Submitted by guest blogger on Tue,01/29/2013

By James Dalton of IUCN’s Global Water Programme.

I am an engineer. I like to see how and why things work the way they do, and like to focus on how to make things work better, including projects and programmes.

I was also taught and trained in science – but I struggle with it. I struggle with the need for science to be so exact and defining. I understand why it has to be so exact but often it does not articulate itself well. The relevance of science can be questioned because it often fails to make itself understood to the audience – or ‘stakeholders’ it is trying to inform and influence.

With this in mind I looked at the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) report, and its definition of ecosystem services as “the benefits people obtain from ecosystems”. In the report ecosystem services were ‘categorised’ into supporting, provisioning, regulating, and cultural ‘services’ – the benefits society receives from nature in the form of security, the basic materials for a good life, health, and good social relations.

The MEA Report contains a (now famous) diagram which tries to show the link between the different categories of ecosystem services, and the benefits society receives. On the left are the ecosystem service categories, and on the right, the benefits society receives collectively as ‘human well-being’. Between the services provided and human well being there are a series of coloured arrows to demonstrate that some services society can provide in different ways through our social organisation skills, or through paying for them.

This is important to show that when an ecosystem is degraded, we have to subsidise the services through investing, or at the extremes, moving populations! For me, the easiest example is how

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Submitted by guest blogger on Wed,11/07/2012

By Claire Warmenbol, IUCN Global Water Programme Communications Officer.
  
What is hydro-diplomacy? I was able to find the answer to that question last week when I interviewed leading water experts, scientists and politicians at the IUCN Hydro-diplomacy conference in Chiangrai, Thailand. I asked the question many times and received as many different answers. Clearly, it is a vast and complex topic.

For the purpose of producing a short conference video, I switched from programme communicator into video journalist to capture the insights of the bright minds present at the conference which gathered over 140 participants from all over the world.

I felt quite privileged to listen first-hand to what Ghandi’s grandson, H.E. Ambassador Gopalkrishna Ghandi, had to say about the current and future state of water resources; to how the CEO of the Mekong River Commission, Hans Guttman, thought about sharing water to meet the needs of growing demands for food and energy in the Mekong region; where Dr. Khaled AbuZeid, Director of the Arab Water Council, saw solutions for his water-scarce region; or which key elements Ian Makin from the Asia Development Bank identified as crucial for hydro-diplomacy. All shared their own interpretations, but also their hopes and visions for a safer water future.

From plush conference lobby to the rugged banks of the mighty Mekong, at the point where it crosses Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, the interview locations varied greatly. In short, appropriate places for hydro-diplomacy as a topic that spans from the highest political echelons to the widest stretches of borderless ecosystems.
 
And yet, to those who know

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Submitted by guest blogger on Fri,08/31/2012

By Claire Warmenbol of IUCN's Water Programme in Stockholm for World Water Week.

Luis Manuel Maier works for IUCN Member 'Fundacion Vida' in Honduras and is coordinating the IUCN BRIDGE project on the Goascaran, a river forming the border between Honduras and El Salvador.
 
Much is being said about water governance and collaboration at the Stockholm World Water Week this year, particularly in view of next year's UN International Year on Water Cooperation. But putting it all into practice and making things happen in the field, is what Maier is all about.

BRIDGE stands for Building River Dialogue and Governance; or Maier’s ambition and goal for the Goascaran. Over the past few decades, the Goascaran basin had suffered the consequences of a dysfunctional management system with many willing actors involved, yet unable or lacking the funds to tie their work together with all stakeholders, for the health of the river basin and well-being of people and livelihoods.

This is where the project’s main goal lies and needless to say, Mr Maier is a busy man these days.

Maier started his career in architecture at the University of Los Andes in Colombia, which landed him his first job in Urban Planning at the Ministry of Honduras. He soon realised there was an element missing in his degree — regional planning. A city cannot thrive without a strong resilient surrounding region. This second degree led him to become a Professor in Regional Planning at the University of Honduras and Nicaragua.
  
Seeing the environmental

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Submitted by guest blogger on Sun,06/17/2012

By Dr. Mark Smith, Director, IUCN Global Water Programme

My first day in Rio was yesterday. I was off the plane at 6 am, to the hotel and then straight to Rio Centro for a lunchtime side event with the Ramsar Secretariat on the upcoming TEEB study on water and wetlands. We are aiming for this study to gather the economic numbers behind nature as water infrastructure. The ‘not the usual suspects’ are very interested in this – the engineers and the bankers – and saying “natural infrastructure, we can work with that!”. The same people that yawn and go off to the next meeting when the topic of ecosystem services comes up. The secret is that it’s the same thing wearing engineer’s boots instead of ecologist’s sandals. The 60 or 70 people who came along to the Ramsar event were happy with that….
 
… And, heaven forbid, they were interested too in new ideas that might help to solve some of the problems people are coming to Rio to work on. After the side event I stopped in on the negotiations. First, I went to the session on green economy. There I witnessed a debate amongst diplomats on whether to use the verb ‘commit’ or ‘encourage’. We had the EU pushing to commit and the G77 preferring merely to encourage. Normal fare for these events it’s true, even if always disappointing. Feeling inspired I headed for a taste of the negotiations on water. Oh, here was the real action! Brackets, we know, are put around the words that are disputed in a negotiating text. Here we had brackets around [, clean], as in ‘safe [, clean] water’. Somebody, from somewhere on planet Earth, is apparently arguing over the idea that

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Submitted by guest blogger on Fri,03/16/2012

By Rebecca Welling of IUCN’s Water Programme

This was my first World Water Forum and it’s definitely been a learning experience! One main highlight has been to meet IUCN colleagues from the regions that I hadn’t yet met in person and to be part of such a supportive, friendly and hard working IUCN family. It’s also been a great opportunity to meet the experts and link up with former colleagues.  Rebecca Welling

I’ve been involved in the Forum in a variety of ways, but my main focus has been to support IUCN’s co-coordination of the several sessions on ‘Promoting Green Growth and Valuing Ecosystem Services’. Around 20 hours of sessions relating to green growth have taken place throughout the week. From discussions during these sessions and outside, it’s clear that a stronger focus on natural infrastructure and nature as a solution to our water challenges has taken root.

While change won’t happen overnight, these types of events provide a space for networking and meeting people to help you work out who you need to speak to make things happen. It’s better to see it as a ‘pit stop’ on a long journey to ensuring the sustainability of our planet and the livelihoods of the millions of us living on it.

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Submitted by guest blogger on Thu,03/15/2012

By Katharine Cross of IUCN’s Eastern and Southern Africa Office

This is my second World Water Forum. In Istanbul, three years ago I was running around, organizing sessions, looking after speakers and preparing presentations. This time, coming from IUCN’s Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office, I can take things at a slightly different pace.

I’m bringing the regional perspective into discussions on various subjects from implementing Integrated Water Resources Management in practice to climate resilience. This has given me the time to step back and look at what the forum is achieving, and where we go next. Sometimes the feeling is that the Forum is just a talk shop, but what an event like this brings is the nudge factor – ideas are exchanged, alliances formed, problems discussed and solutions showcased.

These experiences and ideas are taken back to our respective corners of the globe and integrated into our work on the ground. Different approaches can then be showcased at follow-up events to continue this valuable knowledge exchange. For example, in many of the sessions I have participated in there is recognition of the need to invest in natural infrastructure as a solution to addressing changing water availability from climate and other factors. IUCN is demonstrating this concept on the ground by integrating natural solutions to increase resilience through actions such as catchment protection, reforestation, and strengthening institutions so they can protect water sources and allocate water fairly to the different users, including the environment.

We can’t change the world overnight, but by continuing to present nature’s solution, we can nudge the world towards a future that ensures healthy people and healthy ecosystems.

Read more about Katharine’s work on conserving water resources in Africa.

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Submitted by guest blogger on Wed,03/14/2012

By Marta Perez de Madrid Utrilla, IUCN Central America Regional Office

I have had two intense days in Marseille, and both have been of particular interest to the work we do in Mesoamerica in terms of adaptation to climate change in ecosystems.

Yesterday we had a session for which we had been preparing for almost a year with TNC and WWF. Together we are promoting the value of ecosystems in water management in the Americas. We’ve been pulling together, from mid-2011, case studies where conservation or restoration of ecosystems has been a successful solution to Integrated Water Resource Management. Here in Marseille, we presented some of them, in a session full of participants from within the Americas Regional Process.

These solutions really make us think that our efforts are possible and achievable in the region. But the important thing is that this momentum helps us to continue working together. There are so many things to think of, everything happens on the same day and it just doesn’t stop. This morning’s session has been with the Regional Policy Dialogue on Water and Adaptation of the Americas.

Tomorrow will be exciting, because we have a conversation in the Mexico delegation on ecosystem-based adaptation, and we will present a video to raise awareness of the importance of considering the value of biodiversity and ecosystems. Particularly, I am anxious to see the public reaction to this video, and if they really get the message.

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Submitted by guest blogger on Wed,03/14/2012

By Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General

I’m writing this from the train on my way home from Marseille where I accompanied IUCN’s global water team for the first two days of the 6th World Water Forum.

The Forum’s theme ‘Time for Solutions’ provided an excellent setting for IUCN’s key messages that nature is a solution for the water challenges faced by the world and that ‘natural infrastructure’ must be a key part of water management portfolios in all countries. We received a huge amount of positive feedback and these messages are finally becoming integrated into water discussions

IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre speaking on the opening day of the World Water Forum in Marseille, France.

I was one of the keynote speakers at an opening plenary, as well as a panelist in discussions on the contribution of the Forum to the Rio+20 conference. I also chaired the first of a series of technical sessions organized by IUCN, the Nature Conservancy and the Korea Water Resources Corporation on ‘The Green Growth Challenge: No Nature, No water, No Growth!’ Participating in a high level ministerial roundtable on the Water, Energy and Food Security relationship, I made the point that nature is the critical but missing fourth dimension of this equation.

I head back to Switzerland knowing that IUCN remains strongly represented at the Forum by an effective and respected water team from our headquarters and regional offices.

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Submitted by guest blogger on Tue,03/13/2012

By Jérôme Koundouno, IUCN West and Central Africa Regional Office

It’s my first time participating in a World Water Forum. And first time means discovering!

Jérôme Koundouno

This event in Marseille is a very good opportunity to meet people: experts, young professionals, old classmates, and also IUCN colleagues from other offices. We all work on the same topics and issues throughout the world even if we do not know physically each other: the World Water Forum makes it possible! That is great!

Meeting people means exchanges, and exchanges mean dialogue. And it works out nicely because IUCN is involved in dialogues with stakeholders in river basins to promote democratic and efficient management. Particularly in West Africa where IUCN-PACO (Central and West Africa Programme) with partners are working to better plan, build and manage large water infrastructure. Dialogue and involving all stakeholders, that is the best way to move forward…

Today I attended, among the others, the launch of the BRIDGE platform. Very promising. And tomorrow, we are planning a busy day on West African issues: a press conference in the morning to present the publication ‘Sharing water, sharing benefits’, and then in the afternoon a roundtable to share experiences on dam reservoir governance. Let’s see what happens…

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Submitted by guest blogger on Mon,03/12/2012

By Dr James Dalton of IUCN’s Water Programme.

The first day of the 6th World Water Forum is coming to a close. It’s been a day of chaos and confusion for many, as first days always are.

But this is promoted as the Forum of Solutions – and I look forward to hearing them and promoting nature as a solution to some of the world’s water problems throughout the week.

So far it has been good to catch up with people and I hope that it gets more ‘international’ as the week goes on. And that it becomes better organised as things progress!

IUCN’s Director General is now in the plenary and has some good things to say on natural solutions. I am biased but there is substance to these messages and new thinking – things that have been so far missing in the earlier plenary speeches.

Nature has some of the solutions – it’s time for people to listen! And that’s from an engineer! Now outside into the sunshine for some rays and a coffee with the team.

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