About the Author: Daniel Wilusz serves in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science Office of International Health and Biodefense.
My colleagues and I on State’s “water team” have been preparing for months. Finally, on Monday, my colleagues and I joined over 20,000 water professionals, 100 government ministers, and 10 heads of state from around the world in Istanbul, Turkey, for the Fifth World Water Forum, the largest water meeting in the world.
The World Water Council hosts the forum every three years, and it’s an infamously overwhelming and chaotic event. The complete program of events was a mystery until late last week, and the paint on the main conference center is still drying.
Yet it continues to be the place to see-and-be-seen in the global water sector, and delegates from over ten U.S. agencies have come to participate in hundreds of events. And I’m happy to report at the halfway point: it’s been surprisingly smooth sailing.
The amazing thing about the forum is that it offers something for everyone. From VIP lunches to highly technical presentations. From exhibition booths selling detergent to wandering consultants selling "water solutions." From a roundtable on water financing for ministers to round tables with water-themed crafts for children.
The U.S. delegation has brought something for everyone, too. From a course on earth mapping from NASA scientists to a training on dams from the Army Corps of Engineers. From a popular booth on the U.S. Geological Service to fact sheets on USAID’s water programs. From a launch event for a new water initiative to a presentation on risk management for drinking water.
The event has not been without controversy. The opening ceremony was briefly interrupted by protesters who unfurled a banner on the balcony saying “no more big dams," and some 300 demonstrators gathered outside the forum.
But by-in-large the forum seems to be meeting its goal to find solutions to achieve water security. Which is good news, especially for the more than two and a half billion people around the world still lacking access to drinking water or sanitation.
So let’s hope for three more successful days for the Fifth World Water Forum, and to quickly achieving a water secure world – one in which we won’t need more World Water Forums.
Editor's Note: Read Daniel's next entry from the World Water Forum.