[ Andean Regional Water Forum 2022] Towards better water governance: a vital resource for comprehensive and inclusive development in the region

Water, an inalienable and vital resource for life. The Andean region possesses a large amount of water, due particularly to the Andean mountains and moorlands (páramo), wonderful ecosystems that are sources of water. They produce over 80 per cent of the water consumed in the region, and are very vulnerable to the effects of climate change and human action, so it is vital for actions and measures to be implemented to protect and conserve them.

To address water management evolution, its current situation and projections for it in the region, the Andean Community (CAN) organised the Andean Regional Water Forum. The forum is a development of the Andean Environmental Charter, which is geared to promoting the sustainable, inclusive and respectful development of the environment in order to preserve and contribute to the present and future well-being of the citizens of the Andean region. The Charter was approved in 2020 by the member countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) to work together to address the effects of climate change and defend their vast biodiversity, identifying common factors and moving towards a roadmap for regional cooperation for the integrated management of water resources in the region (Central Theme No. 1 of the Andean Environmental Charter).

Jorge Hernando Pedraza, CAN Secretary General, stressed that the Andean Environmental Charter seeks to “strengthen the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, combat climate change, safeguard ecosystems and promote the rational use of biodiversity for the well-being of the planet”. He also highlighted the work of the CAN countries to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity, tackle the effects of climate change, promote the integrated management of water resources and help reduce the risk and impact of natural phenomena.

The Swiss Ambassador to Peru, Paul Garnier, said that it is a priority and a commitment for Switzerland to address climate change, and to implement and support initiatives for resilient development. “We welcome with great enthusiasm the decision of the Andean countries to establish the Andean Environmental Charter, and we are sure that this measure will be a standard raised to steer and scale public policy actions in addressing these major challenges, with a resource so strategic for life as water,” he said.

“Climate change has no borders, which is why the SDC’s development cooperation is committed to supporting programmes and projects that encourage solutions and opportunities for scaling up at regional and global level. One such project is Resilient Andes (Andes Resilientes), implemented by the Helvetas-Avina Foundation consortium in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, which promotes water and food security in the high Andean populations,” he concluded.

The Minister of the Environment, Wilbert Rozas, emphasised that “We are united in this forum and we share the ecosystems of moorland, mountains and the Amazon jungle, where the main sources of water and the rivers that form part of our geography rise”. He called on the CAN member countries to work together for the protection, conservation and proper management of the basins in border areas, in order to strengthen water security and improve the quality of life of the population.

He was followed by Eduardo Toromayo, Vice-Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation of the Bolivian Ministry of Environment and Water, who reaffirmed his government’s commitment to continue fostering coordination on IWRM with the four CAN countries, emphasising the transboundary basin with Peru (Lake Titicaca) and the actions in Bolivia’s National Water Resources Plan. He mentioned initiatives implemented, like the competition “Sowing water: Voices of water for life”, for school children.

Oscar Rojas Bustamante, Deputy-Minister of Water of Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, stated that Ecuador’s government has defined three fundamental challenges for contributing to the country’s development of its water resources: i) strengthening the institutional framework for water management; ii) fostering public-private and community participation in all management processes; iii) protecting, recovering and conserving natural sources.

Finally, Fabián Caicedo, director of integrated water resource management of Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, who attended on-line, indicated that integrated water resource management is a fundamental theme for Colombia, and that the biocultural perspective is key to inclusive management which takes the communities into account, guaranteeing their water and food security.

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© Fotos: Oficina General de Comunicaciones – MVCS

About the Forum

On the first day of the conference, ECLAC and the Stockholm Environment Institute gave the keynote speeches “Overview of water resources in Latin America and the Caribbean, and a proposal for a sustainable and inclusive water transition”, and “Challenges and opportunities for planning in Andean basins from the perspective of experiences in Andean countries”. There was also a panel for government presentations, and an opportunity for dialogue, when representatives of the Municipalities Cluster of Valle Alto (Bolivia), Guardians of the Atrato River (Colombia), Canton Guaranda (Ecuador) and the Cusco Regional Government shared their experiences with integrated water resources management in their areas.

On the second day, representatives from the academic sector spoke on “Progress and prospects in data generation, research and knowledge management for IWRM” at the panel “Dialogue panel of experts from the academic sector”. Speakers included Nicole Bernex, (Pontificia Universidad Católica, Peru); Nelson Sanabria (Universidad Mayor de San Simón de Cochabamba, Bolivia); Nelson Obregón (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Colombia), and Gabriela Villamagua (Universidad de Cuenca, Ecuador).

At the end of the day, local stakeholders from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru presented experiences with integrated water resources management (IWRM) in their areas. This was an opportunity to identify common challenges faced across the Andean region and to develop a roadmap for an Andean regional agenda for cooperation in IWRM.

The event was held in Lima, 27 – 28 October, with the support of the regional project Andes Resilient to Climate Change and facilitated by the HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation (Avina Foundation) consortium and the Bolivian Comprehensive Water Management project, both of which are technically and financially supported by Swiss Cooperation (SDC). It had a hybrid format (face-to-face and on-line) and was live-streamed, enabling over 2,000 people to follow the presentations and activities.

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