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Those who attended the Interamerican Dialogue on Water Management in Miami, Florida, in October 1993 know what a watershed event it was. It was not just another meeting of presentations and speeches. It was indeed a true dialogue of more than 400 natural-resource professionals and policy makers from 19 countries throughout the Western Hemisphere. They came together to determine the future of water-related issues on the information superhighway as we move toward the next decade, century, and millennium. The result was that the Dialogue laid the groundwork for the creation and development of the Interamerican Water Resource Network.

The creation of the Statement of Miami was the Dialogue's other major accomplishment. The statement contains the guiding principles that participants themselves developed as they proceeded through their discussion groups during the Dialogue. As was expected, sustainable development was the guiding principle for this important document.

While the Dialogue included eminent keynote speakers, plenary sessions, and two case studies comparing South Florida's Everglades with the Pantanal of Brazil, the actual “dialogues” occurred in three major roundtables and their respective small group discussions. What was truly amazing was that on the final day of the Dialogue, more than 200 people gathered - on a bright Saturday morning - to hear and react for the first time to the Statement of Miami. That is a statement of their commitment to the process they helped create.

The Interamerican Dialogue was more than two years in the making. It was an outgrowth of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio and particularly the freshwater component (Chapter 18) of Agenda 21. The overriding question of the Dialogue was, “How do we take the Earth Summit results and begin to make a difference on-the-ground?”

Moving from the Dialogue to the Network, both successes we need to celebrate, we must consider what we learned. First, we ensured that all interested groups and individuals were involved. Not only did governmental agencies participate, but the Dialogue had strong input from influential non-governmental organizations. We were quite effective in our recruiting and in maintaining open channels with these organizations essential to the initiation of this ongoing network. Second, we kept all lines of communication open and active.

This Interamerican Water Resource Network will fill a much needed “institutional gap” that is part of an emerging transnational view of environmental restoration and sustainable development. It is part of a number of efforts that will result in a globally linked system of organizations that support sustainable development.

At its core, the water-resource network concerns building collaborative partnerships and shared understandings that transcend political and ideological boundaries. We must promote cross-cultural bonds of trust and respect for diversity, and not lose sight of this ethos as we create a charter and bylaws for the network and begin its administration.

Ultimately, it is the quality of the people whom we attract, not the institutions to which we belong, that will make the difference in the success of this network. We must thank the staff of the South Florida Water Management District and its partners like Global Tomorrow Coalition for the work leading up to the creation of the Interamerican Water Resource Network. We also must thank the Organization of American States for its leadership in taking the reins of the network to ensure its smooth transition as it grows and becomes a viable instrument for water management throughout the Americas.

Tilford C. Creel, Executive Director
South Florida Water Management District
West Palm Beach, Florida

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