World Water Day 2011 Focuses on the Urban Challenge

22 March 2011: World Water Day 2011 (WWD 2011) convened in Cape Town, South Africa, on 22 March 2011, under the theme “Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge.” Participants gathered to hear addresses from dignitaries such as His Royal Highness, Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange, Chair of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, South Africa, and Joan Clos, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).

In the opening session, Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, South Africa, emphasized the need for adaptation, solutions and technologies in the face of climate change and associated water scarcity. Bert Diphoorn, UN-HABITAT, provided an overview of the programme preceding WWD 2011. He highlighted five issues to be addressed: urbanization; urban water and waste management; environment and climate change; leadership and governance in the water sector; and investment.

Following keynote speeches, participants engaged in panel discussions on water and sanitation infrastructure in Africa and the role of local government in bridging the water and sanitation gap. Interspersed with performances from local musicians, participants were presented with key facts including that the urban population grows by two people every second and 27% of the urban population in the developing world does not have piped water in their house. With these issues at the fore, discussions focused on where the gaps lay and how best to solve these problems through: urban planning; public-private partnerships; using the expertise of local governments for effective implementation; and the necessity of adequate funding and political will.

During the panel on "Water and Cities," panelists highlighted the importance of: innovation; political will and technical skill at the local level; reusing water to create resilience to climate change; innovative financing; awareness and the role of the media; maximizing benefits from water; and celebrating successes. [IISD RS Coverage of 2011 World Water Day Celebration] [UN Secretary-General Ban's Message]