The Australian Water partnership held its 3rd annual Partners Workshop in Brisbane on 6-7 February 2019, themed ‘How can the Australian water sector make a difference in the Indo-Pacific region?’ with a focus on understanding, networking, collaboration, knowledge, and opportunities.
Attending were 126 people from 78 AWP Partner organisations (almost half of AWP Partners) based in Australia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, China, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Samoa, France, and the US, including DFAT Canberra and Posts from Bangkok and Pakistan.
AWP was honoured to welcome the Hon Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, to give the opening address. The Minister emphasised the importance of water from the perspective of the Australian Government, touching on the unique social and environmental challenges faced throughout the Pacific region. She also spoke about the necessity of working together to leverage impact.
AWP CEO Prof Nick Schofield reflected on AWP’s achievements to date and its future directions, outlining key priorities, strategies and activities moving forward. It aimed to give Partners an insight into the mechanisms driving decisions on implementing AWP activities, such as how AWP’s demand-driven approach worked.
The two-day conference also featured excellent Australian and international speakers on topics including ‘Emerging Opportunities in the Water Sector’ from a World Bank and Asian Development Bank perspective; ‘Lessons learned and future trends in the Indo-Pacific’ from an International Water Management Institute and UN Food and Agriculture Organization perspective; ‘Thinking and Working Politically: A Practical Approach’; and geographic focus sessions on India, the Mekong and Indonesia.
A session on Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) posed what making a difference in the region meant, how AWP and Partners are contributing, and how progress is being measured. These concepts are outlined in AWP’s Monitoring & Evaluation Plan (2018–23), supporting AWP’s first 3-year progress report which is soon to published. During the session, participants were provided with an opportunity to share their views on how AWP can better facilitate Partners’ role in the M&E process.
Some real-world examples of capacity development impact were presented by Pacific Water and Waste Water Association CEO Lusia Sefo-Leau, and Myanmar Young Water Professional (batch 1) Aye Myat Mon Kyaw, highlighting the impact to which AWP funded activities have made at the individual level – women/girls in particular – and organisational level.
An engaging ‘World Café’ session covered topics on how to make a difference in the region, including co-producing solutions to govern the water-food-energy nexus, addressing gender equality and social inclusion, irrigation modernisation, collaborating on integrated urban water management, river basin planning to support sustainable development, addressing challenges for environmental water management, and harnessing knowledge from emerging water professionals/leaders.
The session also provided the opportunity for Partners to engage in dialogue with each other and AWP Management to find out more about work across countries and sectors, and to find complementarities for future collaboration.
Prior to the Workshop were training sessions on ‘Gender Equality & Social Inclusion Capability’, delivered by AWP’s GESI Specialist Julie Webb, and ‘Cross-Cultural Awareness and Capability’ delivered by Tamerlaine Beasley (Beasley Intercultural) who also facilitated the two-day workshop. This training contributes to better preparing Partners to work in international engagement and weave GESI sensitive outcomes into their activities. The intent is to run these courses again in the latter half of the year.
Prof Schofield noted that the workshop was at full capacity – a positive indication that many AWP Partners were enthusiastic about learning and working with others – in the Australian and international water sector – to make a difference to people and communities in the region.
“It has been excellent to see such positive engagement from AWP Partners who are very knowledgeable and skilled in responding to requests for assistance to enhance sustainable water management. It has been a very productive two days of networking and creating a dialogue around how we can use this knowledge and technical capability to assist countries in the region,” says Nick Schofield.
A summary of key points, presentations and photos from the workshop will be available online shortly at https://test.waterpartnership.org.au/event/awp-partner-workshop-2019