By Isabel Pasternack. With about 30% of global drinking water resources found in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the region is rich in natural resources, especially in water. However, highly heterogeneous distribution leads to water scarcity amidst the abundance. LAC is home to approximately 600 million people that are amongst the most affected by the impacts of global climate change. This global pressure, together with population growth and urbanisation, reveals several challenges for sustainable development. More efficient resource use is key and needs to be underpinned by coherent policies. On 16 and 17 May 2018, a training workshop on “The Water-Energy-Food Security (WEF) Nexus in Planning Processes” took place in Santiago, Chile, at the dependencies of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The objective of the two-day workshop was to introduce the WEF Nexus concept as an integrated solution for the management of natural resources. Moreover, workshop participants presented and applied several tools for integrated planning between sectors, vertical integration between the different governmental levels involved and considering the intertemporal scale of planning.
Following the Regional Political-Technical Nexus Dialogue, the training workshop was held within the framework of the Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme (NRD), implemented by the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusamenarbeit (GIZ) and funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Claudio Bacigalupi of the European Commission (DG DEVCO), Manfred Haebig of GIZ Chile and Cielo Morales of ECLAC-ILPES welcomed the 42 participants from 12 LAC countries. The participants, all from the public sector, represented the different Nexus sectors, namely water, energy, agriculture, environment and planning. Each of the countries and representatives face different Nexus-related challenges and sought improved and integrated solutions. The overall objective of the training was thus to support the integration of a Nexus perspective into their daily activities in governmental institutions, which also included raising awareness of the challenges faced by individual sectors and the complexity arising from their interconnections. The training was supported by the Institute for Technology and Resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics (ITT Köln), Germany.
During the first session, trainers introduced the WEF Nexus security concept, emphasising its increasing relevance for incorporating Nexus thinking into regional planning and resources management. The interactive session revealed the different challenges and obstacles faced by countries in the region. The security concepts for each sector further highlighted their close relationships to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of food security (2), water security (6) and energy security (7), among others related to environment and sustainable production and consumption patterns. The session’s outcomes highlighted the outstanding character of the water sector, serving as input for both energy and food production.
In the following session on Nexus interlinkages, the participants looked at conflicting uses and trade-offs as well as possible synergies between the WEF sectors. They were invited to recapitulate challenging projects or investments in their countries aimed at identifying Nexus interconnections. The trainers presented case studies from the region to illustrate intersectoral settings that represent both potential opportunities and conflicts. In an interactive role-play, the workshop participants were asked to put themselves in the other sectors’ shoes. Certain questions were posed, such as: What are the key factors leading each sector’s success? What kind of solution is acceptable to all? These questions sought to sensitise the participants and their sector-specific points of view. Based on a multi-purpose project in Costa Rica, the participants considered and discussed various solutions. One participant proposed that a higher-level institution – such as a national planning unit or environmental ministry – should function as a mediator to ensure equal consideration of each sector without losing track of sectoral goals. An overview of existing assessment tools for quantifying the Nexus allowed for a more tangible illustration of different needs and availabilities.
The second block of the workshop was held by the ECLAC’s Institute of Planning for Development (ILPES). ILPES is a leading institution in research, technical cooperation and capacity building in planning, economics and management of the public sector in Latin America and the Caribbean. The institute developed several modules for facing the multiple challenges of intersectoral, intertemporal and interscalar development planning. Along with these challenges, each involved actors’ role was considered, given their status as coordinating entities between the different levels of planning. With the help of specific tools, the participants analysed the Nexus environment based on their own national cases. This allowed them to better understand the drivers and opponents to integrated solutions and helped identify ways to move forward in planning at national and local levels.
The German and European experiences were presented during the final block and included an overview of the various instruments used at the level of governance that help in promoting WEF Nexus implementation. The presenters mentioned roundtable discussions and conferences as opportunities for initiating dialogue between sectors and the introduction of incentives, regulations or laws to further concretise WEF Nexus implementation. A Nexus-relevant institutional framework in Germany served as an example for identifying similar intersectoral processes at the level of participating countries. The participants worked in groups to draw up institutional schemes of potential cooperation between WEF sectors.
After two busy days of both theoretical input and practical group work, Reinaldo Peñailillo, GIZ Manager of the Nexus Dialogue in LAC, encouraged participants to follow up on the Nexus and introduce this integrated perspective to national institutions. The participating countries were further invited to report on their Nexus activities and formulate projects to be incorporated in a potential second phase of the EU/BMZ Nexus Regional Dialogue Programme. If this is achieved, Nexus solutions have the potential to overcome local scarcities and achieve more environmental sustainability for future generations.