International Kick-off Workshop on Advancing a Nexus Approach concluded

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International Kick-off Workshop on Advancing a Nexus Approach concluded

The International Kick-off Workshop served as a starting point for the organisation of a future regular Nexus Conference to be held in Dresden. By bringing together experts from national and international academia, government entities, UN agencies and UNU institutes, the workshop aimed at providing an update on current initiatives advancing a nexus approach, focusing on research initiatives exploring the nexus of water, soil and waste. Besides research, issues of capacity development were considered, including education and training as well as institutional capacity development. Examples and case studies on research projects, best-practices and curriculum requirements were introduced and discussed and provided the participants with an up-to-date overview on the issue.

Over 80 participants from the United Nations, UNU institutes, Member States, German Ministries, Academia and NGOs were assembled to discuss over 40 presentations, case studies as well as introductory talks by leading scientists and experts.

Group photo of participants on day 1. Group photo of participants on day 1.

Day 1

On November 11th, the International Kick-off Workshop on Advancing a Nexus Approach to the Sustainable Management of Water, Soil and Waste was officially opened by the Vice-Rector of TU Dresden, Prof. Susanne Strahringer, Klaus Uckel from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Markus Faller from the State Ministry of Higher Education, Research and the Arts (SMWK)  of the Free State of Saxony, and the Rector of the UN University, Dr. David M. Malone.

Prof. Strahringer of TU Dresden, Markus Faller of SMWK and Klaus Uckel of BMBF (from left to right). Prof. Strahringer of TU Dresden, Markus Faller of SMWK and Klaus Uckel of BMBF (from left to right).

DSC_0721The following four thematic sessions consisted of introductory talks, presentations, case studies and ensuing panel discussions. Following the Opening Session and an introduction of the aims and objectives of the workshop by the Director of UNU-FLORES, Dr. Reza Ardakanian (see on the left), the first thematic session of the work shop began.



Session 1:  Opportunities for adopting a nexus approach to the management of environmental resources and its relevance to the envisaged sustainable development goals and the post-2015 development agenda

DSC_0800The session was introduced was introduced Dr. Ölcay Ünver of FAO (see on the left). After this introduction, presentations were made by representatives of UNEP, UN-HABITAT, UNU-EHS, TUD and others.

The contributors stressed that an integrated approach to the management of water, soil and waste, the key resources for food production, is highly relevant for potential sustainable development goals (SDG’s). Truly integrative management across sectors may sometimes be too ambitious, so to strive for coordination and cooperation may be more realistic and an important first step, partly already realized in inter-sectoral and transboundary watershed management. The nexus approach to managing water, soil and waste still requires a stringent definition and explanation to stakeholders and the public. An additional aspect and dimension to be considered is the landscape and its sensitivity to perturbations. In order to be able to assess the benefits of a nexus approach the definition of indicators is essential. This is not a straightforward task, but would address resource use efficiency, productivity and minimization of losses. Stakeholder and community engagement was considered of prime importance when striving for sustainable development, for which the nexus approach should be a pre-condition. Opportunities are evident both in rural (for example wastewater irrigation) and urban (service provision for water, waste, energy) settings.


Session 2: Challenges for the nexus approach in managing water, soil and waste under conditions of global change

DSC_0912The second thematic session was introduced by Prof. Rattan Lal from Ohio State University (see on the left). Following this introductory talk, presentations were made by representatives of UNESCO-IHE, IOER, EWI and others. The day continued with case studies by representatives of the Governments of Mongolia, Himachal Pradesh/India and others.

In session 2, there was an agreement among the participants that current management approaches do not really address the implications of global change. But the interconnected management of the resources water, soil and waste is suited to deal with some of these implications. The participants agreed that the global trends in demography, urbanization and climate will speed up the process of implementing the nexus approach to cope with these trends and the resulting challenges. In this context, it was discussed that models and tools are available or at least already defined to support the integrated management of environmental resources. However, the parameteDSC_1060rization and calibration of the models might be difficult because of a lack of input data and monitoring data. The participants agreed that a lack of skilled governance and education hampers the implementation of interconnected management. But it was concluded that capacity development at the individual and institutional level may help to overcome this problem.

The contributors disagreed about the need for more research on the Nexus. But there was a common understanding that waiting for new research results would be a waste of time. Instead, rethinking existing research results from a nexus perspective might be an initial point for taking action.


Day 2


The Rector of TU Dresden, Prof. Hans Müller-Steinhagen (see on the left), took the opportunity to speak to the participants on Day 2 of the workshop. Reinforcing the opening remarks on the previous day by Vice-Rector of TU Dresden, Prof. Susanne Strahringer, Prof. Müller-Steinhagen invited the participants to a productive workshop and to enjoy the hospitality of the TUD and the city of Dresden.


Session 3: Capacity development for research and education programmes addressing the nexus, in particular teaching and training programmes

DSC_1127On the second day of the Kick-off Workshop, the third thematic session was opened with an introductory talk by Prof. Christian Bernhofer of TU Dresden (see on the left). After this introduction, presentations were given by representatives from UNU-INWEH, IWMI, UFZ, CEDARE, and others. Following the presentations, a panel discussion moderated by Prof. Stefan Uhlenbrook of UNESCO-IHE gave the participants an opportunity to discuss the previous presentations and put forth questions on research and training programmes addressing the nexus.

Many presenters agreed that the nexus of water, soil and waste as a concept is mature enough to be included in a formal curriculum. Some presenters outlined exemplary best practices to be followed and others suggested potential research areas that UNU-FLORES can look into. Opinions were divided on the question whether the nexus approach to water, soil and waste should be incorporated into existing curricula or whether new programs need to be established.

For many topics, there were many different viewpoints. The biggest challenge seemed to be in finding a consensus on what the term “nexus” should mean to UNU-FLORES, as participants had different opinions and definitions for the nexus.


Session 4: Institutional arrangements and governance structures that advance the nexus approach to management of environmental resources

DSC_1258The last session of the workshop was introduced by Prof. Joachim von Braun of the Centre for Development Research (see on the left). After the introductory talk, presentations from representatives of UNU-INRA, UNU-MERIT, UNW-DPC, IOER and others prepared the ground for a last panel discussion.

At the beginning of the session, centralized versus decentralized approaches were examined by the presenters and the introductory speaker. Questions relating to institutional structures and mechanisms were also covered and issues of decentralization and accountability were addressed. A presentation of landscape planning touched upon the issue of structures and mechanisms at different scales. Presentations on micro-finance and output DSC_1286_webbased financing offered the most surprising outcomes of the session.The panel discussion also featured the Minister of State for Water and Environment of Uganda, Hon. M. Flavia Nabugere and Dr. Elias Ayuk, Director of UNU-INRA (see on the left) to discuss remaining questions on governance and institutional structures. There was overall agreement that no blueprint approaches to planning and institutional reform exist. Instead, according to introductory speaker Prof. Joachim von Braun, one should move away from best practice to good fit.



In the wrap-up of the two days of the Kick-off Workshop, the following questions guided the process:

  • How relevant is the nexus approach for the post-2015 development agenda?

The summary obtained over the two days was that limited and depleting natural resources is relevant for the post-2015 development agenda in general, and that water, soil and waste-related goals are independently included in the discussion for sustainable development topics. The relationships and inter-dependency among water, soil and waste are not emphasized as SDG topics, but emphasis on their inter-dependency is a key.

  • What are the most significant challenges for the nexus approach under the conditions of global change?

The most significant challenge is that global change is speeding up. This is a factor in respect of the lack of good governance and education/capacity building, and for the question of how to translate research into practice. Additional challenges are the reduction of consumption, the reduction of resource losses, and an increase in recycling; as well as a better understanding of synergy and trade-off effects. To meet these challenges, individual and institutional capacity development must be strengthened, existing results using nexus perspectives must be re-evaluated as an initial point for the application of a nexus approach, and evidence must be gathered and examined based on cases on the nexus.

  • What is needed for addressing the nexus approach at the level of research and education (individual capacity development)?

Best practices and maturity of nexus approaches are available. The integration of nexus perspectives into the existing programmes and some new nexus educational programmes have been proposed. New adapted means of teaching for a nexus approach are needed, as is an elaboration on how to connect research and education for nexus approach. Finally, tool-based communication knowledge brokering are required to address the nexus approach.

  • What is needed for the implementation of the nexus approach and its integration in environmental planning and management (institutional capacity development)?

A clear institutional design is needed, as well as accountability: who is accountable for the implementation of nexus approach? A focus on outcomes is needed for everyone, but especially for low-income people. Results-based financing is a powerful tool that can advance the nexus approach.



The workshop ended with closing remarks from Dr. Helmut Löwe of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Thomas Stratenwerth of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and Leveke Neumann of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Dr. Helmut Löwe of BMBF, Leveke Neumann of BMZ and Thomas Stratenwerth of BMU (from left to right). Dr. Helmut Löwe of BMBF, Leveke Neumann of BMZ and Thomas Stratenwerth of BMU (from left to right).


DNCThe Kick-off Workshop served as a starting point for the organization of the future regular Nexus Conference to be held in Dresden. By bringing together experts from national and international academia, government entities, UN agencies and UNU institutes, the workshop acted as a preliminary “steering committee” for the Dresden Nexus Conference.

The first Dresden Nexus Conference will take place in March 2015. In 2014, UNU-FLORES will organize three regional workshop covering different regions in Africa, Asia and South America. The workshops are designed as a first step towards engaging with ongoing initiatives in developing economies to identify opportunities to contribute towards building capacity for program design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation.

DWB coverBy the end of the year, participants will send their comments on the Draft White Book and the editing team at UNU-FLORES will, together with the authors of the respective chapters, finalize the White Book on the Nexus Approach to the Sustainable Management of Water, Soil and Waste in early 2014.

Besides the White Book dealing with conceptual aspects of the nexus approach to the sustainable management of water, soil and waste, a collection of case studies has been compiled (and partly presented). Have a look at the list of poker boos from this website if you want to learn about mind games and skilled poker games related to Nexus. These case studies show practical examples of research projects addressing the nexus or report on the implementation of integrated management plans on water, soil and waste in selected member states.

Photo credits: Antonio di Vico/UNU-FLORES




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