Hearing the Unheard: Simavi's focus during the 10th World Water Forum

Article: 07.05.24, Amsterdam

The 10th World Water Forum will take place from May 18-25 in Bali, Indonesia. But will the voices of the ones most affected by the water crisis be heard, wonders Sandra van Soelen from Simavi.

Jackline and Sitat fetch water in Kijado County, Kenya. Photo: Jeroen van Loon

The World Water Forum is the largest international gathering in the water sector, held every three years. Over the years, the number of people participating in the Forum has grown from a few hundred to tens of thousands.

According to the organisation the World Water Forum is bringing together “the heads of state, the heads of international organizations, high level government officials, experts, scholars, entrepreneurs and economists from all over the world to share their knowledges, experiences, and practices regarding a wide range of topics related to water”. 

Systematically left behind

Painfully, the people most affected by the ongoing water crisis are not mentioned in this list. An indication that those systematically left behind are also at risk being left behind at the World Water Forum. Once again, marginalised and disadvantaged groups – who are most affected by the lack of water and sanitation – will not have a seat at the table, despite having a wealth of knowledge about how best to address their own issues. They are excluded by the cost of travelling, the difficulties in getting visas, or by the simple fact that they were not invited.

Sandra van Soelen Projects Lead Simavi
'How do the voices of the waterless get to be heard at the World Water Forum?'

This is even more painful since an important goal of the World Water Forum is accountability. The Dutch Water Envoy, Meike van Ginneken, as the head of the Dutch delegation, will explicitly focus on the follow-up on the commitments made at the UN Water Conference in March 2023.

But how can processes be accountable when the very people that they will affect are not at the table? How can the World Water Forum enable both ‘duty-bearers’ to meet their obligations, and ‘rights-holders’ to claim their rights when the rights holders cannot be present? How then do the voices of the waterless get to be heard at the World Water Forum? How do grassroots groups become part of the conversation?

Leaving no one behind

Leaving no one behind is a commitment to eliminate poverty, reduce inequalities and eradicate discrimination by prioritising the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society. This entails strengthening the participatory processes and recognising that marginalised communities and right holders are key actors in water and sanitation service delivery, not ‘beneficiaries’. It also means strengthening accountability mechanisms and supporting community involvement in the management of water and sanitation services.

It all starts with hearing the unheard.

Sandra van Soelen, Projects Lead Simavi

Simavi’s participation at the 10th World Water Forum

During the 10th World Water Week, Simavi will focus on the importance of #LeaveNoOneBehind in the water sector, in ensuring water for shared prosperity. We will share voices and experiences from our programmes in Africa and Asia and advocate for more inclusion in future international conferences.

4CC1. Hearing the Unheard: Water Justice for Humans and Nature

Wednesday 22 May – 13:00 – 14:30, BICC, 1st floor, Nusantara 1

Speaker: Sandra van Soelen

T2C1: Policies and approaches to implement the human right to safe water for the most vulnerable

Wednesday 22 May – 16:40 – 18:10, BICC, 1st floor, Jakarta A-B

Speaker: Sabiha Siddique

CC4. Securing the Stream: Transformative and Participatory Financing for Water and Sanitation

Thursday 23 May – 8:30 – 10:00, BNDCC 1, Mezzanine Floor, Kintamani 1

Speaker: Sabiha Siddique

Leave no one behind: best practices from the WASH SDG programme

Friday 24 May – 9:00 – 10:00, Netherlands Pavilion

Speakers: Sandra van Soelen and Sabiha Siddique

Esther Oeganda

Everbody has the human right to safe water and sanitation.

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