Sustainable use of water is of vital importance for
our planet. It is fundamental for both production functions and well
functioning ecosystems. However, unsustainable water use is common.
Population growth and increased use of water per capita put an increasing
pressure on the availability and quality of water resources and on the
ecosystems which are key to regulation, supply and purification of water.
The poor are the first to suffer from this. Often the satisfaction of
basic food needs is obtained at the expenses of the natural environment,
which in turn threatens the very basis of future food production. This
calls for an integrated approach to water resources and ecosystems at
the river basin level.
The natural ecosystem plays an essential role in the availability and
quality of water. The international community has transformed this increased
awareness into commitments to sustainable management of our planet's
available natural resources. Today, the questions are no longer whether
or why, but rather how we can effectively balance water for livelihoods
and for resilient ecosystems in achieving equity, environmental sustainability,
and economic efficiency. What we need now is implementation of our commitments.
By identifying best practices and generic lessons the FAO/Netherlands
Conference Water for Food and Ecosystems aims to facilitate the implementation
of the existing international commitments on sustainable water use in
relation to food and ecosystems (see Int'l
Commitments). The conference will provide a high-level platform
to help governments identify management practices, practical lessons
learned and the necessary enabling environments that lead to sustainable
water use at the river-basin level and the harmonization of food production
and ecosystem management with a view to facilitate implementation. The
discussion of the conference is closely linked to the Dialogue on Water,
Food and Environment.
In order to achieve this goal the conference will focus on the following
- Fostering Implementation: Know-how for Action: We need to
know more about the complex interactions of water for food and ecosystems.
Increased knowledge, reliable information and greater awareness, will
help improve the capacity of stakeholders and ensure that sound decisions
are made, mostly at local level, on inputs (water quantity and quality),
outputs and impacts. Through focussing on best practices, this theme
will contribute, in a practical way, to implementing our commitments
to effectively balance water for livelihoods and resilient ecosystems.
Key questions facing the Conference, therefore, are: a) how to enhance
effective stakeholder involvement and b) how to integrate and apply
knowledge for managing the intertwined relation between water for
food and ecosystems?
- A "New Economy" for Water for Food and Ecosystems.
Inputs, services and impacts must then be analysed in terms of their
social, economic, and environmental values for each stakeholder. The
goal is to help all involved stakeholders make well informed, transparent
decisions on the allocation of natural resources, and ensure that
their decisions are consistent with higher level (national/cross boundary)
priorities. This will lead to a new prospect, "a new economy"
of Water for Food and Ecosystems. Some key questions include a) how
to assess the various positive and negative externalities of water
use? and b) How to ensure that the diverse value of water is included
in decision making processes by stakeholders?
- The Enabling Environment. Finally, promising institutional
and managerial arrangements must be adopted at local and national/cross
boundary levels to enable sustainable water management for food and
ecosystems, equitable representation of all stakeholders in the decision
making process, and consistency at all levels. Key questions facing
the conference are a) What institutional arrangements and policies
help to enable local stakeholders to manage their resources and to
accommodate the diverse users and uses of water? b) How can institutions
and organizations offer a platform for joint decision making/negotiation
involving fishers, pastoralists, rainfed agriculturists, industries,
that includes the specific needs of nature and environment?
The Conference will be open to national government delegations and
international organizations, on invitation (approximately 350 delegates).
It is expected 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 effective policies.
An Electronic Conferencing Process, an African Pre-Conference and Partner
Seminars will nourish the Conference. This will enable all stakeholders,
including from the business, public authorities, water boards, NGO's
and research communities, to articulate their views on and experiences
with best practices and policies. Because of the persistent and severe
nature of the water problems in Africa the pre-conference will be held
in Addis Ababa.
It is expected that insights and experiences shared at the Conference
will find their application in improved actions aimed at implementation
at the national, river-basin 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 further development
and implementation of related policies and programmes within the framework
of the WSSD Plan of Implementation, the FAO, CBD, Ramsar, and other