WEF Davos 2016: Main water session on accelerating the water agenda

By Peter Brabeck-Letmathe    

21 January 2016 See comments (2)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

For me, the early morning of 21 January in Davos started with the meeting of the Governing Council of the 2030 Water Resources Group. An in all respects successful meeting: among other parts of the outcome, our discussion brought strong support to continue this important initiative beyond 2017.

The meeting was back-to-back with a major session later that morning on how to accelerate the implementation of the Water Goal set up as part of the UN Development Agenda as agreed on in late 2015. I spoke as one of the business representatives in this session.

After setting the targets, everybody agreed that it was now time to put up a frame that is able to stimulate action.

In the afternoon World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (picture on top) who both acted as leading participants in our session presented the results in a press conference,

Most importantly: they announced the creation of a Heads of State Panel on Water to champion and lead global advocacy around critical issues. It will be jointly chaired by Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico and Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius.

This intergovernmental platform will be the world’s preeminent sphere for governments to reach consensus on common water and sanitation problems and to assess progress. With private sector and other major stakeholders as essential partners, it would be supported by independent experts mandated to amass authoritative information and stimulate research to fill knowledge gaps.

WEF Davos 2016

In view of its broad importance it is clear that governments are the ultimate custodians of the water resource, but it is also clear that business and others can and must play a role to support government as part of the solution to their water challenges. It is important to keep in mind that water is of course a human right, and it is an environmental good. But it is also an economic resource of high importance to society and industry: no food security without water security, no energy security without water security.

In this and other respects, the Heads of State Panel is as an important effort, as it moves water up on the agenda. The mark of success for the Panel will be practical action and tangible impact.

In that way, it should be the means or vehicle to help deliver practical outcomes, given the urgency of the problem. We have to move further ahead towards concrete action.

One-way, and I think it will be particularly important, is public-private collaboration and the need to catalyse partnerships at all scales

There are good delivery models existing and in formation to build on, such as the 2030 Water Resources Group and the emerging Urban Water Alliance with the Government of South Africa. It would also be good to draw in the Sanitation and Water for All partnership.

Let this be an opportunity to break down silos at the highest level and collaborate with private sector and others, building on existing partnerships and initiatives to bring these efforts to scale and to transform the water agenda.

As ever, I welcome your comments.

  1. Teun Bastemeijer - Chief Advisor strategy and programmes @ water integrity network association

    22 Jan 2016 - 16:32 (GMT)

    Good outcome. How about principles for water governance principles and integrity? No water security for all without integrity!

  2. thomas panella - Country Director, Afghanistan - GWP Tech Member @ Asian Development Bank

    22 Jan 2016 - 16:58 (GMT)

    This is a timely and welcome initiative that moves the water agenda to the appropriate level. The public - private approach is absolutely necessary to bring together the end users who have the most at stake and government who needs to be a responsible water manager. Agriculture and civil society must play an important role as the largest water user and to ensure equity respectively. Bringing in existing stakeholder organizations is a sensible since there is already much good work ongoing from which to build and catalyze.The Asian Development Bank has been supporting this approach for some time. Please keep the public informed on how this moves forward and how we can support.

    Excellent work for all involved.


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