Impressions of the international world water week

26-08-2012 bis 31-08-2012

This year´s topic: Water and Food Security. The annual Stockholm world water week is a very well-organized conference prevailing since 1991. The city of Stockholm invites scholars, government delegates, a variety of UN organizations, world bank, and non-profit organizations (IMWI, CGIAR etc.), and profit oriented enterprises, such as PepsiCo or Nestlé, who contribute to this affair.

Students, known young professional can exhibit their posters. And members of the royal Family, this year it was  Princess Victoria, who was dressed-up all in blue,  handing over the water prize. In the festive frame of the Stockholm town-hall the 2000 delegates meet to wine and dine, the buffet laid out with colourful salads and other dishes, enjoying the full moon over lake Malären (fresh water, where the city receives its drinking water) with the little nymph statue.

The ‘third world’ or rather the water scarce governments are very well represented. And, so are ominous consultant firms from Korea, who have sent off pretty well dressed young Korean girls who know their targets. But, also the big consultants represented by smart white men in perfect suits.

Members of the department for  water in Ethiopia asked me for financing a damn on the blue nile, because my badge said ‘Germany’. I told them to go the GIZ, which was very  just around the Corner. This incident showed how naive even government delegates can be.

The who is who of the academic water world: The founder of the virtual water concept (Tony Alan) with his disciples from King’s college UK (some very good networkers among them ) was one of the most prominent guests. Francois Molle – a rather critical contemporary – sat besides me on the train. And, Thushaar Shah from Gujarat, an expert on groundwater extraction in India enjoyed his glass of wine and shared his views. Malin Falkenberg – another distinguished expert –  criticized  the favourite all time buzzword: sustainability.

The topics were manifold and not necessary targeted poverty reduction. Most scholars came from natural sciences, preferably hydrologist with a MBA. There are  hardly any social scientists represented, especially amont the professionals. It is a Forum where policy makers and decision makers meet and network.

Buzzword of this year is the water-food-energy nexus. Energy (as in biofuels) competing with food-production on scarce water resources.

In a seminar on Himalayas and Andes a rhetorically excellent speaker (female) spoke passionately about the “hackathon”, where young PHD students (19 years of age) invent apps to solve water problems in far away countries like Botswana. Governments, such as the government of Singapore were so delighted that they accord access to documents, which are otherwise inaccessible. Her point was that this create transparency.

Well, talking of the real (not virtual problem, can  an app created by a young lad from Washington D.C. can solve vital Problems?

Patrica Wouters (one of the drafters of the UN- Resolution 64/292 making water a Human Right July 2010) bluntly explained that governments decide what rules apply, and that governments are responsible to implement the UN-resolution, when I asked her about the fact that many countries lack of clear rules and live in a state of legal pluralism.

A government associate of India described the problem of unequal rules in local communities, where the government has only a certain reach (his senior boss seemed half as informed as him but he denied problems with Narmada, I found out that neither india or Pakistan have national plans or scenarios created about glacier melting when it comes to climate change,but I must admit they explained in a plausible way, and took time).

In the young professional seminar one question was formulated in the following way: “Does the first world has to give the third world the right….” wow, did we drop back 20 years?

A great buzzword: the Victorian paradox which precisely explains the water waste in sanitation. The WC technology is prevailing since the Victorian epoche…

Gender was certainly a subject, but it was rather interesting to which seminars attracted most people. To me it felt that white men dominate the water discourse in the international level. A lot of paper was distributed from the organizations.

One last remark: the only seminar I found on poverty reduction the foundation of Guy Lalliberté (founder of cirque de soleil), which used the panel discussion to advertise itself. It was not a part of any scientific research. About Orissa the lady said: “Whole of Orissa stinks.” And, that they want to promote an educational movie on sanitation in the calibre of the second Slum dog millionaire…

One has to distinguish well in the IWWW. CSV (Created Shared Value) is the new thing, CRS (Corporate social responsibility) is an old hat. We are now talking about sustainability 2.0 and passed out sustainability 1.0.

Every seminar represents the tip of an iceberg, the discussion and reasearch on each topic are much broader. And, water encompasses a variety on issues, problems and solution-concepts. And, networking (exchanging business cards) is an essential activity.


About odissi30

My name is Puja Doshi. I am an anthropologist from Hamburg interested in the topic of water.
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