Hungary, upon the consultation with ASEM partners, intends to launch the initiative of an ASEM Sustainable Development Dialogue by hosting the first event of the sequence of seminars in Budapest on 20-22 June, 2012 focusing on the “Role of Water in Sustainable Regional Development Strategies“.

Water emerged as a key environmental and development priority on the Hungarian EU Presidency’s agenda, therefore Hungary wishes to emphasize on the importance of the issue of water and would like to see it to be included with greater focus to the future agenda of ASEM cooperation as well. Hungary believes that the proposed event in Budapest could highlight the importance of water as an overarching issue through several different areas of interregional cooperation from regional connectivity, economic integration, through disaster preparedness and management, climate change and environment, water management and food security including the accessibility of drinking water, to even poverty reduction. Sharing experiences and best practices in this regard between macro-regional development strategies such as the Danube Region Strategy and the Greater Mekong Subregion shall provide additional benefits and hopefully significantly enrich interregional co-operation, not only among these two subregional development initiatives, but at the same time other regions and river-valleys of the ASEM-area could also gain benefits from their experiences.

Sustainable development strategies must facilitate green infrastructure, application of long-term, and ecosystem-based solutions, whereby interlinkages between water and other sectors of development policy should be also recognized. Thus, the catalytic role of water in inclusive growth and for sustainable development and consequently water-related capacity building should be reinforced. Interventions in water systems are necessary to meet the needs of society in the widest sense aimed at the enhancement of the beneficial and sustainable use of water. Good water governance reduces poverty and increases living standards. Technology transfer and sharing best practises has crucial role in efforts of water-related capacity building. Sustainable development will not be achieved without a water secure world integrating water resources management across all sectors – finance, planning, agriculture, energy, tourism, industry, education, research, innovation and health.

Transboundary river basins have great potential for cooperation. Establishing a Danube-Mekong cooperation initiative will be a vibrant opportunity to foster a new sector of Asia-Europe cooperation through enhanced connectivity and interaction among countries having enormous experience and knowledge to share as well as to assist other developing counterparts in terms of capacity building. Collaboration among states in the watershed of transboundary rivers by establishing macro-regions and their development strategies such as the Danube Region Strategy or the Greater Mekong Subregion is an opportunity, opening a new dimension in regional cooperation.