9th World Water Forum: Living up to the expectations for those who are thirst for drinking water, an opportunity and a challenge

Published on Thursday 19 March 2020

Find this interview into our 2020 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Barometer

Interview by Alain Boinet, founder de SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL, 

In the run-up to the 9th World Water Forum, Alain Boinet, Founder of SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL, obtained an exclusive interview with the co-chairs of the preparatory committee for this major event: Abdoulaye Sene, representing Senegal, and Patrick Lavarde, Honorary Governor of the World Water Council. They explain why the Dakar Forum must take a radically different approach and provide responses to drinking water and sanitation needs.

Le FME au Sénégal


Senegal wants the 9th World Water Forum to be different, even radically different from previous forums. Why is this the case and what are your expectations?

ABDOULAYE SENE  Yes indeed, Senegal wants the 9th World Water Forum to be different from previous forums both in terms of its content and organization. We want the next Forum to be historic for the results it achieves, and to provide practical responses to the issues affecting populations. We have also launched the Dakar 2021 Initiative to add a Senegalese and African touch to the 9th Forum. The Forum must transcend political and diplomatic matters and lead to tangible results and commitments to meet the urgent challenge posed by water and sanitation issues both in Africa and worldwide.


You declared that the 9th World Water Forum must “build a forum of responses”. What do you mean by this?

PATRICK LAVARDE The initial World Water Forums contributed to defining, publicizing and sharing the major issues at stake in the water sector. Subsequent Forums rallied support for tangible progress like the Human Right to Water and the need for a specific Sustainable Development Goal relating to water. The Forums emphasized the political implications of water-related issues and enabled solutions to be identified to meet these challenges. Now, the time has come to focus on providing and implementing practical responses to the challenges of water management, in order to achieve the water-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and thus meet the expectations of the most vulnerable populations.


Dakar will be the global water capital in March 2021. In your opinion, what does this mean for Senegal and for Africa in general?

ABDOULAYE SENE  Dakar will host the 9th World Water Forum on behalf of both Senegal and Africa. It will be the first time that this major global water event is hosted by a sub-Saharan African country. This Forum is therefore an important landmark both for Senegal and for Africa, where water issues are obviously much more urgent than elsewhere. For Senegal in particular, this means that the country’s water diplomacy has come to fruition. It is important to emphasize that our country made its mark early on by taking a regional – or even continental – leadership role on water issues. Moreover, this Forum is both an opportunity and a challenge both in terms of organizing such a large event and the many expectations that surround it.


The Dakar Forum has defined four main priorities that are effectively summed up by its title: “Water Security for Peace and Development”. Why link water and peace together?

PATRICK LAVARDE Water security is a key issue for the future of the African continent, and also a major challenge for the whole world. Water-related tensions are on the increase, fuelled by growing demographic pressure, ever-increasing urbanization and the threat of climate change in areas where water is already scarce. If we do not ensure water security, this will endanger development, food, health and education. As a result, water is a major instrument for peace in all areas where the security of local communities depends on it. To avoid conflict between water users, and between countries that share the same water resources, appropriate solutions must be found.


How do water, sanitation and water-use issues currently affect Western and Central Africa?

ADOULAYE SENE  Water and sanitation are very acute issues in Western and Central Africa. They are major concerns in these two regions of the continent, where the population mainly depends on agriculture and livestock rearing for survival. Populations in Western and Central Africa are finding it more and more difficult to meet their water and sanitation needs. This leads to public health problems and to certain water crises in these regions, not to mention recurring disputes between farmers and herders. This means that water-related issues have now become a cause of instability for communities. The combined effects of an ever-growing population and climate change are a partial explanation for the difficulties and challenges faced by Western and Central Africa in terms of water and sanitation.


The Forum is an international event that is organized a long time in advance. How are these preparations structured and carried out?

PATRICK LAVARDE   The Forum is jointly organized by Senegal and the World Water Council, who have formed an international steering committee (ISC). Each of the four priorities is coordinated by a supervisory group of institutions with appropriate expertise and co-chaired by one Senegalese and one international member of the ISC. The topics to be discussed within each of these priorities – which are connected to the water-related targets of the SDGs – are prepared by action groups comprising specialist organizations. To involve as many stakeholders as possible, each action group will be supported by an extended consultation group comprising actors that have volunteered in response to an international call for participants.


How do you see the connection between the 9th World Water Forum and Goal 6 of the 2030 SDGs, when UN Water emphasized last year that we were not on track to achieve the planned goals?

ADOULAYE SENE The Forum does indeed want to act as a catalyst for SDG 6. It is an opportunity to mobilize funds and renew commitments to achieve SDG 6. If we do not resolve these issues so that we can meet SDG 6, we will not achieve any of the SDGs. This is because all the SDGs are connected to SDG 6 in one way or another. It is quite true that we are not yet on the right track, but the commitments and results that are expected from the Forum can enable us to reverse this trend and speed up achieving the SDG targets by 2030, especially SDG 6. Looking beyond SDG 6, the Dakar Forum will also address water issues in Africa and in particular the continent’s 2063 Agenda.


As co-chair of the international steering committee, you are seeking strategic partners for the Forum. How are you proceeding and what do you expect from them?

PATRICK LAVARDE  Strategic partners provide specific support in the organization of the Forum by means of an agreement with the organizers. This support can relate to the whole of the Forum, to one of the priorities or to one of the actions, according to the interests and capabilities of the partner. According to the situation, strategic partners take part in the supervisory groups or action groups. The support they provide can take various forms: financial, intellectual or logistical support. Some of these partnerships have already been established and many others are being finalized, at the initiative of the Forum’s executive secretary.


What is the Dakar 2021 initiative and which tangible results do you expect from it?

ABDOULAYE SENE The Dakar 2021 Initiative is the major innovation of the 9th World Water Forum. Through this program, Senegal wants to add a special touch to the event. The Dakar 2021 Initiative was officially launched on 16 January 2020 in Dakar. This operation will generate commitments and actions to accelerate progress, especially towards achieving the SDGs. Among other things, the initiative aims to accredit community projects that seek to provide access to drinking water and decent sanitation. These accredited projects aim to achieve tangible results that will be presented during the Forum in 2021.

Find all the news of the 9th World Water Forum on : worldwaterforum.org