WORLD WATER FORUM
The world's largest event dedicated to the water, was held from 12 to 17 March in the French Marseilles. The forum was organized by the World Water Council and the Government of France.
The World Water Forum is being conducted every three years since 1997. Previous water fora were held in Istanbul (2009), Mexico (2006), Kyoto (2003), Hague (2000), Marrakech (1997).
The World Water Forum is the largest international event on water issues. It mainly serves to four main purposes:
- to raise the importance of water role in the political agenda;
- to promote the deepening of discussions on solving international water issues in the XXI century;
- to formulate specific proposals and to draw attention of all people to their importance;
- to define political commitments.
The main purpose of the forum is to include the water programs into policy of all countries of the world. Water rights, recognized by 189 countries of the world, should be guaranteed and implemented.
Almost three years of preparation preceded the Forum itself. Hundreds of organizations coordinating and participating in thematic and political processes were engaged in this preparatory work.
In his speech at the final plenary session the President of WWC Mr. Loic Fauchon underlined that 19 800 people from 168 countries, over 80 ministers and ministerial level officials, 1400 representatives of regional and municipal organizations from 60 countries, including 250 mayors took part at the Forum. In addition, 700 children and over 2000 representatives of the youth participated in different Forum events. More accurate data on participation will be given in the International Forum Committee’s report to the WWC Board.
The ceremony was opened by Mr. Jean-Claude Gaudin, Senator Mayor of Marseille city. He, among others, noted that the city of Marseille knows what shortage of water means since the rapidly growing population and industry in the city and in the Aix-en-Provence as a whole are very limited in water sources. This is engraved for ever in the minds of our society. In order to solve water problem, a general recognition of this and financing are needed. It became evident that even for developed countries the time of easy water finished. Marseille will support activities of the World Water Council and keep an image of the world’s water capital in the future as well.
Prof. Ben Braga, President of the International Forum Committee presented efforts that were undertaken in preparation to the Forum.
It was expected that Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic would welcome the Forum; however, for unknown reasons, Mr. Francois Fillon, Prime-Minister of France took the floor instead of him. Mr. Fillon underlined that France is provided with centralized water supply and sanitation for 89%. By 2030, the total country population will be 100% covered. The French Government sees its mission in assisting the developing countries in the solution of water problem. Annually, France allocates 600 millions Euros in form of assistance in these issues to Senegal, Bangladesh and other countries. For example, a water treatment plant of 10 millions was build in Gaza strip. The global water policy should be radically changed. We are facing new industrial revolution in area of water. He has called for transition from the model of response to water challenges to the model of proactive measures and global water saving. In this context, a new International environmental entity with water focus should be created. The upcoming Rio+20 conference should make respective decision. Francois Fillon also called the countries that have not yet become the parties of UN Convention 1997 on watercourses to join this global instrument and expressed willingness of France to organize fist meeting of the Parties, when the Convention is entered into force.
The welcome speech of Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General was shown on video an supported by the speech of Mr. Michel Jarraud, WMO Secretary General. Mr. Hwang-Sik Kim, Prime Minister of South Korea and Mr. Mikhail Gorbatchev also delivered their speeches.
After a break, the floor was given to Peter Vosel, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell (the necessity of associating and solving jointly the water and energy issues and looking for low water-consuming sources); Prince Willem-Alexander of Orange, President of the Holland Water partnership (our experience in combating floods and natural disasters should be adopted everywhere); and, Peter Brabeck, Chairman of the Nestle Group (the nature pays dear for our errors - for example, disappearance of Lake Victoria repeating the Aral Sea disaster).
Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) underlined that, in 2020, 40% of the world’s population will be living in river basins subjected to water stress. Major attention should be paid to sustainable financing of water supply. To this end, the Governments should increase financing in water supply to not less than 1% of GDP. Sustainable water supply can be achieved through a system of tariffs, taxes and some privileges. Another prerequisite is to strengthen water governance at national, provincial, and local levels.
Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director General of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) called for increased focus on the observance of environmental requirements during construction of new infrastructures.
It also should be noted that the Istanbul Water Consensus Pact remained open for signature during the Forum. As a result, as Pierre Victoria, WWC Governor reported, the number of signatories increased to over 1000.