w12 openingLeading scientists, economists, and professionals from 15 countries came to Cape Town to meet with their South African counterparts for intensive multi-sector workshops to determine how to prevent a Day Zero Scenario: when a city completely runs out of water.

Cape Town is one of the “W12”. These are the 12 major world cities “most likely to run out of drinking water”. The others are São Paulo, Bangalore, Beijing, Cairo, Jakarta, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo and Miami.

Entitled “Cities Facing Escalating Water Shortages: Lessons Learned and Strategies Moving Forward”, the conference was organised by the University of the Western Cape with the US-based partner, the Institute of Ecological Civilization (EcoCiv), in cooperation with the University of Cape Town Future Water Research Institute, the Stellenbosch University Water Institute and the City of Cape Town. The conference is strategically partnered with Save Our Schools NPO to align its efforts with the broader W12 framework and lay the groundwork for the W12 Major Cities Best Practices Water Protocol.

The initiative was kicked off by the W12 partners in Cape Town on the evening 26 January with a screening of the film “Thirst for Justice” by BBC filmmaker Leana Hosea.

w12 economics task teamThis was followed by two-days of intensive multi-sector workshops at UWC to explore scenarios and initiatives over 5, 10, 20 and 30-year timescales. On the first day, the delegates to the conference participated as members of six task teams in the natural sciences, social sciences, politics, economics (pictured), technical sciences and civil society. These teams were then brought together on the second day to devise projects for cities and governments to ensure water security over the next 30 years.

The results of these deliberations were announced at a press conference on 29 January.

PSIPW, which represented Saudi Arabia to the Natural Sciences Task Team at the 2-Day framework conference, also sponsored delegates from four other countries to participate. They were:

eiman karar113x116[1] Dr. Eiman Karar, Water Governance Advisor, UNESCO Regional Centre for Water Harvesting Capacity Building, Sudan (Politics Task Team)

adama gueye113x116f[2] Dr. Adama Gueye, Associate Professor of Economics at Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal (Economics Task Team)

mayamiko113x116[3] Dr. Mayamiko Nkoloma, University of Malawi (Politics Task Team) 

dorothy kobel113x116[4] Dr. Dorothy Kobel, DARK Advisory Services, Kampala, Uganda, (Technical Sciences Task Team)


Framework development will continue over the next four months.

The public W12 Congress will follow from 18 to 20 May of this year at the Cape Town Convention Centre and Cape Town City Hall. Delegates will include ministers from several countries, mayoral delegations from global cities facing water challenges, along with top international CEOs for the water industry and UNESCO Directors. The International Desalination Organization (IDA) and Stockholm International Water Week (SIWI) will also be key players.

This international summit will continue to develop the W12 Framework document, aggregating knowledge within and across thematic areas and different geographies, ultimately creating a roadmap for change and inspiring engagement in solutions to this imminent crisis.

The roadmap will be launched in partnership with UNESCO by the end of the year. UNESCO will continue to work closely with the W12 teams in integrating their work into the UNESCO worldwide platform.

The W12 Framework Document, together with a database of contacts, information, and media, will be maintained online and be freely accessible to city officials and others working to alleviate water scarcity.

The Congress will rotate annually between the W12 cities on an ongoing basis.