event 20 nov. 2012

NEXUS Interview // "We have much more to gain from increasing the collaboration"

An interview with Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of SIWI, summarising the outcomes of the World Water Week 2012

category Nexus Interviews
Yfoto sy2006 0240
YFOTO/Michael Stoyke
Moving forward in order to create sustainable responses to emerging challenges means coming together and working across sectors in order to provide policies that are able to address the complexity of the Water-Food-Energy nexus in different regions of the world, says Torgny Holmgren of SIWI.

NEXUS Platform: Earlier World Water Week's were mainly gatherings of water experts, water policy-makers and water scientists, while this year's World Water Week addressed two stakeholder groups <<--->> water experts as well as food experts. To which extent do you think did you succeed in bringing the two together? Did the two sectors learn from each other? Have any joint initiatives been launched at WWW 2012?

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Torgny Holmgren

is Executive Director at SIWI, after being an Ambassador at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Head of the Department for Development Policy, responsible for policies on global development and sustainable development previously. He has recently served as Sherpa for Minister Gunilla Carlsson in UN Secretary-General's High Level Panel on Global Sustainability. {http://www.siwi.org/|SIWI Website} #box Torgny Holmgren: Since several years back, the World Water Week has actively and quite successfully strived to engage actors who traditionally have not been part of the water community. As the pressure on the worlds water resources are being increasingly felt by farmers, city planners, energy producers and by business communities, the interest in engaging with water issues is rapidly increasing. There seems to have been significant learning between the agricultural and water communities, but the most important lesson seems to be the understanding that we have much more to gain from increasing the collaboration. With this in mind, we are eagerly looking forward to next year's WWW which focuses on cooperation.

{http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/world-water-week-nexus-thinking-taking-off|"Is nexus thinking finally taking off?" asked The Guardian in a recent article}, referring to the increasingly joined up thinking towards tackling water, energy and food challenges, which adds a third sector: energy. Has this been considered at WWW 2012? Are there any specific outcomes or initiatives for more systemic or integrated "Nexus" approaches?

Currently hundreds of millions of people lack access to sufficient food, energy or water supplies and services, while simultaneously economic growth and urbanization create added pressures on these resources. The necessity to understand their linkages and the systems that provide them are therefore ever more evident. SIWI has, for a long time, been involved in developing knowledge and providing platforms to bring together stakeholders concerned with the close linkages between water, food and energy, also constituting one of SIWI's core areas of work. We have seen a consistent growth in interest and a substantive increase in knowledge development addressing this nexus and the systemic approaches this normally entail. WWW 2012 provided a great opportunity to focus on aspects related to food production which automatically also put emphasis on water use, naturally, but also on how energy is utilized in these systems. The themes for coming WWWs provides for continued focus on the issues as 2013 will be about cooperation and 2014 is reserved for water and energy.

SIWI's recent report "Land acquisitions: How will they impact transboundary waters" refers to the impact on fragile freshwater supplies when industrialized countries buy land for food or biofuels production in the global South. What are the main critical points here? Isn't there an opportunity to create win-win situations in which both sides gain?

In theory win-win situations are possible and perhaps also in practice. However, to achieve this much is required. Investors need to safeguard the inclusion of project affected groups from the on-set. Sufficient mechanisms and partnerships needs to be forged between stakeholders to ensure that conflicts between water use for livelihood opportunities at the local level, and energy production does not occur. Affected population groups should be sufficiently compensated should conflicts arise. Such land or rather "water deals", as they perhaps more appropriately can be called due to the inherent importance of water access, might provide revenue opportunities for countries that are targeted for this type of investment. All in all, these kinds of investments need to be judged on a case by case basis. What we can say with certainty is that: in order for them to generate positive outcomes in terms of sound water utilization (also taking transboundary/ upstream-downstream considerations into account, sufficient impacts analyses and compensation measures and schemes must be incorporated without exception and continuously be monitored and evaluated. It is also of huge important that water aspects are openly addressed in both the deals and the international guidelines set up to steer them towards more equitable outcomes.

According to UN figures, highly populated emerging countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, but also the United States, are the biggest freshwater users, mainly for food and energy production. Is SIWI working in these countries? Where they represented at WWW 2012 and to which extent do you think is a more systemic approach to resolving resource management adopted there?

SIWI has cooperation or interaction with all the mentioned countries to various degrees and together they represented about 20 per cent of the participants at this year's WWW. We are also considering to expand our commitment in most of these countries, in response to an interest for further cooperation expressed by them. Some countries are in the forefront of sciences focused on sustainable development and also development in terms of renewable energy technology and deployment, while still facing tremendous challenges in that regard as well. Many of the emerging economies mentioned are taking serious steps to address their water related challenges not least with regard to their energy development; they recognize that in order to sustain their economic growth they need a sound management of natural resources with water as a key component. SIWI is happy to continue contributing to a water wise world by supporting efforts to utilize untapped synergies in the management and use of water, food and energy resources.

When looking back, what were the biggest successes of World Water Week 2012 regarding water and food policy-making? And how is SIWI planning to follow up on the results of WWW 2012?

One success of the World Water Week was that the absolute urgency of reducing food waste and losses as a way of increasing the resource efficiency in the food supply chain was strongly established on the pallet for future solutions to the challenges of feeding our thirsty world. Another important discussion evolved around the possibilities to, by quite subtle means like opening up market opportunities to small-holder farmers, inspire enormous efficiency gains in rainfed agriculture. Figures of doubling and even tripling the water efficiency was mentioned. SIWI is providing a bridge to maintain focus on Water-Food-Energy issues over the coming years. 2012 was about food production and water. 2013 will focus on cooperation, with an intention to provide opportunities for actors across the spectrum of the Water-Food-Energy nexus to come together again to form partnerships and new platforms for knowledge exchanges. In 2014 we will focus on water and energy, thereby providing a base to tie in all explored components the previous two years while adding the focus on energy development and its many linkages to water use and consumption.

What is your take-away message from WWW 2012 for our readers interested in more systemic "Nexus" solutions?

That it is important to understand that the Water-Food-Energy nexus consist of a multitude of sub-systems that we need to understand both in their own right but also their connections to each other. To achieve this we need to work pragmatic along several parallel tracks. We must develop a systemic analyses approach that enables us to factor in the many variables that builds the nexus in order to produce the necessary science needed. At the same time we need to look at the nexus in various contexts as impacts will look different in different parts of the world. And at the heart of this, and what the WWW is truly about, is providing the needed arena for interactions between sectors and actors that do not often come together to share knowledge and visions for the future. Moving forward in order to create sustainable responses to emerging challenges means coming together and working across sectors in order to provide policies that are able to address the complexity of the Water-Food-Energy nexus in different regions of the world.


Cecilia Vey

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