Green Cross at World Water Week in Stockholm

The 2016 World Water Week, held in Stockholm, Sweden from 28 August to 2 September, provided a chance for decision-makers to assess ways of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – particularly Goal 6 and its call to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.

Marie-Laure Vercambre, Director of the Water for Life and Peace Programme, represented Green Cross on the event’s first day at a special session on The Surprising Benefits of Transboundary Cooperation.

Marc Goichot, from the World Wildlife Fund – co-organisers of the session with Green Cross International, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the University of Dundee – shared a telling example of how these benefits have eluded the Mekong Basin: following the construction of ill-conceived dams, 1.5 football pitches of land is lost to the sea every day due to the reduction in sediment flow reaching the Mekong Delta. Better collaboration between the six countries with territory around the river could have avoided this situation, and is needed to fix it.

The floor was given to recognized experts working in key transboundary basins around the world, such as the Nile River, Mekong River, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and waters shared between Lesotho and South Africa. Participants from different regions then broke into groups to discuss the main barriers blocking them from deepening cooperation in “their” basin.

“Occasions to learn about other regions’ perspectives are too rare, but extremely useful for sharing best practices,” said Vercambre. “All highlighted the cost of trust deficit, the importance of fair assessments of benefits and of data that all parties are going to accept.”

Social and economic benefits are essential to moving forward, one participant said. Trust can not be taken for granted, even after twenty years of cooperation.

On 29 August, Rabbi Awraham Soetedorp, President of Green Cross Netherlands, was part of a fascinating panel on how religion and faith could get involved and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for co-operation and learning,” said Soetendorp, who has formed a global inter-faith WASH-alliance with UNICEF and others.

The panel also included Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican, Kiran Bali, a Hindu and Global Interfaith Group Leader, Professor Houria Tazi Sadeq, President of the Water Alliance of Morocco, Dinesh Suna, Coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network of World Council of Churches, and His Excellency Khamba Lama Professor Doctor D. Natsagdorj, First Lama of Mamba Datsan of Mongolia.

“Today, many people are scared of the word religion and that’s a shame because all religions preach harmony, peace, compassion and love,” said Bali. “There are a lot of good ideas and contributions that can be made, but the fact that it comes from a religious perspective doesn’t always help.”

GCI’s Water for Life and Peace programme works to improve global water governance and promotes a rights-based approach to the sustainable and equitable use of freshwater resources. GCI uses advocacy, education and practical projects around the world to improve people’s access to water and sanitation. The Smart Water for Green Schools (SWGS) project is GCI’s flagship on-the-ground activity.

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