2014: Putting water on the global agenda

Jeremy Bird, Direct General of IWMI, talks about putting water on the global agenda.


There is little doubt that 2014 will be a game changer for water issues.

That is because the United Nations is due to ratify its Sustainable Development Goals, a new set of aspirations that will shape the global development agenda for the next 15 years. Much discussion has centered on a separate goal for water, going beyond water supply and sanitation to include management of the resource and wastewater. In whatever form the goals are finally approved, we expect greater prominence to the crucial need for addressing water security as a foundation for tackling poverty.

Central to this will be IWMI’s focus on increasing the productivity of existing water resources, reducing vulnerability to climate shocks, recovering and reusing water and nutrients from waste, and promoting the essential role of ecosystem services – from rivers, wetlands or forests. These are all important entry points for protecting and improving livelihoods.

Mediating the competing demands for water from agriculture, industry and urban areas, in particular the energy sector, is also vital. For example, as countries invest in hydropower and the many benefits it can provide, it is essential that the integrity of ecosystems is preserved and the poor are not left behind. Increased competition for water means there will be difficult decisions to make across sectors and across scales, but they can be made with the full weight of scientific research behind them.

With climate variability increasing, we will redouble efforts to develop and refine policies and practices that can boost the resilience of farmers – for example, through innovative ways of storing floodwater underground for later use in irrigation. We will continue our work on flood mapping to improve risk assessments and support relief efforts after disaster strikes – as we did in India this year following the worst floods in living memory.

Our success on these and other issues requires us to strengthen our ever-deepening relationships with partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America through the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems, led by IWMI, and the other CGIAR Research Programs in which we play a role. Our engagement with new and existing partners was a personal highlight of 2013 – poignant given it was the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation. We saw multiple stakeholders from a range of interest groups come together for a common purpose, and we expect these new partnerships to extend far into the future.

These are a few of the reasons I’m confident that collectively we have never been in a stronger position to influence the way the world responds to some of the most critical issues of our time. I would like to sincerely thank our partners for their cooperation over the past 12 months and look forward to working with you all in 2014 on the road to achieving a water-secure world.

Jeremy Bird

Director General

International Water Management Institute

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