UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP): Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development 2016 (APFSD2016)

Date: 2016-5-11

Water security has much to do with almost all development goals, in addition to goal 6 (SDG6) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNESCAP held a workshop during the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development 2016 (APFSD 2016) at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand, from 3 to 5 April to discuss a regional roadmap for implementing the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific..

The Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF), for which the JWFserves as secretariat, joined a workshop about the SDG6 in the APFSD 2016. It also made a poster presentation on its activities. The objective of the workshop was to share perspectives and good practices on implementation of SDG6, and major challenges and lessons learned in order to identify opportunities for regional cooperation to support the member states of the UNESCAP.

At the workshop on SDG6, Mr. Ravi Narayanan, chair of the governing council of the APWF, and the other representatives listed below participated in the panel discussion and made recommendations on priority issues the Asian region should address as well as the roles of UNESCAP in attaining SDG6 and other related goals in the Asia-Pacific region. Mr. Hongjoo Hahm, deputy executive secretary of UNESCAP, served as moderator of the workshop.

H.E. Mr. Vasantha Senanayake, State-Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources of Sri Lanka, described water resources management and challenges for the rational distribution of water resources in Sri Lanka, from the viewpoint of irrigation, agriculture using the waste water from factories, and its impact on people’s health.

Dr. Sonali Senanatna Sellamuttu, Office Head and Senior Researcher on Livelihood at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), made a presentation on the results of case studies regarding community-level water resources management in Nepal, Laos and India. She emphasized the importance of implementing balanced policies and countermeasures to respond to the multiple demands by taking social and cultural factors of the country or community into account in addition to the provision of technological solutions. She also insisted that it is necessary to plan and implement policies from the perspective of women in considering water use and water resources development, not only in relation to households sector but in other sectors as well.

H.E. Mr. Sulton Rahimzoda, Deputy Minister of Energy and Water Resources of the Republic of Tajikistan, referred to sustainable water resources management in riparian countries around the Aral Sea. It is still very difficult to reach agreements about water use among countries around the Aral Sea, but he thought it possible to realize environmentally sustainable economic growth in all neighboring countries through hydraulic power generation. This would promote consensus building. He emphasized the importance of political will, and nurturing mutual trust in order to realize this consensus. He also said that existing agreements on water supplies should be revised to suit the current situation. Lastly, he expressed his hope that UN organizations, including UNESCAP would play the role of facilitators in the resolution of Aral Sea issues.

Mr. Abdullah Keizrul Bin, Chairperson of the Network of Asian River Basin Organizations (NARBO) strongly insisted that political will was one of the most important factors in promoting integrated water resources management in river basins. He also emphasized the necessity of the firm commitment of stakeholders, a coordination mechanism among stakeholders, and a watershed management plan forged by a clear vision.

Ms. Santha Sheela Nair, Vice President of the Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission in India, pointed out the advantages of introducing ecological sanitation toilets to rural communities, where people have little access to proper sanitation. She introduced the first Ecological Sanitation Community compost toilet, which was built in Musiri of her state in 2005. It was the first time in the world that toilet users are being paid as against pay and use toilet system.

Mr. Jack Sim, President of the World Toilet Organization of Singapore, mentioned the difficulty of changing people’s behavior despite the importance of installing toilets for improving sanitation in impoverished regions of Asia and the Pacific. Therefore, he insisted that it was necessary to mobilize technologies and funds by meeting diverse demands through a comprehensive approach in order to eliminate open defecation and improve sanitary conditions.

Mr. Ravi Narayanan, Chair of APWF governing council, referred to the roles of international and interregional organizations in integrating the various programs each organization was involved in around Asia and the Pacific. There are still many challenges to address in order to achieve the SDGs related to water and sanitation.

As there are still many water and sanitation problems to tackle in Asia and the Pacific, there are a lot of networks working on solutions to these problems. Firstly, however, he emphasized that it was necessary for each organization to choose more specific goals and creative approaches.

Secondly, he pointed out that it was very important to create a system for linking major meetings of different organizations with each other and sending out policy messages compiled at these meetings continuously, rather than holding an episodic event. It is important to link the key meetings to enable to follow up and builid upon their policy massages.

Lastly, he referred to the roles of international organizations such as UNESCAP and to examine what is the driver of change and practice at macro and metal levels. The role of such organizations is to function as the platform for networks, which is inclusive, and a catalyst for encouraging the flow, practices, and the activities.

The outcome document from the workshop on SDG6 will be incorporated into the outcome document for the APFSD2016 and informed at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York during July 2016.

The APWF has been involved in formulating many policy messages, not only at this workshop held by the UNESCAP, but at other meetings aimed at improving water security in Asia and the Pacific. The APWF will continue to work hard to deliver these policy messages to policy makers, so that they may be reflected and properly implemented in national policies.