Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

Statement by Ms. Lilianne Ploumen at the Side Event “Tackling Water Risks to Ensure a Sustainable Future”

Statement by Ms. Lilianne Ploumen

Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation

of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

at the Side Event “Tackling Water Risks to Ensure a Sustainable Future”

25 September 2013


 Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to be in such good company of my colleagues from Switzerland and Colombia, the SG’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation and the President of the World Water Council, all important partners of the Netherlands.

The history of my country is interwoven with water. We have struggled with floods, transboundary pollution, subsidence, salination and the rising sea level. We also profit from the water as a source of energy and exploit one of the largest ports in the world, Rotterdam.

Water is both a source of development as well as growing threat to development.

In this side event, I want to focus on three points:

-    the risks of water related disasters.

-    best practices and key factors for success in Disaster Risk Reduction.

-    the importance of including water in the post-2015 agenda.

Booming economies and growing populations together with the effects of climate change make countries more vulnerable than ever before for extreme weather events and other natural disasters. The large majority of these natural disasters is water-related.

At this moment, 1.2. billion people globally risk becoming a victim of water related disasters. Already, every year 100 to 200 million people are involved in a water related disaster. According to the World Economic Forum, water security is one of our fastest-growing problems.

But it’s isn’t simply a matter of too much water. Water scarcity already affects more than 40 percent of the world’s population across every continent, and the situation will become more severe in the coming decades. According to the World Resources Institute, by 2030, the annual global water requirements could exceed current sustainable water supplies. Clean drinking water is threatened by floods and pollution in many parts of the world.

Water shortages, poor water quality, and floods by themselves are unlikely to result in state failure. However, water problems, when combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions, contribute to social disruptions that can result in state failure. Groundwater depletion in parts of Africa and the Middle East is already a threat to regional stability.

Where water management fails, society as a whole is at risk. Water related disasters can result in huge losses of investments and lives. Energy can become scarce. Food production can come to a halt. And drinking water supplies can run out. The safety of people living in deltas and coastal cities is particularly at risk; the need for disaster risk reduction (DRR) in these areas is high and continues to grow.

Effective risk management requires significant investment. However, investment in disaster risk reduction is strategic and economically rational.

Bangladesh is an example: in 1970, 500,000 Bangladeshis lost their lives in a cyclone. After investments in early warning systems and coastal protection works a comparable cyclone in 2007 cost 4000 lives. Clearly, this is 4000 lives too many. But it could have been worse. Protection against water-related disasters in Bangladesh has greatly improved – and it paid off. The loss of human, economic and natural capital has greatly decreased.

Facing rising sea and river levels has implications for the NL too. We need to make new investments. So we formulated a new Delta Plan for our country in 2012. A fund of 1 billion euros per year has been created to finance this Plan.

To formulate the right measures and mobilize the necessary investments in Disaster Risk Reduction, let me highlight a few factors that are of crucial importance. First, consider water a long-term challenge and develop a long-term vision. In the NL, we have decided to work with a timeframe of 100 years. Second: take a regional or national approach. In the NL, we have taken the whole delta into account. Third: involve all relevant stakeholders to ensure that all social, economic and ecological interests are taken into account. Sound water management needs an integrated perspective and a holistic approach.

I realize that many countries may have other expertise and different types of resources than the NL to deal with Disaster Risk Reduction. Therefore, we need to facilitate innovative forms of partnerships and alliances to tackle water risks. The Colombia-Netherlands Water Partnership is a very good example of that.

My country is keen to share its expertise with the world. Dutch businesses have enormous expertise in the field of water management. I’m happy to announce that I’ve earmarked 5 million euros to improve worldwide access to our expertise. This will allow other governments to consult the best Dutch experts quickly and easily.

The post-2015 agenda is crucial to address the challenges we face. We need an ambitious and dedicated sustainable development goal for water within the post-2015 development framework. It should build on and go beyond the MDG’s and existing commitments to tackle water risks. The NL stands for a strong water goal and invites you to discuss with us targets such as: 1) universal access to water supply and sanitation; 2) water management for socio-economic development and environmental protection; 3) wastewater management and water quality, and last but not least; 4) building resilience to water-related disasters.

We can only tackle the risks we are facing with leadership, vision and cooperation. A coalition of water champions is what we need. Let´s start today!