Understanding the UfM water agenda
At the end of April 2017, ministers in charge of water from the 43 UfM member countries came together in Valetta, Malta, for a meeting hosted by the Maltese Government, where they agreed to develop a UfM Water Agenda to enhance regional cooperation on water. The UfM Water agenda is expected to lead to a consensual regional water policy framework that offers a means for substantial and measurable positive impact towards sustainable livelihoods in the Mediterranean region. It will also contribute to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and targets, in particular SDG 6 on water and sanitation, as well as address the adverse effects of climate change, notably the growing problem of water stress and scarcity.
This declaration is a natural progression of the 15 international and Mediterranean region environmental and social agreements and initiatives, from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to the UN Resolution on Water as a Basic Human Right (2010), and the Declaration and Mediterranean Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development (2014). The declaration restates 25 key statements and observations regarding the value of water to humanity and the region, and the critical need for its protection, some examples of which are:
► As a limited resource, water requires policies and regulations to ensure availability, quality and sustainable management.
► The Mediterranean region faces water-related stresses and challenges and is among the world’s most water-scarce, particularly its southern and eastern countries.
► Regional socio-economic trends and environmental impacts are interlinked with water inadequacy, which can contribute to social and political instability.
► Regional cooperation adds distinctive value and complements national efforts, by facilitating and supporting experience sharing, promoting common approaches, joining pilot projects, enhancing existing knowledge, communicating innovative practices, and enhancing investment opportunities and access to sustainable financing.
► Welcoming the engagement by a large number of donors and international financing institutions that provide substantial support for materializing the water agenda of the Mediterranean countries and for promoting regional cooperation on water-related issues.
The ministerial declaration adopted in Malta also established the Strategic Guidance for a Water Agenda of the UfM, stating that:
“We, the Ministers, aim to support the Water Agenda of the UfM leading to a consensual regional water policy framework for substantial and measurable positive impacts towards achieving sustainable livelihood; and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), in particular SDG 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation, and to prosperity, stability and peace in the region. We anticipate that the UfM Water Agenda process will substantially enable the implementation of a range of key regional policies including: Developing the circular economy and enabling green growth. Meeting the obligations of Parties to the Barcelona Convention and other Multilateral Environmental Agreements to which UfM members are the Parties, as well as the objectives of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development The implementation would require the contribution of regional institutions and stakeholders of the UfM region and their involvement where appropriate.”
The UfM Water Agenda will be accompanied by a financial strategy designed to support its implementation in consultation with financial actors, the private sector and relevant stakeholders. The UfM Water Agenda will provide a suite of recommendations, proposals and initiatives to help UfM members achieve to achieve their goals with the participation of stakeholders. The UfM Water Agenda establishes and mandates a Water Expert Group (WEG) to implement this work in coordination with regional institutions, donors and non-governmental actors.
Key tools for achieving regional objectives include good governance regarding water supply planning, access to safe drinking water and sanitation, pollution control and de-pollution projects, sustainable water use of surface and groundwater resources, transboundary cooperation, sustainable financing, public private partnerships, reliable data and information, research and innovation and technology transfer, as well as education and awareness and capacity building.
EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: “Water scarcity is a growing problem around the Mediterranean. To improve the situation, cooperation between countries is essential. That is why I am so pleased to help the Union for the Mediterranean agree this Declaration on water. It provides a vision for a regional work programme on integrated water resources management. I am confident that improved access to clean, sustainable and efficient use of water will be the result.”