Summary | Geneva Peace Week Event - Water and Conflicts

This event started with the presentation of the winners of the blue peace initiative and was followed by three interactive dialogue sessions that each featured one young professional and one senior professional on the theme of water and peace.

Sarah Dousse, Director of the International Secretariat for Water, explained the initiative “Imagine Blue Peace” and announced the winners. This initiative was launched by the Geneva Water Hub, the International Secretariat for Water and the World Youth Parliament for Water focusing on youth visions on the theme of water as an instrument for peace. Through these kind of initiatives youth is included in finding solutions on how water can be used as an instrument for peace.

The second part of the session was dedicated to the dialogues, where junior and senior experts shared their know-how and discussed the following topics:

Topic 1: Local and inclusive water management practices for conflict prevention (focus: local community involvement, especially youth and women)

The goal was to enable discussion on the importance of including especially youth and women in water resources management. This session elaborated challenges and strategies to engage these groups, especially youth and pin-pointed the main reasons why the collaboration with youth as being the future leaders, is key for good water management.

Speakers: 

  • Amrita Gautuam, Universität zu Köln, Cologne, Germany
  • François Münger, Geneva Water Hub

Topic 2: Water in contemporary warfare from a civilians’ perspective (focus: Civil Society in Syria)

The session looked at the role of access to water in “new wars” and the impact of using water as a weapon due to sub-national violence (e.g. what are the consequences for civilians of deliberately impeding the water access by targeting small water infrastructure?) and at how water can be used as a leverage to strengthen civil society.

Speakers:

  • Elodie Feijoo Seara, GeoExpertise and The Water Initiative Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies
  • Ronald Jaubert, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Topic 3: Fostering Transboundary Water Cooperation (focus: legal and technological perspective)

The last part was about pertinent issues related to international water law and the benefit of new technologies in transboundary water governance.

Speakers:

  • Imad Antoine Ibrahim, Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy
  • Mara Tignino, Geneva Water Hub/University of Geneva

>>>>> Access the Event Organizer Substantive Report here. <<<<<<<

Event Organizer Substantive Report

Author: Elodie Feijoo Seara

How did your event contribute to building peace? (e.g. knowledge, relationships, initiatives, etc.)

The potential of art, a universal language, to promote peace, was highlighted, with the presentation of artistic interventions to communicate BluePeace. The variety of topics with three thematic sessions (one on Local and inclusive water management practices for conflict prevention; one on Water in contemporary warfare from a civilians’ perspective; and one on Fostering transboundary water cooperation) allowed to bring together speakers and participants with different interests topic-wise but sharing a common interest in the water sector. The nexus between water and peace was explored across disciplines (from law to development and engineering) and across categories of actors. The numerous co-organizers, with universities NGOs and youth organisations, from Swiss-based to international ones, allowed to have a diversity of speakers as well as a diversity of participants in the public. Actors that do not usually have the opportunity to discuss among them could interact. In addition to this, the numerous moments left for interactions with the public resulted in rich discussions and transfer of knowledge between actors. Finally, the Intergenerational Dialogue on Water and Peace developed a relationship across generations by matching young and senior experts in pairs. In order to build a lasting peace, it is important to include younger generations in the process, and the aim of this event was not only to have a youth presence among participants but to have them as speakers to give young people a platform allowing their voices to be heard and recognition of their expertise.

What new understandings emerged during your session on the needs for future peace-building practice?

Water management should be more inclusive with women and youth. There is a need to recognize their expertise and to involve them in water management. Key pre-conditions for inclusion process are to allow their voices to be heard, to understand their needs, to train them, so in fine they can take equal roles. For a meaningful water management, three elements are required: technical innovation, social innovation and institutions.

The importance of communication was raised. Water management being too technical, there is a challenge for universities in transferring knowledge to decision-makers. In the same vein, the fragmentation of water management with several institutions acting at different levels and in competition was mentioned.  Ways to facilitate the exchange of technical data and information among countries were discussed, and the role of institutional mechanisms in it was mentioned. Among countries, the role of river basin organizations for peacebuilding was emphasised, using the Senegal and Niger basin organizations as example of cooperation despite the speaking of different languages and distinct national laws.

The role of civilians as target and not collaterals in contemporary warfare was denounced using the Syrian example. Water access was described as an interesting weapon allowing to reach territories outside of territorial control, and especially effective at pressuring and displacing populations. The short-term perspective of humanitarian aid organizations with the reparation of water infrastructures was contrasted with civilians’ mid-term needs in long lasting conflicts. Keeping the water system functional is key, and as water can only be managed at the local level, the sustainability of answers and enhancement of local capacities is important to reconstruct society and build a lasting peace.

A recurrent observation among presentations was that designing is not enough! The importance of the implementation of laws by states was highlighted. The need for new laws was questioned considering the lack of implementation of current ones by states.

What policy recommendations on peace building emerged during your event?

  • Designing laws/inclusive mechanisms/institutions etc. is not enough; implementation is key!
  • Mobilize and empower a new generation of water leaders to contribute to a sustainable and peaceful development.
  • Encourage inclusive water management practices, specifically those including young people and women.
  • Improve communication and knowledge sharing between categories of actors, sectors and generations.
  • Acknowledge the role of civilians as target in contemporary warfare in order to provide adequate protective mechanisms and answers.
  • Put an emphasis on the sustainability of the humanitarian approach and complement short-term answers with an enhancement of civilians’ capacities e.g. providing them with information on how to protect, repair, and manage the infrastructures; establishment of water-users associations.
  • Share best practices from river basin organizations, such as information exchange, to favour the creation of new ones and the effective contribution of current and new organisations to peace.

>>>>> Access the Event Organizer Substantive Report here. <<<<<<<

Report: Swiss Junior Water Prize

As winner of the Swiss-JWP, Zamir Borojevic was entitled to represent Switzerland at the Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) during the last week of August 2019. This is the most prestigious event dedicated to water and Mr. Borojevic proved to be a worthy ambassador of Swiss youth, displaying deep knowledge on the subject of his research during the project presentation in front of the international jury.

>>>>>>>>>>>> Read the full report HERE. <<<<<<<<<<<<<

Swiss Entry

Tardigrades Under the Influence of Acidic and Alkaline Solutions,
and UV-C Radiation – Zamir Borojevic

Tardigrades are very small animals who belong to the taxon of Ecdysozoa, and are found in most water bodies, sediment and moss. They have developed the unique ability to react to rapidly changing environmental conditions by changing their physical
characteristics and taking on different stages of resistance. Climate change not only has an influence on temperatures around the world, but it also affects the physical characteristics of different waters, which results in need of adaptation for all organisms living in aquatic ecosystems. The aim is to investigate the tolerance and vitality of Hypsibius exemplaris under the influence of different pH values and different dosages of UV-C light and thereby create a diagram for their tolerance and vitality for each experiment.

Contest and related activities

A total of 56 finalists from 35 countries submitted written projects to enter the SWJP at the beginning of June. During the contest week in Stockholm, each finalist was interviewed by the 7 members of the jury who had previously read and evaluated the submitted projects. The Swiss contestant was interviewed on Monday 26th August in the second group of finalists. Besides the interviews by the jury and the projects’ exhibition framed within the World Water Week, the contestants attended a series of events that encourage intercultural exchange and strengthen friendship bonds among the participants. They were also the main actors during Malin Falkenmark´s Young Scientists Symposyum on Climate Change, where the finalists submitted a common Youth Statement on Water and Climate Change to be included in the final review of the World Water Week. The highlight event was the award ceremony of the SJWP, where the finalists had the opportunity to meet H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, patron of the prize.

Winning project

Winner of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize 2019 was Macinley Butson, from the Australia, for her project “The SODIS Sticker – Development of an Inexpensive and Deployable Film-based Detector for Accurate Ultraviolet Solar Disinfection (SODIS) of Water”.

>>>>>>>>>>> Read the full report HERE. <<<<<<<<<<<<<

Report: World Water Week 2019 | Stockholm

“Water for Society: Including All” 25-30 August 2019

With 4,000 participants, 277 sessions, 74 exhibitors and 578 convening organizations form 138 countries, the World Water Week (WWW) broke several records and experimented with new formats. One of the most noticeable trends in the water world is growing interest among young people. This was very evident at WWW, with one third of participants under age 35.

The theme of World Water Week 2019 was Water for Society: Including all, seeking to draw attention to the fact that humanity’s major challenges are interlinked and can only be solved through broad solutions. The escalating water crisis has increased focus on the importance of good water governance, to make sure that there is enough clean water for the many competing needs. It is of particular importance that marginalized groups are not left behind and that they can influence decision-making. How this can be achieved was explored from various angles throughout World Water Week 2019. Many sessions were dedicated to sharing the knowledge of different groups, such as people living with disabilities, ethnic minorities, slum-dwellers, the young and the elderly. Other activities focused on how gender roles and power relations impact who gets what water, reminding participants that efficient water governance may require the challenging of traditional stereotypes.

This year, 20 SWP Members were involved in the SWWW (SWP stand and/or session). The Swiss Water Partnership’s central elements were the booth with the Swiss reception and the daily presentations, Switzerland’s participation in the international competition Stockholm Junior Water Prize, one co-convened a session together with 5 SWP members, and 1 exclusive high-level side event outside the official conference hosted by the Embassy of Switzerland in Sweden.

>>>>>>>>  Read the full report here. <<<<<<<<<<<<<

SUMMARY

The Swiss presence can be summarized as follows:

  • Booth Size and Setting: The booth was in a new location, very accessible and large enough to include a presentation area, a lounge and a meeting corner with thables (the size was 30 m2). The design was kept as in the past years – clean and bright. As a networking hub, the place served for interaction, discussion, meetings. Compared to the former years, the booth had less sessions but gave more room to young people to present their initiatives (such as intergenerational talks between senior and junior water professionals and sharing lessons learned from the scientific expedition from glaciers to Aral). As the lightning and setting of the booth were different (1 open island booth in a large dark hall) the branding should be even stronger next year (the logo could be placed more prominently).

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  • High visibility of the SWP booth events: There was a min. of 25 people at SWP booth events (1 x even over 70 people). Compared to the past years, the audience almost tripled (10-15 people at the SWP booth in 2018). This indicates that the location of the SWP Booth is key. The fact of indicating early enough the wish of a strategically well-located booth proved beneficial to the Swiss water community since the SWP booth served as a networking HUB and a place for meetings. It is recommended to continue to focus on quality and innovative ways to present (market place, games, networking aperitifs) and the key messages that we, as Swiss water community want to transmit to the audience, rather than having a dense program at the booth, which poorly visited (quality before quantity).

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  • The Swiss Events (Swiss Reception at the booth and the high-level political Dinner-Discussion at the Residence of the Ambassador) were both appreciated by the audience, very popular and well attended, same as in the past.
  • Special event: The exclusive SWP high-level event in collaboration with the Swiss Embassy in Stockholm as well as the Geneva Water Hub and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation was well attended with over 70 people. Thanks to the unique collaboration with the Swiss Embassy in Stockholm, the private dinner-discussion with high level speakers (water ministers and experts from different regions of the world) was a success. It created increased political awareness on the challenges faced in securing access to basic water related services due to violence in conflict zones or when hosting population fleeing violence in neighbouring countries, and it underlined the importance of water as an instrument for dialogue and peace.

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  • The Swiss water expertise was shared prominently at the daily sessions with an average of 11 events per day where SWP members were involved. Out of the 70 SWP members, over 20 participated in this year’s WWW. In total, over 50% of all sessions during the WWW involved a SWP member. It was also mentioned that in The SWP co-convened one session (“Addressing discrimination and neglect in WASH: An uncomfortable conversation”) and received very positive feedback related to the content: it was perceived very specific, “unconformable”, honest, authentic and high quality. It was live streamed and can be accessed here part 1; part 2; read the summary of the event here). Read the conclusion of the event here.

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  • Innovation: Some aspects that were used to increase the innovative approach were 1) to go as paperless as possible (business cards with QR codes) through the reduction of print material, 2) the achievement of the Gold Standard for the SWP session (min. 40% of women; min. 1 young professional for each seminar), and 3) daily interactive sessions at the booth (intergenerational dialogues, youth platform, film screening).

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  • The topic of youth was very present – during the conference itself but also in this years’ Swiss program. This trend is a positive development, despite there is a danger that youth can be instrumentalized or that as a young person it remains a challenge to really change things and be more disruptive. Further, there is also still exclusion form youth around the world. While last year, the SWP focused mainly on the Swiss Junior Water Prize, this years’ activities were more diverse: The Youth scientific expedition from glaciers to Aral (SDC funded program) allowed the Central Asia Youth for Water Network to present its documentary on IWRM and Climate Change. The Geneva Water Hub organized intergenerational water talks (between senior and junior experts) at the booth and cewas gave the stage to young entrepreneurs from all over the world. Further, the SWP member Skat sponsored a young professional from Sierra Leone to attend the conference. The SWP held a session at the SIWI young professional’s booth aiming at presenting the youth strategy and strengthen its network with other youth groups/young professionals. The youth led organizations such as WYPW and the Young Water Solutions, which are linked to SWP partner International Secretariat for Water, were key actors at the SWP Booth but also created noise during the conference. The Swiss Junior representant, Zamir (SJWP Winner 2019) had a dense daily schedule ranging from project presentations in front of a jury to sightseeing and he proudly represented Switzerland in the international final for the Junior Water Prize. All his activities were well coordinated by the Swiss Toilet Organization.

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  • Strategic meetings: The strategic meetings are key and were fruitful this year. The SWP has strengthened its relationship with ADB, the WB and national water partnerships, connected through the NowNet platform. All partners expressed their interest to deepen the collaboration for 2020 – especially the Dutch, French, Global and German Water Partnership. The World Bank is generally interested in the SWP study tour offer but a specific entry point needs to be found. Further, the ADB confirmed a study visit for summer 2020. The planning process will start in January 2020. These development show that there is high interest in the Swiss expertise by international key sector actors.

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  • The word “Blue Peace” (standing for hydrodiplomacy/hydropolitics) was the buzz-word and even mentioned at the closing plenary. Most Swiss events were centered around this topic, which created a nice red thread thorough the week that could be picked up easily by the audience. Besides hydropolitics, the word “transboundary” and “Water Stewardship” were key words.

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  • Media/Social Media: The SWP members’ dynamic activities attracted a lot of attention and a SWP partner landed on the front page of the official daily newspaper “the Water Front Daily” (Antonella Vagliente, Young Water Solutions). The Swiss Junior Water Prize Winner 2019 Zamir Borojevic was featured in the Swiss local newspaper “Aargauer Zeitung” (access article here). Further, the SWP session on Addressing Discrimination and Neglect in WASH, an uncomfortable conversation was live streamed and can be accessed here part 1; part 2. A summary of the event is accessible Further, during the whole week the SWP events were mostly announced with a teaser through Twitter and Facebook.

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  • The overarching conclusions form the Swedish organizers can be accessed here.

>>>>>>>>  Access the full report HERE. <<<<<<<<<<

This is what Stockholm Junior Water Prize is about!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year, tens of thousands of brilliant young minds around the world develop astonishing innovations to tackle today´s water challenges. The winners of their national competitions come together for the finals of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize during the World Water Week.

The Swiss Water Partnership and the Swiss Toilet Organisation have joined forces to carry out the Swiss Junior Water Prize since 2017, entitling the winners to represent Switzerland in the international contest in Stockholm, in a week full of unforgettable emotions.

Meet the 56 finalists of 2019 and learn more about this inspirational event in the video here.

Summary - WWW Session: "Addressing Discrimination and Neglect in WASH: An Uncomfortable Conversation"

A panel discussion on Addressing Discrimination and Neglect in WASH: An Uncomfortable Conversation took place at Stockholm World Water Week on 29 August 2019. It included interventions from 6 organisations under the auspices of the Swiss Water Partnership, and was facilitated by Kerstin Danert (Skat).

This session addressed the specific needs of people who are often neglected or discriminated against, including women, girls, poor people, prisoners, people with mental health issues and sexworkers. Below is a brief overview of the topics discussed during the session. You can watch a video of the session recording here.

Neglecting the rights of people in prisons

John Brogan (Terre des Hommes) described the situation in prisons. More than 11 million people globally live in prisons, over half of them in low- and middle-income countries – and the global prison population is rising. In the context of the SDGs and universal access, a lot of work has been done to increase and improve access to WASH services in institutions such as schools and health facilities. However, prisons are often left out of these efforts. Not a lot of research done on this topic: UNC recently published the first systematic review of environmental health conditions in prisons.  While the most common risk factor identified was contaminated food and/or beverages prepared or handled in the institution’s kitchen, few studies had conducted in low- and middle-income countries, biasing the results of this review. Getting access to prisons is often difficult: working on WASH infrastructure can however open doors to study prison populations and the specific needs of prisoners, including women and children. Indeed, as Shivani Swamy (Livinguard Technologies) pointed out, in India, children are allowed to stay in prisons with their mothers until the age of 5. Their needs, and that of women, are often neglected.

A participant also pointed out that a project by an NGO to improved sanitation conditions in a prison was killed off by senior management, as it wanted to be seen to help out women and children rather than prisoners which may be a harder sell to the public and to donors. Another participant thanked the panelist for raising this issue, which had been highlighted by the UN rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation.

The taboos around menstruation for girls and women

Lucie Leclert (Swiss Water & Sanitation Consortium) addressed the topic of menstruation, which remains taboo for many people. Lucie outlined the lack of adequate infrastructure in schools, and the fact that girls are very often not informed before their first menstruation. Menstruation can be a factor in missing or dropping out of school. Boys and girls should be included when discussing menstruation:  the Swiss Water and Sanitation Consortium developed the Blue Schools kit, which includes a chapter entitled “Grow and change”, which it focuses more broadly on puberty changes and provides practical exercises and games for children, to give them information about menstruation.

Menstruation is also a topic of interest for Shivani Swamy  (Livinguard Technologies) whose company has started to manufacture Saafkins, which are reusable sanitary napkins, for women in India. It addresses the specific needs of some vulnerable groups, including women in prisons and sexworkers, who may being unable to afford underwear. Her experience in accessing a women’s prison in India is that women often have no access to soap, no privacy – it becomes difficult for women to manage their menstruation in these conditions. Furthermore, she highlighted that her company had received some backlash from people on social media for addressing the needs of these women as they were perceived as ‘not needy’ or not deserving improved access to menstrual pads.

One of the participants (Esther de Vreede from the organisation Simavi – who is also a member of the SDC Sub-RésEAU Africa ) pointed out that while it is often assumed that girls miss out on school because of menstruation. Research shows that lack of sanitation infrastructure or pads is not the main reason why girls miss out on school. In Uganda, for instance, pain during their periods was the main factor for girls missing school. She also suggested to talking about Menstrual Health Management rather than Menstrual Hygiene Management, which implies that menstruation is unhygienic.

Community-Led Total Sanitation – a discriminatory approach?

Carolien Van der Voorden (Water and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)) outlined that CLTS (an well-known methodology whereby communities are mobilised to completely eliminate open defecation) may not be as inclusive as we would like to think. A study from WSSCC on inequality in CLTS showed some examples of discrimination for people with mental health issues. In one case, a man was banned from a village so that the community could achieve Open Defecation Free status while the inspectors were visiting. People were also forced to take out loans to achieve the minimum standard that the community had set for latrines. In one case, this led to an elderly man losing his land. There are also positive examples of CLTS being inclusive and considering the needs of vulnerable people, but we need to be aware of these other cases. WSSCC is now taking action by making CLTS facilitators more aware of inequalities and preconceptions, in order to ensure that these initiatives do no harm, and has published a new handbook on equality and discrimination for CLTS facilitators.

Shared sanitation: lack of standards excludes residents in informal settlements

Vasco Schelbert (EAWAG) explained that shared sanitation facilities are predominant in low-income and informal settlement in cities. They can take many forms: shared between households, public or community toilets. However, shared facilities are not considered a basic service under the JMP ladder for sanitation, which is used to monitor the SDGs. For this reason, public authorities and NGOs alike do not invest in these solutions, which is excluding a service which people in informal settlements use and need. EAWAG is working on standards to be able to assess the quality of shared sanitation services, with a view to incorporate this in global monitoring systems such as the JMP.

The role of bilateral donors such as the Swiss Development Cooperation

Nadia Benani (SDC) emphasised the role of donors in raising awareness in relation to issues which are uncomfortable but need to be addressed to help the most vulnerable. She highlighted the need for donors to move away from the concept of “trickle down economics” in order to focus on the poorest and most marginalised people in society. The magnitude of people excluded in the WASH sector is huge – half of the world’s population do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. SDC’s approach is to engage with a range of partners in order to promote innovative approaches which support vulnerable people.

Conclusion

The rapporteur, Soraya Kohler (Swiss Water Partnership), concluded that many barriers in the WASH sector still need to be overcome for marginalised and vulnerable populations for the goal of universal access to WASH to be achieved. We need to ensure that issues around equality and discrimination – and on the Leave no one behind concept more broadly – remains on the agenda in international development and in the water sector more specifically.

Authors: Meleesa Naughton and Julie Smolnitchi (Skat)

> Download PDF here.

THE WATER DIPLOMAT

 

Launch of The Water Diplomat Media Platform

Media engagement is instrumental to raise awareness on water issues. However, to date, there is no media platform centralising and organising hydropolitical information in a consistent manner at a global level. The degree of complexity related to water issues further requires expertise in identifying and following the issues at stake and communicating on their evolution.

In a move to bridge the gap on hydropolitical information and trigger the interest of the public and the media, the Geneva Water Hub and OOSKAnews, the world’s leading publisher of current international water news, jointly launched a global media platform entitled The Water Diplomat, a free monthly news and intelligence resource specialised in hydropolitics. The media platform builds upon the work of the Global High Level Panel on Water & Peace, that produced in 2017 the milestone report A Matter of Survival, by providing news pertaining to the various themes of the Panel’s report. It also offers in-depth analysis of experts through videocast interviews. The Water Diplomat project thus pursued the goal of promoting access to political stakes of water management that are making news around the world. It is aimed at any water professional, researcher, politician, diplomat, communication specialist, citizen wishing to learn about hydropolitics news. It serves as an intermediate source of information for national and local media interested in providing news in this area of expertise.

This new media platform has been launched during World Water Week 2019 in Stockholm at the Swiss Booth in the frame of a session on intergenerational dialogue on Water and Peace convened by the Geneva Water Hub, the International Secretariat for Water and OOSKAnews. Further, it has been promoted through an event at the Geneva Press Club with a panel composed of Dr. Danilo Türk, Chair of the Global High Level Panel on Water and Peace, Mr. François Münger, Director General of the Geneva Water Hub, Mr. Johan Gély, Head of SDC Global Water Programme, Mr. David Duncan, Executive Director of OOSKAnews and Mr. Dagim Gesese Terefe, Freelance Journalist and Global Goodwill Ambassador for Ethiopia. Panellists of this press conference, accessible online, highlighted the crucial need to mainstream water challenges in the media as well as the role that journalists may endorse in order to inform the public and contribute to the de-escalation of likely tensions aroused from water resource competition. There are also many positive steps taken in the water domain that would benefit from more media coverage with the aim to provide more visibility to the Blue Peace movement and actors working towards peace and cooperation.

The Geneva Water Hub and its partners warmly invites all SWP members and readers of its publications to subscribe to The Water Diplomat and its free monthly newsletter.

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Please find here the PDF.