Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Still puzzled by water’s absence

Eklavya Prasad


In my previous posts, I mentioned water being conspicuous by its absence in the ongoing negotiations at Bonn. The fact that those posts were from my initial days in the conference, meant that I still hoped to contradict my initial perception as the week progressed. However, even after the five day conference, I remain confused with my impression of the space created in Bonn for water related issues.


Most of my confusion stemmed from the dichotomy that existed between the closed door discussions and inter-personal deliberation on the criticality of water in the negotiations. The closed door discussions (ie. plenary meetings, informal consultations etc) that I attended seemed to follow a similar pattern when it came to identifying water as a crucial issue of concern. Whenever 'other' problems and subsequent steps were being discussed there, the flow was more or less consistent. 


Speakers irrespective of the party they represented always fell short of naming water as a cross-cutting issue, which to me seemed to be a deliberate effort. My initial response to this was that of coincidence, but this conclusion did not last for long owing to the intensity of the consistency. It’s a well-known fact that the negotiations are guided by fierce politics gunning for either national or regional or group specific gains.

However, when it came to addressing concerns of water, I got a different feel of the rampant politicking, which I term as - 'Accent of politics'. The tone, the language, the arguments, the gestures all of it if considered as an accent then all were the same for those participating in the discussion.

And it was evident that there was an invisible force that was controlling or inhibiting all participating parties from commenting on water with an open mind.

For example, one of the informal consultations on sectoral approach and sector specific action the group was discussing three key questions and all parties were to respond on the points which were:


· How to frame a general framework in a manner that it does not inhibit  

  investment and growth in sectors?

· How emissions from international bunker fuels are to be handled under  

  United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC,  

  International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Maritime  

  Organization (IMO)?

· And as the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the  

  Convention (AWG – LCA) is due to close in Doha, what could be an  



During the dying moments of the discussion a representative from the Middle East defined the different sectors, which to me came as a surprise. According to the representative there are five sectors namely energy, transport, agriculture, forestry and water management, and during the discussion only the first two got the highest priority and the rest remained unattended. In this kind of scenario, a first timer like me cannot help but conclude that there is a definite understanding amid all parties not to address the remaining three issues. Exposure to this planned intervention forced me to conclude and construct the terminology of 'Accent of politics'. 


On the other hand, I got the opportunity to interact with members from Bangladesh, Iraq, Mexico, Indonesia and Honduras on a one to one basis. Despite the difference in their respective perceptions, extent of climate change impact, position on the on-going deliberations, there was a single point of commonality. All agreed that water should have been an integral part of the Bonn conference. During my discussion with them it clearly emerged how water as a cross-cutting issue was impacted and how it further impacted the ancillary sectors as well in their respective countries. It is critical to also mention that the individuals with whom I interacted were senior members of their respective country delegations.


Eklavya Prasad 

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