Elected President of the World Water Council in November 2012, Ben Braga tells us about what he believes will be the priorities for the water community in the coming years, the collaboration with UN-Water, and the place of water in the future development agenda.
Professor Braga, you were elected President of the World Water Council in November 2012. What are, according to you, the main priorities for the water community for the next three years?
In November 2012, the World Water Council's General Assembly proposed to the new Board a strategy focused on hydro-politics, producing innovative thinking on key issues and organizing key events including the World Water Forums. As far as priorities are concerned, the next three years will be devoted to reinforce our commitment to universalize the access to safe drinking water and sanitation and to incorporate the idea of water as an engine for social and economic growth. The concept of water security will be disseminated to ensure that water will be available for food production, energy generation, transportation and to preserve vital ecosystems.
The World Water Council has a very close relationship with the UN and with UN-Water. What do you see as the Council's main contribution in the UN community?
The relationship between the Council and the United Nations goes all the way back to the creation of the Council in 1996. Two UN agencies - UNESCO and UNDP - were among the founding organizations and are still active in our work. We further collaborate with the UN system as a whole on various water related issues and events. Later this year, in October, we are for example co-organizing the Budapest Water Summit. The event is hosted by the Government of Hungary and will be of major importance for all parties. Many UN agencies also help shape the World Water Forums by contributing to the political and thematic processes. I think the Council's main contribution to the UN community is that we are able to bring our members as one voice on water. As the Council is not an intergovernmental body it enables collective action to be catalyzed in a more informal way.
Our cooperation with UN-Water is special and one that we treasure. UN-Water plays a pivotal role – especially in the UN system where there is no dedicated agency on water. Being the inter-agency mechanism for water issues implies heavy responsibility and requires support from outside stakeholders which is something I hope we bring to UN-Water.
UN-Water is currently leading the development of the contribution process on water for the Sustainable Development Goals to which the Council has contributed. As the President of an organization that represents so many stakeholders in the water community how do you see a water goal for the SDGs take shape?
I can safely say that all members of the World Water Council agree that water is key for development and a basic human right. Today, 780 million people still live without safe drinking water and many more without proper sanitation. However, we cannot talk about only one water goal for the SDGs - there should be many goals related to water. For example, the issue of water and disasters has never received any attention from the UN system in developing the MDGs. The same for building resilience against climate change. We all know that the main impacts of climate change are going to be felt in the water sector. Adaptation measures and associated metrics should therefore be contemplated in the post 2015 SDG. Nevertheless, we cannot abandon the goal of universalizing access to water and sanitation which should remain a priority for all member states.