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No. 10 (267) June 2015


On the 9-10th of June 2015, the High-Level International Conference on the Implementation of the International Decade “Water for life” was held in Dushanbe. About 1900 participants from more than 100 countries and 80 organizations took part at the meeting.

The Conference was organized in form of two plenary sessions, two high-level panels on discussion of the Ware Decade Implementation, six high-level round tables on further activities “Water Beyond” and nine parallel sessions. Also, Women Water Forum, Children Water Forum, Water Forum of Mountainous Countries, and Water Forum of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States were organized.

At the opening ceremony, the participants were welcomed by the President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Head of Afghanistan Government, Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, Prime Minister of Gabon, First Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan.

The President of Tajikistan E. Rahmon, in particular, noted that the national hydropower development and food security provision are amid the national strategic objectives. He added that issues of water, power, food, and environment in Central Asia are tightly interlaced and their solving requires a comprehensive approach. The resources available in the region – provided they are developed in a rational and efficient way – are quite enough to cover increasing needs of population and economies of the countries and contribute to food and energy security. In this context, construction of new infrastructure with application of new technologies in the water and power sphere is undoubtedly important and crucial for further solution of these issues. The Republic of Tajikistan is committed to mutually beneficial and appropriate cooperation in the sphere of water resources on the basis of principles of mutual respect, good-neighborliness and mutually beneficial partnership. E. Rahmon proposed to the world community a new initiative of Tajikistan – announce the new International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development”.

During his speech at the plenary meeting, the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan B. Sagintaev mentioned that for the recent decade Kazakhstan has been developing a regulatory and legal basis for water issues, started a large-scale “green economy” transition project, adopted the National Water Resources Management Program, and is taking actions on the Aral Sea saving. Kazakhstan proposed to take a number of regional-wise activities to improve the water situation in Central Asia, the followings are amid them:

  • hold a meeting of the Council of Heads of the Member States of the International Fund for the Aral Sea Saving, or a Water Summit with involvement of large donors and experts;
  • establish a Central Asian Investment Fund on implementation of water projects and a Regional Center of Water security;
  • jointly develop and sign the Pact on water and environmental security in Central Asia;
  • create a new open system for sharing hydrological data, and in this connection, adopt a pentalateral agreement, which would allow for operative exchange of information and coordinated decisions on water quality;
  • improve performance of the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination and the basin water organizations – Syrdarya and Amudarya.

Turkmenistan’s position was voiced by the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan Annageldy Yazmuradov, the basis of his speech were the proposals put forward by the President of the country at the 7th World Water Forum, which was held in April 2015 in Korea. In particular, it was emphasized that today water problems cannot be considered in isolation from the global development agenda, environmental and food security, the integrated system of sustainable energy to be established. In Central Asia, water is an important development factor, and regional consensus is the only acceptable platform for efficient relationships between the states. Turkmenistan consistently advocates such approach, where water and of water and energy issues in Central Asia are addressed and resolved on the basis of universally recognized international legal norms, mutual respect and consideration of interests of all states in the region and with the participation of international organizations. He also mentioned the proposal of the President of Turkmenistan on the need to prepare a comprehensive document - the Water Strategy of the United Nations.

The Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic T. Sariev, when presenting his country’s position in water sphere, emphasized that water resources and energy are inextricably linked and are inseparable from each other. He also mentioned the basic position of Kyrgyzstan regarding the construction of Kambarata HPPs, which, according to him, would resolve an issue of the acute shortage of water during the growing season and allow for switching the Toktogul from the power generation mode to the irrigation one, so the downstream country should be interested in these projects. In his opinion, hydropower is an important factor for sustainable development. All the programs and projects implemented in Central Asia should address water and energy issues in a single package. Water is an economic resource. The existing practice in the region does not ensure interests of all the countries, and the upstream countries do not receive compensation for accumulation and regulation of water resources. According to T. Sariev, the issue of accession to the global water conventions is politicized and the proper emphasis is not made on compliance with their provisions. The Agreement 1998 was signed by the four countries, but was not followed. As a positive example, he mentioned about the implementation of the Agreement on the Chu-Talas. He also noted that the activity of the International Fund for the Aral Sea Saving was not efficient and the Fund should be reformed. In this context, the countries should consult and negotiate. Also there is an important role for the UN in this issue.

The Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Acting Chairman of the Executive Committee of IFAS Sh. Khamraev noted in his speech the work carried out in the country to ensure water security, improve the water management system, adopt the mechanisms to encourage water saving, promote water conservation technologies. Sh. Khamraev emphasized that all actions on transboudary rivers should be based on the norms and principles of international law and do not break the fragile water and ecological balance in the region through the construction of new large hydraulic structures.

During the first high-level panel, the regional perspectives under implementation of the Water Decade were addressed. The point view from Central Asia was represented by the Acting Chairman of EC IFAS Sh. Khamraev.

The sum-up of the panel was presented at the closing meeting and included the following aspects. Over the past decade, huge experience was accumulated at the national level, progress in access to water was achieved, but significant challenges on sanitation remained. The impact of climate change is felt. There are many problems, but also many opportunities to work together for the realization of common objectives. The further need for IWRM and the water, energy, food and ecosystems nexus were mentioned. There is the critical importance of the transboundary water cooperation on the basis of international law, including the Water Conventions. “Political involvement” through conferences, seminars and other events should be ensured. The need for a clear work plan for the implementation of the next decade exists.

The second high-level panel discussed the progress, achievements, best practices and lessons learned during the implementation of the Water Decade. The generalized results of the panel reported at the final plenary session are as follows: changes made in our behavior through work on strengthening trust and establishing cooperation, as well as acquiring new knowledge are obvious. The progress was made in the process of involving stakeholders, in particular the public and the private sector. There is a need for improvement of governance, financing and public participation. The Decade has contributed to improved access to water and sanitation, increased focus on IWRM and water cooperation through promotion of and activities under the Water Conventions, as well as allowed improving coordination between agencies. It created opportunities for integrating water into Sustainable Development Goals, but when these goals would be adopted at the end of this year, we would also need certain process for their implementation and monitoring.

High level round tables

HLRT 1: Water Beyond 2015: Water and Sanitation

The generalized results of the panel reported at the final plenary session: it is necessary to promote widely sanitation issues at the international and national levels. What is important is not just access to basic sanitation, but catching and recycling waste water. There is a need to work more actively with sectors of public health, education, and environment. Accessible sanitation is not always the desired sanitation, so we need to work on further improvement of our approaches and technologies.

HLRT 2: Water Beyond 2015: The Water-Energy-Food-Environment Nexus

The Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Khamraev made a report stressing that stability and uniformity of water supply should be the cornerstone in the water, energy, food and ecosystem nexus for the two major transboundary river basins in the region - the Amudarya and the Syrdarya. He informed the participants on the ongoing measures undertaken in Uzbekistan to improve water and land management, which can serve as a concrete example of linking the water, food and environment to increase welfare of the population and improve the environmental conditions. Khamraev Sh. also noted the importance of water cooperation. Uzbekistan, as the Chairman in IFAS, is taking all necessary measures to further strengthen water cooperation in the region, intensify efforts to attract the world community’s attention to the above nexus problems as part of solving the global problems of the Aral Sea basin. He also supported the example of small hydropower development, which was presented by Turkey.

The generalized results of the panel reported at the final plenary session are as follows: the roundtable provided the examples from different organizations and countries on such issues as ecosystem services, food security (ICID), small hydropower (Turkish Institute), and water conservation (Uzbekistan). The complicated situation is observed regarding the use of transboundary waters, therefore development of shared infrastructure, data and information sharing, monitoring, capacity-building of river water management organizations, assessment of nexus capabilities, water for food production through increased land productivity are required.

The representative of SIC ICWC took the floor during discussion. She noted that most of the meetings that address the issues related to water, energy, food, and environment nexus are held with involvement of the water sector only, with the consequent effect on the results of such meetings. She also noted a need for greater attention to concrete actions and measures on the nexus that can serve as a guide for others. For example, at this session, successful examples from Turkey (small hydro) and Uzbekistan (water conservation, IWRM) were presented. Sustainable development indicators on water cooperation, inter alia, should be based on the provisions of international law and take into account specific conditions of countries and regions.

At the end of the high-level round table “Water-Energy-Food-Environment Nexus”, the Director of the Institute of Water Problems and Hydropower at the National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic E. Mamatkanov took the floor. Mr. Mamatkanov said that he had no questions or comments to the speakers, but he wants to make a statement. The essence of his statement was as follows. Water is a commodity, the use of which implies costs to be borne by all water users. The upstream countries are in the infringed position regarding the use of water resources in the region, although the lion’s share of river runoff in the region is generated there. A new strategy of water allocation in Central Asia has not been developed, and the issue of new water quotas taking into account the nowadays realities is not solved. In addition, the downstream countries have to pay for water storage and flow regulation, including the costs related to collecting and processing of data, of monitoring glaciers and other activities for water management.

HLRT 3: Water Beyond 2015: Global Challenges from a Water Perspective

The generalized results of the panel reported at the final plenary session are as follows: global challenges, the imbalance between the rich and the poor, the particular vulnerability of mountain countries, the introduction of instruments for payment for eco-services. The need for regulatory instruments, which allow for holistic and integrated approaches.

HLRT 4: Water Beyond 2015: Financing and Governance

The generalized results of the panel reported at the final plenary session are as follows: How to improve water resources management through financing and governance; the importance of gender equality; use of tariffs and development of new financial mechanisms has shown good results in many countries; the long-term vision and corruption control in the finance sector; water supply services.

HLRT 5: Water Beyond 2015: Water Cooperation as Catalyst to Achieve Water Related Goals

The generalized results of the panel reported at the final plenary session are as follows: the important role of data and information; the role of science (science diplomacy, science can cross many borders); the role of the media and women; the role of local knowledge; the need to invest in joint projects. Focus on common goals and objectives. Water management is the key to success. The important role of institutions. Water diplomacy would help policy makers and population to get insight into the water issues. Diplomats can play a greater role in promoting cooperation. Use of water diplomacy for intersectoral collaboration.

In his speech, Sh. Khamraev noted the critical importance of water cooperation on the basis of norms and principles of international law. In response to the criticism made at the plenary session by the Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic regarding the activities of the IFAS, Sh. Khamraev stressed that the existing regional structure of IFAS demonstrated its viability during its functioning. This mechanism of environmental and water cooperation enables the countries to address the key issues related to environmental protection, mitigation of the Aral Sea crisis, management and allocation of transboundary water resources. He noted that before creating new things, you should not destroy the old things, and the countries need to work to strengthen the structures of IFAS, in particular, the two BWOs. Sh. Khamraev disagreed with the thesis made at the roundtable that water is a political resource. He noted that water is the common heritage and water-related issues should not be politicized but there is need to efficiently resolve the existing problems in water resources management. The region implemented various projects to improve water management, including with the assistance of international partners such as, for example, UNECE and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. It is important that all international partners take this into account and be particularly careful in their statements so that the water diplomacy could bring effective results. All actions should be implemented based on detailed analysis and comprehensive assessments, not allegations.

During the discussions, D. Ziganshina thanked the speakers for promotion of water cooperation and diplomacy ideas. She noted the importance of all actions in this direction within the framework of international law, which considers cooperation as an obligation for the countries. But it is important to understand the international law not just as a set of rules, but as a system of legal relations, which should be built in the name of peace and security. Regarding water diplomacy, it would be desirable to add to the role of science the role of technology, which plays a key role in the water sector. The U.S. State Department representative truly noted the importance of joint regional water projects, but, unfortunately, their number is going down in the region.

HLRT 6: Water Beyond 2015: Strengthening an Integrated Approach Towards Water Related SDGs

The generalized results of the panel reported at the final plenary session are as follows: the Sustainable Development Goals should be addressed for the benefit of people; urgent action is needed in the water sector for climate change mitigation; the role of women in the development and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals; the transboundary aspect of IWRM; lookahead beyond the water sector and the use of the nexus approach; accountability and corruption control; networking the outcomes of the World Water Forum in Korea, processes of the Water Decade and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Side events

In the second half of the first day nine side events were held.

  • SE 1: Informal Consultation on the Newly Proposed International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development”
  • SE 2: Water and wastewater industry in the Middle East and Central Asia
  • SE 3: Education for sustainable water management
  • SE 4: Customs and culture of the Central Asian people on the use of water resources
  • SE 5: Promoting the Sustainable Development Goals: role of regional institutions
  • SE 6: Women as agents of change in water: Reflections on experiences from the field
  • SE 7: Facilitation of transboundary water co-operation: new developments
  • SE 8: The Critical Importance of Water for Sustainable Development and the SDGs
  • SE 9: Japanese international cooperation in the water sector and experience of water resource management

The Conference was closed with signing the Declaration.

D. Ziganshina, Deputy Director of SIC ICWC