(4 November 1997)
As the world has belatedly put water to the top of the urgent global issues agenda, the Global Water Partnership (GWP) has been striving to bring together the various water sectors to promote the integrated approach to water management that is needed.
The GWP's four sector groups (or Windows) - Integrated Water Resource Management; Environment and Ecosystems; Irrigation and Drainage; and Water Supply and Sanitation - met 23-25 October 1997 in Copenhagen to discuss the global priorities and more specific actions needed to address the global water crisis. No one was surprised to find that each group identified a range of actions which cut across the sectors, further reinforcing the need for an integrated approach.
The priorities identified by the GWP's Windows will be distributed shortly as a formal statement or product of the meeting but, in summary, the big issues are: promoting best practice in integrated water management; providing the "tools" for this through synthesizing and disseminating information; raising awareness about the issues across a range of target groups; and supporting institutional strengthening. While these may seem very general, they are underpinned by more detailed and specific lists of actions which the final report of the workshop will lay out.
One of the key outcomes in Copenhagen was a consensus on how the GWP will operate in the future: as a facilitation network and by "taking a stand" - that is, adopting clear policy positions and promoting these at all levels. Hopefully, the GWP will now take the critical next step and establish a series of expert networks clustered around it, in order to provide the advice and support needed to start making a difference.
With next year promising an unprecedented focus on water issues, including a string of high level and technical meetings planned (including President Chirac's Water Conference on 21 March), it is encouraging to see the GWP progressing so rapidly. IUCN, the Ramsar Convention, and Wetlands International were the main instigators for the establishment of the "Environment and Ecosystems Window" within the GWP. Now, the Ramsar Convention, with its own expertise spread around the globe, and with that of its partner organizations, has a clear and very important role to play as part of the GWP framework.
-- reported by Bill Phillips, Deputy Secretary General