"A Pioneering Effort"
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Reflections // "A Pioneering Effort"

Reflections of the Co-Chairs on the outcomes of the Bonn2011 Nexus-Conference

"The Bonn2011 Nexus Conference was a pioneering effort to bring together a wide range of stakeholders to address the nexus of water, energy and food security. It addressed the linkages and trade-offs as well as the synergies between water, energy and food," say co-chairs Uschi Eid and Albert Butare.

The Bonn2011 Nexus Conference was a pioneering effort to bring together a wide range of stakeholders to address the nexus of water, energy and food security. It addressed the linkages and trade-offs as well as the synergies between water, energy and food.

A huge demand for dialogue, exchange and mutual learning was apparent throughout the conference. Conference participants focused on better understanding the nexus, debated hot topics, learned from practical nexus solutions and made steps towards a common agenda in three strategy panels.

Even though we are only at the beginning of our journey to fully understand and address the complexity of the nexus challenges, participants brought a wealth of ideas, proposals and practical suggestions into the conference.

After a rich discussion we can only selectively emphasize the most significant conclusions.

  1. Our shared concerns about access to water, sanitation, energy, and food are compounded by growing challenges to resource availability, management and sustainability. We are all affected by these challenges, no one more so than the people who lack access to water, sanitation, energy, and food. Adding two billion more people to our planet will put significant additional pressure on water, energy, and food. Climate change and rapid urbanization add to the challenge.
  2. Water, energy, and food sectors are connected in important ways, and actions in one sector have the potential to either help or harm the other two. For example, the way water is sourced, treated, priced, and distributed can reduce or increase energy requirements; dietary choices can affect water and energy demands; and decisions taken on which way to generate energy can significantly influence water demand or, in the case of biofuels, displace food production. Disconnected approaches and silo thinking are more likely to make matters worse. The real world is characterized by an intricate web of interactions — the nexus.
  3. Based on a better understanding of the inter-dependencies across water, energy and food challenges, the nexus approach provides a more comprehensive base for allocating scarce resources. It helps to identify mutually beneficial responses and provides an informed and transparent framework for determining and resolving trade-offs to meet increasing demand without compromising sustainability.
  4. The nexus approach will enable us to:
    • Achieve access to water, sanitation, energy, and food;
    • Create more with less by reducing waste and limiting over-use;
    • Sustain ecosystems and biodiversity;
    • Strengthen resilience to disasters and accelerate recovery;
    • Mobilise consumer and public influence.
  5. In making the nexus approach work commitment is needed to:
    • Putting people and their basic human rights at the center of the nexus — especially women, who make important choices and decisions regarding water, energy, and food for household consumption;
    • Improving policy coherence (in both design and implementation) by ensuring that synergies and tradeoffs among water, energy, and food are considered in policies, plans, and investments;
    • Promoting good governance, establishing rule of law, eliminating corruption, and providing secure rights to land and water resources;
    • Promoting decentralized and inclusive democratic decision-making;
    • Creating the proper incentive structures, eg. by removing harmful subsidies;
    • Financing that rewards nexus approaches to complex challenges;
    • Reducing, reusing, and recycling waste and waste water (develop culture for seeing waste as a resource and move toward a zero-waste policy);
    • Improving resource productivity (as we once improved labor productivity);
    • Creating and communicating research and knowledge;
    • Accelerating the path from research to dissemination to early adoption and scaling up of appropriate nexus technologies and practices;
    • Sharing knowledge, data, and methods, and strengthening capacity on the nexus;
    • Develop better measures to monitor and evaluate nexus outcomes and results;
    • Using the potential of regional integration;
    • Strengthening market mechanisms while ensuring that they reflect the true value of water, energy and food as well as associated natural resources;
    • Enhancing regional markets and trade to allow for optimal resource use;
    • Making the business case for sustainability and the nexus as business is essential for driving change and getting to scale.
  6. To move forward we must:
    • Identify the forces that are driving the adoption of nexus thinking and build alliances with them
    • Identify and support leaders and champions at every level to take ownership and implement the nexus
    • Change institutions that are stuck in the past still using yesterday's arrangements to deal with tomorrow's problems
    • Train and qualify all actors to implement nexus approaches
    • Innovate, cooperate, experiment and implement — everybody can start somewhere to promote nexus approaches.

From Bonn to Rio and beyond

We look forward to carrying the momentum of the Bonn2011 Nexus Conference into the deliberations of Rio+20. Our message is clear: outcomes of Rio should adequately take into account the interdependencies between water, energy and food as well as the underlying natural resources water, land and soil.

It is clear that those gathered here at the Bonn2011 Nexus Conference have achieved a new understanding and are committed to action. While we recognize that these actions will have to adapt to local differences, we have taken real and substantive steps toward a new approach to the challenges and opportunities in the future.

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