In May, experts on water and sanitation as well as cross-sectoral interlinkages provided feedback on the political key messages of the Water Dialogues. In intense discussions, five roundtables focused on the accelerators for SDG 6 implementation: Capacity Development, Financing, Data and Information, Innovation, and Governance. The link of science and policy on SDG 6 was explored further in an additional science and research forum. Each roundtable comprised of 15 participants from the public and private sector, UN organisations and the civil society. The results sharpened the political messages and are published in an outcome document for each event.
Expert Roundtable on Capacity Development
The start was made by the GWOPA/UN-Habitat and CapNet-UNDP co-hosted roundtable on Capacity Development which identified that linking capacity development measures to sector/national targets would be ideal and decrease the reliance of countries to imported knowledge. While the content and approach towards capacity development should reflect the cross-sectoral ambitions of the 2030 Agenda, participants emphasized the need to go beyond training to foster comprehensive decision-making.
Expert Roundtable on Financing
‘Which political recommendations would support more, faster, better investments in water projects?’ presented the main question for discussion of the expert roundtable of Financing, co-hosted by the World Bank. Aspects such as adequate tariff levels, more effective public spending that can further leverage private investment, de-risking policies, capacity building to negotiate and manage privately financed projects at the municipal level, and the need for coherent policies and political leadership beyond electoral cycles came up in the vivid break-out groups.
Expert Roundtable on Data and Information
Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) opened the Roundtable on Data and Information by ‘Testing the water temperature’ on whether there is data/information which should be a global public good. In the further lively discussions, the accessibility of data and information among sectors and governing entities was found to be essential in effectively informing decision-making processes and formulating cross-sectoral policies. When looking at the collection of data, participants recognized that in order to formulate programs and policies tackling inequalities differentiated data is important, e.g. gender-disaggregated data, to understand how women and men experience access to water differently.
Expert Roundtable on Innovation
The Roundtable discussions were opened with an input on innovation by UNICEF – co-hosting together with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) – and centered around the enablers for stakeholders to be innovative and how they can use innovation to accelerate progress on SDG 6. Recognizing that innovation is often associated with technology, the inclusion of traditional knowledge in the policy messages was greatly appreciated, and the cultural value of water, nature-based solutions, a stronger focus on water quality were highlighted during the event.
Expert Roundtable on Governance
Based on a first prioritization of the action-oriented recommendations brought forward in the policy document, the discussion targeted on how to implement the most impactful recommendations. Outcomes of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and ICLEI co-hosted roundtable advised a holistic societal approach to governance, and mechanisms to dedicate more resources towards governance efforts. Also, the framing of water as a cross-cutting resource rather than an independent sector was recognized as quite relevant.
The Science Forum was in part public including break-out sessions on improved Data, Innovation and Capacity Development to tackle water scarcity and strengthening of SDG 6 interlinkages, co-hosted by UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). A subsequent consolidation workshop stressed the promotion of inter- and transdisciplinary science and research to overcome barriers to different stakeholders. Moreover, participants underlined the importance of science as a regular element of decision-making processes.
We would like to thank all co-hosts for their efforts and all participants for their contributions to the Water Dialogues and the process of reaching SDG 6 together.