By Tom Williams*
In 1999 Argentina was one year into a recession, which would develop into the ‘Argentine great depression’ that ended in 2002. The subsequent years bought further political, economic and social instability. Buenos Aries, as the capital and most populous city in the country, was impacted during these uncertain times, affecting its socio-economic development. 1999 was the last time IWA (in the form of one of the parent organisations, IWSA) organised a major international event in Argentina: the World Water Congress, just one year before the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and six years before the UN Decade for Water.
Argentina, Buenos Aires and the water sector have changed in intervening years. The MDGs provided some focus on what was needed in developing countries in relation to access to drinking water and sanitation and the water decade gave this some impetus. Water is now part of a much broader discourse than it was during the latter years of the last century. Water is now recognised as a key enabler and connector for the critical issues of our time: security, sustainability and resilience. And so Buenos Aires also emerges as a forward looking city that embraces innovation and seeks to establish itself as a ‘smart city’.
Latin America is the most urbanised region on the planet, with over 80 percent of the population living in cities. Being in Buenos Aires later this year for the Water and Development Congress and Exhibition will provide an opportunity to see up close how this city has developed its economy, services and infrastructure. And this is important for urban leaders from other developing regions such as Africa and Asia who are entering an era of urbanisation:
- How do you get the governance right–finding the balance between national and local priorities?
- What is the right institutional model for delivering water and sanitation services for expanding boundaries and growing populations?
- How do you work with diminishing water resources, to service more users and ensure the financial viability of the sector?
The Sustainable Development Goals drive us to ambitious outcomes and the global water community is readying itself to meet these goals by 2030. At the Water and Development Congress & Exhibition, we will organise the regulators forum to discuss policies and regulations that support SDGs–for example, how to operationalise the human right to water and sanitation.
We will also bring together international financiers, such as the Inter American Development bank, and city and utility asset managers, to look at financing mechanisms for infrastructure that enables efficient water supply and sanitation collection and treatment. And in this year, the UN-Water year for Wastewater, we will bring together city and utility leaders for a special forum on wastewater management, that will chart a way forward for cities to take the lead in halving the amount of untreated wastewater and reusing it.
Since 2009, IWA has been organising the Water and Development Congress & Exhibition to bring together the global community who want to make a difference. It provides an opportunity for our members–from utilities, consultancy firms, technology providers, NGOs, government and researchers–to connect to urban stakeholders and like minded professionals and identify solutions they can take away and work with.