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World Water Week: Water Can Be the Unifying Element for Achieving the SDGs

Image credit: SIWI

Under the theme Water for Sustainable Growth, some 3,000 people from over 120 countries are meeting in Stockholm this week for the 26th annual World Water Week. With water crises being listed as one of the top global risks in the coming years by the World Economic Forum, and a rapidly growing world population putting pressure on scarce water resources, seeking solutions to the world's many complex water challenges is becoming ever more urgent for the researchers, policy-makers, and representatives of civil society and the private sector meeting in Stockholm.

"Without reliable access to water, almost no Sustainable Development Goal will be achieved,” said Torgny Holmgren, executive director of organizer SIWI. “To make that happen, we must ensure water's centrality to the entire Agenda 2030. This will show the power water has a connector.

"Water connects not only sectors, but also nations, communities and different actors. Water can be the unifying power, the enabler for progress in both Agenda 2030 and the Paris climate agreement," Holmgren said.

Stockholm mayor Karin Wanngård underlined the role cities need to play in working to achieve the UN’s development agenda for 2030, comprised of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"Cities represent a large portion of future growth,” she said. “Our participation in the struggle for sustainable solutions is key for global success. And that means a growing responsibility, a moral responsibility towards future generations.”

Sweden's Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, reinforced the message that water is a connector and an enabler in realizing the SDGs.

"Successful realization of Goal 6 of the 2030 Agenda will underpin progress across many of the other goals, particularly on nutrition, child health, education, gender equality, healthy cities, and healthy water ecosystems and oceans."

The Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Angel Gurría, said that water has come to the front and center of international deliberations.

"Water now has the place it needs to have in international priorities," he said.

If this is the case, conversations taking place during World Water Week will lead to much-needed definitive action around the world.

One approach that holds a lot of promise for maximizing our water resources worldwide is a circular economic one: As Victor Arroyo, Principal Executive Water and Sanitation at the Development Bank of Latin America, and German Sturzenegger, Water and Sanitation Specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank, pointed out in a recent blog post, previous SIWI World Water Week discussions raised awareness about the adoption of a circular economy as a viable sustainable development strategy. The need for a “paradigm shift” in the water sector away from traditional, linear water consumption patterns of “take-make-dispose” and towards a circular approach in which wastewater is no longer seen as waste or an environmental hazard, but rather as a valuable resource that allows the private and public sectors alike to overcome water stress and imbalances between supply and demand — is particularly relevant to the Latin American region. Today in Stockholm, those organizations and the World Bank come together with national and regional Latin American organizations to discuss the change of paradigm: from a linear to a circular economy in the LAC region.


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