World Water Week 2015 in a crucial month for water

The 25th World Water Week falls amid crucial months for the global water crisis. As the week begins in Stockholm, WaterAid Sweden’s Chief Executive Cecilia Chaterjee-Martinsen looks at some of the issues participants will be discussing.


25 Aug 2015

2015 is an important year for development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be finalised in September, will define the next 15 years of developed countries’ work towards ending global poverty.

Ours is the first generation with the chance to end extreme poverty within our lifetimes. How we ensure sustainable access to water across the world is a big part of this opportunity, which is why this year’s World Water Week in Stockholm is more important than any before.

WaterAid is proud to be one of the key collaborators of the week, not least because this year’s theme, ‘Water for development’, is so relevant to our work every day. As Chief Executive of WaterAid Sweden, I am pleased to welcome the international guests to our beautiful capital. Stockholm is a city built on water – very suitable for a week of discussions, seminars and workshops around the water crisis.

Water changes lives

“Now I can believe in a better future for my children,” Ayelach Arba from Ethiopia told me when I asked her what had changed since her village, Lahyte, gained access to water, toilets and hygiene. That is what Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is all about: changing lives.

Access to water, sanitation and hygiene is vital for poverty eradication. It offers people a first step out of poverty. The global water situation therefore cannot be viewed in isolation, but must be integrated into all development policies and practices.

For people like Ayelach to change their future forever, local communities, civil society, national governments and international institutions must work together. World Water Week is a great opportunity to bring the different aspects of water together to show how fundamental it is to all development.

Ayelach Arba holding her son, Ortiba, in Lahyte kebele, Konso.
Ayelach holding her son, Ortiba, in Lahyte kebele, Konso. Ayelach gave birth to Ortiba whilst on her long route to collect water.

WASH and development

Without water there can be no development, but economic and industrial development can, in turn, threaten water resources. To ensure lasting access to water for all, development must be both environmentally and socially sustainable.

For water and sanitation services to last, facilities and the systems behind them must be robust. Additionally, good hygiene is essential to maximise the benefits of clean water and sanitation. Changing and maintaining this behaviour will require new and innovative approaches.

Everyone has a right to clean water. On Wednesday morning, joined by Stockholm International Water Institute, The World Bank and We Effect, I will chair a workshop discussing how this human right can be made reality in practice.

A goal for WASH

In September, the final agreement on the SDGs will be made in New York, including one goal dedicated to WASH. One of the major discussions during World Water Week will be how we all – civil society, the UN, academia, governments and others who work in water and development – will work at global, national and local levels to implement the goals. We will discuss how we must all contribute effectively, both individually and jointly, to make sure everyone everywhere has access to WASH by 2030.

All stakeholders must accelerate their efforts if we are to reach this ambitious goal. We will not achieve universal access to water and sanitation by 2030 if the status quo is maintained. A dedicated goal is a big step forward in the process of solving the global water crisis, but policies for implementation, political will and economic priorities must follow to make it happen. We must not waste this opportunity.

2015 is an important year, and we have an important World Water Week ahead of us. Let’s make a difference!

Cecilia Chatterjee-Martinsen is Chief Executive of WaterAid Sweden. She tweets as @c_martinsen.

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