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World Water Week 2021 opens with call for urgent action

Organized annually by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), World Water Week 2021 opened on August 23, with calls for massive transformations of societies. Participants from all over the world will spend the coming week developing solutions to help the world address challenges such as water scarcity, climate crisis, poverty, and biodiversity loss.

Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) Executive Director, Torgny Holmgren (left), and Head of World Water Week, Henrika Thomasson, talking to Alok Jha, Science Correspondent from The Economist, and presenter of the Opening Plenary of the revamped World Water Week 2021 (photo courtesy SIWI).

Thirty years after it was initiated in Stockholm, Sweden, World Water Week 2021 has been redesigned for maximum impact. Being held during August 23-27, 2021, the world’s leading water conference is being run as a free, online event on the theme “Building Resilience Faster”.

We want World Water Week to be an action platform engaging all, commented Henrika Thomasson, Director, World Water Week at SIWI.

While the format has been revamped some 400+ sessions are on the program and highlights include the traditional Royal Award Ceremonies for the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize and Stockholm Junior Water Prize. Furthermore, it is envisaged that the participants, hailing from 170 countries, will co-create actionable solutions.

Collaboration across borders is more important than ever. In the coming decade, all sectors of society need to undergo massive transformations, explained Torgny Holmgren, SIWI Executive Director, stressing the crucial role of water for these transformations and for reaching the climate targets and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In his keynote address, Professor Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research described how humans are dangerously altering Earth’s life support systems. One example is how freshwater is impacted by the change humans are causing in climate and biodiversity.

Rockström and his team have identified freshwater as one of the nine planetary boundaries that should not be crossed.

Freshwater must be integrated within the climate agenda. We must first meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 but then transform towards a safer future within planetary boundaries said Professor Johan Rockström, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

The world is however not on track to achieve the SDGs, warned Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations when interviewed by host Alok Jha during the opening ceremony.

Before COVID, we were off track and after COVID, even more so. But the recovery could get us back on track. There is a silver lining there. There are things that we can scale up, there are things that we can put more at the centre of the investments that we are asking for now, Amina Mohammed noted.

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