Looking back at a successful World Water Week

Dr Patrick MacQuarrie is IUCN's new Water Policy and Sustainability Advisor. He joined the IUCN Global Water Programme in August, just one week before the start of one of the year's most important water events: Stockholm World Water Week. Here he reflects back on his attendance of this major water conference:

Patrick MacQuarrie at Stockholm Water Week 2012

"I spent one of my first weeks working for IUCN attending my first World Water Week in Stockholm. At this conference, water professionals, practitioners, and academics from across the globe meet to present, discuss, and share their knowledge and enthusiasm on everything related to water management. Participants met in the form of meetings, workshops, seminars, as well as informal side events. The theme of this year’s conference was 'Water and Food Security'.

I noticed several of the presentations and workshops emphasized clearly the need for better water governance and adaptive capacity in the face of climate change. Increased emphasis was also given to building capacity at the community level, where water and food security are often the weakest.

It was interesting to learn about a variety of water approaches presented, such as a regional fund for water governance in Peru and local adaptive measures to variable rainfall harvesting in the Himalayan highlands of Nepal. In nearly every case study, presenters emphasized the need for better cooperation and communication between stakeholders and institution across multiple scales.

The IUCN Water Programme is currently focused on precisely these strategic areas. In a workshop entitled 'Bridging Boundaries through Multilevel Water Governance for Climate Adaptation', organised by IUCN and the Environmental Law Centre, participants discussed the attributes of effective multi-level governance and adaptive strategies in basins, such as the Goascaran in Mesoamerica and the Mekong in Asia. Participants broke out into groups and discovered innovative concepts such as “Smart Basins” and the need for “associability” among stakeholder institutions. The workshop concluded with an expert panel covering Asia, Southern Africa, and Europe.

Another theme heard across many presentations and workshops was resilience and adaptive capacity of water systems. There was little agreement on a common definition of resilience and many adopted resilience theories appropriate to the scale of their particular case study. However, there was a striking interest and determination in finding practical methods to apply resilience to watersheds and adopt adaptive methodologies that would strengthen water governance, while at the same time maintaining healthy ecosystems.

The thematic focus of Water and Food was challenging, with many adding Energy making topics quite broad. Tackling the conceptual linkages wasn't easy and in my opinion more attention should be paid to adequately characterize the critical links between water, energy, and food security. The challenge for the future is to derive a clear and simple conceptual framework for water, energy, and food security, that engages stakeholders and informs policymakers to make robust and sustainable decisions whilst maintaining healthy ecosystems."

Dr MacQuarrie can be contacted via this email: patrick.macquarrie@iucn.org

Powerpoint presentations from IUCN's seminar 'Bridging Boundaries through Multilevel Water Governance for Climate Adaptation', can be found through this link (by clicking the names of the presenters).

IUCN Media Advisory 'World Water Week: A closer look at Water and Food Security', please click here.

Work area: 
Environmental Law
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