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.”
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.
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.