Highlights from Water Security, Risk and Society conference

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, spoke enthusiastically about Oxford’s key role in the leadership of the global water security agenda on 17th April at the Natural History Museum to over 220 delegates from policy, research, civil society and business participating in the International Conference on Water Security, Risk and Society.

Professor Hamilton’s address followed a public lecture where Professor Sir John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, underlined the UK Government’s increasing priority on water security in the UK and internationally. Greg Koch, Director of the Global Water Stewardship initiative at the Coca-Cola Company warned that we are at a critical point in the history of human civilisation facing unprecedented water risks. There is a strategic business imperative for addressing these risks to protect growth and profits, he said.

The conference was earlier opened at St Hugh’s College by the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Ian Walmsley, and the Director of the Oxford Martin School, Professor Ian Goldin. “The scale of the challenge, and therefore the scale of the opportunity it presents, is unprecedented,” said Professor Ian Walmsley. Professor Ian Goldin stressed the need to tackle water insecurity as a defining 21st century challenge.

Over the three-day event, more than 70 presentations addressed the status of and pathways to water security with contributions from more than 15 countries.

Oxford University’s Professor David Grey urged for small, bold steps led by “a coalition of the willing and the capable, beginning to move an agenda that includes interdisciplinary science, business, civil society and government. We need to be innovative, coordinated and courageous, and at Oxford we are embarking on this journey with a number of partners around the world.”

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Stephen O’Brien MP, gave a keynote address on the UK government’s commitment to water security to promote economic growth and poverty reduction with a multi-million pound research investment to be shaped by the conference outputs.

The new cross-university website on ‘water’ – www.water.ox.ac.uk – was launched at the conference as part of the Fell-funded Water Security Network, led by the Director of the Environmental Change Institute, Professor Jim Hall.

A range of academic outputs and reports will be released shortly including material to directly feed into the ‘Rio +20’ conference later in the year and the global task force examining the Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation post-2015.



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