GRoW as the voice of science at the meeting of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB)

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On February 12, 2021, the former members of the UN Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) met to discuss current challenges in the water and sanitation sector. Prof. Dr. Harald Kunstmann, coordinator of the GRoW project SaWaM, participated in the meeting. Representing the research perspective within the water sector, he highlighted some key results from the GRoW initiative, and emphasized the role of science in achieving a sustainable water resource management.

Between 2004 and 2015, the approx. 20 members of the UN Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) were tasked to identify and advise on the most pressing issues in the water and sanitation sector. At the end of its 11-year life span, the Advisory Board published seven tipping points to transform the water sector and to achieve the water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Today, five years after the “UNSGAB Journey” came to an end, the members of the Advisory Board come together again to look at what has been done: Have their seven recommendations for action been heard and implemented? Which successes can be identified and where do they see an old and new need for action?

The meeting was opened on February 12, 2021, by Dr. Uschi Eid, former Chair of the Advisory Board. After royal greetings by Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands, and Naruhito, Emperor of Japan, members were welcomed by Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and Prof. Akihiko Tanaka, President of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS). The members listened to various 5-minute presentations from representatives of international organisations such as UN-Water, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

As a spokesperson from science, GRoW-researcher Prof. Dr. Harald Kunstmann was invited. In his presentation, he highlighted important findings of the GRoW funding measure, and discussed the role of science in overcoming global water challenges. Here, Kunstmann advocated for an evidence-based approach to water-related decision-making, for which closer cooperation between science, policy and practice is imperative.