Summary of the 1st day of BWS2016 - report by IISD



The Budapest Water Summit opened on Monday morning at the Millenáris Park conference center, to the rhapsodic strains of Hungarian music and a live sand animation performance by film director Ferenc Cakó, illustrating the vital importance of clean water for communities around the world.

János Áder, President of Hungary, and three visiting heads of state from Bangladesh, Mauritius and Tajikistan addressed delegates at the inauguration session.

In the morning and afternoon, a series of panels convened. The opening panel of speakers discussed how water connects the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Further sessions featured speakers and high-level panelists who discussed ways to provide safe and affordable drinking water, and to improve sanitation and hygiene.

Several events took place in parallel with the Budapest Water Summit, including a Sustainable Water Solutions Expo.

In the evening, delegates attended a concert and reception at the Palace of the Arts.


Zsófia Tomaj, Master of Ceremonies, welcomed delegates and recalled the outcomes of the 2013 Budapest Water Summit, which had called for a stand-alone sustainable development goal (SDG) on water.

János Áder, President of Hungary, identified water as the most significant issue of the 21st century. Noting that responsible water management is a prerequisite for development, he cited examples of water issues worldwide, including the link between water scarcity and conflict, and impacts of climate change on irrigation and hydropower production.

UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson cited an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forecast that global water demand will increase by at least 55% from 2000-2050, with urbanization and climate impacts likely to drive this figure much higher. He highlighted the plight of island states experiencing increased drought and groundwater contamination, and called for water needs to inform national planning processes relating to water-intensive sectors such as agriculture and energy production.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, by video, noted that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement provide a blueprint for peace, prosperity and a healthy planet, and that delivering on the promise of sustainable development will require engaging all stakeholders.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius, and Co-Chair of the High-Level Panel on Water (HLPW), emphasized small island states’ extreme exposure to the impacts of climate change, and the critical importance of water in their survival, urging everyone to support the HLPW action plan. She noted that the HLPW is currently taking stock of financing mechanisms for the water sector.

Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, highlighted that Tajikistan generates 60% of Central Asia’s water resources, but that 1,000 of its 14,000 glaciers and snowfields have vanished in the last 20 years. He stressed the importance of water for agriculture and hydropower generation for development, and noted the inclusion of integrated water resource management (IWRM) in Tajikistan’s national development strategy.

Sheikh Hasina Wazed, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and HLPW member, outlined the HLPW’s priorities, including: building resilience to water-related disasters; ensuring equitable water distribution; and developing resilient crop varieties and agricultural technologies. She also highlighted Bangladesh’s long-term water-sharing agreements with neighboring countries.

Joaquim Levy, Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer, World Bank Group, said sound investments in the water sector can have “an enormous pay-off” in terms of health, environment and economic development. Calling for innovative blended financing mechanisms, he stressed the need to strengthen the technical and financial capacity of water service providers and to focus on collaboration and inclusivity.

The meeting also heard messages from Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, and Pope Francis, recognizing the value of water in sustainable development.


Johan Kuylenstierna, Executive Director, Stockholm Environment Institute, moderated the session.

Danilo Türk, former President of Slovenia and Chair of the UN Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace, highlighted the panel’s 22 November 2016 discussion of connections between water, peace, and security. He noted the potential to galvanize UN action, particularly where action is lacking in the area of transboundary water agreements.

Han Seung-soo, former Prime Minister, Republic of Korea, and UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Disaster Risk Reduction and Water, said that his country’s achievement in increasing water access from 16% in the 1960s to 98% in 2016 has been central to its economic success. Han highlighted that 90% of natural disaster fatalities are caused by water-related events, and that political will to improve resilience is vital.

Tegegnework Gettu, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Associate Administrator, outlined the challenges for the UN system in: “delivering as one”; filling the knowledge gap; accessing investment and other necessary instruments; creating enabling environments; supporting water security; and meeting capacity needs.

Joachim von Amsberg, Vice-President, Policy and Strategy, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) explained the AIIB was established soon after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement to meet the financing needs of its 57 founding member countries, with China being its largest shareholder. He estimated investment needs of US$1 trillion a year for water infrastructure, and declared the AIIB’s intention to become known for its financing of sustainable infrastructure.

Heiner Markhoff, President and CEO, GE Power & Water’s Water & Process Technologies, highlighted GE’s work as a technology provider in 100 countries, in areas such as energy-efficient water technology, and water reuse and recovery from wastewater. He noted that activities such as power generation and oil and gas extraction are highly water-intensive, and stressed the importance of addressing the water-energy-food nexus in a broad context.

Pavel Kabat, Director General and CEO, International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, called for greater attention to groundwater and salinity issues, and to transboundary cooperation, citing needs in the Mekong and Nile Deltas and areas round the Bay of Bengal. He challenged the multilateral development banks to support a sustainable investment agenda for blue, green, and grey water, and for science-policy partnerships.

On transboundary issues, Han noted the importance of China’s role and its recent meeting on Hainan Island with Mekong country leaders. Türk said it is not clear if additional institutional architecture on water is needed, but that “ripeness” in various regions could be a guide for whether more should be done.

Gettu called for resilience building and providing practical guidance for activities on the ground. Amsberg highlighted the need for “cross-stakeholder” action that will bring together policy frameworks with science and technology, and public and private capital. Markhoff noted that stability is important for private capital to come in.

Panelists discussed ways to trigger investments in sectors and places where the needs are greatest. Von Amsberg stressed the huge availability of private capital and the need for a framework to connect investable assets with water development needs, and Kabat proposed establishing a panel of hundreds of scientists to draw up robust scenarios for wise investments.


 Panel moderator Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, Stockholm International Water Institute, noted that 80% of African countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) were about water issues.

Gérard Payen, former Advisor, UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, said the SDG water targets raise the bar significantly from the MDG target, which had focused on water access. He outlined political challenges, including that of water being cheaper in wealthier areas, and the persistence of water access issues in countries that have significant rainfall.

Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, the Netherlands, elaborated on a World Economic Forum model on the interdependency of risks, highlighting the need for comprehensive risk mitigation and adaptation strategies. He stressed the need for local financing solutions, including the use of bonds.

José Carrera, Vice-President of Social Development, Development Bank of Latin America, emphasized that urban and rural situations call for different solutions. He said an annual investment of 0.3% of GDP is sufficient to close the gap in water supply and basic sanitation services by 2030. He noted this is not just a financial, but also a regulatory challenge that requires an integrated approach involving governments, civil society, the private sector and international development agencies.

HIGH-LEVEL PANEL DISCUSSION 1: DO WE HAVE ENOUGH GOOD WATER TO DRINK? Bai Mass Taal, former Executive Secretary, African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), moderated the discussion.

Mohamed El Azizi, Director, Water and Sanitation Department, African Development Bank (AfDB), said the AfDB is scaling up its efforts on lending and co-financing, noting that lending for water infrastructure reached US$1 billion this year, from an initial level of US$200 million. He highlighted the AfDB’s support for rainwater harvesting, and its assistance to countries to develop bankable projects for climate financing.

Zsuzsanna Jakab, Regional Director for Europe, World Health Organization, highlighted the public health and economic case for ensuring a safe water supply, and the urgency of working across silos and with the private sector and civil society.

Manuel Sager, Director General, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, emphasized the importance of water for health and peace. He urged all concerned to work on engaging and mobilizing large numbers of people. He observed that 30 agencies work on water issues in the UN system alone, and stressed the need to speak with one voice.

Jaana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland, described her country’s water access and water quality programmes, and its promotion of international policies on climate and food security.

Kenth Hvid Nielsen, Group Vice President for Global Market Segment Water Utility, Grundfos, described the Danish company’s water pumping technologies, noting its local partnership approach to driving intelligent solutions.

Panelists stressed the significance of the private sector in delivering results, and discussed whether creating a water-specific international finance mechanism or institutional body is needed. While expressing some caution, they recognized the value in strengthening the international architecture. Sager suggested that a Summit outcome could be a roadmap for how to move towards having a new coordinating body on water. Jakab did not favor creating new institutions, and proposed introducing governance and accountability mechanisms instead. El Azizi advocated integrating water into the climate change agenda. He indicated that the AfDB is working with other regional financial institutions to define an approach to “bankability” of projects, which would take account of social aspects.


Session moderator Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Programme Division, UNICEF, underlined that SDG 6 applies to all countries, the whole water cycle and the whole management chain of sanitation.

Pierre Victoria, President of Sustainable Development, Veolia, said there is an urgent need for technology that is adapted to local realities. He stated that: water use has tripled since 1950; 80% of wastewater is discharged back into the environment without any treatment; and 2.5 billion people lack access to basic wastewater treatment. He highlighted sanitation as an environmental and social challenge.

Ibrahim Kabole, Country Director, WaterAid Tanzania, identified WASH as a complex of multi-stakeholder, cross-cutting issues that have to be addressed in the context of poverty and urbanization. He stressed the importance of technological innovation, private sector and local-government involvement, and education to promote behavior change on hygiene.

Ali Chavoshian, UNESCO Regional Centre on Urban Water Management (RCUWM), International Drought Initiative (IDI), representing Iran, reported 99% coverage of urban water supply in Iran, but less than 50% safe sewage disposal. He described keys to success, including: decentralization and “coordinated privatization”; and public awareness and demand management campaigns. He also noted challenges, including the affordability of technological solutions, political stability and reliability of essential services in the long term.

HIGH-LEVEL PANEL DISCUSSION 2: DO WE HAVE WATER SOLUTIONS FOR IMPROVED PUBLIC HEALTH AND HYGIENE? Jack Moss, Executive Director, Aquafed, moderated the panel discussion.

Miklós Szócska, Director, Health Services Management Training Centre, Semmelweis University, and former Minister of State for Health, Hungary, said coordination between the health and sanitation sectors was challenging and that more strategic investment is needed to make effective the links between SDG 3 on health and SDG 6 on water.

Joakim Harlin, Vice-Chair, UN-Water, called for a systems approach that recognizes water availability is linked to how we manage wastewater as well as drinking water. He stressed that managing drinking water supply “does not start at the tap,” and that the six SDG 6 targets must all be addressed.

Lesha Witmer, Women for Water Partnership, also supported a systems approach. She noted that good technical initiatives are not progressing because of the lack of a coordinating institution that could make the horizontal connections between water system elements. She stressed that the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF) cannot perform such a role.

Sue Goeransson, Director, Municipal and Environmental Infrastructure Team, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, recommended appropriate tariffs on both drinking water and wastewater, as a way to drive efficiency and water recycling.

Ali Chavoshian noted that international discussions on water and sanitation lack effective regional cooperation, compared with other UN processes.

Alix Lerebours, Water Youth Network, noted that working on water and sanitation was not appealing to young people as a career but could be made so, if people would realize its significance.

Anders Berntell, Executive Director, 2030 Water Resources Group/International Finance Corporation, said wastewater and sewage represent commercial opportunities as the sludge contains energy and nutrients, noting that, in Sweden, the combined wastewater and sewage system has become a net energy producer.

Witmer said that women fill only 17% of paid jobs in the water sector. Participants discussed women’s participation in WASH, including ways the sanitation industry can make itself more attractive to women, for instance, by introducing flexible hours. They noted that involving women in the location, design and maintenance of sanitation facilities and in bill collection will have all-round benefits.

Harlin, UN-Water, mentioned efforts on monitoring of SDG 6 implementation, including creation of a baseline for SDG 6 indicators in 2017 and integrated monitoring.

Concluding the session, moderator Moss summarized that tackling the global issue of water and sanitation will require institutional and administrative measures, rather than responses of a technical nature.