Water, Food and Energy Sustainability Nexus: Building Back Better Opportunities for Post COVID-19

In collaboration with the Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture, Multan (MNS-UAM), Pakistan, UNESCO Jakarta and Islamabad Offices have jointly organized the Regional Consultation Meeting on Water, Energy, and Food Sustainability (WEFS) for Post COVID-19 webinar, on 13 August 2020. This webinar featured the prominent speakers from various institutions in Pakistan, South Korea, Australia, Portugal and Malaysia. It aimed to develop the collective understanding of the interdependent relations of the water, energy, and food in responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and build back the better of the South-South Cooperation through sustainable perspectives.

The webinar commenced with the opening remarks by Prof Asif Ali, the Vice-Chancellor of MNS-UAM, Ms. Patricia McPhillips, Director of UNESCO Islamabad, and Prof Shahbaz Khan, Director of UNESCO Jakarta. In his remarks, Prof Asif Ali emphasized a meaningful target-oriented, inclusive approach and collaboration with both national and international agencies to respond to the current challenges by managing the nexus of water, energy, and food.  Followed by Ms Patricia McPhillips, who underlined that water, energy, and food management require more attention and priority as they are strongly linked. Prof Shahbaz Khan briefly explained in his presentation how UNESCO Science response to COVID-19 and has recommended and fostered Open Science to address interconnected challenges posed by water, energy, and food nexus, which relies on an inclusive, transparent, and consultative process involving all countries and various stakeholders.

During the first session, the keynote speakers shared best practices and exchanged views of responding to the Water, Energy and Food Sustainability (WEFS) challenges. Dr Abid Suleri, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, Pakistan, comprehensively explained both challenges and opportunities within the nexus of WEFS. While the COVID-19 Pandemic lays recession, health, and food crisis, it also presents us with several opportunities, among others, building health resilience, climate-friendly practices, linkage of food security with global supply chain, and the inclusive digital economy. The first session followed other keynote speakers delivered their presentation and suggestion related to managing WEFS. Prof Soontak Lee, Governor of the World Water Council, stated the Integrated of Water Resources Management (IWRM) should promote the coordinated development and management of water for economic growth and social welfare without compromising the environmental aspect. In strengthening our coordinated response, Dr Norlida, UNESCO Head of Coordination, Human Tropics Center – Malaysia, underlined the importance of water education, which improves the well-being of all people and reduce inequality. Prof Jeff Camkin, University of Western Australia, added another aspect in addressing the WEFS challenges through improving integrated water policy. The water policy should entail a broader policy thinking, a stronger science-policy-stakeholder interface, and a robust engagement with the local and available knowledge. In line with the point of solid stakeholder engagement, Prof Susana Neto, University of Lisbon, Portugal, stressed its essential role that leaves no one behind in addressing current challenges.

The second session was the brief discussion of several panelists in presenting recommendations with their expertise. Prof. Jeff Camkin, pointed out the practical way to convince the government to deliver clean water and sanitation by identifying the vulnerable group, adopting equity principles, and a powerful national policy. Managing the WEFS nexus also requires science and technology. Dr Abu Bakr Muhammad, Lahore University of Management Science, emphasized the importance of integrated thinking and engagement approach in harnessing technology. Ms Rabia Sultan, Director Gurmani Foundation shared that progressive farmers should be able to tap the benefit of technology and the available resources to boost agriculture productivity. To ensure the science and technology more inclusive, Mr. Raza Shah, UNESCO Islamabad, pointed out that UNESCO’s role in promoting and raising awareness of scientific terms and translate them in local language. He added that Open Science is a truly game changer to address multiple challenges. In building community’s resilience toward various hazards, Ms. Ghazala Naeem, from the Resilience Group, shared her view in integrating the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development Goals.

The final session was delivered by Dr. Tariq Rana, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Australia. He briefly shared the summary of recommendation, which underlines the importance of education, capacity building, sharing knowledge and information, and stakeholder engagement in responding to the current and future challenges posed by COVID-19.

The webinar has reached 4,227 people through live streaming in Facebook pages of UNESCO Jakarta, UNESCO Pakistan and MNS-UAM Official.

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