Agenda 2030 and the related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the best opportunity to frame water research and innovation efforts; and they belong to us (citizens, companies, communities) – not just to governments.
I am at the Water Innovation Europe event, presenting the Sustainable Development Goals to a large audience of water experts, the best innovators in Europe. This is the place where the best technology advancements are discussed; the point I am trying to make in my talk is maybe obvious nonetheless I take my chance there: we all have produced in our organizations great innovations, however what is the ultimate goal? What global challenges are we contributing to?
I continue and claim that Agenda 2030 and the SDGs prove to be a marvelous “compass” for our innovation engines. Then the question comes: “Excuse me Gaetano, what does SDG mean?” Wow, I never thought I would get this question from this audience? I start asking myself if we folks from the water sector are all aware of the importance of Water in the 2030 Agenda? The story continues – just as in that panel session (and maybe on a less funny note), after trying to convince the audience about the compass story, a more fundamental question comes: “These SDGs are nice, but they feel too abstract to me, and it’s difficult for us to understand what’s in it for us?”
This distance between big policies and the “normal” people and communities (including civil society organizations, local governments, or private sector organizations/companies) are luckily getting shorter and shorter. Part of the reason lies in the fact that we are getting closer to tipping points so that such communities (outside the experts and the scientists who have known this for long time) start observing clear impact of water-related issues in their day-to-day lives. The Cape Town crisis (and still after that current water shortage in South Africa and in other regions), extended droughts, flooding becoming a regular part of daily news, are probably creating more awareness without even needing special awareness campaigns.