International Waters Conference in Sri Lanka to attract 250 foreign delegates

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The 8th Global Environment Facility (GEF) Biennial International Waters Conference (IWC) will be held in Sri Lanka from the 9th to 13th May 2016 with representatives from over 80 countries.. The week-long conference themed Scaling Up Investments from Source to Sea in the Context of Achieving the SDGs, is jointly organized by the GEF, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). IWC held for the first time Sri Lanka, will be graced by His Excellency the President Maithripala Sirisena and the CEO and Chairperson of GEF Dr. Naoko Ishii.

Mr. Udaya Senevirathne, Secretary, Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, Mr. Christian Severin, Sr. Environmental Specialist, GEF International Waters Focal Area and Mr. Joern Soerensen, Country Director, UNDP, joined a briefing to inform the media about the upcoming conference.

Speaking to the press, Mr. Udaya Senevirathne, Secretary noted “safeguarding and managing our water resources remain a priority for His Excellency the President, who oversee this portfolio and with his guidance, we are keen to partner with GEF and UNDP to host this conference in Sri Lanka for the first time”. Speaker further he noted, “the conference will provide the international practitioners the opportunity to learn about good water management practices, coastal zone management, protected areas and alternative livelihoods in Sri Lanka”.

The conference is expected to bring 250 foreign delegates, including government ministers from Seychelles, Maldives and representatives of GEF beneficiary countries, non-governmental organizations, transboundary waters management institutions, United Nations Agencies, GEF International Waters project managers and staff, and the international private sector. Over 80 countries will be represented at the conference.

Mr. Joern Soerensen, UNDP Country Director speaking at the event noted “With the new global development commitments in mind, IWC organized under the theme Scaling Up Investments from Source to Sea in the Context of Achieving the SDGs will be very important. Especially as it will look at two SDGs—Ensure access to water and sanitation for all and Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources— with learning tracks devoted to catalyzing transformation and scaling up investments; strengthening governance processes to sustain project interventions; and data to policy”.

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 sum up progress achieved and also look to the future of programming within and beyond the GEF International Waters focal area.

Speaking at the briefing, Mr. Christian Severin, Sr. Environmental Specialist of GEF International Waters Focal Area noted, “this 8th IWC will represent about 70 active GEF International Waters projects and will strive to solicit advice from the existing GEF International Waters portfolio on burning issues related to international waters management, and to assist in building participant capacity in key management and technical areas”. Further, Mr Christian Severin said “At this conference we are proud to celebrate 25 years anniversary of the GEF and the International Waters Focal Area.

With a GEF International Waters portfolio consisting of 242 projects with a portfolio amounting to a total of $10 billion in combined GEF and cofinancing, the GEF International Waters will continue to deliver substantial results and impacts on the local, national and regional level. The GEF, as the largest financier of cooperation in shared waters systems, occupies a unique space in the International sphere to facilitate countries delivery towards a suite of the SDGs, with a specific focus of SDG 6 and 14”, in the process leading to sustainable management of shared aquifers, lakes, rivers, Large Marine Ecosystems and Open Oceans.