Opening Plenary

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The Opening Plenary Session of the 2014 World Water Week will welcome its guests and inspire delegates to discuss issues related to the theme of Energy and Water and their inextricable links.
It will encourage the participants to reflect upon the importance of identifying and implementing solutions to meet the challenge of supplying sustainable energy to all without overexposing our limited water resources. It will also relate to the development of the Post 2015 agenda.


Introductory and welcome addresses will set the scene followed by keynote speeches and a panel discussion by global leaders.


The High Level Panel discussion is part of this concept. The panelists will be invited to discuss the challenges linked to the future global development agenda; waters crucial role therein and its potential as connector and enabler to other development challenges given its cross cutting nature.


Each panellist will be given a possibility for a short opening remark, after which, an interactive discussion amongst the panellists will take place, led by the moderator.

09:30  Entertainment 

09.35  Moderator’s Introduction
           Ms. Karin Lexén, Director World Water Week, International Processes and Prizes, Stockholm International Water Institute

09.40  Welcome Address
         Mr. Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, Stockholm International Water Institute

09.50  Official Opening Address
          Ms. Hillevi Engström, Minister of Development Cooperation, Sweden

10.00  Welcome to Stockholm
          Mr. Sten Nordin, Mayor of Stockholm

10.15  Statement from Liberia
          Mr. Bai Mass Taal, AMCOW

10.20  Laureate's Lecture
          Prof. John Briscoe 2014 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate Stockholm Water Prize


10.40  Entertainment


10.45   High Level Panel
        Moderator: Simon Maxwell, Executive Chair, Climate and Development Knowledge Network

  • Ms. Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister of Water and Santitation, South Africa
  • Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Sustainable Energy for All
  • Ms. Anita Marangoly George, Senior Director of the World Bank Global Energy Practice 
  • Dr. Junaid Ahmad, Senior Director of the World Bank Global Water Practise
  • Ms. Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General, IUCN
  • Ms. Héloise Chicou, French Water Partnership and Projection

12:25  Closing Remarks
           Ms. Karin Lexén, Director World Water Week, International Processes and Prizes, Stockholm International Water Institute

12.30 End of session

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Opening plenary summary

The opening plenary of the 2014 World Water Week had a rich and diverse programme. Ms. Karin Lexén, Director of World Water Week and Prizes, and Mr. Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of SIWI, set the scene for the Week by highlighting how critical this year’s theme is: billions of people lack access to safe drinking water, sanitation and energy while climate change and growing demands put extra pressure on the existing systems. Mr. Holmgren went on to highlight the features that are likely to permeate the discussions during the week: interconnections, asymmetry between sectors and the (lack of) efficiency in the use of resources. 


Despite the challenges, the Week is also a moment to celebrate. “We have managed through the Water Week, through the Africa Water Week, and through other initiatives to bring water to the top of the global agenda”, read the message to World Water Week from the illustrious President of Liberia H.E. Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The week happens at a strategic time, just in time to see the unfolding of the Post-2015 Agenda and the 21st Conference of the Parties on Climate in Paris. 


With a bold lecture, the Laureate of the 2014 Stockholm Water Prize Prof. John Briscoe crystalised 40 years of experience in the water sector: “Every solution to water is a local solution (…) every solution is a provisional solution”. His examples demonstrated the limitations of rigid plans distanced from practical action. Prof. Briscoe criticised discourses from wealthy nations that tell poor countries how to govern while discouraging the construction of infrastructure. “The independent middle income countries are finding their ways (…) and changing their reality”, thus challenging such discourses. 


A panel session, featuring several eminent figures and the participation of the public, presented an optimistic perception of the way ahead. Several important points were raised by the audience, such as the use of water in extractive industries, the issues with the integrity and resilience of the ecosystems, and the complexities of large scale infrastructure projects. Surprisingly, the debate that followed presented little controversy, despite the attempts of the moderator to heat up the conversation.


The panel participants provided interesting contributions to the theme. Ms. Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation, South Africa, highlighted the importance of water and sanitation for promoting social cohesion. Ms. Anita Marangoly George, Senior Director of the World Bank Global Energy Practice, believes that multipurpose infrastructure can be one of the solutions to find synergies to apparently competing demands, while Dr. Junaid Ahmad, Senior Director of the World Bank Global Water Practise stressed the need to institutions in parallel with infrastructure, in order to allow citizens to manage the trade-offs between different uses. 


Personally, I felt that the tone of this opening session was in contrast with the grave trends in question. I expect the sessions of this week to dig deeper into the most contentious aspects of the Nexus, particularly addressing the limits of planning and the potential hindrances and gridlocks that might arise from the entanglements of the energy and water systems.

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