28 April 2022
Summit Urges “Quality-oriented Society” with Water at Center
Photo Credit: Joshua Lanzarini
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The fourth Asia-Pacific Water Summit convened under the theme, ‘Water for Sustainable Development: Best Practices and the Next Generation,’ to “unite efforts for sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region”.

In the Kumamoto Declaration adopted at the Summit, participant country leaders urge strengthening action for water sustainability to enable a transformation towards a quality-oriented society.

The Declaration also acknowledges the nexus between water, climate change, and disaster risk reduction.

With less than a year to go until the UN 2023 Water Conference, considered “the most important water meeting in a generation,” the fourth Asia-Pacific Water Summit (4th APWS) in Kumamoto, Japan has kicked off a series of preparatory events to promote a focus on water and sustainable water governance. In this policy brief, the SDG Knowledge Hub discusses the recent Summit’s proceedings, which were covered by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, summarizes key messages of the outcome document, and offers a take on what the Summit means for global water processes.

Water is “a fundamental part of all aspects of life,” notes the vision statement for the 2023 Conference. Due to its crosscutting nature, water underpins all three dimensions of sustainable development and supports the achievement of many SDGs through intimate linkages with climate, the environment, and health, among many others. The UN 2023 Water Conference vision statement, for example, acknowledges that “[w]ithout a functioning, resilient water cycle for all people everywhere,” human health, environmental integrity, and a sustainable, equitable future “will remain out of reach.” Yet today, two billion people rely on unsafe drinking water sources, and half of the world’s population lack safely managed sanitation. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated – and exposed – these vulnerabilities.

The fourth Asia-Pacific Water Summit convened from 23-24 April 2022, both in person and online, under the theme ‘Water for Sustainable Development: Best Practices and the Next Generation.’ In an attempt to “unite efforts for sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region,” as Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida noted during the opening ceremony, it brought together heads of state from the Asia-Pacific region, representatives of government agencies and international organizations, and stakeholders from the private sector and civil society, among many others. Participants discussed a wide range of water-related issues, shared experiences in water resource management, outlined challenges and opportunities, and proposed concrete actions to improve water governance.

The two-day event included a meeting of Heads of State and Government and a series of thematic, special, and “integrated” sessions. According to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB), the Summit also showcased “the host city’s long-standing efforts to conserve groundwater as well as its recovery efforts following the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes.”

Nine parallel thematic session focused on the following topics:

  • Water and Disasters, Including Climate Change;
  • Water Supply;
  • Water and the Environment: From Source to Sea;
  • Water, Poverty, and Gender;
  • Water, Sanitation, and Wastewater Management;
  • Innovation by Youth;
  • Water and Food;
  • Water, Culture, and Peace; and
  • Water Cycle Management.

A special session on 23 April showcased model initiatives utilizing science and technology for governance and ways of promoting quality-oriented societies. On 24 April, a special high-level session for small island developing States (SIDS) convened to address vulnerabilities to climate disasters and SIDS-specific water issues. Integrated sessions took up the cross-cutting issues of governance, finance, and science and technology.

Kumamoto Declaration Outlines Vision for Quality-oriented Society

In the Kumamoto Declaration, adopted as the outcome of the Summit, participant country leaders urge strengthening action for water sustainability to enable a transformation towards a “quality-oriented” society. This transformation, they state, “should proceed through multi-stakeholder partnership with open, transparent, participatory, and collaborative processes.” A quality-oriented society is one that supports:

  • Resilience, to reduce water-related disaster risk and improve water security and access to water and sanitation;
  • Sustainability, by “placing water at the center of the political agenda” and promoting climate change mitigation and adaptation measures, disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies, and green infrastructure development; and
  • Inclusiveness, by achieving access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all, including women, youth, and the elderly, and reaching other water-related SDGs.

To accelerate efforts towards a quality-oriented society, participant country leaders undertake to: improve governance through collaborative action; close the financial gap by building on the Yangon Declaration and mobilizing investment in each river basin in the region from a variety of public and private sources; and appeal to the science and technology community to, inter alia, provide context-specific innovations for resolving water problems.

4th APWS Spells Out Linkages Between Water, Climate Change, and DRR

The Kumamoto Declaration acknowledges the nexus between water, climate change, and DRR. In so doing, it states that “by restoring a sound water cycle, we can reduce disaster risk” exacerbated by climate change impacts, and achieve multiple SDGs. According to the Chair’s summary of the 4th APWS discussions and outcomes, a key recommendation is that water, climate change, and DRR be discussed as a key topic in global processes.

The summary also notes that Japan’s Water Initiative, announced at the Summit, addresses these three issues in an integrated manner, and aim to “enlarg[e] the circle of commitments” in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

Towards UN 2023 Water Conference: The Road Ahead

The Kumamoto Declaration emphasizes the linkages between the 4th APWS and other major preparatory processes that feed into the UN 2023 Water Conference in March 2023. The Conference will focus on reviewing implementation of the objectives of the 2018-2028 International Water Decade.

Among other water-related meetings and processes, the Declaration highlights the Bonn Water Dialogues, the World Water Forum, the second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference, the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the UNFCCC (Sharm El-Sheik Climate Change Conference), the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 15), the Group of 7 (G7), and the Group of 20 (G20). At the SDG Knowledge Hub, we will be keeping a close eye on these processes and we will bring you updates.

As we prepare for the UN 2023 Water Conference, a series of meetings will keep water in the limelight over the coming months. These include: the Sanitation and Water for All 2022 Sector Ministers’ Meeting from 18-19 May 2022, the seventh Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction from 23-28 May, the second High-Level International Conference on Water Decade from 6-9 June, the 39th IAHR World Congress from 19-24 June, a Geneva Water Dialogue on 22 June, and the Second UN Ocean Conference from 27 June to 1 July. These meetings will build on the 4th APWS outcomes and accelerate momentum towards the “watershed moment” that the UN 2023 Water Conference hopes to become.  

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