Anders Berntell is the Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute, a Stockholm based policy institute best known for its work as the organizer of the annual World Water Week in Stockholm. Following the 20th anniversary of the World Water Week in Stockholm this past September, we asked Anders to share his vision for the future of the Week in the years to come.
The World Water Week in Stockholm convened for the 20th time this past September, how has the event changed over the years?
It has been a special experience for all of us at SIWI to take part in the development of World Water Week over the past two decades.
We started as a rather small gathering of water scientists who focused largely on very technical content and have grown into a true meeting place for the whole community working within the broad spectrum of water related issues. What we have really tried to do is to provide an interesting platform to create an open dialogue between policy makers, international and UN organizations, academia, the business community, water professionals and practitioners, NGOs and representatives from the civil society.
After 20 years, the World Water Week in Stockholm has become well-known as an important meeting for the international water community.
How did you mark the occasion?
This past year was a special one for us: We invited all of the former Stockholm Water Prize laureates to participate in many of the Week’s sessions, including a special seminar that analyzed the emerging water challenges for the next 20 years. We also produced a report that investigated the key issues that have been raised at the different World Water Weeks over the years and analyzed how the outcomes of the World Water Week has increased international awareness on those issues, and ultimately, led to the implementation of new policies in countries around the world.
What do you see as the role that the World Water Week
in Stockholm plays within the water community?
While there are numerous water conferences that take place throughout the year, most of them bring together a more specialized audience: Water professionals congregate for one meeting, scientists meet at another and the business community in a third. The role of the World Water Week is to provide a forum where people from all of those backgrounds can meet each year. I think one reason that it has been able to grow over the years is that we have adapted the event to respond to a need: the international water and development communities needs a venue where a wide-array of actors can get together for a week to share experiences, assess progress, and calibrate their collective thinking on complex problems in a systematic way.
In order to do this, it is crucial to us that the participants share ownership of the Week. We do this by inviting numerous institutions to convene or co-convene sessions at the Week. This provides over 200 collaborating organizations with a platform that they cannot create themselves, which is something we realize is highly valued by our partners. This is a role we expect to keep playing in the future.