WASH Futures was an international conference held in Brisbane on 5-9 March developed and hosted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the International WaterCentre (IWC) and the Australian WASH Reference Group. The conference drew 350 delegates from 30 countries and featured over 100 informative presentations across 24 thematic sessions over the first two days, followed by 18 training workshops across three days on emergent WASH topics.
Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, gave an opening address highlighting the importance of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Australia’s contribution.
“Australia is proud to host this conference, the largest of its kind in our region. The global challenge to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene services is enormous. For the sake of the many women, men and children who struggle every day to get water and bear the burden of poor health from lack of sanitation, we must meet this challenge. The conference theme, ‘Collaboration for Universal WASH’, underscores the importance of partnerships – with governments, researchers, civil society and the private sector – for making greater impacts in the WASH sector. Progress in this sector is critical for meeting our region’s development goals.”
The Senator also announced a new $5M collaboration between the Australian Government and the World Health Organisation (WHO). The partnership will run for five years (2018-2022) with the aim of improving access to sustainable and safe drinking water in both urban and rural areas. The Australian Government and WHO will also collaborate on improving access to safe and sustainable WASH services in healthcare facilities in the Indo-Pacific region and globally through training, advocacy and policy development.
AWP was invited to explore opportunities for linking the Water Resources Management and WASH sectors, with CEO Prof Nick Schofield giving a keynote on Managing water resources in Australia – lessons of international relevance to WASH. Other keynote addresses were delivered by Maria Angelica Sotomayor (The World Bank), Barbara Evans (University of Leeds) and Val Curtis (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine).
Prof Schofield also participated as host/mentor at the ‘Early Career Café’ attended by 60 Young Water Professionals. AWP ran a booth in the exhibition area—alongside DFAT and several other AWP Partners—and considerable interest was received for its relevant publications Gender Equality & Goal 6: A Critical Connection, and Valuing Water.
WASH Futures provided AWP with a valuable opportunity in continuing to support work towards achieving the SDGs (particularly Goals 5 & 6), and in furthering its relationships with the WASH Reference Group and IWC.