New international coalition takes aim at global water security issues

Posted 31 July 2017

Water securityInternational efforts to solve our biggest water security challenges gained momentum after more than 50 international water experts lent their signatures to the Geneva Actions on Human Water Security (GAHWS) in early July. 

The signatories committed to developing a strategic plan to tackle international water issues, with specific emphasis on three overarching global action goals: basic water needs, water quality, and water planning and management. These will be supported by the establishment of a Global Human Water Security Fund, which the coalition is advocating for.

Quentin Grafton, Convener, Founding Signatory and ANU Centre for Water, Economics, Environment and Policy Director, said the GAHWS are about finding a way to push ahead with actionable plans on critical global water security issues.

“These are high-level, strategic actions that are clearly needed around the world. It’s imperative they are translated into specific plans with specific funding portfolios,” Grafton said.  

“We are in the process of doing that right now and will have synthesised material sometime in September.”

Grafton said although there have been many efforts to address mounting global water concerns like access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, sustainable catchment management and effective decision-making, the global actions will focus on applying hard-earned knowledge to these issues with a results-driven focus. 

“It’s important to stress there have been a lot of declarations and principles that have been highlighted for many decades in relation to water, and we are attempting to take those good principles and actually put them into action by focusing on what needs to be done, including when and where,” Grafton said. 

“Our water problems have been around for a long time and it will take time to resolve and mitigate them. It’s about rolling our sleeves up and getting our hands dirty. We need to think about why things haven't worked and how we can learn to do it better. ”

Creating a strategic plan based on the action areas is the first step towards advocating for the proposed global water fund, and Grafton said the signatories will then aim to establish a fund with help from the UN High Level Panel on Water and various national governments. 

“I am planning on engaging with the UN High Level Panel on Water and the Australian Government as a first step. I hope they will respond to the GAHWS as an important initiative that needs to be supported,” Graton said.  

Grafton acknowledged that funding will be a key component to applying the GAHWS, but he said it is only one of many considerations. 

“It is not just a matter of setting up a fund and spending money, and automatically getting great solutions. There are many people suffering from these issues and we need to engage with them and understand what is getting in the way of change,” Grafton said.  

“It’s about expertise, capacity and working with people on the ground using processes we have tried and succeeded with in other parts of the world.”

Inspired by the success of the Green Climate Fund, which was established by 194 governments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, Grafton said the establishment of a Global Human Water Security Fund will require demonstrated success. However, the signatories are confident in being able to deliver. 

“There is a huge amount of money in the world, and people are quite happy to invest in good causes – granted it’s actually making a difference,” Grafton said. 

“We aim to be flexible and adaptable to make sure we end up with good outcomes.”

Learn more about the Geneva Actions on Human Water Security here