The FAO-Netherlands International Conference on Water for Food and Ecosystems will be held in The Hague, The Netherlands, from 31 January to 4 February 2005. This document provides a preliminary outline of the Conference, its topics, content and scope. It addresses:

  1. Background and rationale of the Conference
  2. The Conference's goal and scope
  3. Themes governing the Conference
  4. Conference preparatory and special events, including an e-forum, regional partner seminars and an African pre-Conference

Over the past years a range of objectives and targets have been set by the international community that direct policies and programmes for sustainable water management (e.g. WSSD, WFS, WWF). This Conference will focus on the implementation in a coherent manner of international commitments relevant to water for food and ecosystems. Rather than new promises, we need tools to make our commitments take effect on the ground.

The Conference aims at identifying successful processes that lead to best practices for achieving sustainable land and water development through Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) with an ecosystem approach. It also seeks to assist governments and organizations in implementing programmes on water for food and ecosystems.

The Conference will encourage, therefore, the full participation of all involved stakeholders to "help make it happen", by collecting, sharing and disseminating practical tools for best practices and policies - i.e., what is working well, what is promising, obstacles that hamper effective progress and how these can be addressed. In addition, generic lessons, conclusions and implications relevant to policymakers and practitioners will be discussed.

The Conference will be open to invited national government delegations and international organizations (approximately 350 delegates in total). It is anticipated that national delegations will include representatives of Ministries of Planning, Economy, Water, Agriculture and the Environment, who have a crucial role in guiding and contributing to the implementation of coherent policies.

The 2004 Electronic Forum Process, Partner Seminars and an African Pre-Conference will provide the opportunity for all stakeholders - including the private sector, NGOs and research communities - to participate in the Conference preparatory phase and to generate and articulate their views on, and share experiences with, best practices and policies. Their findings will be shared with the 2005 Conference delegations.

The Conference themes and side-events will raise and review key questions for achieving sustainable water management in food/agriculture and ecosystems. The themes and side-events will provide a framework for the contribution and participation of programmes and specialists in the areas of policy development and implementation, institutional arrangements, technical knowledge and development, and economic aspects. Each theme will focus on the triple elements of water, food/agriculture and ecosystems and their interdependencies.

The side- and special events will allow for elaboration of specific sub-themes issues that are of particular relevance to one or more of the Conference themes and/or provide relevant illustrations of innovations and good practices. The list of events in this document is preliminary, and open for change and additions. Additional information and revised versions of this document will be posted on the Conference website.

It is expected that insights and experiences shared at the Conference will find their application in improved actions aimed at implementation at the national and local level and reinforce and establish (inter)national Partnerships in Water for Food and Ecosystems. As such, the Conference will also directly contribute to the implementation of related policies and programmes within the framework of the WSSD Plan of Implementation and CSD13, the CBD decisions and working programmes, Ramsar, the FAO, and other international fora.