Water Institute’s Nexus 2014 conference to influence United Nations’ development goals

March 8, 2014

The Water Institute at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosted its Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference March 5-8. The event, which brought together leaders in business, government, nongovernmental organizations and research, explored innovative and sustainable solutions regarding the intersection, or nexus, of the world’s water, food, and energy needs and use in the context of a changing climate.

Three hundred participants from 33 countries attended the inaugural Nexus Conference March 5-8. They collaborated to address the world’s needs for and use of water, food, and energy.

Three hundred participants from 33 countries attended the inaugural Nexus Conference March 5-8. They collaborated to address the world’s needs for and use of water, food and energy.

One goal of the Nexus Conference was to provide input to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) process. Toward that end, a group of experts prepared a draft of what they called the “Nexus Declaration” to outline connections between water, food, climate and energy, and to offer policy recommendations for addressing these challenges.

Last month, Felix Dodds, associate fellow at the Tellus Institute, senior fellow at UNC’s Global Research Institute and co-director of the Nexus 2014 conference, presented a draft of the Nexus Declaration, which he hopes will influence next September’s negotiations about the SDGs, to the president of the U.N. General Assembly.

“We had a number of the key negotiators speaking or chairing at this conference,” Dodds said. “So, not only are we putting our proposal in front of the U.N., but [the negotiators] are participating in the conference and hopefully will take the ideas and thoughts represented here back to their own governments.”

The conference provided a unique convening place for leaders from different sectors who hold diverse perspectives for solving nexus-related challenges. The 300 attendees, from 33 countries, represented companies including Coca-Cola, Pepsi and SABMiller; nongovernmental organizations such as the WWF and the Skoll Foundation; intergovernmental organizations, including multiple U.N. agencies; and more than 30 universities around the world.

This interdisciplinary collaboration was demonstrated at the conference through panel discussions, interactive and networking sessions, and research presentations on topics ranging from corporate stewardship to resource security, finance, social entrepreneurship, urbanization and financing the nexus.

Jamie Bartram, PhD, Don and Jennifer Holzworth Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of The Water Institute at UNC, was conference co-director.

In his opening remarks, he highlighted the importance of this collaboration in addressing, and ultimately solving, nexus issues.

“We live in world where we run our institutions in silos,” Bartram said. “Nexus thinking runs contrary to the way that we’ve become comfortable with operating. We are fortunate to have both science and policy perspectives represented [at the conference]. By bringing together the science that underpins and gives meaning to the nexus perspective with the policy that will turn it into practice, we actually will be able to make a difference.”

Videos of the plenary sessions are available on the conference website.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu.