10 November 2023 / Vienna, Austria
Balkans Joint Conference and Exhibition - As very special as always
Contributed by:
Voice of the Danube
10 November 2023

Offering great hospitality and smart programming, the Balkans Joint Conference and Exhibition has long established itself as a major knowledge sharing and networking event in the Western Balkans water sector. We attended the 11th edition – and as always, it was worth the while.

Titled “Accelerating Change: Towards Safe, Reliable and Sustainable Services”, this year's Balkans Joint Conference focused on accelerating change to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), ensuring access to clean water and sanitation for all.

Organizers SHUKALB and SHUKOS chose a seaside resort in Golem near Durres as the perfect venue for a conference with over 400 participating water professionals, policymakers, and business professionals and a parallel equipment, technology and services exhibition.

As usual, the program was rich in highlights. Matching the conference title, the evening of day one saw the official launch ceremony of the Utility of the Future Center of Excellence. The Utility of the Future Program is a World Bank initiative designed to improve the performance of water and sanitation utilities, and the Utilities of the Future Centre of Excellence will be its Albania-based, globally active knowledge, innovation, and collaboration hub.

Conference keynote speeches came from Gustavo Saltiel, World Bank Global Lead for Water Supply and Sanitation and Arne Gooss, Head of KfW Banking Group Infrastructure for Western Balkan and Turkey, on financings in the water sector in Western Balkans countries.

IAWD and the Danube Water Program contributed their share to a rich variety of presentations, workshops and forums. IAWD Head of Secretariat Katerina Schilling and the World Bank's DWP Lead Raimund Mair opened the Young Water Professionals Forum, an open platform for final year University students and Young Water Professionals with a strong focus on career paths and education opportunities.

IAWD President Walter Kling took part in the Plenary Session on Workforce Challenges. Raimund Mair moderated the Technical Session on Water Security Diagnostics in Integrated Water Resources Management. IAWD Consultant Rado Russev presented “Innovation in the Danube Region – Experiences from the Utility Management Training” during a Technical Session on Open Knowledge And Innovation in Water Utilities. And Sofia Water's Pavel Mihaylov, recently graduated from the first cycle of D-LeaP's Utility Management Training, presented his graduation project during the Technical Session on Technical Management of Water Utilities.

A thoroughly enjoyable social program rounded off an extremely satisfying conference experience. We thank the organizers and look forward to the next edition.