Hani Sewilam (left), the Egyptian Minister of Water Systems and Irrigation, having a discussion with Dr Elena Manaenkova. With them is the COP27 President, Sameh Shoukry
Hani Sewilam (left), the Egyptian Minister of Water Systems and Irrigation, having a discussion with Dr Elena Manaenkova. With them is the COP27 President, Sameh Shoukry

World leaders address water insecurity at COP27

World leaders at the ongoing United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP27) have taken a bold step towards addressing risks of water insecurity and water-related climate disasters.

This follows the launch of the Action on Water Adaptation or Resilience (AWARe), an initiative to champion inclusive cooperation to address water-related challenges across climate change adaptation.

The AWARe thrives on three-pronged priorities for action, one of which is to decrease water losses worldwide and improve water supply.

Additionally, the initiative thrives on implementing mutually agreed policies and methods for cooperative water-related adaptation action and its co-benefits.

It also promotes cooperation and inter-linkages between water and climate action in order to achieve Agenda 2030, in particular SDG 6 (improved water and sanitation).

The initiative, which was launched by the COP27 Presidency, in collaboration with the African Union (AU), the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW), among other stakeholders, aims at offering transitional adaptation solutions for the planet and the people.

Launch of initiative

The COP27 President, Sameh Shoukry, launched the initiative during the opening session of the conference’s thematic day for water, which fell last Monday. It was launched in partnership with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

The Egyptian Minister of Water Systems and Irrigation, Dr Hani Sewilam; the Deputy Director of the Department of Climate, Environment and Sustainable Development at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ayman Amin Tharwat, and the Deputy Secretary General of the WMO, Dr Elena Manaenkova, attended the event.

The focus on water at the COP27 brought together diverse voices from policy makers, scientists, researchers, civil society and government, who shared ideas and success stories related to addressing issues of water scarcity.

The Water Day also provided a forum to address the issue of water security, with a focus on sustainable water resource management.

Timely initiative

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas and that issues related to water are intrinsically linked to climate change.

Mr Shoukry said it was in that light that the AWARe initiative was launched to foster political efforts, practical action, knowledge sharing and field capacity development to place adaptive water management systems at the heart of the climate change adaptation agenda.

“Climate change is already limiting people’s access to water globally, as drought, floods and wildfires linked to warming temperatures impact supply. Monitoring and managing river basin ecosystems are becoming increasingly vital and initiatives such as AWARe will provide for transformational collaboration across the continent,” he said.

Water security

Dr Sewilam observed that the launch of the initiative was timely and a bold step towards tackling the global water crisis that was affecting billions of people.

He said the AWARe initiative was an opportunity for countries to leverage inclusive cooperation to address water as a key to climate change adaptation and its co-benefits, as well as enhanced resilience.

The Deputy Secretary General of World Meteorological Institute, Dr Elena Manaenkova, said the launch of the AWARe initiative was key to ensuring water security and addressing water-related climate disasters.

She said given that 74 per cent of all natural disasters were water related, it was important for more action to be taken to help communities sustainably manage the resource.

"We still need to do a lot more to help societies; we must have effective disaster management strategies that protect communities and limit climate-related hazards," she said.

More about AWARe

The AWARe initiative promotes measures to decouple economic growth from freshwater use and degradation, develop national utilisation plans, adaptation and mitigation strategies and protect and restore freshwater ecosystems; seek cooperative analysis of river basin scale adaptation and mitigation options and risk of mal-adaptation and support mutually agreed policy solutions to advance a ‘do-no-harm’ approach.

It seeks to support the promotion of sustainable waste-water management, sanitation policies and strategies and water-wise energy pathways.

Again, it will work to improve early warning systems for extreme weather events.

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