World Water Forum highlights efforts to combat global water challenges
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The 9th World Water Forum holding from 21 – 26 March in Dakar, Senegal, provides a unique platform where the international water community and decision-makers can interface and collaborate towards making long-term progress on global water challenges.
Organized every three years since 1997 by the World Water Council in partnership with a host country, this ninth iteration - the first to be hosted in sub-Saharan Africa – builds on previous forums to identify, promote and implement concrete responses and actions for water and sanitation in an integrated way.
The sessions at the Dakar 2022 forum are focusing on four areas: Water security and sanitation, water for rural development, cooperation, and the means and tools (including financing, governance, knowledge management and innovation), as well as priorities, for Africa and the world. This year’s forum is themed “Water security for peace and development."
Together in common efforts for water
The activities of the first day kicked off with the grand opening ceremony at the Dakar Arena after the arrival of Senegalese president, Macky Sall, along with his counterparts from other countries (Ethiopia, Congo Brazzavile, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, among others) and other participants from the water community all over the world.
Cardinal Michael Czerny, the interim Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was also present to represent the Vatican, accompanied by Archbishop Michael Banach, the Apostolic Nuncio to Senegal.
The opening ceremony featured beautiful presentations from the culture of the host country, showcased on a stage that was half water, half solid ground – a true homage to the central point of the forum.
In his opening address, President Sall extended a word of welcome to the dignitaries, recognizing especially the presence of his colleagues from other countries present. He noted that water is at the beginning and at the end of life and is important for peace, development and security in Africa, as well as globally. He called for joint efforts towards ensuring access to safe potable water and sanitation for those who do not have, and encouraged the use of science and technology to respond to the global water challenges.
Following the address of the Senegalese president was the discourse of the President of the World Water Council, Loich Fochon, who reiterated calls for all to work together to combat global water challenges and to adopt dialogue and cooperation to bring an end to water conflicts. Other discourses followed from other world leaders: Emperor Nahurito of Japan, President Denys Sassou Nguesso of Congo Brazaville, Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea Bissau and President of Ethiopia.
International agencies not left out
Recalling the theme of the Forum, World Bank president David Malpass noted the impact of Covid-19, inflation and rising interest rates on the economy, as well as the impact of climate change to development and peace. He called for policy and institution reform, increased investment in water and greater citizen participation in the face of the world’s water challenges.
For her part, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stressed the right to water for everyone in a video message, and announced the launch of an initiative on transboundary waters in Africa.
The president of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina also sent a video message in which he stressed the importance of water resource management at all levels in order to foster development. He also highlighted the forum as an opportunity for government heads and policymakers to collaborate for the protection of this precious liquid resource.
Young people involved in water advocacy
Four young people from Korea, France, Brazil, and Senegal respectively shared their experience of working for water conservation in their parts of the world.
Sophia from Brazil reflected on the importance of cooperation in managing and protecting the Amazonian Forest and its rich water resources, while Hyun from the South Korea stressed the importance of maintaining water security and sanitation in his country.
Pope Francis’ message
Later in the day, the forum broke up into different smaller sessions. At the ministerial session held at Abou Diouf International Conference Center (CICAD) in Diamniadio, Dakar, Cardinal Czerny read Pope Francis’ message addressed to the World Water Forum.
The ministerial segment gathered ministers from different countries from all over the world at the Forum with the aim of creating an action plan document with two main objectives of outlining the implementation of the Blue Deal for Water Security for Peace and Development and to contribute to the mid-term review of the Water Decade (2018-2028) to be held in New York in March 2023.
The Pope’s message highlighted the link between the right to clean drinking water and sanitation and the right to life which is rooted in the inalienable dignity of the human person.
The Holy Father thus appealed to political and economic leaders to work towards providing for those who do not have access to water, particularly the poor, and to serve the common good with dignity, determination, integrity and in a spirit of cooperation.