A unified NGO voice on water issues

The Cité de la Solidarité Internationale, located just across the French border from Geneva, hosted a Think Tank on 10 March to promote the role access to water and sanitation plays in development. This was followed on 24 March by a “speed dating” event put together by the Geneva Environment Network, where representatives of different organizations each presented their ongoing water projects – to each other and to a number of invited guests.

Numerous local actors working in the fields of water protection, access to drinking water and sanitation were brought together. They are taking the first steps to forming a new working group of international organizations.

The key objective is to make sure that members of the international community operating in Geneva are able to amplify each other’s efforts, and avoid duplication or conflicting messages. This means holding regular meetings (every three months) where the staff of different organizations can brief each other.

In order to gauge the level of overlap among different organizations’ approaches, each participant was asked to provide four answers to the question: “What concrete actions must be developed or strengthened to improve the management of water resources in the greater Geneva area and internationally?”

Those present – and answering the question – included representatives from the Swiss Development Corporation, Commission Internationale pour la Protection des Eaux du Léman, the State of Geneva, the Centre Alpin de Recherche sur les Réseaux Trophiques des Ecosystèmes Limniques, World Vision International, ARLEM Association, a local desalinization enterprise, the Syndicat Mixte d’Aménagement de l’Arve et de ses Affluents, Women in Europe for a Common Future, Energie 8, Yelen Association, and of course Green Cross.

Hervé Fauvain gave a presentation on conditions and challenges in the Greater Geneva region, and explained the existing cross-border water management platform. This has not yet been used as a model for developing countries, but does provide interesting experience – for example in cross-border legal issues. Fauvin said we can build on past success and established expertise to create greater international cooperation.

Mia Marie Olsen talked about water at the international level, and the economic, social and environmental challenges ahead. Today, water projects must include awareness-raising about hygiene and strengthen local capacity. A multi-actor approach is essential to achieve sustainable change.

Natalia Dejean, Water Project Manager for WECF and President of InterSolidar Association, presented a case study demonstrating the use of a multi-actor approach in a project supporting water-access, awareness-raising about hygiene, and capacity-building for local actors. The Motivation of local authorities, the coherence of local political priorities, the involvement of public and private sector partners and the application of appropriate technologies were identified as key success factors.

The group discussed and agreed to a list of priorities:

  • to hold a “speed dating” event in the near future to give organizations a chance to quickly explain their water policies to each other – this was done on 24 March, hosted by the Geneva Environment Network (see image at right);
  • to raise awareness in political circles of the issues affecting water and the environment;
  • to bring together and consolidate organizations’ water initiatives;
  • to set up regular update meetings between organizations;
  • to find new funding sources and mechanisms; and
  • to facilitate transfers of technology, from local-to-global and global-to-local.

The “speed dating” event held on 24 March gave Green Cross an opportunity to exchange views with a number of key partners, including (among others) the World Meteorological Organization, WaterLex and a number of representatives from country missions in Geneva with an interest in water and sanitation.