Sustainability nexus slide
Sustainability nexus slide

What does it take to build a sustainable future? The key task for policy-makers and planners is to find ways to meet human needs and aspirations while reducing pressure on environmental systems and ensuring that natural resources are not depleted.

The water-energy-food nexus framework has emerged in recent years as a useful tool for helping achieve that goal, by identifying trade-offs and synergies between different sectors and policy objectives. The approach has been used in numerous studies around the world; SEI alone has applied it in settings as diverse as California , Colombia , China , Jordan and Ethiopia, among others.

On 19 and 20 May in Bonn, Germany, more than 200 researchers, policy-makers and other stakeholders are coming together to work on what they see as a crucial next step: translating nexus analyses into action by ensuring that research results are directly relevant and useful to decision-makers, and that scientists and decision-makers work more closely together to implement the insights from nexus analyses.

“Today we are more than convinced [of the] strong interconnectedness of global food, energy and water security and environmental sustainability,” says Anik Bhaduri, executive officer of the Global Water System Project (GWSP) and lead organizer of the conference, Sustainability in the Water-Energy-Food Nexus .

“This situation calls for joint global responsibility and cooperation among scientists and policy-makers to mediate trade-offs and explore synergies,” Bhaduri adds. “Our conference aims to facilitate such cooperation and contribute to defining a more focused global research agenda for interdependent water, energy and food challenges.”

SEI Senior Research Fellow Holger Hoff, who wrote the landmark Understanding the Nexus paper in 2011, has been closely involved in the planning of the conference, and is co-chairing a special session on implementing the nexus in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and chairing another session on instruments and tools for implementing the nexus.

“Meeting human needs and aspirations sustainably will require transformative changes, and that is the greatest value of the nexus: it helps us find new solutions,” Hoff says. “We are bringing several examples to the conference from SEI’s own work, most notably our proposal for the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Along with Hoff, the SEI team at the conference includes Executive Director Johan L. Kuylenstierna, who will be a panellist in the plenary session “Scientific approaches to implementing the nexus at various scales”; Louise Karlberg, head of the Stockholm Centre Bioresources Group, who is presenting SEI work on the Blue Nile/Lake Tana region of Ethiopia; Charles Rodgers, a senior research fellow in SEI’s Asia Centre, who is part of a session on the nexus and climate change adaptation; and SEI Research Associate Christian Stein, who will present his social-network analysis for the Ethiopia study.

“This is an important event, and we are very pleased to have SEI’s nexus research amply represented,” says Kuylenstierna. “SEI has gained extensive experience from research and project work on the ground covering global, regional, national and local levels, and we have useful lessons to share. We feel particularly strongly about the need to link nexus studies to broader policy and development processes. Nexus research also needs to be truly participatory, with joint problem identification and continuous stakeholder engagement to ‘ground-truth’ the findings and identify solutions together.”

In conjunction with the conference, a week-long “Summer Water Academy” is being held to provide intensive coaching to early-career researchers, to help them formulate policy messages and communicate effectively with decision-makers and other stakeholders. Hoff helped organize the Academy and will be providing support to the participants; SEI-US communications manager Marion Davis is working with the organizers and will give a training presentation.

See the conference programme (external link to GWSP)

Read the official conference announcement (PDF, 569kb)

Join the discussion on Twitter: #WEFNexusConference »

Learn more about SEI’s nexus research »

Click below to watch a video for the conference

Bonn conference video