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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.

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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.

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