Implementing IWRM Especially for Transition Countries, 7th World Water Forum, April 12-17 2015, Daegu & Gyeongbuk, Republic of Korea [Professional Communication] - page 01

7WWF Session: From Idea to Implementation

In parallel with the preparations for the 7th World Water Forum, which lasted for about two years, a process was taking place with the aim of defining and implementing activities related to global mainstreaming of specific water management issues, problems and potential solutions for transition countries. Taking part in a large number of preparatory meetings for the 7th World Water Forum and putting forward water management challenges of transition countries, especially those of Serbia, WSDAC and JCI made every effort the present water management issues of transition countries in a most systematic and effective manner. These activities included participation of WSDAC and JCI specialists in various gatherings in South Korea, as well as meetings within the scope of UNESCO, but also the organization of conferences addressing the impact of climate change and social, economic and other changes on water resources management, which gathered together globally renowned experts in the fields of water, climate change, and contemporary international relations and economic systems, as well as representatives from international organizations and European institutions. Prior to the 7th World Water Forum, based on research conducted by JCI, a number of papers were produced to summarize the main hypotheses of sustainable and adaptive water management and provide guidelines for defining the main courses of action of the Serbian water sector, with Serbia used as an example of a transition country.

The most important activity and the very "source" of this 7WWF session was the international conference Water Management in Transition Countries, organized by the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, JCI and WSDAC, and held in Belgrade, Serbia, in September 2014.

The idea to hold a conference on water management in transition countries originated from the need to achieve water management objectives at different levels worldwide, as well as to help transition countries resolve their water-related problems.

The conference on Water Management in Transition Countries was held in parallel with a conference on climate change, because of the inter-dependence of these two topics, and both were part of a major event that marked the anniversary of the globally recognized and renowned Serbian scientist Milutin Milankovitch.

Twenty-one papers by authors from 12 countries were presented. Papers from transition countries came from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Malaysia, Pakistan, Serbia and Slovenia. A number of papers were presented by authors affiliated to various international organizations (such as the EU, ICPDR, UNESCO and the World Bank). Namibia was the only represented country from the African continent.

At the end of the conference, following an extensive discussion which involved numerous attendees, a declaration titled Belgrade Statement of Water Sector Sustainability was adopted to underscore that the following need to be taken into consideration and implemented:

  • A proper balance between centralized and decentralized water management;
  • Appropriate capacities at focal points of governance (central and peripheral administrations);
  • Devising of fitting water legislation that will lead to effective promotion of successful and sustainable development of the country in question;
  • Identifying suitable tools to demonstrate the nexus between effective water management and social and economic gains;
  • Adequate funding for all water management functions (appropriate water pricing, taxes, budget...);
  • Accumulation of funds for capital project implementation (water fund, water bank, and the like);
  • A straightforward plan, identifying milestones, targets and priorities;
  • Maintenance and upgrading of scientific and professional institutions and capacities.

To help voice and stress the need for strengthening the ability of developing and transition countries to upgrade and improve water governance through financial, administrative and technical capacity building, WSDAC and JCI specialists proposed and offered to chair the session Implementing IWRM Especially for Transition Countries at the 7th World Water Forum. The 7WWF committee tasked with topic evaluation and selection accepted the candidacy and invited JCI and WSDAC to preside over the proposed session under the theme SMART Implementation of IWRM.


Highlights of the Session

The session Implementing IWRM Especially for Transition Countries was held on 16 April in Daegu. It was chaired by Prof. Dr. Milan Dimkić, who provided a précis of the highly-complex topic of Water Management in Transition Countries in a keynote address. Basing his presentation on the outcomes of extensive research related to water management in transition countries, as well as the fundamental principles of the Belgrade Statement, Professor Milan Dimkić emphasized that the issue of needed capacities for proper water management is closely related to two important parameters, or indicators: (1) natural abundance of water resources, and (2) economic strength of the country in question.

In this context, Professor Dimkić indicated that transition countries are generally deemed to be those whose GDP is 4-10 thousand US$ per capita annually. He pointed out that such countries are largely preparing for economic progress and transition from depletion of water resources to sustainable water management, with a considerable number of them politically undergoing systemic adjustments. Professor Dimkić emphasized the following key drivers of water sector development in transition countries: strength of the national economy; availability of renewable water resources; future (present) climate change; assimilation and spreading of technological skills; and effective governance.

The following participants made presentations at the session: Professor Soontak Lee (IHES - International Hydrologic Environmental Society), on The Significance of Water Management in Transition Countries for the Achievement of Global Water Management Goals, stressing that sustainable water management is a key paradigm for the future water management in transition countries because its aim is to "design and manage the water resources systems to fully contribute to the objectives of society, now and in the future, while maintaining their ecological, environmental, and hydrological integrity. Furthermore, ecologically sustainable water management should be implemented in order to protect the ecological integrity of affected ecosystems while meeting intergenerational human needs for water and sustaining the full array of other products and services provided by natural freshwater ecosystems"; Ivan Zavadsky (ICPDR – International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River), who spoke about Experiences in Transition Countries in the Danube River Basin, with special reference to Slovakia, and described water sector changes brought about by the implementation of EU water legislation/directives, during and after the EU accession process in several countries. He also discussed the scope and importance of coordination of the Danube countries under the ICPDR, as well as future trends and courses of action with regard to sustainable development of the Danube River; and Professor Prvoslav Marjanović (JCI and WSDAC), who addressed the session on the topic of Challenges for Effective Water Governance in Countries in Transition, using examples of different types of transition countries, such as Serbia, Slovenia and South Africa, to provide an overview of the history of water sector development in transition countries. He also described the most important transition theories and models, and their implications for the water sector. Of crucial importance in this presentation was the assertion that water governance is a highly-complex issue, for which there is no unique solution as it needs to be considered from social, economic, political and environmental dimensions and founded upon: effectiveness, efficiency, trust and engagement.

Apart from the above experts, the ensuing panel discussion involved Dr. Alireza Salamat (RCUWM - The Regional Centre on Urban Water Management headquartered in Teheran, Iran) and Dr. Hakan Tropp (SIWI – Stockholm International Water Institute).

Following deliberations, the session was concluded with a consensus that the Belgrade Statement is a starting point for a global discussion about water management problems in transition countries. The guiding principles of water sector development in transition countries, put forward in the Belgrade Statement, were re-stated in the following conclusions:

  1. Developing and transition countries often have poor water resources management (economy, expertise, capacity, etc.).
  2. The needs of these countries and the goals placed before them (Millennium Development Goals and even more stringent regional goals), compounded by climate change impact, impose additional challenges to already fragile water governance.
  3. To achieve water management objectives, water governance in developing and transition countries needs to be substantially strengthened.
  4. Water governance strengthening comprises upgrading of the state's ability to further develop its financial, technical and administrative capacities.

This involves:

  • Institutional strengthening and greater effectiveness of water governance;
  • Effective and straightforward legislation;
  • A dedicated water fund and adequate and independent financial accumulation;
  • Dynamic and productive cooperation with all scientific and technical institutions;
  • Suitable public private partnerships (PPP);
  • A suitable balance of centralized and decentralized water governance approaches;
  • Raising the level of science and strengthening professional skills and the ability of developing and transition countries to improve such skills on their own.

Given that each transition country exhibits certain specific circumstances, the concluding deliberations of the session highlighted that some countries require particular solutions, which need to envisage appropriate financial, scientific, technical and organizational capacities in the field of water. A series of international conferences, workshops and meetings were proposed, aimed at articulating global and local solutions which are to be discussed further and adopted at the 8th World Water Forum.