Vive la différence

Tom Mollenkopf IWA President
Tom Mollenkopf, President, IWA Tom Mollenkopf © IWA

In December, well over 1000 delegates from around the globe came together for IWA’s seventh Water and Development Congress & Exhibition in Kigali, Rwanda. Right from the time we started planning the Congress, and through all the hard work and preparation, we had great aspirations. This was an important event.
As I observed in the previous edition of The Source, IWA is pluralistic and genuinely global in character; with a presence in 140 countries, we are now more globally representative of the regions, languages, cultures, and segments that make up the world’s water constituency than ever before. Within that context, Africa – comprised of 54 countries and home to more than 1.2 billion people – is a critical part of what IWA is and where its future lies.
The Kigali Congress, therefore, was another critical step along the path of meaningful and multidimensional engagement; of sharing and learning; of genuine dialogue.

“The Congress was another critical step along the path of meaningful and multidimensional engagement”

The stage was set well by Mathi Vathanan, from Odisha, India – our first keynote speaker – with a compelling account of tackling some of the most fundamental urban water needs through leadership, commitment, and innovation. More outstanding stories followed in our plenary sessions and across the many streams that gave a platform to critical work across water and sanitation.
This last point is critical, because, while we are the International Water Association, we are representative of the entire water cycle, and fully appreciate the fundamental role of sanitation and hygiene. The opportunity presented by the event to devote time and continue to build our content, networks and programmes on themes such as inclusive urban sanitation and non-sewered sanitation was therefore invaluable.
What also excited me was the strength of key forums, such as those for international water regulators, utility leaders, and emerging water leaders. These are global platforms, but with immense support and engagement from the African continent, as well as from Asia and Latin America. The conversations in these forums are demonstrable proof that the answers to many global challenges lie in the Global South. They are proof also that, as IWA’s Executive Director, Kala Vairavamoorthy, has said, Africa can leapfrog conventional approaches with its solutions, rather than merely importing them.
Key partnerships and relationships were strengthened, with the African Water and Sanitation Association, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization and UN bodies, WaterAid, and more. With our ever-expanding membership in the region, and the generous contributions of these partners, our impact can only accelerate.
IWA has an enviable reputation for its biennial World Congress and its many specialist events. The success of the Water and Development Congress in Rwanda has further cemented this event series in our global calendar. It complements our other events and provides a unique forum for practitioners and policymakers to explore key water and development solutions. And it truly demonstrates our diversity – a vital source of IWA’s relevance and, as such, something to be celebrated. Vive la difference!

Tom Mollenkopf, President, IWA