World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought and the GCRF Water Hub

June 17th marks the UN World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. The day is observed every year to increase public awareness of the international efforts to combat desertification, with water security experts from various disciplines working to ensure land used for agriculture, textiles and urbanisation is up to scratch.

It seems a suitable day then to introduce the Global Challenges Academy backed Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub here at Newcastle University with international partners in Colombia, Ethiopia, India and Malaysia.

The GCRF Water Security Hub at Newcastle is a UKRI funded research and education facility based in the School of Engineering. The hub’s focus is on sustainable development goal 6, clean water and sanitation, goal 4, quality education, and goal 13, climate action. The Water Security Hub has a clear vision that is visible in all research and is central to the conversations Newcastle academics have with their international partners:

‘Our vision is to enable sustainable water security through developing and demonstrating a systems approach that better understands water systems; values all aspects of water; and strengthens water governance to enable integrated water management.’

The Hub’s systems approach works on small regional scales to transboundary issues, using problem-solving methods to approach water security in the most efficient way. There are 4 outcomes that the Hub hopes to achieve, based on the theory of change ambitions and strategies:

  1. Governance & policy: creating integrated frameworks for policy and decision-making that enables enhanced water security
  2. Management & innovations: creating integrated management regimes and more equitable and sustainable water security innovations
  3. Community empowerment: Communities assume roles and responsibilities with respect to water resource governance & management
  4. Global and national partnerships for enhanced water security: relationships that facilitate integrated approaches to water security at the Collaboratory level and/or promote these beyond the programme target areas (nationally, regionally or internationally).

As outcome 4 shows, the impact of international partnerships is particularly important, as also emphasised in the UN’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. One such example of the strength of the partnerships within the Hub is the work conducted with Indian NGO Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence.

Newcastle and CURE work closely together to create innovative solutions to ‘include and integrate’ citizens in the process of city development. The partnership has proved invaluable for enabling research to be conducted, with PhD candidate here at Newcastle Jack Charnley having the opportunity to visit Delhi to investigate the impacts of a schools-based Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) initiative on children’s mental and physical health.

PhD student Jack Charnley in Delhi
PhD candidate Jack in Delhi, where he worked with CURE to conduct his research.

The work completed by the Water Security Hub is therefore a huge asset to the Global Challenges Academy and the UN’s SDGs. Regarding World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, environmental engineer Professor Richard Dawson leads the Hub as principle investigator, using engineering techniques to ensure secure access to clean water across the world.

Professor Dawson’s research into drought in European Cities has assessed the risk factor of climate change for 571 cities, providing a necessary contribution to the international conversation on hazard adaptation. If you’d like to read more about Professor Dawson et al.’s research into drought in European cities click here.

During the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Water Security Hub has emphasised the need for clean water in treating infectious disease. Although the team cannot be physically together, the Hub is working hard to ensure the world achieves SDG 6. May’s webinar on city planning in the wake of a pandemic proved the resilience of those working to achieve the goals.

The webinar addressed the necessity of involving citizens in co-producing policy in Delhi, which to date citizens have not been engaged with by the Delhi Jal Board and Delhi Development Authority.

Webinar on city planning in the wake of Covid-19

If you’d like to learn more about the Water Security Hub, visit the website here.

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