World Water Week to showcase struggle toward U.N. Millenium Development Goals

Timed shortly before a United Nations' five-year review of progress toward Millennium Development Goals, the annual World Water Week, Aug. 21-27, offers solid examples of how problems of poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and gender inequality can be solved with water and sanitation as the key. Hosted by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), experts from 100 nations will present innovative 'soft' and 'hard' water, sanitation and development solutions...

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Aug. 18, 2005 -- Timed just weeks in advance of the United Nations' five-year review of progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the annual World Water Week in Stockholm, Aug. 21-27, will present concrete examples of how problems of poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and gender inequality can in large measure be solved with water and sanitation as the key entry points. Hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), it's the leading annual multi-stakeholder platform of its kind.

Since development has occurred differently throughout the world, and regional climates and conditions vary greatly, the 2005 World Water Week in Stockholm (www.worldwaterweek.org) will examine the two primary ways of meeting future water and sanitation related development needs -- the "soft" path and the "hard" path. Experience has shown that both paths -- often through astonishingly simple projects and participatory approaches -- can give results:
The "soft" path: The Central American Handwashing Initiative supported by USAID, UNICEF, the World Bank and five countries in the region demonstrated that effective partnerships among government departments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), women's groups, the private sector and the media can contribute to effective hygiene promotion and behavioural changes that are essential to combat diarrhoeal disease and create public awareness.
The "hard" path: Improved water storage capacity makes national economies more resilient to rainfall variability and boosts economic growth. In Kenya, improved resilience to the effects of floods and droughts could make its GDP grow annually at a rate of at least 5%¿6% -- the amount needed in order to start effectively reducing poverty -- rather than the current 2.4% annual growth rate.

"Throughout most of the 20th century, the building of large-scale infrastructure -- including dams, piped water and sewer systems, large-scale irrigation structures, and water transfer schemes -- was the predominant paradigm for development of the water sector," says Mr. Anders Berntell, Executive Director of the Week's host, the Stockholm International Water Institute.

"During the last 15 years, this has shifted towards a focus on demand management, including strong emphases on participatory approaches, stakeholder involvement, capacity building, development of institutions and legislation. Now, the challenge is to find the right balance between these two approaches, and to ensure that they become mutually supportive."

Water -- the Key to Socio-Economic Development and Quality of Life
Facts don't lie: poor countries with access to improved water and sanitation services enjoyed an annual average growth of 3.7% GDP; those without grew at just 0.1%. Over 1,300 leading experts on water, sanitation, environment and development issues -- from more than 100 countries -- will meet in Stockholm to present concrete cases of just how such gaps can be bridged.

With more than 60 organisations and programmes convening or co-convening workshops, seminars and side events, the international "consensus" coming out of the World Water Week in Stockholm has an indirect effect on decision-making in different fora, internationally and nationally. Among the collaborators intensifying their involvement in 2005 are the European Union (EU), through the EU Water Initiative, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and UN-Water, the forum that brings together the 24 different UN agencies and programmes working with water and sanitation.

Many issues will be discussed during the week, among them climate variability, corruption, financing, gender equity, large-scale infrastructure, sanitation, water pollution abatement and more. The 2005 Stockholm Water Prize best represents the multifaceted nature of the events, when India's Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Ms. Sunita Narain accept the 15th jubilee award and US$ 150,000 on August 25 from His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. CSE's work, pioneered by the late Anil Agarwal, has shown great respect for science and technology, and always with a social conscience which puts people first.

Participants in Stockholm will include experts from businesses, governments, the water management and science sectors, inter-governmental organisations, NGOS, research and training institutions and United Nations agencies.

The Stockholm International Water Institute (www.siwi.org) is a policy institute that contributes to international efforts to find solutions to the world's escalating water crisis. SIWI advocates future-oriented, knowledge-integrated water views in decision making, nationally and internationally, that lead to sustainable use of the world's water resources and sustainable development of societies.

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