By Abdoulaye SENE and Patrick LAVARDE, co-chairs of the International Committee of the 9th World Water Forum.
The World Water Forum will be held in Dakar from 21 to 26 March 2022 on the theme of water security for peace and development. It is an important milestone in the preparation of the United Nations conference that will take stock in 2023 of the mid-term implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal n°6 dedicated to water and sanitation.
As the first forum to be held in Africa, where access to water and sanitation is the least advanced in the world, it will highlight the huge gap between the goals and reality. This gap is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa, where the rate of access to drinking water and sanitation is among the lowest in the world. Without access to water, there is no guarantee of health, hygiene or food security. This issue weighs on the daily lives of populations who find themselves in a precarious situation with regard to water. It is a major obstacle to development. This is why the Forum gives particular importance to the challenges of access to drinking water and sanitation.
More than half of the world’s cities are experiencing water supply problems and urban concentration is constantly increasing. The Forum will of course focus on the situation in cities, but a special focus will be placed on rural areas which have often been neglected or even forgotten. The imbalance between rural and urban areas must be corrected by investing massively in water and sanitation in rural areas to improve the living conditions of the population, as Senegal is doing with its “emergency and community development program”.
Thanks in particular to the involvement of SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL in the preparatory work, the Forum will also address the specific issues of access to water and sanitation in humanitarian emergencies with the ambition of proposing concrete responses to the expectations of the populations.
More generally, the scarcity of water resources is affecting many countries, particularly in the Sahel region where water is at the heart of the security of populations and the condition for development. In rural areas, conflicts are exacerbated around all population movements and between the different types of water users, for example herders and farmers. The very strong demographic growth and the effects of climate change make it urgent to act.
The Dakar Forum will be action-oriented, because it is time to implement solutions and provide answers. Despite a preparation very disturbed by the pandemic context, a thousand very diverse institutions have worked on the four priorities (water security, water and rural development, cooperation, tools and means) structured around the water-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. These multi-stakeholder groups have identified concrete responses that will be presented and shared during the Forum in about 100 thematic sessions. In addition, there are about a hundred concrete projects that have been labelled in the framework of the Dakar 2022 Initiative.
This collaborative work has mobilized actors of all kinds throughout the world. Sharing the responses implemented here and there is important, but adapting them to replicate and accelerate their dissemination is even more important. To achieve the objectives in the field of water, cooperation is essential, because no actor can succeed alone. It also requires good governance and the mobilization of sufficient funding.
Finally, political will is essential. Senegal, which was the first to include water issues in the work of the United Nations Security Council, is particularly well placed to assert, alongside the World Water Council, that water-related issues must be given a higher priority on the political agenda at the various levels. This will be the first objective of the Summit of Heads of State and Government, but also of the meetings of parliamentarians, local authorities and basin authorities.
We are expecting many of you next March in Dakar.
Abdoulaye SENE & Patrick LAVARDE
This article was published in Solidarités International’s 2022 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Barometer, which we will publish in our next edition of Humanitarian Challenges.
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Patrick LAVARDE is a general engineer of bridges, water and forests and a permanent member of the General Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development. He was governor of the World Water Council (2012-2018) and president of the International Water Resources Association (IWRA) between 2016 and 2018. He contributed to the organization of the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, including as co-chair of the thematic commission, and was a member of the bureau of the international steering committee of the 8th forum in Brasilia. He created the National Office for Water and Aquatic Environments and was its Director General from 2007 to 2012. Between 1998 and 2007, he was Director General of the National Institute of Environmental and Agricultural Sciences and Technologies. Prior to that, he held various responsibilities in the central and decentralized administration in the forestry, water and agriculture sectors.
President of the National Committee for the organization of the 9th World Water Forum, “Dakar 2021”.
President of the Board of Directors of SOGEM/OMVS (2013-2017).
President and founder of the international think-tank Global Local Forum.
Deputy and President of the Commission on Development and Land Use Planning of the National Assembly of the Republic of Senegal (2007-2012).
President of the Regional Council of Fatick (2002-2009).
Special Advisor to the Minister of Mines, Energy and Hydraulics of Senegal (2001-2002). Head of the Mission d’Etudes et d’Aménagement des Vallées Fossiles (1994-2000).
National Director of Hydraulics and Rural Engineering (1984 to 1994).
Expert in Hydraulics, Climate Change, Decentralization, Governance and Local Development.