Blog22 August 2019
World Water Week starts on Sunday in Stockholm. The central theme is ‘Water for society: Including all’. This theme is clearly linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals for water (SDG6). Bianca Nijhof, Managing Director at NWP, is also the new SDG6 coordinator for the Netherlands at the SDG Charter Network. This network supports businesses, civil society and local governments in the Netherlands to cooperate effectively to achieve SDGs at home and abroad. In her blog, Bianca emphasises the need for concrete action to achieve these goals.
The message in Stockholm at the World Water Week will be clear: the urgency to take action is only increasing. If the current trajectory continues, the world will face a 40% shortfall of water by 2030. Just look at the report the World Bank released this week stating that the world faces an invisible crisis in water quality that is holding back one-third of potential economic growth in heavily polluted areas and threatening human and environmental well-being. The consequences are local, transboundary and global. The sector must highlight connections with global issues, such as urbanisation, energy, food and population, if it is to secure greater action on water.
I believe it is key, more than ever, to bring policy and practice together. At the planning level, governments, companies and NGOs are coming together in promising partnerships and are putting their signatures on ambitious initiatives and plans. Just about everyone who matters will be present in Stockholm. At the same time, at the practical level, I see great things happening all over the world. Solutions that work because they are not only innovative but also match local conditions, are built on local collaboration and link sectors, such as water and energy, water and agriculture, water and finance. And whenever policy and practice meet, tangible progress is within reach.
Stockholm will raise awareness of good practice. The Dutch water sector will once again make a recognisable contribution to raising awareness from our very visible Holland Pavilion. The Holland Pavilion, organised by NWP and the Dutch Government, has a programme that will inspire. Its four main themes are Finance for Water, WASH, Water, Peace & Security and Water & Agrifood.
I am looking forward to the presentation of the new Water and Energy for Food Programme (WE4F) on 28 August by the Dutch and Swedish Ministries of Foreign Affairs. The WE4F stimulates innovation and entrepreneurship in the Nexus. It will bring successful innovations to scale through financial brokering, technical assistance and advocating for a supportive enabling environment.
Another inspiring example that will be showcased at the Holland Pavilion, on 26 August, comes from our YEP Programmes that strive to rejuvenate the Water & Agrofood sectors and ensure the continued availability of expertise for these sectors. Water needs the youth. There is a great saying: ‘We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children’. The YEP programmes offer young Dutch and local professionals the opportunity to take their first steps in the water sector in an international environment.
Concrete action is necessary to reach the SDGs, but the practice is unmanageable. So we have to remove barriers and create space, also through cross-sectoral cooperation. As SDG6-coordinator I want to help setting the agenda, define concrete actions, connect with other sectors. And it is key to find out how best practices can inspire us. One of those examples is the Olam’s smallholder OLC program which contributes to water reduction in sugarcane production in India. It started in 2013 and to date, the program has reached 20,500 farmers and saved 62 billion liters of water. Just as inspiring is NEWater in Singapore, turning wastewater into drinking water. Evidently such solutions do not automatically work in other regions and other circumstances. But it shows the importance of thinking outside the box.
Valuing water can literally and figuratively make a valuable contribution to achieving the SDGs for water. During two meetings on August 29, I will stress the fact that we can and must value water comprehensively, taking into account all its values - cultural, social, environmental and economic. That is why the Netherlands started the Valuing Water Initiative, a coalition of governments, businesses, investors and NGOs, determined to put the recommendations of the High Level Panel on Water into action. Valuing Water will be a central theme in 2021 for UN Water and the World Bank embraces the Valuing Water Initiative.
The seventeen SDGs have been my to-do-list since the very beginning in September 2015, focusing on SDG6 for water once I joined NWP. No one says it is going to be easy to achieve them, the water problems in the world are extremely complex, truly effective solutions demand a huge effort. And our approach should be integrated: the goals for water are in some way linked to all other SDG’s. As Hugo von Meijenfeldt, SDG coordinator in the Netherlands, already said: seventeen is an indivisible number. But once we realise that, the SDGs offer great opportunities to include all and leave no one behind.’
The SDG Charter Network enables business, civil society and local governments in the Netherlands to cooperate effectively in achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, at home and abroad. The Charter develops an ambitious, positive agenda to achieve the goals. The SDGs are a great opportunity for the Netherlands and the world, if we are able to work together. The SDG Charter has been signed by over 400 parties; companies, civil society and youth organizations, foundations, knowledge institutes and municipalities, that are strongly committed to realizing the 2030 Agenda.
The Charter bureau facilitates SDG Alliances around specific SDGs. The SDG 6 Alliance wants to improve the visibility of SDG 6 in the Netherlands with an appeal to international, through the NWP network.