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Myanmar Hosts Third Asia-Pacific Water Summit

Myanmar hosted the 3rd Asia-Pacific Water Summit (APWS) from December 11 to 12 at Sedona Hotel in Yangon, jointly organised with the Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF).

The summit was held under the overarching theme of ‘Water Security for Sustainable Development’ in pursuit of the SDGs (sustainable development goals) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015. It was the first time Myanmar hosted the APWS.

The APWS is a summit-level conference for top government leaders in the region, focusing on water issues and sustainable development, being organised by the Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF) and a host country government. The APWF is an independent and not-forprofit network organisation. The forum was established by calling for creation of such network at the 4th World Water Forum held in 2006 and has devoted since then to identify and adopt solutions to water-related issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi attended the 3rd APWS to deliver an opening speech during which she said that the event was an excellent opportunity for all stakeholders to exchange views and ideas on the topic of Water Security for Sustainable Development. Through her speech, Aung San Suu Kyi invited the conference representatives to share professional advice and experience on deployment of water resources, hoping to reach better cooperation between the summit partners.

Vice President Henry Van Thio was also among the attendees along with union  ministers of Myanmar, heads of states and governments and ministerial-level dignitaries from countries in the AsiaPacific region, high-level delegates from international organisations and experts in the field of water.

The Asia-Pacific is a region where some of the poorest countries in the world situate and nearly 80 per cent of water resources deployment in the region is for agriculture, according to Aung San Suu Kyi.

“If we go for mitigation of negative impacts of water resources in tandem with promotion of positive ones, there come two commitments. The first is to create a water resources-based economic environment and the latter is to invest in natural disaster prevention,” she said.

Myanmar, where agriculture shares more than 21 per cent of water resources deployment, possesses plenty of water resources and has a potential for sufficient generation of hydropower, Aung San Suu Kyi said. But the country is short in water resources security and has many problems, making lack of access to sufficient water where and when it is needed. It can be attributed to unequal rainfall, climate change and other changes in water resources, she continued.

Baron Waga, President of Nauru, and Yoshinori Imai, President of the APWF, also gave opening speeches at the first day of the 3rd Asia-Pacific Water Summit.

The summit was held to pursue two objectives of setting out a course for the sustainable development of the Asia-Pacific region with a perspective on water, and providing and sharing concrete actions, solutions, innovation towards trans-boundary and multipartnership cooperation for integrated water resources management, waterbased economy and implementation of globally agreed agendas.

The two-day conference was divided into ten sessions as follows: (1) R e v i v i n g H y d r o l o g i c a l C y c l e s : Rainwater Harvesting and Sustainable Groundwater Management, (2) Governance of Sustainable Urban Water Supply, (3) Better Governance: Inclusive Approach through good practices on water governance, (4) Water and Disasters in the context of Climate Change: From the Mountains and the Islands, (5) Water, Energy, Food and Ecosystems, (6) Improving Sanitation and Wastewater Management, (7) Roles of Women and Youth in Water Security and SDGs, (8) Financing the Implementation of the Water-Related SDGs, (9) Working Together: MultiStakeholders Partnership for Regional Cooperation, and (10) Source-to-Sea Opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region. A total of 49 countries and regions took part in the 3rd APWS. Those are the countries according the criteria of the Asia-Pacific region in the preparatory process of the 4th World Water Forum; namely Afghanistan, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Korea (Republic of Korea), Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Niue, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, East Timor, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tulva, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

The first-time APWS was held in Oita Prefecture, Japan from December 3 to 4 in 2007 under the theme of ‘Water Security: Leadership and Commitment’. The conference released the ‘Message from Beppu’ declaration to accelerate the attainment of universal access to safe water and sanitation by 2050 beyond the MDGs (millennium development goals). The 2nd summit took place in Chiang Mai, Thailand from May 19 to 20 in 2013 under the theme of ‘Water Security and Water-related Disaster Challenges, Leadership and Commitment’. It published ‘Chiang Mai Declaration’ to express the strong will in addressing solutions to water supply and sanitation issues as well as disaster risk reduction, by cooperating them into the SDGs. The 3rd summit in Yangon resulted in ‘Yangon Declaration: The Pathway Forward’.

A broader World Water Forum takes place every three years, and it is hosted by the World Water Council, an international think-tank founded in 1996 comprising UN organisations and intergovernmental organisations, the private sector representing construction, engineering and manufacturing fields, governments and ministries, academic institutions, international organisations, local governments, and civil society organisations. The council currently has 341 members as of March 2017.

The very first World Water Forum took place in Morocco in 1997 convened under the topic of ‘Vision for Water, Life and the Environment’. Although the first convention of the forum was attended by only 500 representatives, the number of attendees rocketed at the 2nd World Water Forum that attracted a total of 39,100 event-goers. It took place in The Hague, Netherlands.

The previous World Water Forum was held in Daegu, South Korea in 2015 as the 7th edition event under the theme of ‘Water for Our Future’, hosting a total number of around 30,000 attendees. The upcoming forum will be hosted by Brazilian government in Brasilia in 2018, to be convened under the theme of ‘Sharing Water’.