GWP 25 Anniversary Interviews - GWP People

To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of GWP's existence, we decided to interview 25 of our most renowned people and their relation to GWP CEE. In this article, we focused on GWP personnel.

In our last interview, we gave an opportunity to our GWP colleagues. We interviewed the GWP CEE secretariat specialists, as well as our CWP partners. Again, we put all the answers together to produce the final results.

It was interesting to see how different groups perceive the actions of GWP throughout history of it's existence. But this is not the end. The GWP CEE secretariat plans to learn from these interviews and adjust its strategy in order to better reflect the needs of the region and the needs of water and climate.

In this part, we asked the same questions as before to Ms. Anna Smetanova, GWP CEE Program Manager, Mrs. Galia Bardarska, Chair of GWP Bulgaria, and Mrs. Monika Jetzin, member of GWP Hungary. We want to thank to all interviewees for their time and valuable insight. You all are GWP and with our combined effort, we will ensure the water secure future!


About the vision and added value of GWP partnership. 

  1. How long have you been a member of GWP network? 

    I've been a member from the beginning of GWP CEE establishment, says Mrs. Bardarska. I remember the first invitation at GWP annual meeting in Technical University of Warsaw, Poland. Representatives of 10 former socialist countries which later joined the EU attended. Thanks to prof. Janos Kindler the new GWP CEE has been established. As a new region the GWP president Prince of Orange Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands supported us very much.

    Mrs. Jetzin joined GWP Hungary more than twenty years ago and has been a member since. Ms. Smetanova is the freshest member interviewed, as she joined the CEE secretariat team one year ago

  2. In what way do you see GWP as a valuable partner, capable of making change?

    Mrs. Bardarska says that GWP helped our region in implementation of the UN and EC strategies and directives. Ms. Smetanova perceives GWP as a network organisation. Its value is the multiplication of individual capacity, agility and influence of each member and the strength and efficiency of connections among the members, and among members and their partners.  Connection and cooperation is not a promotional slogan, it is the very reality of the daily network life. This makes GWP very powerful organisation, with sphere of influence across scales, organisation levels, and sectors of life, which enables and supports each member to be the influential leader of change.

  3. What do you think is the most valuable thing/biggest achievement GWP has delivered so far? 

    The GWP concept for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) was disseminated and became a main part of Water Law and other water regulations in Bulgaria, says Mrs. Bardarska. On the other hand, Ms. Smetanova is not very fond of the superlatives, recognizing the best, biggest, greatest…Each individual change supporting water secure world adjusted appropriately within the context of the complex socio-ecological changes we are living in, is valuable. The reality of complex adaptive socio-ecological systems teaches us, that there are important system components, which are changing slowly, and system components changing rapidly. We should not forget to acknowledge the progress of slow, long-term processes, and the impact of small-scale changes. Each effort taken is valuable. Thank you for doing that! 

  4. What is an interesting story that you were part of, related to GWP? 

    I've experienced many interesting stories, says Mrs. Bardarska, but most valuable for me is the GWP CEE organisation of Danube Day at Expo 2008  in Zaragoza, Spain, with the theme of "Water and Sustainable Development".  

    Again, you ask me to pick one flower from the flowering meadow of activities we as a network do, stated Ms. Smetanova. If I take it out from the ground and plant into a pot it would probably not survive long. What I mean by this – GWP does a great range of activities in different places, and each of them is interesting for those involved in and impacted by them. But what is also interesting is also the “meadow” of our activities as such. How are they connected? How they support and nurture each other? How they grow to something beautiful together? This is interesting on GWP! Really interesting!

  5. How do you see GWP developing in the upcoming years? 

    In the light of current situation, Mrs. Bardarska has positive views on the near future. Much more partners to join the GWP CEE network and more common international initiatives with other GWP regions. 

    Same stance is being taken by Ms. Smetanova. I see it positive! Rising willingness to revert environmental emergency impacting all sectors of life is a positive premise for acceleration of network action. Those longer involved might be discouraged by the fact it has been almost 30 years from Dublin/Rio declaration urging for action. The important here is to acknowledge that it is exactly those actions of members and the network in last 25 years, on which we can build upon today, for immediate action and involvement in change. The common experience of network cooperation within the changing socio-economic conditions and environments has provided us tools, knowledge, and communication culture which represent the change society is more broadly striving for nowadays. This is a great advantage, and we can share our experience with others.

About the Green Recovery Position Paper.

  1. Do you consider such position papers as a useful material for the purposes of your network? Could something else be used instead?

    Mrs. Bardarska is certain that a special position paper on Green recovery is needed for coal-fired power countries. The closure of thermal power plants will increase the number of unemployed people in this industry.

    As longtime environmental specialist, Ms. Smetanova says that position papers are important for the network purposes, and their implementation should be combined with other types of strategical action.

  2. How do you see the topics that GWP CEE works on (e.g., Drought, Floodplains, Natural Small Water Retention Measures, Youth engagement)? Which hot topics in the water management should GWP CEE focus on? 

    Swiftly answered, all these topics are hot for GWP CEE countries, says Mrs. Bardarska.

    Far more complex answer came from Ms. Smetanova. Especially with the thought that this is a multi-aspect question! What can help us to navigate through its complexity towards an answer is to reflect on: “What is the change I (you, we) as GWP member(s) and a citizen envisage for the world around us?” “How we want the world to look like…, feel like, function like?” “What we need and what the others need?” And mostly: “How I (you, we) can contribute to this change to happen? After answering this, we can look on our knowledge, skills, capacities, communication habits. These help us to define the areas of action (or as you say, a topic) in we which can use our skills and take an action. And define pathways how to achieve the change we strive for within the area of action. Using our best skills and involving others with complementary skills interested in the same change. This is what partnership is about, and the advantage of being GWP partner – having the option to work and develop areas of action, which each individual feels important to be. 

About transboundary initiatives.
This set of transboundary initiatives answers came only from Mrs. Bardarska, as others didn't feel it relevant to answer, due to their specialization or work focus.

  1. What transboundary initiatives would you like your network to participate in? 

    Participation at transboundary water conferences and meetings face to face.

  2. What kind of transboundary initiatives should GWP CEE focus on in the future? 

    Looking for donors support about evaluation of transboundary initiatives: meetings, sites visits, exchange of knowledge etc.

About youth focused work.

  1. In your opinion, which youth initiative that GWP CEE does is the most influential (e.g., DAM, youth-oriented symposiums, summer school...) and why? 

    Just like Mrs. Bardarska, many people from GWP CEE network agree that Danube Art Master initiative is a perfect example. However, it is only for people up to 18 years old. There is youth more older (students and workers) who have very interesting ideas for DAM, says Mrs. Bardarska.

  2. Is there a youth network in your country that already benefited from GWP CEE youth-oriented activities? 

    There is at leas one, says Mrs. Bardarska. It's the youth section at Bulgarian Water Association – GWP partner. Several students attended summer schools organized by GWP CEE. 

  3. How do you see the role of youth in the current water management? 

    Very difficult in Bulgaria, answered Mrs. Bardarska. Many of young professional experts emigrated to EU countries. There is a lack of water experts in water companies and municipal administration.

    Ms. Smetanova started with a common definition, defining early career as person under 35year of age. Just ensure, which group I will speak about.

    In the recent decades, in fact unprecedently for human history, we are considering people in their active age unprepared to act and take responsibility in their job. The current life expectancy for both sexes range between 72 to 82 years in CEE region, meaning being 35 years old I do have half of my life behind. The consequences of not taking early careers into decisions, is twofold. Firstly, the viewpoint of young age, the motivation and capacity to pursue the aims, are being lost. Secondly, by not involving them into decision early enough, we teach the whole generation of adults to non-action, not taking responsibility half of their life. Why we then expect they would suddenly change attitudes, know how to take responsibility, and make best decisions, when they reach age of 40?

    One apologetic phrase exists in almost all languages, saying “the children, the youth will change the world, improve the bad situation we are in”. I am sceptical towards it could happen in current world, where the environmental conditions change unprecedently, and the Paris Agreement threshold of 1.5°C would be reached in 16-18 years from now. In the time, when current 18 years old would be about to finish their early career stage. By then, it will be too late to some of the decisions which still might be done now.

    Why am I mentioning it? Climate/environment change adaptation in water management need urgent, immediate action. It can be only achieved, if all career stages would part of the solution, exchange their knowledge, capitalize on their different attitudes, learn from each other, and explore how to make decisions and take responsibility together. So, I prefer to work on inter-generation cooperation in water management, shared responsibility and learning rather than on involvement of youth without changing the game rules.

We would also like to add a special interview answer from Monika Jetzin, GWP Hungary, who shared her views on her journey with GWP.

What does GWP mean to me?

First of all friendships. Not only local or regional but from all over the world. Experience and learning. Experience in dealing with several issues and learning how others are working for the same goal I am working for. Belonging to a community (family).  It was important for me to see those who are the same as me, and those who are different, as all being part of the same community.

GWP is not only the people, places, and experiences that we have in common. It is also the gaps between and within those commonalities. Everyone is not the same, but we are often working towards the same goals and have the same needs. And, this is what makes GWP so complex and beautiful.

After the first Council Meeting I was participating in (Spring 2000) I asked our coordinator from Stockholm why we spend money for meetings, printed materials, travel and so on instead of taking these amount and giving to places where access to water is limited or not existing at all.

I was told that our work is supposed to have results on long term that our aim is to improve lives of many people around the world and even more important – change mentalities, ways of thinking and encourage acting.

Twenty one years passed since then and it took me some time to realize that she was right. If the changes are only those I am aware about our work had and still has sense.

I am proud and grateful for being part of this even as a grain of dust.