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30.04.2021 - Start of the Latin America Seminar Series

On April 30, 2021, 30 people participated in a SDGnexus Network seminar on the impact of investing on conservation strategies of water sources, water funds, and market mechanisms for development in Latin America.

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During the workshop, Dr. Bert De Bièvre, Technical Secretary (Head) of FONAG and M.A. Marta Echavarría Founding Director of EcoDesición – Investment in nature – participated as speakers and Prof. Dr. Iván Lizarazo from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia as commentator. Prof. Dr. Helmut Breitmeier and Dr. Alicia Correa (both JLU Giessen) chaired the seminar.

Bert De Bièvre explained in his presentation about “Sourcewater protection through Water Funds” that water funds are long-term financial mechanisms that allow the interaction of diverse stakeholders with the common goal of protecting water sources. He stressed that initiatives in Latin America exists and emphasized the example of FONAG (Water Fund of the city of Quito - Ecuador). FONAG as an entity with more than 20 years of trajectory, has gained confidence in the region and ensured the sustainability of its financing flow. Using its international, regional, and local stakeholder platform, FONAG is in charge of establishing cooperation agreements, monitoring, and restoring ecosystems, generating hydro-meteorological, social, and environmental information, and establishing educational programs. These joint actions and strategies have been the basis of the project's success at various levels, to the point that the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) recognized its work as contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The main SDG is SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) as well as several linked ones e.g. SDG 4, SDG 17, SDG 16, SDG 13, SDG 12, SDG 11, SDG 8, and SDG 15.

Marta Echavarría's presentation focused on “Investing in natural infrastructure to align with SDGs in Latin America”. She stated that progress towards achieving SDG 6 has been slow and, therefore, it would be difficult to reach this goal by 2030 without investing more in, for example, natural infrastructure. The example of Peru was stated, regarding the inclusion of environmental compensation in the drinking water tariff structure in 2015, the payment for ecosystem services as law in 2016. The importance that governments play in providing enabling conditions and, private sector and civil society to de-risk investments in biodiversity were further stated. Finally, Echavarría highlighted that “despite research suggesting NbS could provide cost-effective solutions for four out of five cities, < 0.3% of the $300bn in water utility capital expenditure is allocated to NbS projects (TNC 2021)”.

In his comments, Ivan Lizarazo brought these two perspectives together and highlighted the importance of collaborative networks to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. Lizarazo emphasized that other sectors, such as energy and food, are intrinsically dependent on water and therefore the impacts on water protection will be reflected in the energy and food security. He emphasized the relevance of water governance as a special focus for further interdisciplinary research. The concluding discussion further highlighted the importance of a significant reduction of water wastage and effective water management. These issues become especially relevant in the context of growing urbanization in Latin America.