The Danube River flowing through Budapest.
The Danube River flowing through Budapest. Flickr/Moyan Brenn

The Budapest Water Summit: The Role of Water and Sanitation in the Global Sustainable Development Agenda took place in Budapest, Hungary, from 8–11 October. On 9 October, SEI Executive Director Johan L. Kuylenstierna moderated a high-level panel discussion on how to address critical issues of access to water and sanitation, urban water infrastructure planning, and wastewater management. In a later session, he acted as rapporteur in a session on the coming challenges for integrated water resource management.

Budapest logo

The summit aimed to pull together insights from several recent high-level events on water into a summit statement emphasizing the need for an SDG on a “water-secure world”, along with policy recommendations to support and reinforce such a goal.

“It is essential that the SDGs include a dedicated water goal, covering access to drinking water and proper sanitation,” said Kuylenstierna. “But water also has a fundamental role in all of the SDGs. There can be no food security, no energy security and, thus, no development without effective and sustainable management of water resources.”

The Budapest Water Summit is the last major event planned in the International Year of Water Cooperation. The summit was organized by the Hungarian government in cooperation with the United Nations and the World Water Council.

“Achieving water security for all is a low-hanging fruit,” said Kuylenstierna. “We have the knowledge, we have the technologies, we have the resources; now it is only about political will.”

Another SEI expert, Senior Research Fellow Holger Hoff, was rapporteur for a high-level evening panel event on the water-energy-food nexus.

“The nexus has been discussed and conceptualized at length. It is now time to put the nexus concept to work, so we can help to inspire smart, integrated water, energy and food policies in hotspots where the tensions between water, energy, food and environmental issues are having real impacts on people’s lives,” said Hoff. “This high-level panel will provide a good opportunity to spread the word.”

China-Europe dialogue on water

Hoff also participated in the annual Policy Dialogue Conference of the China Europe Water Platform (CEWP), which took place at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in parallel with the summit. In a policy dialogue session on research and business he talked about progress on water-energy-food nexus issues within Europe. He also presented an initial nexus assessment for the Ningxia region in China’s Yellow River basin.
Hoff attended the CEWP Steering Committee meeting in the afternoon. Sweden has been an active member of the CEWP and is leading the research theme on the water-energy-food nexus. SEI is one of the key implementing organizations for this theme, along with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and the Nanjing Hydraulic Research Institute.
“Water security is at the top of SEI’s research agenda. Sustainable sanitation, the water-food-energy nexus, water and climate change, and water and security are just a few of the areas in which our research work is expanding,” said Johan L. Kuylenstierna.

SEI and the Sustainable Development Goals

Engagement in the Budapest Water Summit is SEI’s latest contribution to defining the post-2015 development agenda and the SDGs. Earlier this month SEI Research Director Måns Nilsson was lead author of a paper proposing a framework for drafting SDGs and applying it to the area of energy (see the recent Q&A with Nilsson for more information and a link to the paper). SEI also coordinated a study on evidence-based analysis for developing and achieving water-related SDGs; a report of the study will be published by the UN University in late 2013.
SEI is part of the Independent Research Forum (IRF), a collaboration between 12 environmental research organizations aimed at supporting the SDGs drafting process. The IRF will shortly prepare a paper on links between different resources and challenges for sustainable development and how they can be treated in the SDGs. The paper will build on past SEI work on the water-energy-food nexus.