Visiting Budapest, it is easy to understand why Hungary is committed to giving water a prominent place on the Post 2015 development agenda. Hungarians have water at the core of their hearts. Thermal baths take a natural place in every Budapest citizen’s life and the Danube River flows through this beautiful city, connecting Hungary to a number of countries. Hungary is also playing an important role as one of the co-chairs the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG), positioning Hungary in a key position in the Post 2015 development agenda process.
The Budapest Water Summit, held over the past week, is one of the key meetings of 2014 with the objective of raising water in the Post 2015 development agenda process. Hosted by the Hungarian government, it has gathered water experts from governments, civil society and business in different forums and panels.
SIWI participated in the Budapest Summit in several ways. Torgny Holmgren, SIWI’s Executive Director, contributed to the outcomes of the Summit as the rapporteur to the plenary session “Investing in financing of water related SDGs”. We have also had the opportunity to discuss with governments and other partners next steps to achieve a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water. The Stockholm Statement proves to be a useful point of departure in this regard.
The OWG will start negotiate on contents and mechanisms early next year and therefore it is crucial to continue advocating for a dedicated water SDG. Even if many countries recognise the importance of water, there are many competing candidates for a SDG and not many countries have so far committed to a particular goal of water. However, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands have been bold and clear in advocating for a dedicated water goal. Switzerland has driven an initiative for creating a platform between countries supporting a water SDG. This initiative is important and SIWI will seek to support it in disseminating information to the countries we are working with. A broad consultation process to include developed and developing countries will be important in ensuring both global and local relevance.
At a Budapest side event, UN Water presented its work on how a suggested water SDG could manifest and invited members and parties to Geneva on December 16-17 December for a final discussion and decisions. This is an important contribution to the work and SIWI will continue being engaged in this enterprise. SIWI is also in contact with business and civil society groups to strategise and coordinate with them, in the aim to move forward with a coherent voice on the importance of water SDG. These messages can be framed differently, depending on the context, but it has to be strong, coordinated and easy to understand for non-water people and politicians. It has to be heard in the local capitals as well as at the missions in New York.
Budapest has provided a possibility to come together and take stock on where processes are, to share information and to prepare for next steps. SIWI will continue being active in different settings. A dedicated water SDG is not important for its own sake but for making a sustainable future possible. When I visited Budapest my first time in 1986, no one would have thought that the Iron Curtain would crack just 3 years later. This reminds us of that never give up hope and commitment. Now is the time to join forces. A dedicated water goal is possible.