Tony Slatyer interview — Part 2: the High-Level Panel on Water, its initiatives, and Sustainable Development Goal 6

In a 20-minute follow-up to Part 1 of an interview with Tony Slatyer, he shares some recent updates on the High-Level Panel on Water (HLPW) that has taken place since. He highlights the opportunities for individual action and involvement with these priorities.

Interview Topics

  • Recent updates from the High-Level Panel on Water (HLPW) meeting in New York in September
  • Progress on Australian initiatives launched through the panel
  • How these initiatives will be implemented and you can have a role in disseminating knowledge
  • The remaining agenda of the HLPW

Can you share with us the updates you have just given to the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage at their recent conference — about the developments of the High-Level Panel on Water (HLPW)?

Yes, I addressed the 23rd ICID Congress held in Mexico City in October 2017. The International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage holds its congress every three years, bringing together experts from across the world in the field of irrigation, drainage, and flood management. Obviously, they are very important stakeholders in water.

I told them about the work of the HLPW and particularly about the Australian initiatives under the panel which are relevant to the irrigation sector

A video: ‘Water’s promise’

The panel met in New York on the 21st of September and several products were released. A short video called ‘Water’s promise’, about water and the importance of the commitments that the world has made under SDG 6. It lasts for less than 3-minutes and I’d encourage all your readers and listeners to have a look at it. If you go to the website for the HLPW, the video is the first thing you see on the page.

That release is important because the panel’s first responsibility, as effective government and political leaders, is to advocate for the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all and for change to achieve that.

Statement on WASH

At the meeting, the panel also released a statement on water and sanitation and hygiene, remembering that SDG6 not only commits us to ensure universal access to water but also to clean water and sanitation to address the terrible consequences of poor sanitation for health and wellbeing in the world.

The statement addresses many of the fundamental reforms that the panel thinks will be needed to address the sanitation challenge. It recognises the ‘Sanitation and Water for All’ partnership, which is a separate project underway in the world currently. And it basically advocates all governments to raise the profile and priority of the sanitation issues in their national planning processes and to develop new finance and strategies for sanitation.

It is a very important statement by the panel, which will be the subject of further thinking by the panel over the next few months. The panel’s term expires in March 2018, so there is a lot to do between now and then if the panel is to maximise its impact.

The Water Innovation Engine

Also at this Panel meeting, a second innovation challenge in the Water Innovation Engine was launched. This second Australian proposal seeks to provide specialised support for innovation in the urban water sanitation sector. There’s already one challenge underway funded by the Water Innovation Engine and that is the one on improving access to water data for smallholder farmers in developing countries. That is currently being worked on with 87 bids for the process and a small number still in contention. A final selection will be made soon.

Has there been progress with the other Australian initiatives and those of other nations?

Yes, outside the operation of the panel meeting itself, there’s been a lot of progress with Australia’s ‘World Water Data Initiative’, and with the Netherlands’ initiative on valuing water.

The World Water Data Initiative

There was a major meeting in Geneva of all the relevant technical agencies, particularly those of the United Nations system. These are organisations that have considerable responsibilities in water information such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and so forth. That meeting was used mainly to focus on the harmonisation objective of the initiative, such as:

  • how to reduce costs and complexity of accepting water data for, particularly, the poorer developing countries.
  • how they can make the best use of data that’s available from international sources.

There have been really good ideas among the creatives at that meeting, which are now being built into projects that will be pursued towards achieving that initiative.

Other features of the data initiative, such as policy and innovation, are also charging ahead. There’s a policy document which will be available soon and there’s the challenge on water data, which I mentioned before. It is being funded by the Water Innovation Engine.

On the water efficiency front, we have been promoting the basic message that the best way to achieve water efficiency is for people to have incentives to use water efficiently — or at least to not waste water. There is a range of policy initiatives that can be put in place towards the objective.

Australia has issued a document called Water Guide which sets out some of those policies based on the Australian experience and we are working with other countries that are interested in that approach.

We will have more to say about that when are able to announce the next steps with that project, along with the other elements of the water efficiency announcements that have already been made by the HLPW.

Valuing water

There has also been a lot of work led by The Netherlands on the issue of valuing water. This is a very important public debate which is being promoted by The Netherlands under the wing of the panel. Australia is also involved in that process.

I encourage anybody who is able to engage in that discussion to check out the website to find ways of doing so.

How will these initiatives be taken up, implemented, and communicated to the world?

The HLPW will initiate processes of engagement which the lead countries will manage.

For example, in matters related to water data or water efficiency, Australia will manage engagement with other countries on that issue. If it’s a matter to do with valuing water, the Netherlands will manage that engagement. For the sanitation agenda, there are several panel member countries leading that project and they will each have roles in prosecuting it. But each of these countries will do things in their own way, so you shouldn’t expect a process where there’s a single structure, other than the website. Implementation will be by a country engaging with those initiatives that it is most interested in and in ways that are set up for those particular initiatives.

The video I mentioned is intended for the world, not just for governments, NGOs, or IGOs. In fact, we’ve had 110,000 views so far of the video since it was released. These videos are for public consumption and public awareness-raising. Of course, governments are also part of that broader community.

Videos like this have a role in educating broader civil society which may have relationships with different levels of government and governance. They can catch the attention of people who can then raise awareness in new spheres of influence. They’re very easy to disseminate. You just need to Tweet the link or send it out via other social media. The more people who disseminate it, watch it, promote it, the better.

As I’ve said before, it is important for everybody to exercise a leadership role in achieving SDG6. It doesn’t matter where you sit in society, you have an opportunity to exercise that leadership role, and one way you can do that is by looking at the video. If you agree with its messages, then send it out to your colleagues and friends and get the message out there about how important these water issues are, and how important the Sustainable Development Goals are for the future wellbeing of all people.

What else is on the agenda for the HLPW for its final few months?

There will be a lot of work going on to ensure that the panel has maximum impact in its remaining life. At New York, the panel agreed on how it would frame its final messaging and structure and the outcome of that agreement will become clear over the next few months, as the panel goes through its final stages.

I’d be happy to update you and your listeners every couple of months on what’s happening.

The video: ‘Water’s promise’

The Panel met in New York on 21 September, and released a short video called ‘Water’s Promise’ about water and the importance of the commitments that the world has made under SDG 6.

Statement on WASH

At the meeting on the 21st of September, the panel released a statement on water and sanitation and hygiene, remembering that SDG6 not only commits us to ensuring universal access to water but also to clean water and sanitation to address the terrible consequences of poor sanitation for health and wellbeing in the world.

Water Innovation Engine

Also at this Panel meeting, a second innovation challenge in the Water Innovation Engine was launched. This second Australian proposal seeks to provide specialised support for innovation in the urban water sanitation sector. This challenge follows the first challenge of the Water Innovation Engine, on improving access to water data for smallholder farmers in developing countries.

World Water Data Initiative

There was a major meeting in Geneva of all the relevant technical agencies, particularly those of the United Nations system. These are organisations that have considerable responsibilities in water information such as the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN), WMO (World Meteorological Organization), and so forth. That meeting was used mainly to focus on the harmonisation objective of the World Water Data Initiative.

On the water efficiency front, the basic message is that the best way to achieve water efficiency is for people to have incentives to use water efficiently – or at least to not waste water. There is a range of policy initiatives that can be put in place towards the objective.

Australia has issued a document called Water Guide which sets out some of those policies based on Australian experience, and we are working with other countries that are interested in that approach.

Valuing Water

There has also been a lot of work led by The Netherlands on the issue of valuing water. This is a very important public debate which is being promoted by The Netherlands under the wing of the Panel. Australia is also involved in that process.

Interview Quotes

 

This interview and related content was originally part of the Kini Interview Series. Kini is a retired brand of the AWP and IWCAN.

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