On June 5th to June 7th, the UNESCO-IHE hosted the first ever Water Integrity Forum which was organised by the Water Integrity Network (WIN) and the UNESCO-IHE.
The Water Integrity Forum came to a successful conclusion with the Ugandan Minister of State for Water Resources, Ms Betty Bigombe announcing that she, along with Ms Kitty van der Heijden, Director of the Department for Climate, Environment, Energy and Water and the Ambassador for Sustainable Development, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs will jointly take the lead in putting water integrity in the global development agenda, especially in ongoing processes like the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Before making this declaration, Betty Bigombe and Kitty van der Heijden made an impromptu consultation during the closing session of the Forum.
The forum kicked off with keynotes speeches by András Szöllösi-Nagy, Rector, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Her Excellency, Betty Oyella Bigombe, Minister of State for Water, Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda, Christiaan Poortman, Senior Advisor, Transparency International, Aziza Akhmouch, Head Water Governance Program Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Julia Bucknall, Manager World Bank Central Water Unit (Water Anchor). It set the scene by giving the audience an opportunity to hear about key integrity trends in the water sector, to understand why it is crucial to improve governance in the water sector, how to generate, disseminate and use information, amongst others.
Throughout the forum, during several work streams and open spaces, the participants discussed various tools to improve the sector, how to increase information flow in the sector, how to engage the different stakeholders of the sector and how to scale up action. Areas touch upon where river basins, hydropower, water and food, media and water integrity, rural and urban water, sanitation and hygiene. The Forum participants recognised the importance of inviting different people from across the water sector, and even beyond, to create a strong platform. The importance of linking up to the media and of making information available – as they observed “information is power”. But beyond this, the participants wondered how to use the information. Participants also, importantly, noted that the development sector needs to also practice what it preaches.
The participants appreciated that this event focused on practical tools and action to improve water integrity. The forum wrapped up with summaries from the various work stream leaders and a high-level panel discussion with Her Excellency, Betty Oyella Bigombe, Minister of State for Water, Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda, Kitty van der Heijden, Director of the Department for Climate, Environment, Energy and Water (DME) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands, András Szöllösi-Nagy, Rector of the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Teun Bastemeijer, Director of the Water Integrity Network, and Jack Moss, Senior Advisor at Aquafed. During the closing session, the Forum statement was shared with the participants.
The Forum statement was a participatory and inclusive process which gave the participants the opportunity to share their views and experiences. Finally, Ravi Narayanan, Chair of WIN’s Steering Committee closed the event by saying that the Forum succeeding in bringing the problem of corruption out of the closet into the open and raising the stakes to address this challenge.