by Mallory Rappaport

The tiny, but oh so nasty COVID-19 virus has broken the rhythm of the triennial World Water Forums. The 9th Forum, planned for March this year in Dakar, has been postponed to March 2022, in the hope that the pandemic can be controlled by then with vaccinations on a global and unprecedented scale, allowing in-person mass meetings to resume without harm.

Started in 1997, in Marrakech, Morocco, the forums are organized by the World Water Council always in close collaboration with the hosting country. The forum brings together water professionals, diplomats, activists from civil society, businesses, and UN agencies. Most forums also attract a large number of specialty journalists, academia and students. Indeed, we at GWA have been able to have students and faculty attend at least four of the forums. Known as the largest global event on water, the WWF is a diverse, multidisciplinary, multigenerational, inter-continental, multi-sectoral and open gathering that fits well within the United Nation’s overall agenda of global discourses to promote peace, undo the harm from unequal economic developments, and create a sense of shared stewardship of our planet Earth. While each WWF has a specific theme, all are intended to raise awareness about pressing water issues and align decision makers toward a common agenda for future action and water-related decisions.

The forum has been rescheduled for March 21st – 26th, 2022 in Dakar, Senegal. This 2022 event will be the second WWF held in Africa. The eight prior WWFs were held in Morocco, the Netherlands, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, France, Korea, and Brazil. Only Australia and North America are not (yet) on this list. The World Water Council is of course already working on the 10th forum, but no decision has been made about staying with the original March 2024 or shift to March 2025.

Next year’s WWF in DAKAR aims to break from the forum’s traditional approach by using the event as a “milestone in an ongoing change process to catalyze positive collective action for the cause of water and sanitation” (World Water Council, 2020). The theme in Dakar will be “Water security for peace and development,” to bring forward action-oriented objectives and commitments for participants; as I read it, talking to act. The forum will focus on four priorities –1) Water Security; 2) Rural Development; 3) Cooperation; and 4) Means & Tools. To further this new approach, the World Water Council has created multiple working groups to concentrate on each of these four priorities. Much more information surrounding the focus areas and goals of the 9th WWF is available on the World Water Council website.

Here in Philadelphia, we are looking forward to attending the forum in Dakar. This past September, the Global Water Alliance held a special virtual conference “Water & Peace: Promoting Security through Equitable Policy, Governance, and Technology.” This conference was an official preparatory event for the upcoming WWF, building on important discussions surrounding effective, inclusive water management and governance practices. In March 2021, GWA plans to host an interactive webinar to increase awareness on the WWF, particularly focused on recruiting the voice of youth. Indeed, as the organizers in Dakar see it, the participation of youth in large and loud numbers is imperative to fire up action and get good progress across all Sustainable Development Goals as they pertain to water.

GWA is eager to support the upcoming WWF and bring that youthful energy and collaborative spirit to Senegal. Additional information about the upcoming webinar will soon be available on the GWA website and our social media accounts.

Mallory Rappaport is a dual Master of Social Work and Master of Science in Social Policy student at the University of Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Arts in International Development from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. Prior to joining the Global Water Alliance, she worked with several nonprofit organizations in both macro and clinical settings. She is interested in policy and research aimed at building and strengthening healthy communities, particularly surrounding utility and housing access.