The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

Reflections on a Fantastic 2019

As we enter into a new year and a new decade, we have a great deal of reasons for excitement and hope. At the same time, we have much to be proud of in terms of accomplishments over the past year. AGWA — and the water community as a whole — made great strides in 2019 around water-centric adaptation.

Most importantly, we in the secretariat want to formally express our gratitude to both the members of the network we serve as well as to our two primary sources of core funding: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Institutionale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) as well as Deltares and the Dutch Infrastructure and Water Management Ministry.

Here are just a few highlights of 2019:
  • In January, AGWA officially gained independent legal status as a member-based charitable institution (NGO) registered in the United States and working globally. SIWI and the World Bank have transitioned from their roles as co-chairs of AGWA’s steering committee to co-chairs of AGWA’s board of directors, strengthening these already close relationships.
  • Using certification criteria co-developed by AGWA, billions of dollars in certified climate bonds have gone to adaptation and mitigation projects in the water sector, including a nearly 6 billion € offering from the Dutch government last year alone.
  • IWMI and AGWA served as co-leads on a water background paper for the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), which was launched at COP25. The report will feed into the long-term action track on water guiding future work of the Global Center on Adaptation.
  • By crowdsourcing with national, sectoral, and civil society partners from more than 100 countries, AGWA has synthesized a short set of recommendations to guide countries in the choices they make in recognizing the water embedded across sectors and climate targets. The Watering the NDCs policy report was launched in November and will evolve as a “living document.”
  • AGWA was again a vital voice for water at COP25. We helped organize the MPGCA Water Action Event and led in several others, including high-level sessions at the Spanish Pavilion, MDB Pavilion, and elsewhere. AGWA had speaking or moderating roles in over 15 events in Madrid.
  • AGWA’s ClimateReady Podcast produced a second season and is partway through a third. Episodes covers a wide range of climate-water topics, reaching thousands of listeners each episode worldwide engaged in a positive, actionable “story” of climate and water.
  • As programs and activities have continued to expand, so too has AGWA’s secretariat. In 2019 we were able to hire a part-time “AGWA Fellow” to contribute to numerous projects and administrative work, as well as strengthening our policy work with additional staff.
  • Resilient nature-based solutions continue to be an important part of AGWA’s work, including work with TNC, Conservation International, Forest Trends, the Natural Capital Project, among others (SNAPP); collaboration around water, disaster risk reduction, insurance, and NBS; presenting technical work on resilient NBS to the UNECE’s Task Force on Water and Climate; and direct engagement with the Asian Development Bank on NBS approaches to adaptation and DRM for the water, transport, and urban sectors.
  • As part of our ongoing partnership with the Dutch government, we put together a background document on drought for the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water (HELP) for their June 2019 meeting. This document is expected to be revised in 2020 at the request of the HELP.
  • In May 2019, our Policy Director attended the UNDRR’s bi-annual DRR Conference (“Global Platform 2019”) as part of AGWA’s continuing work to improve coherence between DRR, sustainable development, and climate policy.
  • Many other publications and briefs were released in 2019, including a book-length report on resilient source water management with TNC and Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) entitled Wellspring: Source Water Resilience and Climate Adaptation.
  • AGWA’s Policy Director served as a co-author of the UN-Water Policy Brief on Climate Change and Water. AGWA participated in the report’s launch at HLPF in July.
  • In late 2019 we created a Strategic Advisory Council to help provide guidance and recommendations in support of AGWA’s ED, Board of Directors, and wider membership. Members include: Sylvia Lee (Facebook), Junguo Liu (Southern University of Science and Technology), Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm (The Nature Conservancy), Betsy Otto (World Resources Institute), Tom Panella (Asian Development Bank), and Niels Vlaanderen (Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management).
  • Advising the EU Sustainable Finance Initiative as well as the supporting the OECD and Asian Development Bank’s work on water and finance.
  • Another successful World Water Week and Annual Members Meeting in Stockholm. Over 30 members joined AGWA’s 9th Annual Meeting. Throughout WWW, we co-convened two sessions and participated in a half dozen more.
  • Hosting and supporting regional workshops on bottom-up approaches, from Idaho in the USA to Stellenbosch in South Africa with UNESCO.
  • Continued work around urban water issues, most notably through our work with Arup, SIWI, and others in the City Water Resilience Approach. A global community of practice to expand applications was launched at WWW2019.
  • Not least, we also saw about a 20 percent growth in AGWA membership over the course of 2019 — a strong sign by itself that AGWA fulfills a strong, growing demand.
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