Since September 2017, more than 25 members of the Dutch House of Representatives from eight different political parties have committed to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They are part of the Adopt an SDG campaign initiated by Building Change, a project of Partos, Foundation Max van der Stoel and NWP member Woord en Daad. Politicians Corrie van Brenk (50PLUS) and Chris Stoffer (SGP) opted for SDG 6 which focuses on clean drinking water, good sanitation and sustainable water management. In this Q&A session, they explain why they think this SDG is so important, how they approach it and what they hope to achieve.
Chris Stoffer: “The subject is close to my heart as I used to work for Rijkswaterstaat. This initiative allows me to be involved more deeply and show how essential water is. To me, the most important aspect of our role is that we draw attention to water so that it is placed high on the political agenda and remains there.”
Corrie van Brenk: “Adopting SDG 6 has made me much more aware of the urgency of addressing global water challenges. I decided to take on an active role in this campaign after attending a meeting organised by Building Change where it was made very clear how water issues relate to other issues. For instance, migration flows can originate from the lack of water.”
Corrie van Brenk: “Water is the first necessity of life and as such is so essential that it rises above party politics.”
Chris Stoffer: “Corrie and I feel the same way about it. You could say that it is a registered partnership for water.”
Corrie van Brenk: “We have already drawn attention to the need to achieve SDG 6 at all kinds of occasions such as budget discussions, various meetings, in a video message for World Sanitation Day and so on. And of course, we will continue to do so.”
Chris Stoffer: “I believe the best political motion was ‘iedereen de pot op’ (a Dutch expression with a double meaning that suggests that everyone gets a usable toilet, eds.) in November 2018, in which we asked Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, to draw up an ambitious and credible plan to achieve the Dutch target for 2030 of access to sanitation for 50 million people by 2030. It generated a lot of publicity – just what we want to create awareness and encourage action.”
Corrie van Brenk: “And by the way, it is not just about helping developing countries, we must also do well in the Netherlands and Europe. For example, I advocate tightening the water quality guidelines of the EU.”
Chris Stoffer: “Water has naturally been central to the history of the Netherlands and the water authorities have played a major role. Our history has brought us to where we are today and the gathered experience in managing water enables us to do our bit internationally.”
Corrie van Brenk: “To me, exporting knowledge is paramount. Not so much to take matters into our own hands elsewhere, but by working together locally on solutions that fit the local situation.”
Chris Stoffer: “Exactly. It is not a matter of simply transplanting a Dutch approach or a Dutch solution. The whole point is to take local circumstances into account.”
Corrie van Brenk: “That is why I am so enthusiastic about the Blue Deal programme. This involves 21 Dutch water authorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management jointly working to give 20 million people worldwide access to sufficient, clean and safe water. And in regard to exporting a Dutch approach, what we can do is export the democratic stakeholder model that involves our water authorities. This model has grown over the centuries and involves stakeholders actively participating in the decision-making process.”
Chris Stoffer: "Yes. The message from the Netherlands is that technology alone is simply not enough. You also need good governance to ensure sustainable solutions. The Netherlands always draws international attention to integrated and inclusive approaches that include local people and organisations. Broad social consensus is key.”
Corrie van Brenk: “The essence is to transfer knowledge in such a way that a country can then continue managing its water challenges and solutions on its own. To achieve that, a good revenue model and sustainable financing are also essential. Otherwise the implemented solutions could fail rather quickly. Here in the Netherlands, the Government, the business community, knowledge institutes and NGOs must be able to find each other if they are to offer integrated solutions.”
Chris Stoffer: “I really see great opportunities. For example, last year I was in Africa and I saw how China is heavily investing in infrastructure, making countries more dependent on them at the same time. In my opinion, it is much better if countries are more interested in working together towards greater well-being and prosperity than in gaining power. This approach, taken by the Dutch water sector, delivers added value and offers an attractive alternative.”
Corrie van Brenk: “Companies can be a valuable part of this approach. I always come back bouncing with enthusiasm after seeing innovative water solutions. I was recently at a project demonstration of 1,500 wells where the water is purified using membrane technology and data is shared in the cloud via mobile internet. The combination of technology and governance is essential for it to work sustainably.”
Chris Stoffer: “I would like to emphasise that the Dutch water sector’s international activities make an important contribution to our prosperity. I believe we can do the right thing to solve global water issues while entering into business opportunities at the same time. Aid and trade can go hand in hand, and it is thus appropriate that the substantive knowledge of Dutch embassies on local water challenges abroad is shared. This transfer of information is necessary to identify and seize opportunities.”
Chris Stoffer: “If we were to have another Q&A session in 2021, I would hope to be able to look back and say that we have taken concrete steps towards accomplishing Dutch ambitions in the field of sanitation, and that we have set a realistic course.”
Corrie van Brenk: “We really have to work together. And not only far away, we also have plenty to do in the Netherlands and in Europe. For example, look at micropollutants. We need to step up our efforts there. I am going to do my best to ensure that we will succeed in doing so in the near future.”
The House of Representatives,
after hearing the deliberation,
whereas access to sanitation is crucial for public health, combating child mortality and preventing early school leaving,
whereas achieving the goal of access to sanitation for 50 million people by 2030 requires an increase in the number of people to be reached from around 2.4 million people per year in 2020 to around 3.8 million people from 2020,
whereas this requires substantial additional efforts, possibly with budgetary implications,
calls on the minister to draw up an ambitious and credible plan to achieve the 2030 target and to inform the House about the progress and costs thereof,
and proceeds to the order of the day.
Partos, the trade association for development cooperation, unites more than 100 Dutch development organisations and is committed to the interests of its members in creating a just and sustainable world for everyone as successfully as possible.
Partos, Foundation Max van der Stoel (FMS) and NWP member Woord en Daad started the Building Change project in 2017. It is a campaign aimed at a fair and ambitious implementation of the SDGs led by a positive, stimulating government. The campaign promotes a fair Dutch policy that has no negative impact on developing countries. It is about sustainable development ‘at home and abroad’ economically, socially and ecologically.
As part of the campaign, more than 25 members of the House of Representatives are committed to the SDGs in all sorts of ways. Building Change has built a coalition of around 40 civil society organisations that follow these politicians and provide them with valuable information and advice through social media, events, personal conversations and letters. The NGO Platform, part of NWP, also maintains close contact with both MPs and was involved in the motion.