Linkages home page
World Water Forum Bulletin
PDF format
Download PDF version
Turkish version
Turkish version
French version
French version
Volume 82 Number 16 - Tuesday, 17 March 2009
The 5th World Water Forum opened on Monday, 16 March 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey and will continue until 22 March. Participants convened in a morning plenary to hear opening statements and watch presentations of the Turkish Republic Prime Minister’s Water Prize and the King Hassan II Great World Water Prize. In the afternoon, the thematic sessions were opened and the World Water Development Report was launched. Participants also attended special focus sessions.

The World Water Forum seeks to enable multi-stakeholder participation and dialogue to influence water policy making at a global level, in pursuit of sustainable development. Over 100 thematic sessions are scheduled, and more than 28,000 participants are expected to attend, representing governments, UN agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, the media and other civil society groups.

The Forum’s main theme, “bridging divides for water,” will be addressed through six sub-themes: global change and risk management; advancing human development and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); managing and protecting water resources; governance and management; finance; and education, knowledge and capacity development.

A Water Fair and Water Expo will also take place during the Forum, offering a platform for participants to present their achievements and highlight the cultural aspects of water. A Learning Centre will further exchanges of knowledge and experience, while events that enable participation of the major groups convened under Agenda 21, particularly children, youth and women, will also be held.


OPENING STATEMENTS: Oktay Tabasaran, Secretary General of the 5th World Water Forum, welcomed participants, emphasizing that its main objective is to urgently address the issue of efficient water use. He said the Forum will also be a venue for discussing economic development, local water management, risk management, human development and the MDG objectives.

Loïc Fauchon, President of the World Water Council (WWC), stressed that while ensuring access to water is a “difficult and long road to be traveled,” it must be addressed. He called for rigorous and harmonious water sharing, and noted the importance of political will in this regard. Fauchon emphasized the need for effective water management, protection of the poorest people and the need to consider the principle of virtual water.

Noting that the ideals of Istanbul are peace and tolerance, Kadir Topbaş, Mayor of Istanbul, welcomed participants to the city. He noted that cities are major consumers of water resources and that local authorities have an obligation to protect natural resources and plan for the water security of future generations.

Veysel Eroğlu, Minister of Environment and Forestry of Turkey, emphasized that water issues affect peace and that stability can only be achieved through fair division of water resources. He said water is critical for development and noted the need to address drought in Africa and elsewhere. Eroğlu underscored the importance of large infrastructure for water security in Turkey, and stressed that the Forum’s objective is not to commercialize water but to provide “good quality water for all.”

José Luis Luege Tamargo, Director General of the Mexico National Water Commission, on behalf of President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, described the water management, climate change and infrastructure projects initiated at the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico City.

UN Undersecretary-General Sha Zukang, on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, highlighted that the World Water Forum facilitates dialogue between the policy community and civil society. He recommended four strategic action areas for the Forum, namely: emphasizing linkages between water and climate change; learning from disaster risk reduction to increase adaptive capacity; improving human and institutional capacity, backed by financial resources; and recognizing the importance of cooperative transboundary water management.

Abbas El Fassi, Prime Minister of Morocco, noted that the Forum follows the 2008 High-Level Conference on World Food Security, precedes the 2009 UN negotiations on a post-2012 climate regime, and is taking place during an international financial crisis.

Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan, stressed the need for collaboration to resolve pressing water issues and strengthen initiatives for achieving the MDGs. He emphasized, inter alia: the link between water and climate change; the importance of water financing initiatives and of ministerial-level dialogues and regional summits to foster collaboration; and the need for monitoring and capacity building through UN-Water.

Abdullah Gül, President of the Republic of Turkey, emphasized that water is not only a technical issue but a matter that requires political attention and priority at the highest level. He said the international community must recognize the limited nature of water and highlighted that changes in policies are necessary to address water scarcity. He said the 5th World Water Forum will take previous efforts one step further and called on the international community to bridge divides for water.

Children representatives from 21 countries then appeared on stage to symbolize cultural cooperation. The Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra, comprised of musicians from 23 countries in the Caspian and Eastern Mediterranean regions, brought the plenary to a close.

TURKISH REPUBLIC PRIME MINISTER’S WATER PRIZE: Irfan Aker, World Water Council Board of Governors, on behalf of Turkey’s Prime Minister, presented the Turkish Prime Minister’s Water Prize, which honors media representatives for coverage of national and international water issues. The international prize was awarded to Alison Bartle, Aqua-Media International. National prizes were awarded to Özgür Coban (Anatolian Agency), Özgür Yildirim (Channel 24), and Gurhan Savgi (Zaman Daily Newspaper), and for the programme Yeşil Ekren on NTV (accepted by Erman Yerdelen).

KING HASSAN II GREAT WORLD WATER PRIZE: Prime Minister El Fassi introduced the third King Hassan II Great World Water Prize for cooperation and solidarity in the fields of management and development in water resources. Abdelkébir Zahoud, Morocco’s Secretary of State in charge of water and environment, presented the prize to Abdulatif Yousef Al-Hamad, Director General of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development. Al-Hamad commended Morocco’s leadership in water management and enumerated water projects funded by his organization.


Henk van Schaik, Co-operative Programme on Water and Climate, on the theme “global change and risk management,” highlighted the links between water, climate change, disasters and migrations. Pasquale Steduto, UN-Water Chair / Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), on “human development and the MDGs,” urged strengthening national capacity to enable on-the-ground action. Karin Krchnak, The Nature Conservancy, on “managing and protecting water resources,” emphasized the importance of integrated water resource management to meet human and environmental needs.

Andre Dzikus, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), on “governance and management,” highlighted that the water and sanitation crisis is a governance and management crisis, and not one of resources. Abel Mejia, World Bank, on “finance,” discussed: barriers to sustainable financing; pricing of water services; and access to water and sanitation for the poor. András Szöllösi-Nagy, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on “education, knowledge and capacity building,” noted that the draft 5th Forum Ministerial Declaration had weaker language than was called for during preparatory thematic meetings.

Kusum Athukorala, Associated Development Research Consultants, stressed that the Forum’s six themes must be translated into the ministerial process, and Sahana Singh, Asian Water, emphasized that politicians should advocate for “tough change.” Monica Scatasta, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said the thematic process must develop common understandings of critical topics, including cost recovery and water pricing. Ibrahim Gürer, Gazi University, reminded participants to use the thematic sessions to enhance mutual understanding.


UNESCO Director-General Koїchiro Matsuura launched the Third World Water Development Report (WWDR-3), outlining actions to address future water challenges. He highlighted the Report’s key messages, including inter alia: the need to involve water specialists in decision making; the significant impact that decisions to address climate change in the energy sector have for water use; the importance of monitoring and assessment for sound water management; and the need to strengthen capacity in developing countries.

Ali Backoğlu, Deputy Governor of Istanbul, encouraged enhancing collaboration among countries, sectors and stakeholders. Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, said the Report will help policy makers to apply the most advanced approaches and technologies to water management.

Alexander Müller, FAO, Hasan Zuhuri Sarikaya, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Turkey, and Pasquale Steduto, UN-Water Chair / FAO, welcomed the launch of the report as a useful tool for the sustainable management of water resources. András Szöllözi-Nagy, UNESCO, emphasized that external factors impact water resources and that increased water storage capacity is essential for responding to climate change.

Olcay Ünver, World Water Assessment Programme, and William Cosgrove, WWDR-3, underscored the Report’s paradigm shift from a water-specific focus to one that addresses the external drivers of water resource use, and the Report’s linkages between water use and broader development objectives.

Kenneth Konga, Ministry of Energy and Water Development, Zambia, presented the Zambian case study from WWDR-3. Narcio-Rodrigues da Silveira, Vice President, Brazil, proposed the immediate constitution of a “World Water Parliament.”

Yong-Joo Cho, Korea Institute of Construction Technology, outlined Korea’s water management efforts in the context of climate change. Giorgio Sfara, Development Cooperation, Italy, highlighted the G8 Evian Plan and its enhanced implementation strategy in partnership with African countries.


RUNNING DRY! HOW TO TURN DROUGHTS INTO OPPORTUNITIES FOR BETTER MANAGEMENT: Session moderator Marta Moren, Spain’s General Director of Water, opened the panel by stressing the need for effective drought management at the national and global levels. Milagros Couchoud, Mediterranean Water Institute, noted that Spain has many water management experiences to share. Hachmi Kennon, WWC, highlighted the successful implementation of a drought management plan during the recent four-year drought in Spain. Juan Antonio Arrese Luco, Ministry of Public Works, Chile, noted that climate change and its impact on water availability have moved to the top of the political agenda. Jean-Paul Rivaud, Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development, Town and Country Planning, France, called for sustained public awareness campaigns to enhance water efficiency. Donald Wilhite, National Drought Mitigation Center, US, noted that the world should: move away from crisis management in favor of risk management; engage stakeholders in developing drought mitigation plans; and establish priorities for a comprehensive drought policy.

In the ensuing discussion, participants noted that drought is a natural cyclical process and called for a greater focus on adaptation strategies. Other contributors stressed the need for bottom-up approaches to reduce water-related conflicts and flexible drought management plans.

During roundtable discussions, Carlos Motta Nunes, Brazil, presented drought management activities from Brazil’s northeastern region. Noting that the region receives sufficient rainfall, but within a short period each year, he emphasized that adequate water infrastructure and local government involvement are prerequisites for equitable water access. Javier Ferrer, Spain, described Júcar River Basin activities, highlighting benefits of moving from an emergency response to a risk reduction framework. Erkan Emіnoğlu, Turkey, reported on the country’s national drought strategy, developed using a consultative approach.

The closing discussions highlighted: linking water management to other environmental sectors; promoting drought-resistant crops and animal species; the legal basis for inter-basin water transfers; the availability of finances for upgrading water systems; farmers’ education on best practices; and children’s participation in water management planning.

HEALTH, DIGNITY AND ECONOMIC PROGRESS: THE WAY FORWARD FOR GENDER EQUITY: Co-chair Kenza Kaouakib-Robinson, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), opened the session, calling for gender-disaggregated data in the water and sanitation sectors based on the recommendations of an expert group meeting convened by UN-DESA and the UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC).

Session co-chair Uschi Eid, UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, called for an end to the “speechlessness” surrounding sanitation, and urged development partners to insist that adequate toilets be preconditions for releasing funding for health and education projects.

Bertrand Charrier, Chirac Foundation, emphasized that water and sanitation are not the same issue and that both have unique gender-related dimensions. Two women who attended the Women and Water Preparatory Conference - Hilal Gonca Coşkun, Istanbul Technical University, and Siegmien Staphorst, Women for Water Partnership - discussed the meeting’s outcomes, including a request to heads of states and ministers to implement gender-responsive budgeting in water and sanitation.

Elmira Joldosheva, Central Asian Alliance for Water, presented experiences in water and sanitation in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, noting their success in training women as regional sanitation facilitators.

In a high-level debate, Nimet Çubukçu, Minister for Women and Family Affairs, Turkey, stressed the need for women’s involvement in decision-making processes, emphasized the importance of awareness raising and capacity building, and noted the specific role of women in agriculture and irrigation.

Santha Sheela Nair, Minister of Rural Development, India, highlighted the taboos surrounding discussion of menstruation and defecation. She emphasized that sanitary facilities must be context-appropriate and account for issues such as safety, water availability and the needs of children, babies and adults.

Asfaw Dingamo, Minister of Water Resources, Ethiopia, provided examples demonstrating how gender issues have been incorporated into the national agenda over the last 20 years, including the recent Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Movement. Participants discussed: gender in relation to disaster management; gender disaggregated water-use data; and social barriers to using the Ecosan dry toilet.

Sascha Gabizon, Women in Europe for a Common Future, and Charlotte van der Schaaf, UNW-DPC, moderated a discussion on recommendations for global and national targets and indicators for gender and sanitation. Panelists and participants discussed the creation and use of gender indicators, data collection, funding for water and sanitation, and capacity building for women’s participation.


Freshwater is a finite resource that is imperative for sustainable development, economic growth, political and social stability, health, and poverty eradication. While water issues have long been on the international agenda, the debate on how to meet the growing global demand for freshwater has intensified in recent years: over 800 million people currently lack access to safe drinking water, while about 2.5 billion lack access to adequate sanitation.

In response to these challenges, the World Water Forum was initiated as a platform to include water issues on the international agenda. This Forum is convened every three years by the World Water Council (WWC) and a host country. The WWC, an international policy think-tank established in 1996, addresses global concerns over the pressures on the Earth’s freshwater resources. The Forum is an open, all-inclusive, multi-stakeholder process that aims to: raise the importance of water on the political agenda; support deeper discussions to help solve the international water issues of the 21st century; formulate concrete proposals; and generate political commitment. The World Water Forum takes place in the context of other international, regional and national water dialogues.

1ST WORLD WATER FORUM: The 1st World Water Forum, held in Marrakesh, Morocco, in March 1997, mandated the WWC to develop a long-term Vision on Water, Life and the Environment for the 21st Century. This Forum also cautioned against treating water as a marketable good and established priorities, namely: water and sanitation; shared water management; ecosystem conservation; gender equality; and efficient use of water.

2ND WORLD WATER FORUM: The 2nd World Water Forum took place in The Hague, the Netherlands, in March 2000. The Ministerial Declaration identified key challenges for the future, including: meeting basic water needs; securing food supply; protecting ecosystems; sharing water resources; managing risks; and valuing and governing water wisely. In the Declaration, ministers agreed to regularly review progress in meeting these challenges and to provide support to the UN system for periodic reassessment of the state of freshwater resources.

UN MILLENNIUM SUMMIT: At the UN Millennium Summit held at UN headquarters in New York, in September 2000, world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration, which inspired eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with 18 targets, including the target to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015.

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FRESHWATER: The International Conference on Freshwater convened in Bonn, Germany, in December 2001, in preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). The Conference addressed: equitable access to and sustainable supply of water for the poor; strategies for sustainable and equitable management of water resources; integration of gender perspectives; and mobilization of financial resources for water infrastructure.

WSSD: During the WSSD, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August-September 2002, world leaders expanded the MDG target on safe drinking water by also agreeing to halve the number of people lacking adequate sanitation by 2015. Other water-related targets in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation included the commitment to develop integrated water resource management (IWRM) and water efficiency plans by 2005. Governments, lending agencies and international organizations also launched several voluntary partnerships and initiatives in the area of water and sanitation.

3RD WORLD WATER FORUM: During the 3rd World Water Forum, held in Kyoto, Osaka and Shiga, Japan, in March 2003, ministers adopted a Declaration underscoring the role of water as a driving force for sustainable development. They also launched the Portfolio of Water Actions, which is an inventory of more than 3,000 local actions with respect to this vital resource. The “Financing Water for All” report of a high-level panel chaired by Michel Camdessus, former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, was presented, leading to the establishment of the intersessional Task Force on Financing Water for All.

29TH G8 SUMMIT: At their annual Summit, held in Evian, France, in June 2003, leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) countries adopted the Action Plan on Water to help meet the MDG and WSSD goals of halving the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation by 2015. In this Action Plan, G8 leaders committed themselves to: promoting good governance; making use of all financial resources; building infrastructure by empowering local authorities and communities; strengthening monitoring, assessment and research; and reinforcing engagement of international organizations.

12TH and 13TH SESSIONS OF THE UN COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (CSD-12 AND CSD-13): At its 12th and 13th sessions held in New York, in April 2004 and April 2005, respectively, the CSD focused on policies and options to expedite the implementation of international commitments in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements. The section on water in the CSD-13 outcome document callsfor, inter alia: accelerating progress toward the MDGs and the WSSD 2015 water access targets by increasing resources and using a full range of policy instruments such as regulation, market-based tools, cost recovery, targeted subsidies for the poor, and economic incentives for small-scale producers; improving water demand and resource management, especially in agriculture; and accelerating the provision of technical and financial assistance to countries that need help to meet the 2005 target on IWRM.

2005-2015 INTERNATIONAL DECADE FOR ACTION “WATER FOR LIFE”: Organized by the UN, the International Decade focuses on the implementation of water-related programmes and projects and on strengthening cooperation on water issues at all levels. Priorities include: access to sanitation; disaster prevention; pollution; transboundary water issues; water, sanitation and gender; capacity building; financing; and IWRM. Africa is identified as a region for priority action for the Decade.

4TH WORLD WATER FORUM: The 4th World Water Forum was held in Mexico City, Mexico, in March 2006. In their Declaration, ministers emphasized the need to include water and sanitation as priorities in national processes, particularly national sustainable development and poverty reduction strategies. They reaffirmed commitments to achieve the internationally agreed goals on IWRM and access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and underscored the supporting role that parliamentarians and local authorities can play in this regard. The Declaration also recognized the importance of domestic and international capacity-building policies and cooperation to mitigate water-related disasters.


5TH WORLD WATER FORUM PREPARATORY PROCESS: A number of preparatory meetings took place ahead of the 5th World Water Forum, including meetings to advance the Forum’s thematic, political and regional processes. The Turkish Women’s Water Alliance met twice to define their role in the Forum.

Thematic process meetings: Several multi-stakeholder meetings were held to establish the themes, topics and sessions that will guide discussions at the Forum.

Political process meetings: Four Preparatory Committee meetings were held to negotiate the draft Ministerial Declaration and the Istanbul Water Strategy Guide, which will be attached to the final Declaration. Parliamentarians met to prepare their agenda for the Forum at the Parliaments for Water meeting in Strasbourg, France, in November 2008. Local authorities met several times, including at the United Cities and Local Government World Council meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, in November 2008, to draft the Istanbul Water Consensus.

Regional process meetings: The Forum’s four regions (Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe) and three sub-regions (In and Around Turkey, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East and North Africa and Arab countries) held meetings to prepare for the Forum and identify contributions for the draft Ministerial Declaration.

2008 INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF SANITATION: Organized by the UN, the goal of the International Year of Sanitation was to raise awareness and accelerate progress towards the MDG target on sanitation. The Action Plan for the Year included activities to raise awareness, release and update publications, monitor access and commitments, advance implementation, strengthen capacities, and evaluate costs and benefits.

16TH SESSION OF THE CSD: Held in New York in June 2008, CSD-16 included a review of the implementation of CSD-13 decisions on water and sanitation. Delegates observed that: according to current trends, Africa will realize its MDG targets on water and sanitation no sooner than 2076; the implementation of the CSD-13 decision on IWRM has been slow; and indicators to monitor changes, especially among the poor, are lacking. Delegates urged: investment for upgrading and maintaining infrastructure, building capacity, and promoting good governance; consideration of transboundary water management; and consideration of the vital importance of financial assistance, particularly for Africa.

34TH G8 SUMMIT: At their annual Summit held in Toyako, Japan, in July 2008, leaders of the G8 countries agreed to reinvigorate their efforts to implement the Evian Water Action Plan, which they will review prior to the 2009 G8 Summit. They further agreed to promote IWRM and “Good Water Governance,” with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and Asia-Pacific, including by: strengthening transboundary basin organizations; sharing water-related expertise and technology with developing countries; and supporting capacity building for water-related initiatives, data collection and use, and adaptation to climate change.

“PEACE WITH WATER”: Held in the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, in February 2009, and led by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the World Political Forum, the European Parliamentary Groups and the European Research Institute on Water Policy, this meeting called for the inclusion of water issues in a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Participants proposed a Memorandum for a World Water Protocol, focusing on conflict prevention, the promotion of the right to water for all, and safeguarding the global water heritage for future generations.

1ST G77 MINISTERIAL FORUM ON WATER: In their Muscat Declaration on Water, G77 ministers attending this meeting in Muscat, Oman, in February 2009, inter alia: stressed the need to improve South-South exchanges of scientific and technological know-how; called on the UN system to play an important role in supporting relevant research; highlighted the potential of biotechnologies to reduce poverty; and emphasized the need to better understand these technologies. They agreed to meet annually, as necessary.

1ST JOINT FORUM MEETING OF THE NETWORK OF WOMEN MINISTERS AND LEADERS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT (NWMLE): Held in Nairobi, Kenya, in February 2009, this joint meeting between NWMLE and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) discussed issues also under consideration at the 25th Session of the UNEP Governing Council/ Global Ministerial Environment Forum. On water, participants recommended that: women be recognized as central to the provision, management and safeguarding of both water and environmental resources; policies and strategies on water and environmental management respect gender differences; and particular attention be given to collecting gender and gender-disaggregated data and developing gender indicators to track implementation of multilateral and national policies.

The World Water Forum Bulletin is a publication of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) <>, publishers of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin © <>. This issue was written and edited by Robynne Boyd, Claudio Chiarolla, Alexandra Conliffe, Tallash Kantai, Wangu Mwangi, Kate Neville, and Anna Schulz. The Photographer is Leila Mead. The Digital Editor is Diego Noguera. The Editor is Lisa Schipper, Ph.D. <>. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <>. Funding for coverage of this meeting has been provided by the 5th World Water Forum Secretariat. IISD can be contacted at 161 Portage Avenue East, 6th Floor, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 0Y4, Canada; tel: +1-204-958-7700; fax: +1-204-958-7710. The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in other publications with appropriate academic citation. Electronic versions of the Bulletin are sent to e-mail distribution lists (in HTML and PDF format) and can be found on the Linkages WWW-server at <>. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11A, New York, New York 10022, United States of America. The IISD team at the 5th World Water Forum can be contacted by e-mail at <>.
| Back to IISD RS “Linkages” home | Visit IISDnet | Send e-mail to IISD RS |
©2009, IISD. All rights reserved.