Stockholm Celebrates Water

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Every year since 1991, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has been gathering a diverse mix of decision-makers, business leaders, financial professionals, city planners, activists, and researchers from all over the world for a week of inspiring discussions on managing one of our planet’s most precious resources, water. World Water Week aspires to cover a broad range of topics, from food security and health to agriculture, technology, biodiversity, and the climate crisis.

    The latest iteration of the annual conference officially kicked off on 21 August. “World Water Week must be solution-oriented,” declared Acting Director Susanne Halling Duffy at the opening ceremony, echoing the theme that SIWI has chosen for 2023, Seeds of Change: Innovative Solutions for a Water-Wise World. This year, the organisers invite us to rethink how we manage water in the face of global challenges and consider which ideas, innovations, and governance systems we will need in a more unstable and water-scarce world.

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    The discussion on stage takes a concrete and poignant turn from the onset, with the words of Sareen Malik, Executive Secretary of the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation. “We need to bring together innovation, financing, data, and capacity development to put an end to women fetching water in the Global South,” says Malik. “It is unacceptable that, in the age where space travel is about to become a fast-moving consumable good and artificial intelligence is writing our proposals, women still have the burden of fetching water.”

    A bias for action

    With an impressive array of speeches, discussions, and workshops running in parallel over several days, the delegates gathered in Stockholm and online have plenty of options to choose from. To hear more about the experts’ assessment of the current state of water-related policy and practice, NordSIP tunes in to a centre-stage session discussing what’s next after the UN 2023 Water Conference.

    Progress on providing access to clean water and sanitation has been disappointingly slow. The panellists seem to agree that the current state is not due to a lack of commitments. Good intentions need to be sustained, however, argues Alejandro Jiménez, Director of Water and Sanitation at SIWI. He believes thinking long-term and rising above petty interests and disputes is essential. “We must get serious about walking the last mile,” says Jiménez. “And keep pushing,” he adds.

    “Have a bias for action,” urges one of World Water Week’s Junior Rapporteurs, Paul Strong, from the 33 Buckets Foundation. He points out the disconnect between water agencies and the local communities these are meant to support. He reminds us that we should walk that last mile that Jiménez talks about on the ground, alongside the communities. The need to engage young people is another strong message from the rapporteur.

    According to Dani Gaillard-Picher, Senior Advisor and International Policy Team Lead at SIWI, it is equally important to empower women as they are often the solution-holders when it comes to water.

    Recognising excellence

    Every year, World Water Week is also the scene of the annual Stockholm Water Prize and Stockholm Junior Water Prize, some of the world’s most prestigious water awards, presented in recognition of extraordinary water-related achievements.

    This year, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize goes to Naomi Park from the USA for her research on removing carbon contaminants from the ocean. The young laureate has found a way to transform Styrofoam debris into an effective solution to remove carbon dioxide and crude oil.

    The 2023 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate is Professor Andrea Rinaldo, who has had a significant impact on several academic fields, including hydrology, hydrogeomorphology and epidemiology. Professor Rinaldo has demonstrated the critical connections between river networks and the spread of solutes, aquatic species, and diseases. His research is used to protect biodiversity and to stem the spread of disease.

    “It is an enormous honour to receive the Stockholm Water Prize and a responsibility,” comments Rinaldo. “I want to use it as a megaphone to raise awareness of important water issues.”

    Image courtesy of Sotirios Karaoulanis from Pixabay
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