The New Industrial Revolution Is Coming? No, It’s Already Here!

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It’s a gorgeous day in Provence for the start of the sixth World Water Forum! The excitement is high at Parc Chanot in Marseille as ministers, delegations, media and students arrive in droves. The Marseille Rêve Choir, along with the Bamboo Orchestra and 250 children from schools around the city, kicked off the Opening Ceremony at the Palais des Événements, singing a beautiful song composed by Eric Benzi specifically for the event. The lyrics certainly echoed the sentiment that’s coursing through the venue – it’s time to move beyond talk and get our hands dirty finding real solutions to pressing global water issues. The buzz comes from the title and goal of the WWF6 – “time for solutions.”

François Fillon, Prime Minister of France, inaugurates the 6th World Water Forum

This sentiment was further reflected in the opening speeches, with much emphasis on coming in with an open mind. There must be an exchange, said Jean-Claude Gaudin, Senator Mayor of Marseille. He argued that we have an obligation to come forward with solutions and we must both speak and listen to others. He continued on to say that we cannot be content with resting on our past laurels and victories. François Fillon, Prime Minister of France, was next and he remarked that in 2010, 89% of the world’s population had secured access to safe drinking water, a UN Millennium Development Goal. But there is still much work to be done, with 11% of the population still suffering and sanitation goals far off their targets; thus efforts and motivation must stay high.

Gaudin made one remark that really resonated for this reporter.  He said that whether we are talking about protecting our blue planet or encouraging the establishment of a green growth planet, colours in the end don’t matter. What matters is responsibility and inclusion for water and resource use. Two young siblings from Mali provided another strong moment at the opening ceremony. They invited the world to bring forth their solutions but to also listen to their solutions – the local people – to truly incorporate their concerns.

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The speakers also emphasised that today, we’re moving towards a new industrial growth model, one that is starting to understand and respect the symbiotic relationship between the planet and growth. Water, along with other resources, is being seen not only in an economic but also in its ecological context by industry and government alike. Whether we’re going to see the development of a World Environment Organisation in the near future is debatable but it is encouraging to see that thought is turning along these lines. At no point, however, should this be construed to be an anti-industrial view – if anything, the new industrial model is heavily dependant on technology and growth within the industry to set us on the right path. Additionally, there can be no seclusion of ideas and debate. Just as the discussions and solutions of this Forum must be continued at Rio+20, so must there be an exchange of ideas between countries, industries and people. It will be interesting to see how these themes develop over the week.

And so it was a fired up crowd that left the opening ceremony to face the week of solutions. With sessions covering topics of finance, governance, education and youth involvement, it’s going to be a great week so keep on following us!

The ceremony concluded with the 2012 King Hassan II Great World Water Prize being awarded to the Observatory of Sahara and Sahel.

3 thoughts on “The New Industrial Revolution Is Coming? No, It’s Already Here!

  1. You mention an interesting point when citing the guardian article on the achievement of improved access to safe drinking water which is more critical on the achievement. In my opinion the problems of measuring the improvement and the quality dimension behind the aggregated improvements seem to be crucial and the blinding effects of measuring the quantity of access does not allow to understand what really goes on if you look beyond the proxies.
    Relating to that I dont see the point that a new industrial revolution of technological (exogenous) change will be an ultimate one in comparison to one that considers a mix of traditional practices which are more appropriate to the plurivocality of local contexts, communitarian decision building, and governance than techno economic ideas.

    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I absolutely agree with you and as the Forum developed, this is something that the many panellists have been stressing as well over the week. Just providing access to “improved” drinking water versus quality water supplies is starting to be seen as insufficient evidence of achieving MDG targets. There is more talk about maintenance and quality now and a longer term view to development projects.

      Regarding the new industrial revolution, that we’re finally talking about sustainable growth (or green growth) is encouraging. But, as with all new ideas, the concept is still very much in its draft stage and needs a lot of wrinkles to be ironed out before we can consider it set in stone. Local contexts, community involvement and transparent governance are vital to its success, but how to convert this into practice from theory seems to be the current sticking point. I do, however, find it reassuring that these topics are being acknowledged at conferences now. If you’re interested in more discussions on green growth, I invite you to read my second post on it – “Green Growth is Inspiring but not Watertight”.

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