Crystal Drop awarded to Dr Salman M.A. Salman at the 16th World Water Congress of the International Water Resources Association, Cancun, Mexico, 1 June, 2017 Acceptance and Keynote Address
Thank you very much Ben, thank you Jim and Patrick
Good afternoon water colleagues and friends
I am deeply humbled by my selection as the co-recipient of the Crystal Drop Award 2017. It is indeed a great honor being a member since 1994 of the International Water Resources Association – the premier, global, inclusive think tank that encompasses all the disciplines and experts around the world working on water resources.
Thus, it is particularly rewarding and gratifying that this distinguished community of experts has recognized my work on water law and policy, and on the urgent need for cooperation on shared watercourses. This is a mission I have embarked on some decades ago at my hometown, Khartoum, at the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile in the Sudan.
It is also a special privilege to share this Award with my friend Cecilia Tortajada. She was the first, and thus far, the only female president of the Association. I had the opportunity of working as a director under her presidency in 2007 – 2009, and had witnessed her hard work and dedication to strengthen and advance our Association.
To my colleagues and friends in the legal arena of water resources, I would like to reiterate that this Award is really ours together. It is a timely reconfirmation of the vital role that national and international law can, and indeed, should play in the management, sharing, and protection of water resources.
Allow me fellow water colleagues and friends, after this acceptance speech of the Crystal Drop Award, to deliver a short address on the role and contribution of our International Water Resources Association on the on-going debate on the challenges facing water resources.
We have now been in Cancun together for almost a week, for our sixteenth Congress, debating and brainstorming on the tremendous challenges facing the planet’s most scarce and precious resource. Hence, I thought I would use my remaining time for a quick overview of how the road to this week’s Congress has been paved, and to bring to light the great efforts that have helped in expanding and strengthening our contribution to water resources management.
The efforts of the Association in this connection are almost half a century old, and can be traced to the seventies of last century. During all these years the Association’s role in the debate has been immense and substantive, its voice loud and audible, and its publications, recommendations and actions have contributed considerably to the successes that have since been achieved in the water sector. Indeed, one can safely contend that the Congresses, debate, and actions of the Association had preceded in earnest, and influenced, all the other global efforts in this field.
The idea of establishing a water institution encompassing all the disciplines working on water resources, and open to all the experts around the world, was debated in the sixties of the last century during the meetings of the American Water Resources Association. However, it was in May 1970 that the first steps were taken for putting this idea into effect. Eighteen months later the preparatory work was completed, and the International Water Resources Association was officially formed and registered, and was legally incorporated in the State of Wisconsin in the USA on 29 November 1971.
On April 1, 1972, Mr. Ven Te Chow, Professor of Hydraulic Engineering at the University of Illinois, was elected as the first President of the Association. The business office was opened in that month in Falls Church, Virginia, with 195 members, representing the major disciplines working on water resources, from more than 40 countries. Thus, the Association was born, hitting the ground running.
The first Association’s World Water Congress was held a year and half later, on September 24 – 28, 1973, in Chicago, Illinois. Indeed, the event marked the birth of the Association, with an impressive attendance of more than 200 experts, representing the major disciplines concerned with water resources, from 62 countries. The theme of the Congress was “Importance and Problems of Water in the Human Environment in Modern Times.” That Congress can accurately be called the first world water forum, and the official launching of our Association as a multi-disciplinary global water institution. The conclusions and resolutions of the first Congress included two important aspects, namely:
One: The need to develop a significant new international and interdisciplinary approach on water resources.
Two: Many common problems exist among nations and water users which can best be solved though a cooperative and coordinated approach.
Thus, the Association was, in 1973, clearly ahead of its time and other institutions. Aren’t these issues still the focus of our discussion, even this weeks in Cancun? Aren’t we still debating multi-disciplinary approaches, integrated water resources management, and the need for cooperation at both the national and international levels for addressing the challenges of management, sharing and protection of water resources?
The year 1975 witnessed two major and significant developments. In July 1975, the first issue of our flag journal – Water International – was published as the first periodical devoted exclusively to water resources management, with articles addressing the multi-disciplinary approach, by experts in all fields of water resources.
The second development was the holding of the Association second Congress in New Delhi, India, in December 1975. The Congress was organized under the theme “Water and Human Needs.” It was attended by more than 1,200 participants from 45 countries, who presented and discussed more than 260 rich multi-disciplinary papers.
The second Congress was hosted by, and co-organized with the Association by the Central Board for Irrigation and Power in New Delhi. This approach set in motion the precedent of hosting of the Congress by the national water institutions, with the assistance and guidance of the Association – a practice we have seen even this week in Mexico, with the organization of ANEAS in Cancun of the 16th Congress. It is worth mentioning that Mexico also hosted the third Congress that was organized thirty-eight years ago, in April 1979 in Mexico City. The theme of that Congress was “Water for Human Survival.” About 1,500 participants from 80 countries attended and presented more than 500 papers. These are impressive numbers, interestingly, almost similar to the numbers we are having this week in Cancun.
The multi-disciplinary nature of the Association was proven to the letter when the members of the Association elected Guillermo Cano as the second president in 1979 for the period 1980 to 1982. The more than one hundred legal colleagues who are here this week for the 16th Congress will be pleasantly surprised to learn that the second president of the Association, almost forty years ago, was a lawyer, and not an engineer or a hydrologist. The Association confirmed beyond doubt its multi-disciplinary character.
The role and influence of the Association on other concurrent and parallel events in the water sector have also been quite prominent from the early days. Soon after the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was established in 1972, an invitation was extended to some members of the Association to help with UNEP water programme. Dr. Chow and Dr. Biswas assisted UNEP in that task, and were able to include much of the Association’s philosophy in UNEP water policies and program.
In fact, it was the influence and push of the Association that led the United Nations to hold the first ever conference exclusively devoted to water resources – the Mar del Plata Conference in Argentina in 1977. The secretariat of the Mar del Plata Conference included a number of Association’s members, and the Association contributed considerably to the stounding success of that conference, and its resolutions and action plans.
It was also the Association’s eighth Congress in Cairo in 1994 that paved the way for the establishment of the World Water Council, and later the Global Water Partnership. Henceforth, the mobilization of action on critical water issues at all levels would be undertaken by the World Water Council; the coordination aspects by the Global Water Partnership; leaving the Association to concentrate, as a think tank, on the intellectual aspects of water resources management. The World Water Forums organized by the World Water Council every three years would complement, rather than compete with the Association’s triannual Congress. Some past presidents of the Association would assume the presidency of the World Water Council, and vice versa, and this has helped in transplanting of their unique experience, and in the coordination of the respective activities.
I can continue for the rest of this afternoon talking about the tremendous influence and contribution of our Association. However, I need to stop here, and conclude with the reminder that despite the successes we have achieved, existing challenges to water resources are multiplying and mounting, and new ones are surfacing every day. We need to remain relevant and effective. However, we can only do so by redoubling our efforts, and by continuing to be innovative, proactive, adaptive, and responsive.
Thank You Very Much.