The NIWA (Dutch International Water Ambition) was submitted to the House of Representatives in 2019. It is the joint vision of four ministries, compiled in consultation with the wider water sector. The NIWA is now entering its next phase: to create an action plan that makes the water ambition tangible. Guus Schutjes has been appointed Interim Programme Manager on behalf of the four ministries. To him, collaboration is key, and certainly now that NIWA’s work is becoming more tangible. “Everyone has to give and take.”
‘The sector consultations have an essential input as they help us make the Netherlands’ International Water Ambition (website in Dutch) tangible. In the months to come we will meet online with groups of representatives of the sector. These representatives include the Government, water boards, drinking water companies, NGOs, industry and knowledge institutions. Apart from our own programmes and tools, we really do not know very much about what the sector at large is doing. These meetings will help us bridge the gap. If we then know what our joint objectives are, what we have done and what is happening now and will happen in the sector, we can bring these together in an action plan. By spring 2021, we should be well underway. After that, it will naturally be a continuous process of keeping each other informed.”
‘The NIWA has a dual role: to strengthen water security and water safety in the world of humans, flora and fauna while at the same time facilitating the Netherlands’ contribution and maximising the Netherlands’ potential for profit. We want the NIWA to play a part in attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs, by 2030. What this means in concrete terms is that we hope to supply: improved drinking water provision for 30 million people; improved sanitation services for 50 million people; improved energy management and optimised water usage in agriculture for 40 million people and their surroundings; and, improved water security and water safety for 15 million people in eight delta cities. All in all, accounting for the people that fall under two or more categories, we hope to reach more than 100 million people.’
We are connecting the Government’s network, water expertise and public resources to the international goals, expertise, innovation, experience and investment capacity of the wider water sector. In other words, we can only succeed in working towards the SDGs if we work together. At the same time, it is in everyone’s interest as well as we will benefit from each other’s efforts.
The NIWA rests on three cornerstones. The first is that we want to strengthen local capacity by building partnerships. The second is to do this through an integrated approach towards water security and water safety. And the third is that we will promote the Netherlands as a Centre of Excellence for innovation and knowledge gathering.
Four ministries are involved in the NIWA: Foreign Affairs; Infrastructure and Water Management; Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality; and Economic Affairs and Climate. There has always been a certain degree of collaboration, but with the creation of the NIWA, this is less optional and more structured. As we are now working towards joint goals, aligning ourselves is easier. The NIWA was first defined in 2016 and was overhauled, expanded and upgraded last year. The new Dutch International Water Ambition now includes water, sanitation and hygiene – known as WASH – which was previously not the case. It now also includes the agriculture and food sector.
We have a vision and are ambitious. We have set ourselves goals and it is now time to make these tangible. Twenty-thirty may seem a long way away, but if you see what we want to achieve before then, it’s approaching fast. So we need the action plan for the next few years which will connect and strengthen all the relevant departmental instruments better than before. This will lead to a clear image of what we have already brought about and what we still need to do. The NIWA has been defined quite broadly so it’s not that simple to determine the extent to which the goals have really been achieved. A concrete action plan will make this much easier. We should be able to honestly say what we can achieve and thus the impact that we have.
We are now making an inventory of the current projects that use existing tools, are contributing to NIWA’s goals. Look at a programme such as the Partners for Water Programme (website in Dutch) that is due to run until 2021. We are now thinking about its future and are doing so in line with our water goals, which are leading. Once we have a good picture of the projects, we will know what we need to do. And to give it substance, we need that series of consultation meetings with the wider sector.
That’s not to say that everything will just take off in one go. There are a lot of ongoing activities and all the different agendas have different timelines. Take Blue Deal for example. This is an international programme comprising the 21 water boards and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Its goal is to give 20 million people worldwide access to sufficient, clean safe water. The programme, with 17 partners in 14 countries, will run up to the end of 2030. Another well-known example is WaterworX. WaterworX, an alliance of drinking water companies and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aims to give 10 million people worldwide sustained access to clean drinking water.
In short, there are several initiatives which still have years to go. They all operate in a particular context and were set up with particular goals in mind. You don’t want to change them all. Our plan is to think about continuation at the right time so that we gradually introduce the new NIWA policy. It is an ongoing process. We are boarding a moving train.
Better alignment will give substance to the sector’s joint action plan. The Government needs the rest of the water sector to roll out its water ambition in practice. And vice versa, we can support the water sector by using our international public network, by identifying relevant entities in the sector and opening doors for them. We can also use the financial tools that, amidst much international competition, will help get potentially successful projects off the ground. It will be give and take for everyone and everyone must understand that we need to work together, and that the basis of our work is a shared interest and not unilateral objectives.
We are intending to make this an ongoing process in the action plan. By regularly stocktaking and checking that we still on course, we can achieve the water ambitions for 2030.’
The IWC (Interdepartmental Water Cluster) has requested NWP to facilitate the sector consultation meetings over the next few months. These consultation meetings will be held in small groups to stimulate discussion. The IWC will define the action plan in the light of these consultations.