Statement of Miami - Interamerican Dialogue on Water Management Resolutions and Conclusions
October 30, 1993
All nations face a fundamental and critical challenge - to create compatible environmental reform and economic development in order to achieve true sustainable development. This was the driving theme of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. We endorse this worldwide goal, recognizing that environmental reform and economic development depend on each other so both can succeed.
Water, life's most basic necessity, is the most obvious and most abused natural resource. It is the one we take most for granted. Because of its vital importance to both man and nature, water is imbued with a public interest and is considered a public resource. Water also is a strategic resource and a catalyst to generate wealth. A sufficient supply of water is a fundamental building block for healthy economies. The return on investment for wise water management is an exponential increase in the variety and value of the products and services water enhances or makes possible.
Water sustains the world's fish and wildlife and supports its natural systems and human enterprises. It is an essential component for recreation and tourism, which contribute to many economies. And, of course, water is required to propagate crops and to produce most commercial goods.
To advance the crusade for sustainable development and integrated water-resource management, more than 400 professionals from throughout the Western Hemisphere convened in Miami, Florida, in October 1993 for the Interamerican Dialogue on Water Management.
The meeting had two main objectives. One was to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of sustainable development and integrated water-resource management.
Establishing an Interamerican Water Resource Network was the second objective. Nations have managed resources separately in the past, but now we must manage them cooperatively across political boundaries. To achieve the goals of sustainable development and water-resource management, government, business, and other organizations must clearly define existing hydrologic and political conditions, interrelationships and interdependencies.
II. STATEMENT OF CRITICAL ISSUES
A. Research and Educational Needs for Aquatic Systems
Nations must preserve biodiversity, manage ecosystems, and achieve sustainability to maintain this planet for future generations. These efforts, together with individual, communal, and global stewardship, also raise ethical and economic issues which all nations must address. Despite disagreement on the exact meaning of sustainability, Dialogue participants embraced a definition derived from Our Common Future by the 1987 Brundtland Commission: ... We must meet the needs of the present without compromising the capability of future generations to meet similar needs.
Research for aquatic ecosystems should identify appropriate methods to assess impacts on these systems; define approaches to managing them; conserve biodiversity within them; assess the economic potential of eco-tourism; develop methods to manage transboundary watersheds, and develop monetary and nonmonetary measures to express the energy and environmental costs of products and the value of environmental resources.
Educational needs for water resources should include demonstration projects; a workable means to transfer information from one country to another (such a clearinghouse), and development of indices which list available information and identify experts within specific fields. Timely and comprehensive information must be available to assess the magnitude of environmental problems and the value of aquatic resources. Educational programs should emphasize the value of wetland systems and the variety of benefits they provide.
A multi-disciplinary approach is essential to assess, protect, and restore aquatic ecosystems. Natural watershed boundaries, rather than political borders, should be used to define the problems and identify the solutions. Early integrated resource planning and an adequate assessment of the environmental impacts of water-resource projects are necessary to avoid inadvertent, yet catastrophic, destruction or the need for costly restoration of these resources.
We need new institutional approaches. Public and private entities, including non-governmental organizations, should implement joint ventures. Existing institutions should be strengthened.
Indeed, it is not always the absence of law that results in the degradation of the environment. It is the absence of political will to enforce the laws designed to protect the environment. In this regard, it is vital that informed citizens become involved in this decision-making process at all levels of government. An inter-American institution would promote the transfer of information for water managers, planners, technicians, and the public. As such, this institution also could foster a political commitment throughout the hemisphere to environmental protection and enforcement and could help strengthen the laws of many nations.
B. Water Supply and Sanitation
We need an inter-American commitment to address water-resource problems, especially in the realm of drinking water supply and sanitation. A multi-national effort also will promote water efficiency, economic development, and environmental protection. Nations should pursue the relationship of land use to water planning, including the implementation of soil conservation practices to protect water quality.
Developing and developed countries all have knowledge to share. Because of the interdependence of nations, educational efforts throughout the hemisphere should include an exchange program in which water-resource professionals could gain experience in other countries.
Nations must strive to use resources more efficiently and to prevent the critical consequences of waste, mismanagement, and overuse. Because of the range of issues involved to achieve sustainability, public and private institutions - including nongovernmental organizations - must be involved in a meaningful way in cooperative problem solving. Such efforts are particularly necessary regarding transboundary watersheds and ecosystem management.
Local communities, especially in rural areas, need financial assistance to operate and maintain water supply and sanitation services. Governments should decentralize the planning for water supply and sanitation, and where compatible with the public nature of water resources, they should consider privatizing these two services.
Governments also need a regulatory framework to protect water resources through enforcement. Multi-lateral lending institutions can ensure adequate financing for the necessary infrastructure by adhering to priorities set by each nation according to their needs and economic and social realities.
C. Governance and Policy
Poverty and overconsumption are the enemies of sustainable water-resource use and management in North and South America. Decisions relating to sustainable resource use depend on public education and participation. In some areas, public control of water resources should be implemented to ensure the public's interest is fulfilled (although some areas would benefit from privatization). Specific legal frameworks, appropriate institutions, and decision-making processes do vary from nation to nation. However, public entities can best make decisions within the context of integrated ecosystem management, by using the watershed as the fundamental planning unit and ensuring that all interests are represented.
Water-management professionals should foster the sustainable development of water resources by encouraging increased public participation in water-related planning and decision making. They should also develop mechanisms to exchange national and international information, experiences and expertise, as well as to promote increased public awareness, and to espouse and adhere to an ethic for sustainable development in water-resource management.
Several desirable communication approaches exist to increase the effectiveness of existing and proposed water policies. These include newsletters; existing electronic networks; curriculum development for public education; training in technical communication; public participation and interaction; an increased capacity to disseminate information; an improved accessibility to technical assistance (in pricing, water-use efficiency, legislation, and legal issues), and funding.
III. GUIDELINES FOR ACTION
A. Promote an understanding of the nature and character of aquatic systems;IV. THE INTERAMERICAN WATER RESOURCE NETWORK
B. Stress ecosystem planning and management, using principles of watershed management;
C. Use resources more efficiently, and avoid misuse, abuse, and overuse of water;
D. Encourage communication, the sharing of knowledge and experience and inter-American partnerships;
E. Explore and promote principles of environmentally responsible privatization in water-resource development to the extent that is consistent with the inherently public character of water;
F. Develop mechanisms to value water appropriately and to protect and preserve that value;
G. Strengthen the capabilities to manage the inherent complexities of multipurpose, long-term water-resource management, and improve the ability to respond to uncertainty in a flexible, adaptive manner;
H. Encourage broad involvement in decision-making by encouraging public participation, empowering all stakeholders, and responding to the views of all affected parties, and
I. Adhere to the principles of comprehensive, long-term, integrated, transboundary water-resource management.
A primary goal of the Interamerican Dialogue on Water Management was to launch a vital, active network that would combine existing resources throughout the hemisphere. It would provide opportunities to share information and technology, foster innovative partnerships, and provide internship and training opportunities free of national and political constraints.
Another goal of this Dialogue was to find ways for water-management policy makers, practitioners, and non-governmental organizations to develop and enhance their internal and external communications and cooperative ventures and to support sustainable development and integrated management of water resources worldwide.
In order to achieve these goals and to implement the Agenda 21 principles from the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, the conferees agreed to help establish an Interamerican Water Resource Network. It is their hope this network will do the following:
A. Clarify water resource needs and priorities at the hemispheric level;
B. Build collaborative partnerships to solve complex technical problems and enable people to pool existing resources and mobilize untapped resource in creative and efficient ways;
C. Build shared understandings around basic values that transcend national and ideological boundaries to promote learning from one another's successes, failures, and tribulations;
D. Seek institutional structures and processes that give individuals and identifiable groups a stake in governmental decision making, including more influence, additional responsibility, and greater accountability over policy making;
E. Increase hemispheric access to skills, knowledge and strategies for water-management problem solving and support for the development of new organizational forms that will foster new cooperative attitudes and capacities for sustainable use of water;
F. Promote crosscultural bonds of trust and respect for diversity, especially where misunderstandings or misapprehensions already exist;
G. Enhance awareness of the history and vital role of water in sustaining natural and social systems in the hemisphere, and
H. Encourage appreciation and respect for shared interests as well as diversity in language, culture, and other socioeconomic characteristics in order to advance and maintain the hemisphere's capacity to manage water in a sustainable manner.