Waterkeepers Meet in Guatamela for Regional Summit - Waterkeeper

Waterkeepers Meet in Guatamela for Regional Summit

By: Waterkeeper Alliance

Luis Nunez Rio Ozama Waterkeeper (Dominican Republic) looks out over Lago el Atilan

With stunning views of volcanoes towering over Lago el Atilan, Waterkeepers from seven countries throughout Latin America gathered at high elevation in Panajachel, Guatemala on April 26-30 for Waterkeeper Alliance’s Latin America Regional Summit.

Lago del Atilan provided a perfect setting for a Summit of Waterkeepers. It is a beautiful place that is severely impaired by pollution, apathy and a changing world. A place not unlike the watersheds and communities where our attendee Waterkeepers descended from for this Summit. It is a place rooted in thousands of years of culture and respect for water, yet a place that is at this moment grappling with modern impacts and a critical need for protection. Our host Waterkeeper Lake Atitlan Waterkeeper is a force for change and provided a roadmap for said change. A roadmap that is already being followed by Waterkeepers throughout the region, and a roadmap with more clarity derived from spending several immersed days together.

The Summit consisted of in-depth trainings lead by outside experts and Waterekeepers themselves, highly coordinated and structured presentations by every attending Waterkeeper group, a field trip to experience and understand Lago el Atilan and the community, culture and work of Lake Atitlan Waterkeeper, and many opportunities for bonding and rejuvenation of the reason why we are Waterkeepers.

“En general, creo que fue un gran reencuentro y siempre se genera una suerte de recarga y dirección que sirve tanto a nuestra región y alianza, como así tambien, en el alineamiento de los objetivos y proyectos individuales. Muy agradecido de nuestros representantes regionales,  [Tijuana Waterkeeper] Margarita [Diaz] y [Guayllabamba Waterkeeper] Patricio [Chambers], del staff de [Waterkeeper Alliance]  y de quienes lo hicieron posible. Es, sin duda, un espacio de permanente crecimiento y hermandad. Eso se agradece, siempre.”  – Rodrigo de la O – Maule Itata Coastkeeper

“I think it was a great reunion and a recharge and direction is always generated that serves both our region and [Waterkeeper] Alliance, and also helps to align our individual objectives and projects. I am very grateful to our [Waterkeeper Council] regional representatives, [Tijuana Waterkeeper] Margarita [Diaz] and [Guayllabamba Waterkeeper] Patricio [Chambers], to the [Waterkeeper] Alliance staff and to all those who made it possible. It is, without a doubt, a space of permanent growth and brotherhood. That is appreciated, always.” – Rodrigo de la O – Maule Itata Coastkeeper

The Latin America Regional Summit hosted 8 sessions, including topics covering: the UN Water Action Agenda and our Role in Influencing Change; a two-part, intensive Safety and Security training; GIS and database management and best practices workshop; and a discussion about Justice, Equity, Inclusion and Diversity. All of the sessions featured hands-on training and application of tools and resources as well as deep dialogue and learning. Participants walked away from these sessions with new tools to put into practice and a deeper understanding of theories and practicality.

Unfortunately safety and security is a need for our Waterkeeper groups around the world, and particularly in Latin America. A highlight amongst the sessions was the multi-day Security training presented by Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales –  ProDESC, which is a “feminist organization with a transnational reach and an intersectional vision of the defense of human rights.” Over the course of 4.5 hours, spread out over two days, Waterkeeper groups gained valuable knowledge regarding their personal and regional security as environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs). More specifically, the training focused on understanding the risks EHRDs are exposed to worldwide; explaining the risk evaluation and its importance for the identification of security measures; and sharing practical examples of how environmental organizations can improve their security. Waterkeeper groups walked away with more awareness of the issues and more tools to use in their work and their communities.

“Importante y muy urgente que se tomen capacitaciones en temas de seguridad y su importancia. Un gran paso y una necesidad.”  – Rodrigo de la O – Maule Itata Coastkeeper

“It is important and very urgent that training is received for security issues and their importance. A big step and a necessity.” – Rodrigo de la O – Maule Itata Coastkeeper

In addition to the hands-on trainings, participants spent several hours a day presenting to their peers about work their respective organizations are doing and projects they’re engaged in. These highly structured and coordinated sharing sessions allowed for participants to practice public speaking and fostered a dynamic exchange of information, best practices and successes..Collectively this painted a beautiful picture, and a perfect representation of the Waterkeeper model; locally-based work resulting in a global movement for clean water. One of the more impressive report outs had to do with a multi-location coordinated trash cleanup initiative undertaken by many Waterkeeper groups in the region in March of 2023 –  the Minga WKALATM 2023. Results of the minga can be seen here.

On the opening day of the Summit, Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, shared this special message of gratitude and encouragement with Latin America Waterkeepers. His words are an inspiration to Waterkeeper groups and supporters around the world to keep defending everyone’s right to clean water.