How the San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower was shaped

The San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower was issued at the conclusion of the 8th World Hydropower Congress on 24 September 2021, and is the outcome of a public consultation involving hundreds of individuals and organisations.

The Congress, first held in 2007, is the world’s most important gathering of decision-makers, thought leaders and innovators in the global hydropower community. More than 5,000 participants were involved in the 2021 event, making it the largest in history.

The Declaration put forward a new vision for hydropower’s contribution to global climate goals at a crucial moment, with its launch coming just five weeks ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26.

A wide-ranging consultation process

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) undertook a public consultation to shape the content of the San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower in three phases between June and September 2021.

Successive draft versions of the Declaration were published in June and July respectively, and opened for public feedback. These drafts were based on the outcomes of various multi-stakeholder forums, working groups and research activities, including:

  • IHA Charter for Sustainable Hydropower
  • Hydropower Sustainability Standard
  • IHA Working Group on Hydropower in Protected Areas
  • International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower
  • IRENA's Collaborative Framework on Hydropower
  • IEA’s Hydropower Special Market Report

The consultation drafts were disseminated widely to stakeholders from a broad range of backgrounds in the hydropower sector, including representatives of governments, NGOs, finance institutions, academic and research institutions, developers, operators and consultants.

Feedback was collected over a period of several weeks, during which IHA facilitated a series of activities and events to present the contents of the Declaration and encourage input. This included public webinars, high-level meetings, videos, news articles, and email and social media campaigns.  

The consultation process generated a huge response, with over 100 respondents providing written feedback, and hundreds more participating in events and joining the discussion.  

At this stage of the consultation, over 90% of participants stated that they either fully agreed or mostly agreed with the content of the Declaration.

Final stages at the World Hydropower Congress

The 2021 World Hydropower Congress was held virtually on 7–24 September 2021 and was free to attend, making it one of the most accessible high-level hydropower events ever held.

Feedback from the public consultation was incorporated into a final updated draft of the San José Declaration, which was published at the beginning of the Congress. This draft was then put forward and discussed at daily sessions throughout the three-week event, with further feedback encouraged and received.  

This final consultation stage built further consensus around the wording of the Declaration and helped to shape its final version, which was launched at the closing ceremony of the event on Friday 24 September.

Feedback gathered during the Congress showed that the percentage of participants who fully or mostly agreed with the content of the Declaration was still over 90%, and had increased from the previous round. It also showed that 100% of participants were either completely or mostly satisfied that the consultation had been open, inclusive and beneficial.

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