World Water Week at Home

Posted on: August 25, 2020

Senior Environmental Specialist, International Waters


Himalayan glacier with lake
Photo: Olga Danylenko/Shutterstock

This week is World Water Week, an annual event sponsored by the Stockholm International Water Institute that is being held virtually for the first time in its history because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have attended World Water Week since its earlier days over 20 years ago and for me there is no other event that is as focused on collaboration, bringing together practitioners, government experts, development partners, academics, and the youth community to discuss new developments and learn about innovations around water.

This year, ‘World Water Week At Home’ will focus on water and climate change, which is aligned with the theme of World Water Day 2020 and highly relevant at a time where record heat waves and droughts are affecting some parts of the globe and extreme floods are simultaneously hitting other regions and threatening food supplies, ecosystems, and human life. It will also by necessity address the impacts of the global pandemic, which has changed the world in dramatic and unexpected ways since last year’s Water Week. What the climate crisis and the COVID pandemic have in common is that the poorest and most vulnerable parts of society are being hit the hardest.

All parents, including myself, currently have our eyes on the impacts on the education system. Schools around the globe are devising strategies to reopen. And, for many, access to water is a key factor. According to a joint report of the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 800 million children globally are not able to wash their hands with soap and water at school. In the 60 countries identified at highest risk for a health and humanitarian crisis due to COVID-19, three in four schools lack basic handwashing services and one in two schools lacks basic water and sanitation. This is a shocking and unacceptable reality. Building back better necessitates addressing these basic inequalities and moving towards a greener, bluer, more just society at large.

I am privileged to work at the GEF International Waters program and spend my professional life advancing water security around the globe supporting countries to cooperate in shared waters to tackle water challenges and realize opportunities from cooperation across countries and sectors.

Addressing the risks from too little, too much, or too polluted water to be fit for its intended uses is an integral part of the Global Environment Facility’s support to countries through the GEF International Waters program and IW:Learn. To learn about this work, please join us and our partners at World Water Week in these sessions:

Through its International Waters focal area, the GEF has provided more than $700 million in grant financing for projects in close to 50 transboundary rivers, 13 aquifers, and 15 lakes straddling two or more developing countries. The GEF is also supporting an even larger portfolio of transboundary marine projects where the effects of climate change are similarly integrated into ecosystem management regimes, safeguarding nature and protecting people. To learn more about this work, please visit IW:Learn.net – a knowledge management platform to help ensure government officials, civil society, and other partners learn lessons from the GEF’s projects in the International Waters area.

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