IWI’s president Rudy Van der Ween attended the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt, on November 13-15, at the kind invitation of the World Historic and Cultural Canal Cities Cooperation Organisation (WCCO), based in Yangzhou, China.

Our presence took place in two stages. First, on the River Nile in Cairo, was the last leg in 2022 of a worldwide environmental awareness campaign launched under the auspices of WCCO: the Global Canal Rowing Action. Events took place in more than 100 cities worldwide.

One of the ‘Global Canal Rowing’ crews on the Nile in Cairo on November 13

The core message of the campaign, founded by members of the Asian Rowing Federation, was ‘Zero Carbon, Zero Waste, Clean Water’. The rowing events in each city were coordinated by Mr Wang Shi, Honorary Vice President of WCCO and honorary president of the Asian Rowing Federation, assisted by accomplished oarsman Ken Lee. Both had attended IWI’s World Canals Conference in Leipzig, Germany, on May 30-June 2, when planning started for the action at COP27.

After the rowing event on the Nile, a reception was held with numerous personalities, including the Egyptian Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Ashraf Sobhi. Then Rudy Van der Ween travelled with a large ‘Global Canal Rowing’ delegation to Sharm el-Cheikh for the day at COP27 devoted to water as the planet’s most vital and critically threatened resource.

IWI president Rudy Van der Ween speaks at the reception after the rowing event

Explaining IWI’s involvement, he said: ‘It was during the World Canals Conference in Leipzig that Mr. Wang Shi presented the Global Canal Rowing Action, and I was fascinated by the innovative ways of using rowing to bring people who care about water and enjoy water sports together, and also by the scale of the project: thousands of people all around the world were mobilised to join this campaign. I am proud to say that I also contributed to the project by introducing Mr. Wang Shi’s team to my home town Ghent, and witnessed their rowing event there. During these exchanges, stories are shared and friendships are built.’

Delegates from WCCO at the China Pavilion in Sharm-el-Cheikh.

Through this action, waterways are shown to have a role to play in urban mobility, and the human-powered demonstrations serve to promote waterborne transport in general.