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IV Edition of the Regional Water Dialogues for Latin America and the Caribbean: Forging Alliances for Action

The Regional Water Dialogues integrated a high-level ministerial space, with exchanges of experiences with a multi-stakeholder approach, to promote good practices and promote the achievement of SDG 6 in the region. In its fourth edition, the event had the participation of ministers, vice ministers and high authorities from Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic and Uruguay, as well as actors from civil society, academia and the private sector who added more than 150 in-person attendees, of which 39% were women and 61% men. Of the attendees, 82 were panelists, of which 37% were women and 63% were men. In addition, 1,870 people joined the event virtually, representing more than 57 countries in the region and the world, where 48% were women and 51% men from different sectors but especially from the public, academia and the private sector. Participants, both in person and virtual, were invited to answer a closing survey, carried out by ECLAC after the event. According to the results, the general evaluation was extremely positive and on average the general satisfaction was 4.63 on a scale of 1 to 5. The most common comments were gratitude for the high quality of the panelists and their interventions, recognizes the improvement and strengthening of knowledge to formulate evidence-based water policies, and considers that the opportunities to adopt circular economy principles in the drinking water and sanitation sector apply to its country context.

During the inauguration there were high-profile presentations. Mr. José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, began by emphasizing that water is not only essential for life, but also for achieving sustainable development in our countries. “For this reason we seek to share experiences, but above all to propose concrete actions and reinforce the commitments acquired at the regional and global level,” he said.

Mr. Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA, highlighted that action for water is fundamental for sustainable development and life itself. “Water is central, it is a priority defined by the authorities for the establishment of alliances. That is why everything that facilitates dialogue, exchanges knowledge and promotes the implementation of innovative solutions is central,” he emphasized.

Ms. Doris Gutiérrez, Presidential Designate of Honduras, the country that holds the pro tempore presidency of CELAC, especially recognized the role of women in the issue of water and highlighted the importance of putting diagnoses into practice. “Women have the strength to give life and we must be proactive in water management,” she declared.

Finally, Mr. Arnoldo André Tinoco, Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, stressed the importance of promoting the exchange of experiences to promote best practices and contribute to the fulfillment of SDG 6 in order to achieve universal access to drinking water and sanitation services. suitable.

With the support of the Regional Group of Experts on Water Resources, the Dialogues were organized around 8 sessions to identify solutions that accelerate compliance with SDG 6 in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The results of the sessions are aligned with the voluntary commitments acquired within the framework of the Regional Water Action Agenda adopted by the countries in 2023, a collaborative roadmap to highlight lessons learned regarding the achievement of a sustainable water transition and inclusive for the region.

In Session 1: Water, Agriculture and Ecosystems, the urgency of adopting agricultural practices to improve the efficiency of water use and establishing public-private alliances to develop innovative technologies for this purpose was highlighted. It was also recognized that increasing efficiency in the sector would have one of the greatest impacts, representing 70% of freshwater extractions.

In Session 2: Water and Productive Development, it was agreed that it is vital to adapt energy matrices towards other renewable sources that reduce water pressure, since 90% of electricity production depends on water. The need to promote adaptive water management was highlighted to protect river transport sources, which impact rising prices during periods of drought.

In Session 3: Transboundary Waters: Management, Cooperation and Peace, the importance of improving regional integration in water matters and inclusive governance was recognized, since 71% of surface waters are shared. The above, based on strengthening capacities to confront hydro-political conflicts, recognizing that the United Nations Water Convention provides practical tools for this.

In Session 4: Towards the World Water Forum 2024, the regional process of the Americas was reviewed, highlighting the need to mobilize political and financial will to address the growing water challenges of LAC.

In Session 5: Water, Health and Equity, the urgency of reinforcing education on hygiene and menstrual health was recognized, promoting community models resilient to climate change through participatory water management.

In Session 6: Water Security and Climate Resilience, the countries shared the challenges of supplying drinking water in the face of contamination or water scarcity emergencies. Monitoring and investment systems were proposed, concluding that greater citizen awareness of water insecurity is essential.

During Session 7: Circular Economy Opportunities in the Sanitation Sector, the advantages of moving towards circular economy models in the water and sanitation sector were shown. The Salvadoran Water Authority announced that, after having participated in a training workshop led by ECLAC, it will promote a local investment plan to re-design a wastewater treatment plant with methane recovery. According to ECLAC, the investment recovery period is 3.4 years with a benefit-cost ratio of 3.13. Potential financiers also participated in the session.

In Session 8: Valuing Water, the need to strengthen a culture that values ​​water from diverse perspectives and to empower communities through education to implement solutions that impact the quality and availability of water and mobilize political resources was emphasized. technical and financial to increase water security.

The 2024 Regional Water Dialogues thus provided diverse experiences and ways to address the water challenges facing LAC. The discussion focused on the search for solutions, considering not only the technical-financial approach, but also the needs for collaboration between actors and regulatory and institutional modernization.

This event represents an important step on the path towards more inclusive and sustainable water management in Latin America and the Caribbean. The next big milestone will be the World Water Forum 2024 in Bali, where possible agreements of great importance will be discussed, such as the consolidation of a water fund and the strengthening of hydrodiplomacy. A Water Conference is also planned in 2026, which will be the time to report on the global agenda of action for water, complementing the regional efforts strengthened at this meeting.

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Written by Editor TLN

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