Preventing water crises: Outcomes from the Budapest Water Summit

The Budapest Water Summit was held from 15–17 October, organised by the Government of Hungary with the theme of ‘Preventing Water Crises’.

AWP Partner Mr Tony Slatyer, Water Policy Group, attended at the invitation of the Government of Hungary and support of AWP, joining hundreds of delegates to discuss challenges in the fields of governance, knowledge, finance and regulation, and seek solutions for a water-secure world.

Mr Slatyer—who was adviser to former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull while one of 11 Heads of State on the UN-World Bank High Level Panel on Water (HLPW)—joined an expert panel to discuss how international institutional architecture can better support transformation. His comments recognised the work of the HLPW in mobilising political leadership in understanding, valuing and managing water.

Throughout the panel discussion, Mr Slatyer noted the political difficulty of implementing important reforms, such as re-allocating water to serve changing societal values in a context of scarcity; water pricing; de-risking of water investments; and sharing data in situations of transboundary rivalry. He stressed the potential for multilateral processes to provide ‘political scaffolding’ to support governments to take difficult actions.

“Usually, a lack of transformation is not due to the absence of or low quality of transformative policy calls or ideas by our multilateral and regional institutions. Nor is it due to unavailability of finance,” remarked Slatyer.

“In my view, it is due to the degree of political difficulty encountered at the national level in seeking to implement transformative policy. I argue that the excellent multilateral institutions we have should focus on developing widely agreed guidance materials that will make it politically safer for governments to make and implement these kinds of policies.”

Panellists (L–R): Moderator Maggie White, Stockholm International Water Institute; Danilo Türk, Former President of Slovenia; Lesha Witmer, Women for Water Partnership, the Netherlands; Christine Dawson, Department of State, US; Joshua Newton, independent consultant; Nchedi Sophia Maphokga-Moripe, Department of Water and Sanitation, South Africa; and Tony Slatyer, Water Policy Group (Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera).

In a keynote address, former President of Slovenia and Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace Chair Danilo Türk emphasised the need for urgency and highlighted the upcoming High Level Political Forum Sustainable Development Goals review and the mid-term review of the United Nations Water Action Decade as key moments “to critically think about our global system and how to improve it.”

The panel on institutional architecture was one of ten held over the three-day event, with others on the topics of preventing water crises, valuing water versus the costs of a water crisis, economically rational behaviour during a water crisis, mass migration, investment in water infrastructure, technology, science, implementation, and transboundary water affairs.

In the closing ceremony, Budapest Water Summit 2019 International Programme and Drafting Committee Chair András Szöllősi-Nagy presented an outcome document, the ‘Budapest Appeal’, aiming to bring together the political and technical community to raise the profile of water, with a view to major international events and increasing political will to address water security. The Appeal outlines four main areas for action and gives recommendations for implementation, with the key actions linked to recognising the multi-faceted value of water in the fullest sense; creating a water-secure future for all; ensuring coordination across sectors and institutions; and building on innovative technologies, remote sensing and digital methods.

In his closing remarks, Hungary Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó called for international organisations and governments to allocate financial resources to develop new technologies to address water crises, and highlighted the role of the private sector.  On water governance, he stated “either all of us win or all of us lose” as “water connects us all”.

For more information, see the Budapest Water Summit 2019 summary.

Feature image: Zsófia Tomaj, Master of Ceremonies (Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera)
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