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World Water Summit in Budapest: Quotes, highlights

Conferences

The World Water Summit, a meeting of some 1,250 from nearly 100 countries around the world, closed on Friday with the adoption of a collective statement on water issues and related sustainability. BBJ touches upon some of the convention’s highlights and sound bites.

Opening statement: 40% lacking proper drinking water
Representing the host nation, President János Áder opened the World Water Summit by, naturally, urging nations to cooperate on such issues, stating that “At present, 40% of the world’s population does not have access to sufficient healthy drinking water and unless that trend is reversed, the figure will rise to two-thirds of humankind in 25 years.”

Sustainability must be addressed
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the summit early on day one, adding further sobering statistics to Áder’s, saying that “By 2030 nearly half the global population could be facing water scarcity” and “Demand could outstrip supply by 40%.”

Ban appealed with “We must address unsustainable use … We must use what we have more equitably and wisely. We cannot expect governments to do this alone. Guaranteeing a water secure world will require the full engagement of all actors, not least the world of business.

“…we must do everything we can to keep global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. To do that, we need to finalize a robust legal agreement on climate change in 2015.”

Ban later gave a lecture at Corvinus University in Budapest, where he encouraged students to “First, spare no effort to reach the MDGs by the 2015 deadline. Second, define a new set of goals for the new set of challenges facing our world. Now more than ever, sustainable development – integrating economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability – must be our global guiding principle.”

Arab nations weigh in
Naturally, those nations with somewhat tenuous steady water supply made their presences felt at the Water Summit. In speaking to the conference, Prince Hassan of Jordan declared that “We must demand a standalone target for water and sanitation in the post-2015 development goals. These things are central to everything that we do in development.

“In the world today, there are more mobile telephones than there are toilets. This imbalance in economic development must be addressed if we are to make progress as a civil society…

“All of this comes back to the issue I speak of regularly: human dignity. Ensuring a clean water supply, effective sanitation and a clean environment are central to upholding a good, decent and secure life for each and every one of us. They are central for all of us, because human security can only be achieved through human dignity, and they both depend on access to these things.”

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister for Water Affairs Mohammed Ibrahim al-Saud released a statement from Budapest informing that the country’s “policy is moving away from trying to grow wheat locally to importing more food as the energy costs for irrigation and water exceed import prices,” and commented that “[in many Middle Eastern countries], the food sector has no realizations of what energy is embedded in production.”

“How long would you walk for a glass of water?”
That was the question posed by non-profit organization Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) with a clever interactive display at the conference. Featuring a treadmill and a pair of water-filled jerry-cans, HIA encouraged participants to take up the burden and get on the treadmill as a gesture of solidarity with “for example, a Southern Ethiopian girl or woman [who] walks 10-15 kilometers a day with 20 liters of water on her back to have water for her family that day.”

Youth Task Force statement
Near the summit’s close, Roos ter Horst of Netherlands delivered the conclusion of the Youth Task Force gleaned from the proceedings.

Budapest Water Summit Statement
With the closing of the four-day summit, the Budapest Water Summit Statement was signed by participants. Essentially a list of policy recommendations, the statement touts “coordinated water management to achieve universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation especially in the growing refugee camps as well as households, schools, health facilities and workplaces.”

Foreign Affairs Minister János Martonyi told media on Friday that the statement is “aimed at avoiding world conflicts over water.”

Said Martonyi, “Water should be a source of cooperation and not a source of conflict. Water should be a source of prospertity not of misery.”

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