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Water dialogues in Latin America and the Caribbean to accelerate SDG 6

29 April 2021|Event

More than 3000 people from different social, economic, and environmental sectors in the region registered for the virtual event co-organized by ECLAC, UNESCO IHP, CONAGUA and the Federal Government of Germany, to exchange information on how to speed up the completion of SDG 6.

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Diálogos del Agua
Diálogos del Agua

The initiative “Water Dialogues for Results: Accelerating cross-sectoral SDG-6 implementation" initiates an interdisciplinary exchange in different regions of the world. The objective is to collect messages that will be presented at the Global High-Level Conference that will take place virtually on 1st July 2021, where all Member States and United Nations bodies will be invited and get informed about the results achieved.

In order to guarantee the availability of water and its sustainable management, and sanitation for all in Latin America and the Caribbean, on the 29th of April took place the event in virtual form, with the objective of identifying necessary actions to guarantee the accelerated implementation of SDG 6. The instance was co-organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); the UNESCO Intergovernmental Hydrological Program in Latin America and the Caribbean (PHI-LAC); the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature, Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU); and the National Water Commission of Mexico (CONAGUA).

The Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Chile, H.E. Mr. Christian Hellbach; the Head of the Water and Energy Unit of the Natural Resources Division of ECLAC, Ms. Rayen Quiroga; and the Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Sciences for Latin America and the Caribbean, Ms. Lidia Brito; they agreed during the opening regarding the importance of water as an essential resource and the need to ensure its future availability for sustainable development and the fulfillment of global agendas.

For her part, Ms. Janine Muzau of the BMU, pointed out that the needs to achieve SDG 6 are mainly related to capacity development, governance, data and information, financing, and innovation.

To promote a sustainable water transition in the region, which seeks to guarantee the human right to water and sanitation, reverse negative externalities, and foster circular water management, Ms. Silvia Saravia Matus, Economic Affairs Officer of the Natural Resources Division of ECLAC, emphasized which are, from the ECLAC perspective, the main challenges, and proposals for action. To achieve this, it is necessary to reform current water governance systems, strengthening water authorities, and coordinating management among different users. Likewise, water management should be streamlined through instruments such as charges for use and fines for negative environmental impacts. Finally, promotion of investment and regulatorty policies in productive sectors that strategically depend on water are needed to encourage the adoption of technologies that foster reuse, and lead us to more sustainable, resilient, and productive water systems.

Mr. Abou Amani, Secretary of the IHP, referred to UNESCO's contribution to the International Decade for Action "Water for Sustainable Development 2018 - 2028." He stressed that the draft recommendation marks an essential step in the development of open science so that it is more inclusive, cooperative, and innovative. This could help science to unleash its full potential and take on the challenges facing our contemporary societies, such as global warming, the degradation of biodiversity, and the fight against pandemics. This point was highlighted in particular for the region by the Regional Hydrologist of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Hydrological Program in Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr. Miguel Doria, who also moderated this panel.

The region has enormous treasures, including its traditions, ancestral knowledge, and an intersectoral platform with capacities to achieve SDG 6, which is the recent "Escazú Agreement", which recently entered into force and was sponsored by ECLAC. In reference to the lessons that the pandemic caused by COVID-19 has left us, Mr. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to safe drinking water and sanitation, called for reflection, noting that it has been possible to prohibit water cuts to vulnerable and/or poor families; therefore, it is necessary to make this action an urgent need.

The stakeholders in water management

On the main water challenges in the region and proposals to address them, the different intersectoral actions that should be prioritized for the achievement of SDG 6, and the expectations of the mid-term evaluation of the International Decade for Action "Water for Sustainable Development 2018 - 2028 ”, members of public, private and civil society institutions that work and strategically depend on water presented their viewpoints.

The dialogue moderated by Ms Silvia Saravia Matus from ECLAC, made it possible to identify and highlight important elements, such as the strengthening of local and national governance systems; the use of new economic and financial instruments; the need for regulatory frameworks that promote public-private partnerships and encourage resource mobilization for investment; the importance of rescuing traditional knowledge and combining it with principles of circularity; all these proposals in order to contribute to sustainable water management.

Joining efforts for safely managed water, considering the stress suffered by small communities, is essential, according to the Minister of Economic Growth and Job Creation of Jamaica, H.E. Mr. Aubyn Hill, who pointed out the need to bet on circular sustainability, the search for investment through public-private partnerships and technical assistance. Regarding vulnerable localities, the Head of the International Cooperation Management of CONAGUA of Mexico, Ms. Grisel Medina Laguna, reaffirmed the desire to provide attention in remote areas, prioritizing an approach where Human Rights prevail and investments with criteria of equity. There is a need to strengthen public institutions, said the General Regulator of ARESEP of Costa Rica, Mr. Roberto Jimenez Gomez, as well as to integrate the economic value of water through different financial instruments that allow compensation for negative externalities.

The Director of Operations and Circular Economy - Aguas Andinas de Chile, Mr. Daniel Tugues, confirmed that there has not been a decoupling of GDP with water consumption and that in times of drought, strategies that target the investment and innovative solutions such as the circular economy (reuse, recirculation), and Nature-based Solutions are of extreme urgency. Also, highlighted the importance of overcoming the challenges of intersectoral coordination and public-private collaboration, which are still in force.

The Permanent Technical Secretary of CODIA of Spain, through Ms. Concepción Marcuello Olona, ​​highlighted the participatory work that is being carried out on the SDG 6 indicators and the importance of working under the framework of Integrated Water Resources Management, which It will allow progress on the rest of the SDG 6 targets.

What did participants ask?

More than 50 questions were collected in this Dialogue, which reflect the interest of the different actors in the region in promoting issues such as the universalization of Human Right to water and sanitation, equitable and sustainable governance, involvement of rural communities and indigenous peoples, investment mechanisms, access to information, adaptation and mitigation to climate change, among others; which will be processed and taken into account to be included in the High-Level Global Meeting that will take place in July of this year in Bonn, Germany; as well as in the regional studies and recommendations prepared by ECLAC.

You can find out the recording of the event posted here: Water Dialogues LAC 2021 Recording