Representatives of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean approved today the Regional Water Action Agenda that rescues the areas of prioritization and necessary efforts to accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (guarantee the availability of water and its sustainable management and sanitation for all) and that will allow the region to reach the United Nations Water Conference 2023which will take place in March in New York.
The Regional Agenda is the main result of the third edition of the 2023 Regional Water Dialogues, which was organized from February 1 to 3 by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) together with 10 multilateral organizations, specialized institutions in water and the Government of the Netherlands, and which was held at its main headquarters in Santiago de Chile.
More than 20 countries of the region and 80 panelists of the highest level from the public and private sectors, international organizations and the United Nations, academia, non-governmental organizations and civil society participated in the meeting. In total, 200 participants attended in person and more than 2,000 virtually.
The high-level ministerial event was closed by José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, who highlighted the preparation and approval of the Regional Agenda for Water Action, which will serve as a contribution in the framework of the Water Conference of the United Nations, the most important event on water in the last 50 years and a historic moment to move towards a transition in water management.
“We have more than fulfilled the objective of this Regional Water Dialogue, by making not only an in-depth analysis of the challenges and progress of SDG 6, reviewing innovative solutions. In addition, we have achieved commitments to actions and policies to accelerate their achievement in Latin America and the Caribbean, advancing strongly towards a shared north: a sustainable and inclusive water transition”, highlighted the highest authority of the UN regional commission.
José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs valued the achievements and innovations that strengthen adequate water governance in the countries of the region to move towards more sustainable management. However, he warned that countries still face numerous challenges: the national water authority needs to increase its hierarchical rank and governments need to progressively strengthen their institutions, fill existing gaps and facilitate coordination between them, he explained.
He recalled that in Latin America and the Caribbean the greatest occurrence and impacts are related to water-related disasters, and stressed that early warning systems are of vital importance, since they reduce the population’s risk of exposure to the impacts of disasters, including floods. For this reason, he said, it is necessary to invest in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as a solution to better manage these situations and create resilience, especially in the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean.
In this regard, he stressed the importance of having adequate financial resources, especially in countries with the greatest infrastructure and coverage deficits.
“We need investment mechanisms that allow the drinking water and sanitation sector to access new sources of financing, as well as show examples of the benefits of investing in the circular economy for the sector, also benefiting the health of the population,” he said.
The Executive Secretary of ECLAC highlighted that the region has a great opportunity today: “Investment of 1.3% of the regional GDP for ten years, to close the coverage gaps in the safely managed drinking water and sanitation sector, it would reduce carbon emissions, mitigate sewage pollution problems and create 3.6 million green jobs each year,” he said.
It also celebrated the launch of the Network and Observatory for Water Sustainability (ROSA) of Latin America and the Caribbeanpromoted by ECLAC, and urged regional and territorial cooperation, as well as the strengthening of regional and territorial water cooperation so that it is inclusive, intersectoral and action-oriented.
“From ECLAC we call for action and make our expertise available to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to strengthen institutional and technical capacity, improve governance, public policies and water management, all of this based on of the transformation of the development model in the region”, he concluded.
The Regional Water Action Agenda it aligns and reinforces various treaties, agreements and strategies around water management and constitutes a call to action to mobilize all the political, technical and financial resources available in and for the Latin American and Caribbean region.
The Agenda stresses that the region needs to move towards a sustainable and inclusive water transition that is based on four pillars of action: i) guarantee the human right to safely managed drinking water and sanitation through a major boost to investment in the sector, leaving no one behind; ii) promote regulatory and normative changes to promote equitable and affordable access, and thus eradicate water poverty, with innovative instruments including social tariffs; iii) reverse the growing negative externalities associated with pollution, overexploitation and socio-environmental conflicts by promoting supervision and regulation; and iv) move from a linear management to a circular one to reduce the pressure on water resources, establishing a trend of decoupling between extraction and gross domestic product (GDP).