From January to July 2021, Australia helped lead a series of high-level international water dialogues between United Nations (UN) Member States, representatives of the UN Major Groups and international organisations.
The Water Dialogues for Results initiative was hosted by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and designed to accelerate target-oriented action on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 implementation and to provide strategic and meaningful input to the Mid-term Review of the UN International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development in 2023.
Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Mr Alex Hawke was invited by Germany’s Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze to nominate a representative from Australia to serve on the Steering Committee and play an integral role in the initiative. Special Advisor on Water Mr Tony Slatyer was appointed to the Steering Committee and supported the water dialogue process by speaking at the Dialogue side-event at the 2021 Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) and the preparation of key policy messages and recommendations.
In his published ‘testimonial’ on the Dialogue website, Mr Slatyer says “Achieving the water and sanitation goals agreed in the United Nations just five years ago requires a great step up in effort in many countries and the support of the global community.”
“Achieving this will support progress in addressing climate change and contribute to gender equality, food security, environment sustainability and all other fundamental human development goals. Water Dialogues for Results aims to raise ambition and generate impetus for faster progress. I encourage everyone to get involved.”
On 1 July 2021, Water Dialogues for Results culminated in a virtual high level ministerial conference that released important policy messages and recommendations from the dialogue process, streamed live from Bonn, Germany. The full list of recommendations and key messages from Water Dialogues for Results point to five mechanisms for accelerating progress on SDG 6—financing, data, capacity, innovation and governance.
Australian Ambassador for the Environment Mr Jamie Isbister accepted an invitation to speak during the conference in an interview focused on the topic of governance.
In his interview with Tony Slatyer, Mr Isbister discussed Australia’s participation in the initiative, the importance of governance messages and the value of multilateral processes on water saying, “While water must be managed at local, community and national levels, we all have an interest in how well our neighbours and trading partners are managing the water under our control. If you are affected by how well the economy and the society of your partner countries are performing, then you will be affected by how well they are managing their water resources.”
Mr Isbister also discussed the most important governance steps that governments can take to accelerate SDG 6, reflecting on the fact that the key governance message from the Bonn Dialogues was about the need to respond to increased uncertainty with more cooperation.
Australia continues to be active in global work on water issues through processes such as Water Dialogues for Results. The Australian Water Partnership is playing a role in supporting raising awareness of this work and the work of its partners in upcoming water and climate change events.