The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

Guest Blog | Papal Audience and Watershed Event

This guest blog was written by Maggie White, the SIWI Co-Chair for AGWA and member of the Policy Group. From 21-23 March, Maggie participated in a series of water & policy related events around Rome to coincide with World Water Day.


In honor of World Water Day on 22 March, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture and the Club of Rome co-hosted the “Watershed” conference in Rome (21st-23rd of March). Organized with the support of Circle of Blue, the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Bank, and SIWI (among others), the event offered a highlight moment during Pope Francis’s Papal Audience.

In an unprecedented move, the Pope addressed the importance of raising global awareness on water in front of the 15,000 people who attended. Thousands more were able to watch the live-streamed event online through various social media outlets and hear his position on the importance of water as a “treasure belonging to everyone, mindful of its cultural and religious significance,” a treasure which should be preserved and shared by all in joint collaboration. The Pope also thanked the participants of the Watershed event for their endeavors.

It can be said that water is a high priority for the Pope. After the publication of his work ‘Laudato’ where he advocates the need to protect our planet, its resources and addresses climate issues, he took a strong stance at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) during the adoption of the 2030 SDG Agenda. Furthermore, earlier this year in February, the Vatican also co-hosted another high level conference on the human right to water and sanitation.

Going forward, the objective of the Watershed event will be to establish a five-year strategic plan with annual meetings and statements to coincide with World Water Day that could be carried by the Pope. It will also include follow-up events during World Water Week in Stockholm (WWW), beginning this year.

Outcomes of the conference and workshops are presently being consolidated in order to input the High Level Panel on Water event on “Valuing water” that will take place in Bellagio at the beginning of May – with a special attention given to the cultural and spiritual values of water.

Monsignor Tomasz Trafny, head of the science and faith department of the Vatican Pontifical Council of Culture, was highly involved throughout the three-day conference in Rome. He was instrumental in ensuring that water and the Watershed event were mentioned during the Pope’s audience. In the future, the aim is that the Pope, the network of churches, members and educational establishments serve the purpose of promoting the values of water.

We are pleased to see that the importance of water has a vocal and influential supporter in Pope Francis IV. The inspirational workshops and conference that took place in Rome at the Vatican are a step in the right direction and we hope that other inter-faith based organizations will also reinforce this dynamic and be present at the upcoming sessions of World Water Week in Stockholm this August 2017.
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