OK, so 10,001 might be a slight exaggeration – or perhaps even more than “slight” But just call this a bad habit I’ve picked up from reading far too many UN documents – including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). [For an example of this, please watch for my next post. I haven’t quite decided yet whether the title will be “Only 101 darn nations” or “When will Thomas Stocker and/or the IPCC learn to count?”]
That being said, rarely a week goes by without one branch or another in the maze of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP inventor and promulgator of scary stories since 1972) stable of acronymic offspring holding a gathering of some sort or other: High level, Low Level, Plenipotentiary, Intergovernmental, Summit, Panel, Task Force, Working Group, Committee, Forum, COP, MOP, Informal Informal, Informal etc. etc. and various and sundry permutations and combinations thereof.
Did you know that 2013 has been officially declared as the “United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation”? Yes, of course you did because I told you all about it (here and here). And, of course there are logos:
I’m not entirely sure how they intend to get water to cooperate. As far as I know water not only seeks its own level, but it’s also generally known to do its own thing. Just like weather and climate, come to think of it. But I digress …
Last month while we were busy trying to decipher the many word-salads in the first installment of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report, there was a four-day Water Summit going on in Budapest (see logo above). According to the ever-present quasi-official rapporteur, the IISD:
The Budapest Water Summit opened on Tuesday, 8 October 2013, in Budapest, Hungary. Participants engaged in the opening ceremony setting the stage for the four-day conference. The meeting is taking place in the context of the United Nations (UN) International Year of Water Cooperation 2013, the outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) “The Future We Want,” and the ongoing post-2015 development agenda process to negotiate sustainable development goals (SDGs).
I suppose that, as with IPCC confabs, eventually we will learn who the attendees at this Summit might be – and if we’re really lucky we might even learn what their respective affiliations and qualifications might be. But IISD’s summary of the highlights from the opening ceremony suggests that the main actors have simply picked up their lines from the global warming/climate change playbook. See if you can hear any familiar bells ringing in the following excerpts (my bold):
President János Áder, Hungary […] water disputes across the world could culminate in war. He stressed that if water use trends continue, global vulnerability will be created posing high costs to humanity. He called for close-knit water cooperation between countries and for the conference to draw the world’s attention to water issues by, inter alia: building awareness of individual and common responsibilities; demonstrating common faith to achieve objectives; and leading by example.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon explained that water is needed for health, security and economic progress and holds the key to sustainable development. He lamented that by 2030 nearly half the global population could be facing water scarcity, and demand could outstrip supply by 40 percent. Stressing the need for all countries to work together, he outlined three areas for cooperation: food security; climate change; and sanitation. He drew attention to the report, “A Life of Dignity For All,” which sets out what is needed to define and achieve a set of SDGs to inspire the world.
Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister, Cambodia, stressed the importance of water as a basic human right and called on all governments to cooperate on water issues to give the future a chance. […]
Noting that water is not a domestic or bilateral issue Lamberto Zannier, Secretary General, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, stressed that access to water must be addressed globally. He discussed the nexus between water, energy and food security, and explained that the challenges the international community faces regarding water are highly contentious.
Michel Jarraud, [please see note below -hro] Chair, UN-Water, and Secretary General, World Meteorological Organization, offered UN-Water’s reservoir of expertise to address one of the most “cross-cutting issues we have to solve.” He explained UN-Water is working to help develop potential targets and indicators for an SDG on water and to provide technical input into the post-2015 development agenda to inform forthcoming discussions and negotiations.
Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the Secretary General and CEO, Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, Chair UN-Energy, underscored the nexus between energy and water, saying they were two sides of the same coin, with nearly half the water withdrawals in some areas being used for energy. He warned that using energy badly will exacerbate both water challenges and food security, noted that the next Stockholm World Water Week will be devoted to energy and water, and linked both as central to overall security and conflict issues. He cautioned against subsidizing energy alone, which can lead to overusing aquifers for agriculture, and cited the importance of addressing universal access to energy and water to ensure the empowerment of women.
[And last but not least]
[…Péter] Polak described a well in his grandparents’ garden that went dry causing the garden to lose its character, noting this is a common problem the world over, in the Aral Sea, in the Yellow River basin, and at the melting poles. He said the carelessness that brought us to this point still exists and stressed that we are still far from a recovery. Adding that while he is perhaps naïve, he believes that the challenges can be addressed. He stressed participants have the power to make things better, not for just for themselves but more importantly for their children.
I don’t think there are too many gardens at either “pole” – whether this alleged “melting” is actually occurring or not. But what do I know, eh?! In any event, here are some excerpts from the IISD’s summary of the (somewhat predictable) “outcome” of these proceedings:
BUDAPEST WATER SUMMIT STATEMENT: On Friday afternoon, participants adopted by consensus the “Budapest Water Statement: A Sustainable World is a Water-Secure World.” The Statement declares, inter alia:
The Statement also concludes that the critical nature of water for human populations and the planet, conditioning any future sustainable development agenda, requires a robust intergovernmental process to regularly monitor, review and assess progress of the implementation of a future water goal. The Statement recommends appropriate institutional mechanisms are soon put in place to regularly review and assess progress in an integrated manner.
The Statement includes annexed policy recommendations on: creating SMART(ER) targets to ensure universal access to safe, gender-responsive and sustainable WASH; integrated consideration of water within its management context and in all basic services sectors; fostering good water governance; using water to create growth and “green economies”; and creating new micro- and macro-, private- and public-, financing methods. [emphasis added -hro]
Note: Michel Jarraud’s involvement in this Summit is well, interesting! He was present (albeit, perhaps as a mere “silent” observer, perhaps not accounted for!) at the much-ballyhooed Stockholm gathering at the end of September, during which the Summary for Policy Makers of Working Group I (WGI)’s contribution to AR5 was “approved”, and the underlying report “accepted”.
During the Press Conference which followed the conclusion of these proceedings, I was left with the impression that Jarraud’s voice (along with that of the magnificent manipulator, WGI Co-Chair Thomas Stocker) was heard far more frequently than that of IPCC Chair, Rajendra Pachauri. This may (may not!) have been a good thing ;-)