The High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) concluded on 14 March 2018, with an Outcome Report presented to the United Nations Secretary-General and World Bank President at a ceremony in New York.
Australian Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, was one of 11 Heads of State invited to sit on the Panel, which was established to provide the leadership required to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: ensuring water and sanitation for all.
The Panel was conceived almost two years ago, in April 2016, in response to the urgent requirement for a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative approach to managing water resources and improving water and sanitation services globally. The Panel was chaired by the Presidents of Mexico and Mauritius and comprised Heads of State from Australia, the Netherlands, Hungary, Tajikistan, Jordan, Bangladesh, Senegal, South Africa and Peru, and a Special Advisor from South Korea.
Over the past two years, the Panel has successfully mobilised support for a new approach to water. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) commissioned the AWP, with input from its partners, to develop a set of framing papers that contributed to a comprehensive Action Plan, which was published in September 2016. The Action Plan identified six core themes that would become key priorities and summarised the Panel’s proposed approach to addressing each.
These core themes were: resilient economies and societies and disaster risk reduction; universal access to safe water and sanitation; sustainable cities and human settlements; water and the environment; water infrastructure and investment; and catalysing change, building partnerships and international cooperation. Furthermore, it was identified that improvements were needed in water data, valuing water, and water governance in order to make progress across all core themes.
Australia has played a leading role in many specific HLPW initiatives on data, water use efficiency and innovation, highlighting its recognised global expertise in these critical fields.
The World Water Data Initiative provides a framework for global adoption to ensure that inadequate water data does not limit national and community capacity to make informed decisions on managing water. It includes ‘policy’ and ‘harmonisation’ pillars (led by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology) and an innovation pillar (led by DFAT).
The Water Use Efficiency Initiative focuses on the need for improved water efficiency in important sectors, such as agriculture and energy, which are the big water users. As a contribution to this work, AWP published WaterGuide (led by Aither), which draws on lessons from Australia’s water use efficiency in the context of scarcity; and A Guide to Environmental Water Management (led by The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and Aither). AWP is also contributing to household water use efficiency via an International Standard on Water Efficiency Labelling Standards (WELS) Scheme (led by Standards Australia and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources).
Finally, Australia is leading the Water Innovation Engine (WIE), a pioneering partnership established to stimulate more innovation and investment in the water sector. The WIE brings together governments, funders, and entrepreneurs to foster innovations that accelerate impact for water-related aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG 6. Current opportunities to engage with the WIE are The Water Data Challenge and The Urban Sanitation Challenge.
Australia has also played an important role in supporting the Netherlands on ‘valuing water’, and Hungary on ‘catalysing change’.
The conclusion of the HLPW saw the release of an outcome package, consisting of an open letter to fellow leaders, an outcome document, short summaries of key initiatives undertaken by the Panel and a “galvanizing” video.
In the open letter, the members of the panel conclude: “Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you live, we urge you get involved, and contribute to meeting this great challenge: safe water and sanitation for all, and our water resources managed sustainably. Make every drop count. It’s time for action.”
When presented with this package, the United Nations Secretary-General expressed his appreciation for the work of the HLPW, stating “I want to express my very deep gratitude for this work that is deep, it’s serious and it is extremely inspiring for everything we have to do (…).”
“I will ask the whole of the UN system but also all Member States to take it very seriously and to make sure that your proposals and your recommendations are effectively implemented.”