As the world’s water future stands at a crossroads, Marseille is on track to become the next global hub for water discussions. The World Water Council (WWC) selected the French port city to host the 6th World Water Forum in 2012, committing France to create “the Forum of Solutions,” a WWC press release said last week.
Marseille won the vote of the Council’s Board of Governors in a close competition with South Africa’s city of Durban. The French candidacy recognized the importance of regional and global debates around water but also took a step further, vowing to ensure tangible solutions to the world water crisis, the press release added.
Although France’s bid prevailed, the WWC urged the two final candidatures to work hand in hand in preparation for the Forum, which brings together more than 20,000 world leaders, water experts and scientists every three years.
“The World Water Council has encouraged the parties to look into enacting the partnership in the spirit of co-operation, but also in recognition of the quality of the bids that both countries put up,” said Buyelwa Sonjica, South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs.
Prior to the vote, France and South Africa agreed to join forces to ensure the success of the 6th World Water Forum.
”If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together,” said one of the participants in the Board, according to the press release.
The WWC meeting came three months after the 5th World Water Forum wound up in Istanbul. The event –- the biggest international forum on water –- brought together participants from 182 countries in a discussion about the linkages between water, energy, health, agriculture, economy and politics.
While a European report presented at the forum in Istanbul urged more cooperation to avoid conflict over increasingly scarce water, World Water Day emphasized transboundary water management. The Istanbul Ministerial Statement also vowed to develop “cross-cutting coordination and policies” that transcend national borders and engage a wider variety of stakeholders.
Some chided the event in Istanbul for failing to recognize water as a basic right, instead describing it as a basic human need. Tension also simmered outside the Forum, as hundreds of people gathered in Istanbul to protest what they believed constituted the forum’s privileging of private interests over public concerns.
As Marseille and France prepare to host the 6th World Water Forum, organizers will have to carry a controversial legacy of both successes and pending questions as the world stands at a crossroads over its limited water resources.
, a Bulgaria native, is a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue. She co-writes The Stream, a daily digest of international water news trends.
Interests: Europe, China, Environmental Policy, International Security.