Saturday, August 18, 2007

World Water Week in Stockholm

World Water Week is held every August in Stockholm. NGOs, government ministers, and people in water and development fields get together and listen to each other speak, hold interactive seminars, panel discussions, and provide a venue for organizations to meet.

The conference had a strong focus on global warming this year, which was certainly appropriate with our numerous catastrophic disasters in recent years. Some of the messages that I brought home from Stockholm were:

  1. The poor will/have been suffering disproportionately from global warming induced natural disasters. Developed/wealthy countries have the responsibility to provide aid when disasters occur and resources to encourage development in a sustainable way. We developed inappropriately and now the entire world (developed, and less developed even more so) is suffering because of our mistakes. It’s time for us to pay, educate, and work together with the less developed world to find a solution where everyone’s goals are met.
  2. Communication communication communication! The water sectors, the health sectors, government, and private donors must work together, give each other feedback, and ask for help if they need it. This will make the reduction of diarrheal diseases more efficient, reduce overlapping work and responsibilities, and perhaps reduce conflicts in the management of water and development projects. This is especially important for me as a potential future NGO worker. NGOs are often funded to address a single issue (water treatment, HIV, TB, etc.), but these issues are quite complicated. NGOs are an important part of the picture, but communication is vital!
  3. Communication, communication, communication! I already said this one, but I’m saying it twice. Communication between different fields is also crucial in addressing water issues efficiently. At one of the workshops that I attended, we were discussing communication between policy people and scientists, and the lack thereof. The speaker asked all policy people to raise their hands. There was one! There were over 50 scientists present. Conferences are a good place to start with interdisciplinary communication.
  4. Sanitation needs more attention! We study sanitation a lot and we do not address it enough. Sanitation should be incorporated into water treatment installations and projects.
  5. Transboundary issues are important in water management! Transboundary issues can easily get a room full of people excited. We, uh, need to settle those issues because it’s a shame to see people die of preventable diarrheal diseases while we’re too busy fighting with each other to help them. Of course it’s complicated and I didn’t come up with any solutions to address transboundary water issues. International conflict is terrible!
  6.! This website has useful charts of world distribution of wealth and time dependent trends and predictions. Check them out and use them if you need them!
  7.! This website has compiled water quality data from countries all over the world. It links various databases together and returns a quick visually pleasing display of a variety of water quality parameters. It’s fun to flip through.
  8. What bothers me most about U.S. global warming policy is that we are not even trying. We have NOT even assessed the available resources, come up with a solution, tried it, and then failed. We haven’t even tried. We’re too busy fighting (again) over whether we should try or not. In the meantime people are dying in catastrophic disasters. The U.S. was criticized by various people at World Water Week, particularly in the area of global warming policy. I believe that the poorest people of the poorest nations are suffering the most from our lack of political cooperation. Let’s get ourselves together and be responsible world citizens!
I assisted in this conference with about 20 other young professionals and students. I was impressed with the other assistants' experience in the field as well as their interest. It was a fun group. The picture above is of Hannah and me. She's 19 years old and she's already worked on a project in India and is attending water conferences!
Highschool-aged students from around the world were invited to represent their countries and present water related projects. The team from Mexico was congratulated by Sweden's crown princess and awarded the 2007 Stockholm Junior Water Prize. Their project used eggshells to remove lead from water.

The conference organized a host of cultural events and entertainment. It was a huge success and a wonderful learning experience for me!

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