Despite the difficult new reality that GWP Partners face due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the discussion in the Network Meeting was generally positive when looking to the future. Many Partners shared experiences on how new opportunities have emerged as a result of the pandemic. One example was the virtual meetings (such as the Network Meeting itself) which enables greater inclusion in discussions and deeper interregional collaboration. Also, the speed at which everyone has managed to adapt to a virtual world has been encouraging:
“This shows that people have the capability of adapting very quickly to changes – something that is very much needed in our battle against climate change,” said GWP Caribbean Chair Trevor Thompson who is also the GWP Chair of Regional Chairs.
In an introductory interview, GWP Chair Howard Bamsey said that the GWP network has managed to adapt effectively to the new circumstances thanks to modern technology, and that in some respects “we can actually be more productive than we were before.”
But he also stressed the importance of maintaining relationships developed in previous years through in-person meetings: “We have to put a lot of emphasis on keeping the momentum that those relationships have created.” This is especially important when it comes to third party meetings and big international meetings that go beyond the water sector, he said, because these relationships are more challenging to maintain.
“There is no other organisation in the world that has this reach in the water sector – and probably very few in other sectors. We can offer something that the water sector generally lacks, and that is a coherent view and vision of where we want to go. GWP can be a node for coherence, for building coherence in the water sector. I’m hopeful that in the next 12 months, before our next Network Meeting, Partners will see the appearance of greater coherence within the water sector,” said Bamsey.
The annual GWP Network Meeting is an important step in making this happen because the discussions that take place are part of what guide GWP’s work in the coming year, said GWP Interim Executive Secretary Peter Repinski, who also acknowledged the difficult situation that all Partners live in at the moment. Repinski expressed GWP's sympathy and solidarity with all who are struggling:
“This is why we wanted to make this a big virtual event, so that as many of you as possible could be part of it. We are adjusting our business, we are taking things virtual, and we are finding innovative pathways to delivery. And we are at the point in the year now where we think through what we have learned from this year, and how we can build that into the work programme for next year.”
This year, the Network Meeting was designed in a continental format, which started with an Opening Plenary, followed by three continental sessions – Latin America & Caribbean (LAC), Eurasia (these sessions were not broadcast live), and Africa & Mediterranean – ending with a Closing Session.
Each continental session consisted of a customised inter-regional segment. The LAC region discussed the three anchor areas of GWP’s new Strategy – climate resilience through water, water solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and transboundary water cooperation. The Eurasia region focused on building optimal mechanisms to engage partners through the partnership platform, and effective inter-regional partners collaboration, and finally, the Africa & Mediterranean session focused on how to transform and improve the investment outlook for water security and sustainable sanitation.
For the global segment, the same question was discussed in each session: The Covid-19 crisis impacts water resources management today and will likely have long-lasting impacts due to the socio-economic crisis and shifting political priorities. As water actors, how do you adapt your work to continue bringing change to achieve water security? Can we identify ‘success factors’ to make change happen in this new environment?
Visual summaries of each session were created in real-time to capture the essence of the interactions – these were available immediately following each session: Opening Plenary, Latin America & Caribbean, Eurasia, Africa & Mediterranean, Closing Session.
Among the many highlights of the meeting was the announcement of 12 Water ChangeMaker finalists, which was carried out by former GWP Chair Oyun Sanjaasuren. She is now Director of External Affairs for the Green Climate Fund and also the Chair of the Stage Two Water ChangeMaker Thought Leaders’ Jury. She acknowledged that the jury process had been a challenge, due to the high quality of the many submissions: “The change journeys were all very motivational, and also transmitted hope.”
The winner of the Water ChangeMaker Awards will be announced in January 2021.
In the Africa & Mediterranean session, His Excellency President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, former President of the Republic of Tanzania and current GWP Southern Africa and Africa Coordination Unit Board Chairman, delivered a keynote address on how to transform and improve the investment outlook for water security and sustainable sanitation in Africa.
He said that despite the many challenges that Covid-19 has brought about, “the resourceful will always find opportunities in challenges, and Africa is home to the resourceful. Covid-19 has put a spotlight on water and sanitation, and this is an opportunity for GWP and Partners to mobilise action on water investments.”