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VU Amsterdam scientists from NEWAVE at UN Water Conference

22 March 2023
Climate change is causing a major global water crisis. Floods, water pollution and scarcity make many areas unhabitable. During the UN Water Conference in New York at 22-24 March, the United Nations will together with scientists, NGOs and policymakers reflect on the radical change that is needed to combat worldwide water problems. VU Amsterdam scientists from EU funded research network NEWAVE are also present to share their knowledge on water governance.

One of the researchers present is Dr. Jampel Dell'Angelo, Associate Professor of Water Governance & Politics at the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) and coordinator of the Water Security & Justice research cluster at Amsterdam Sustainability Institute (ASI) at VU Amsterdam. As a social scientist he investigates water challenges from a political economy perspective. His main area of research is on cooperation, competition and conflict over water resources spanning issues such as community irrigations projects to global water grabbing.

Dell’Angelo leads the Innovative Training Network NEWAVE which kicked-off three years ago. Funded by the European Commission, NEWAVE  is a transdisciplinary and cross-border research initiative focused entirely on water governance actionable research.

Next Water Governance

NEWAVE – “Next Water Governance” - is a European Union-funded project that brings together researchers from different backgrounds as well as practitioners and trains PhD students to become water governance leaders in and outside of the academia. NEWAVE develops research that is much needed given the increasing threats of a future water crisis and hydro-social challenges. Although climate change is high on the agenda, we are lagging behind globally when it comes to water (source). Clean water and sanitation for all (SDG6) still seem far away. Dr. Dell'Angelo: "We cannot fight the climate crisis without talking about water. The water problem is a global problem and we need scientists to point the way forward in the global debate about water governance." In response to that need, NEWAVE hired 15 PhD students to investigate 15 different areas of human-water crises. Examples are studies about water governance challenges in Indonesia and East Africa, the European Union's influence on global water policy and drought mitigation mechanisms.

Different perspectives

NEWAVE has a transdisciplinary approach to research. Dr. Dell'Angelo, a social scientist himself, explains: "The water problems we deal with, have both a human and a natural component. When you analyse a country’s water policy, you have to collaborate with hydrologists to understand what happens to water in periods of drought. You need to involve multiple disciplines as well as non-academic actors and practitioners to understand the full picture and be able to address the challenge”. The network is highly diverse. “We supervise PhD students from Europe and several other countries including India, Chile, Lebanon, China, Canada, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Ethiopia, USA. Also, ~80% of our PhD students are women,” Dr. Dell'Angelo continued. 

Unique to NEWAVE is the growing number of both academic and non-academic partners, now 50 in total. These range from NGOs such as the Spanish Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua (FNCA), International Organizations such as the Global Water Partnership, as well as private companies such as the Dutch company Arcadis. Dell'Angelo: "Our ultimate goal is to bring about social change and that governments and practitioners will implement our research in their future water related projects”.  

UN Water Conference New York City

This goal is already taking shape at the 2023 UN Water Conference, organised by the Netherlands and Tajikistan, where NEWAVE is also present. "Five of our PhD students and five senior researchers will attend the conference," says Dr. Dell’Angelo. "The 2023 UN Water Conference in New York City, is a unique high-level summit. The previous UN Water Conference was organized in Argentina back in 1977,  so this is really a historic moment.” As part of the summit, NEWAVE is organising two online events discussing the themes of ‘water (in)justice and conflicts’ and on ‘the obstacles of global water governance’.

More about the NEWAVE events at the UN conference can be found here.

More information about the ASI research cluster Water Security and Justice and how to join it can be found here.

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