The Australian Water Partnership (AWP) held its 4th annual Partners Workshop in Sydney on 5–6 February 2020, themed ‘Partnering to address water security in the Indo-Pacific region’ with a focus on networking and collaboration.
The two-day workshop focused on how the AWP can best harness partnerships to address water security and management challenges in the region. The workshop incorporated a range of both interactive and informative sessions to support dialogue and the development of practical steps towards actioning this theme.
Attending were 120 people from 71 AWP Partner organisations (one-third of AWP Partners) based in Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, India, Nepal, Italy, including AWP staff, DFAT Canberra and DFAT Posts from Bangkok and Laos.
Following the welcome to country delivered by Marcia Ella-Duncan and welcome remarks by AWP Advisory Committee Chair and former MP Bob McMullan, AWP was privileged to have Jamie Isbister, Ambassador for the Environment and First Assistant Secretary of the Economic Growth and Sustainability Division at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), deliver the opening keynote. Mr Isbister said climate change will be an increasingly important factor in Australia’s development cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
“Climate change is already amplifying our region’s water challenges by increasing the variability and unpredictability of weather and water resources. Climate change will be a major disrupting force in our region and therefore is immensely important in all aspects of Australia’s aid program.
The collective experience and expertise of AWP members is immense. Learning with and from our neighbours, and adapting Australia’s own experiences for specific country contexts, are key to our Indo-Pacific engagement.”
AWP CEO Prof Nick Schofield responded to Mr Isbister’s speech, sharing his perspective on the evolving business environment where climate change is exacerbating extreme events. He also shared general updates coming from the AWP’s operations – from new programs to team and leadership updates, to preparing for a mid-term review in 2021.
“Our Partners Workshop is always a highlight for AWP and I was pleased to receive very positive feedback on this year’s event themed around partnering – many participants noted the inclusion of disability on the agenda as a significant step forward.”
The workshop agenda included presentations and international panels that showcased AWP’s approach and influence throughout its priority regions. Panels covered both regional and cross-cutting issues demonstrating the breadth and depth of AWP Partner activities.
Cross-cutting panels discussed and provided in-depth insights on water security; effective partnerships; Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI); and took a closer look at partner innovation. Regional panels spanned the Pacific and the Hindu Kush Himalayan regions, the Mekong region, and South Asia. Each was facilitated by an AWP team member focused on supporting partners in these geographical areas.
AWP was also pleased to host speakers from its five International Multilateral Partners.
Rachael McDonnell, Strategic Program Director for Water, Climate Change and Resilience at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Rome Office shared many of the initiatives that IWMI is involved in. She gave an energetic keynote on IWMI’s work in translating global climate models into regional ones to address biases and uncertainties to better identify climate change hotspots and vulnerable areas.
Dr Arun Bhakta Shrestha, Senior Climate Change Specialist and Programme Manager for Regional Programmes – River Basins and Cryosphere and Atmosphere – from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) gave an inspiring speech on ‘protecting the pulse of the planet’. He articulated the urgency of climate change in the Himalayas, one of the most vulnerable climate hotspots, also an area supporting 1.9 billion people downstream.
Asian Development Bank was represented by Tom Panella in the panel on ‘Partnering in response to climate change’ and the World Bank was represented by Abed Khalil in the panel on ‘Partnering for Innovation’, which also included work by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
An engaging group discussion session, aka ‘World Café’, covered the critical interface between water security and 10 separate but closely related themes: drought management, the SDGs, conflict and fragility, sustainable hydropower, WASH, climate change, disaster risk management, capacity development, bush fire management, and water stewardship.
The World Café provided the opportunity for Partners to engage in dialogue with each other and AWP Management to hear about lessons learned from work across countries and sectors, pose solutions to challenges under each of the themes, and to find complementarities for future collaboration.
Prior to the workshop, AWP provided capability training on ‘Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI)’ and ‘Thinking and Working Politically (TWP) including intercultural effectiveness’. Up to 30 attendees participated in each session. The GEDSI session was delivered by Melita Grant from the Institute for Sustainable Futures UTS and Jen Blyth from CBM Australia.
The TWP session was delivered by Mia Thornton from DFAT’s Governance Advisory Section, and Tamerlaine Beasley, CEO and Founder of Beasley Intercultural, who also facilitated the main workshop. The training aimed to better prepare Partners to work in international engagement and weave GEDSI sensitive outcomes into their activities.
There is clear interest from Partners in what AWP has to offer as illustrated by the workshop and training sessions reaching full capacity in December last year.
“It was a privilege to host this workshop for our Partners. Collectively they have a wealth of knowledge and experience in addressing water security challenges both domestically and internationally, and this annual event is an important part of connecting people with varying perspectives,” said Dr Marian Neal, AWP’s Partnerships & Knowledge Manager.
“We are thankful to those that were able to generously share their knowledge and time. The workshop has created a renewed vigour to work together to improve management of water resources in the region, especially amidst what has been a challenging past few months globally.”
Participant feedback about the workshop has been extremely positive. AWP will use the feedback received to continue to improve its offering to Partners and development activities. A summary of key messages, presentations and photos will be available at https://waterpartnership.org.au/event/awp-partner-workshop-2020