The Decade for Action: International Conference and Women Water Forum

The Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) supported water leaders from the Asia-Pacific to attend the Women Water Forum in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on 19 June to promote women’s voices and inclusion in water governance. Dr Marian Neal, AWP Partnerships and Knowledge Manager, was joined by Dr Khin Ni Ni Thein, Secretary Advisory Group, Myanmar National Water Resources Committee and Dr Wenling Wang, Assistant Professor, Asian International Rivers Centre.

The Forum led into the High-Level International Conference on the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Sustainable Development’ (20-22 June), connecting to Australia’s work on the High Level Panel on Water.

The Women Water Forum: Bridging Voices to Actions united the voices of women from various sectors and different parts of the world. The Forum was organised by the Government of Tajikistan’s Committee of Women and Family Affairs in partnership with the UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, Finland’s Water Management Programme in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (FinWaterWEI II), the Delegation of European Union in Tajikistan and the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT).

The Forum helped to determine the most pressing women’s challenges and the most important actions to support the Water Action Decade which began on 22 March 2018, as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, and will end in 2028. The Forum also contributed women’s knowledge and expertise to thematic action panels in the High-Level Conference which followed, and to illustrate the many ways that addressing water in conjunction with gender can impact community development.

(L-R) Dr Marian Neal, AWP Partnerships and Knowledge Manager; Dr Wenling Wang, Assistant Professor, Asian International Rivers Centre; and Dr Khin Ni Ni Thein, Secretary Advisory Group, Myanmar National Water Resources Committee.

Dr Neal was a keynote speaker in a session focused on the practical actions being undertaken by various groups in support of International Water Decade commitments. She spoke about the importance of including women’s voices in multi-level water governance.

“AWP understands the importance of gender equality and social inclusion and actively seeks every possible opportunity to involve women equally in water management decision-making. It was great to experience such an inspiring forum alongside so many knowledgeable women and men who are leading the way in gender, water and sustainable development,” said Dr Neal.

Dr Thein and Dr Wang were also speakers in a session on new thinking about mechanisms that support innovation to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6). Dr Thein spoke about the role of ‘360 degree’ capacity development in Myanmar’s water sector reform, while Dr Wang spoke about responding to gender inequity challenges using a science-based approach.

Mr Tony Slatyer, Special Advisor on Water to DFAT, and Dr Neal participated in the High-Level International Conference on the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Sustainable Development’.

Mr Slatyer was a panellist in a session on integrated water resource management, water efficiency and productivity, where he commended the recommendations of the High Level Panel on Water to the attention of all Governments.

“These recommendations focus on how water can be better understood, valued and managed. With regard to the International Decade for Action on Water, the Panel has recommended that United Nations member states and other stakeholders use the Decade as a platform for policy dialogue, exchanges of best practices, and building partnerships to address water issues at all levels. This has indeed been our experience at this conference,” said Mr Slatyer.

Dr Neal was rapporteur for a session entitled Water-related Partnerships for Action. This discussion highlighted the importance of trusted partnerships with a common purpose based on integrity and reciprocity, where all partners understand their individual value and collective contribution to achieve SDG6.

The Water Women Forum and the High-Level Conference both emphasised the need for focused, targeted actions to be clearly identified, articulated and shared to help individuals and organisations at all levels contribute to achieving the SDGs.

A final declaration promoting action and policy dialogue was developed and released following the Forum and Conference. The Declaration reiterates participants’ determination to achieve the objectives of the Water Action Decade and sets out 18 key strategies to build upon the outcomes of recent events.

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