Today, the last day of the 5th World Water Forum, Istanbul a weeklong summit aimed at pushing the worldwide water crisis onto the international agenda, closes with a sense of urgency to address and deter the extreme water crisis plaguing the world. Alarming facts have been presented to the Forum which was attended by three princes, three presidents, five prime ministers, delegates from 155 countries and 263 parliamentarians, all in the presence of a record-breaking 33,000 attendees, including World Water Fair participants. The final day of the Forum ended with a water declaration announced by 95 ministers and vice-ministers. It recognizes the right to access to improved water and sanitation, initiating an important step towards decreasing worldwide deaths related to water shortages.
"While we're thrilled with the success of the Forum which provided a platform to address the world's water issues, we cannot waste a second to take action to ensure our planet's survival," said Dr. Prof. Oktay Tabasaran, Secretary General of the Forum.
During the course of the week, the scope of the water crisis was presented and confronted. The European Parliament issued a resolution to formally address water and sanitation shortages which cause eight million deaths a year and limit more than one billion people from access to drinking water. Africa faces the biggest challenge by far; while most of the developing world has managed to reduce poverty, Africa has remained virtually unchanged since the 1980s, reported the United Nations. Forty percent of the population lives below the poverty line of $1 and 70 percent lives below the poverty line of $2, the report states. In an Islamic Ministers Meeting, the Organisation for Informatics Cooperation and Development (OICD) reminded attendees that while over 1.1 billion people had no access to water, 2.6 billion people experienced sanitation problems, and 3,900 babies died daily in Muslim countries because of lack of sufficient water.
Making the situation dire, this year's Forum is a pivotal point for changes in the water situation, with more than half the time having passed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Intended to be completed by 2015, the MDGs were created to promote poverty reduction, education, gender equality and to combat child mortality and disease epidemics. Millennium Development Goals represent a global partnership that was created during the United Nations Millennium summit in 2000. Formed initially as a response to the U.N. world summits of the 1990s, the goals were agreed upon by 189 world leaders. While there has been some progress in certain countries, it has not been standardized across the world. Developing nations continue to experience the slowest improvement and the greatest number of victims.
Expanding on the current water problem facing the world, the U.N. launched its 3rd United Nations World Water Development Report at the Forum, attributing the crisis affecting the planet's water systems to a global population boom, economic growth and climate change. The report, "Water in a Changing World," which was coordinated by the World Water Assessment Program (WWAP) and compiled by the 24 United Nations agencies that comprise UN-Water, a group which coordinates coherence among U.N. entities dealing with freshwater and sanitation issues, offered a bleak outlook of the world's fresh water supply.
"An excessive amount of water is wasted unnecessarily because of inefficient processes and lack of education on the issues," said Prof. Dr. Ahmet Saatci, Vice-Secretary General of the Forum. "When each of us learns to live without wasting a drop, our planet may have a chance at survival."
In an effort to speed progress towards sustainability, the 5th World Water Forum, Istanbul blended together the three levels of political power, national governments, local authorities and parliaments, to facilitate a common understanding of objectives and solutions, for the first time in Forum history. This was demonstrated through the Ministerial Statement for national governments, finalized Saturday, March 21st; the Istanbul Water Consensus for local authorities, signed Thursday, March 19; and the Parliamentarian Helpdesk, an information system designed to log and search all water legislation. All three government levels converged in a specially organized 'trialogue." during which calls for a global water parliament were echoed by all levels of government leaders.
On a local level, elected representatives from around the world signed the Istanbul Water Consensus (IWC). The consensus was created to develop water management strategies in the face of global challenges. The Consensus named "Champion Cities" united in commitment for urban water resource management. Forty-five Champion Cities were recognized globally. The consensus is a non-binding agreement among cities to initiate progress with regards to water issues and is intended to concretize the commitment of local authorities and to bring their issues to the attention of national governments, legislators and the international community. The champion cities are: Brisbane, Australia; Vienna, Austria; Paris, Houdan, Maxéville and Strasbourg, France; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Lausanne, Switzerland; Icheon, South Korea; Abomey and Quinhi, Benin; Mochudi, Botswana; Koprivnica, Croatia; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Vaitape, French Polynesia; Thessaloniki Greece; Piacenza, Italy; Fuheis, Jordan; Kisumu, Kenya; Nouakchott, Mauritania; Chefchaouen and Settat, Morocco; Bethlehem and Gaza, Palestine; Baguio, Philippines; Coimbra, Portugal; Saint Louis, Senegal; Cape Town, South Africa; Alcoy and Barcelona, Spain; Bukoba, Geita and Muleba, Tanzania; Lomé and Sokode, Togo; Entebbe, Kampala, Kampala Town Council and Kampala Kawempe Division, Uganda; and Istanbul, Merkez, Konya and Sakarya, Turkey.
Ministers from the four corners of the Earth attended the Forum in order to participate in a three-day Ministerial Conference, set to adopt the Istanbul Water Guide and present a Ministerial Declaration. An estimated 90 ministers participated in this Forum's conference. Ministerial Declarations of past World Water Fora have been important contributors to laying down the world's priorities concerning water resources and services. The Istanbul Water Guide represents recommendations from global experts, and created an agenda for action by national governments in partnership with stakeholders to address water resources management, governance and finance. The Ministerial Declaration, announced today on the closing day of the 5th World Water Forum, World Water Day, recognized specific challenges facing different parts of the world. Its goal is to advance achievement in meeting the Millennium Development Goals and attain an acceptable level of water security for socio-economic development.
Recognizing that no matter their age, all people involved in furthering the goals of the Forum are fundamental to success, the World Water Youth Forum commenced in cooperation with the 5th World Water Forum, Istanbul to address world water issues from a youth perspective. With 200 young participants from 20 countries, the Youth Forum is the fourth gathering of its kind, hosting an assembly of 16 to 26-year-olds. At the Youth Forum, the assembly drafted a Youth Declaration that expressed their stance on the planet's water crisis and emphasized the need for global participation for a better future.
Istanbul, host city to the Forum, is home to the Bosphorous, a critical waterway that separates two continents, Europe and Asia, and served as an ideal location to bring awareness to worldwide water issues.
Contributed by: Lauren Kamm