Report of attendance at 13th Meeting of the OECD Water Governance Initiative (WGI), Paris, 9-10 January 2020

The AIDA chair Stefano Burchi, in his capacity as WCEL Water & Wetlands Specialist Group chair, participated in the 13th meeting of the OECD Water Governance Initiative (WGI) held at OECD Headquarters in Paris, 9-10 January 2020. In particular, in his capacity as WCEL representative, Mr. Burchi was afforded the opportunity to present to the varied WGI membership in attendance the Brasilia Declaration of Judges on Water Justice, developed at the initiative of WCEL and adopted at the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia, on 21 March 2018. Approximately seventy WGI members were in attendance, including few lawyers. The meeting agenda featured short presentations clustered around discrete blocks – notably, among others:

  • WGI contributions to global agendas
  • Water governance in African cities
  • Water governance in Asia
  • The National Water Governance Policy Dialogue ongoing in Peru
  • Governing and financing water infrastructure in Brazil
  • Water governance for indigenous peoples
  • Key research and analysis on water governance
  • Advancing WGI Working Group on Indicators
  • Advancing WGI Working Group on capacity development.

The agenda also accommodated debates, which invariably followed the presentations, and proved quite lively at times with the composite WGI membership in attendance contributing a variety of viewpoints from very diverse perspectives. In particular, this reporter at a number of junctures took the floor to remind the participants of the critical role that the law in general, and water law in particular, play in the governance of water resources. This particular point merited emphasizing time and again in the course of the debates, also to clarify the confusion – embedded in part in the OECD Water Governance Principles, developed by WGI and officially adopted by OECD in May 2015 – between the governance of water resources and the governance of water services – i.e., drinking water and sanitation – provision. The agenda of the “Key research and analysis on water governance” block featured, among others, a presentation by this reporter on the Brasilia Declaration of Judges on Water Justice In his short presentation, this reporter illustrated the thrust, purpose and scope of the Declaration against the backdrop of the critical role that the Judiciary plays in the water governance spectrum, and enunciated the ten Principles that are at the front and center of the Declaration.

The following information provided to participants by the OECD secretariat is also worthy of note:

  • a WGI report on (the impact of) the OECD Water Governance Principles is in preparation, for release by the end of the year 2020
  • at the insistence of the host Saudi Arabia, a water track will feature on the agenda of the next G20 meeting scheduled in Riyadh in the course of the year – with two papers in preparation, one of which by FAO. As a result, water’s profile is destined to be propelled front and center of the G20 agenda and participating countries.

In view of the 9th World Water Forum (Dakar, Senegal, March 2021) looming large ahead of WGI, it was decided to convene two more WGI meetings in the course of the year, tentatively in June and November 2020, respectively, at venues to be defined. It was felt that two meetings were necessary to accommodate the preparation of WGI’s contribution to the Forum – that is yet to be defined however.