability, seasonality and extreme weather events, indicating that business as usual is no longer justifiable, especially in the context of achieving improvements in public health.

However, for many service providers, climate change is just another threat that needs to be managed. This forces the WASH sector to assess and define the issue of additionality – what extra measures are needed to adapt to climate change. The higher incidences of extreme weather events pose additional challenges to the sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices and increases the burden placed on women. Such impacts call for climate adaptation approaches, which in most cases result in higher costs for delivering and maintaining services.

This is one of the central dilemmas in the current debate on climate change adaptation in the WASH sector. Some see climate change as a clear threat for which adaptation is needed. Others see it as a distraction from arguably more pressing issues.

The agendas of climate change adaptation and water and sanitation are bidirectional. On the one hand, policymakers in the field of climate change adaptation need to better understand the important role water and sanitation can play in adaptation. On the other hand, water and sanitation policymakers also need to understand how climate processes work and integrate climate considerations into national water and sanitation policies1.

While new and innovative climate financing approaches have recently come into play, the WASH sector has yet to substantially capitalise from them. This is mostly due to the sector stakeholders' lack of understanding on climate financing schemes and the failure to build a strong climate link to water and sanitation.

1 Paragraphs extracted and adapted from Adapting to climate change and fostering a low carbon water and sanitation sector - Policy Brief SWA, November 2019


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