The 8th Global Environment Facility Biennial International Waters Conference (IWC) concluded last week with a high level segment by Mr. Karunasena Hettiarachchi, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Sri Lanka and Dr. Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility (GEF) followed by a closing plenary.
The week-long conference themed ‘Scaling Up Investments from Source to Sea in the Context of Achieving the SDGs’, was jointly organized by the GEF Secretariat, Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, Sri Lanka and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The IWC, held for the first time Sri Lanka from the 9th to the 13th May 2016, was attended by 250 delegates representing over 80 countries, including government ministers from Seychelles, Maldives and Angola, and representatives of GEF beneficiary countries, non-governmental organizations, transboundary waters management institutions, United Nations Agencies, GEF International Waters project staff, and the private sector.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Hettiarachchi stated, “This conference couldn’t have come at a better time. Over the past few months, Sri Lanka has been experiencing the first hand effects of climate change. I trust the conference will materialize in new approaches of the many water related issues we as a world are facing today. I thank GEF for selecting Sri Lanka as the host country. We look forward to strengthened partnerships with GEF and other partners”.
The GEF Biennial International Waters Conference is the signature learning event for the GEF International Waters portfolio of projects. The IWC objectives are to facilitate cross-sectoral and portfolio-wide learning and experience sharing. Participants summed up progress achieved and also looked to the future of programming within and beyond the GEF International Waters focal area.
Speaking at the high level segment Dr. Naoko Ishii stated, “The GEF International Waters portfolio is a clear testament to how countries have come together to formulate scientific informed plans and concrete investment strategies leading to high level political agreements to safeguard the shared common resources. We are not finished yet, but we are on the right path.”
Through carefully crafted sessions and three tracks of thematic pillars the participants explored and deliberated on a range of issues, such as cooperation frameworks, investment tools, sharing of technical and political solutions and techniques. While delivery of Sustainable Development Goals from Source to Sea was the overarching theme of the conference, multiple sub-themes also received attention, and stimulated vibrant discussions, including, the water-energy-food nexus; data and information management; approaches to private sector engagement; gender mainstreaming; catalyzing sectoral transformation and strengthening transboundary waters governance.
The GEF, as the largest financier of cooperation in shared waters systems, occupies a unique space in the international sphere to facilitate nations’ delivery towards the SDGs, with a specific focus of SDG 6 and 14, and in the process leading to sustainable management of shared aquifers, lakes, rivers, large marine ecosystems and open oceans.