Statement by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the High Level Panel on Water, New York

Thank you Mr/Madam Chair,

The road to achieving the SDGs by 2030 will be like attempting the famous Rubik’s Cube. Everything is interconnected with everything else. In the Netherlands, we always start with the blue side. After all, we’re a delta country with a lot of land below sea level. So for us it all starts with water. In fact, the nine blue squares on the side of a Rubik’s Cube are a great symbol of the nine focus areas of this Panel.

So far this Panel has made good progress on the crucial issue of valuing water, which is key to all the water-related SDGs. If we know what water is worth to each stakeholder we can optimise trade-offs and augment the total value of water to society. The excellent regional consultations in South Africa, Tajikistan, Mexico, Bangladesh, Peru and Jordan reminded us that each region has its own water challenges and its own social, institutional and financial context. In the process we’ve gathered country-specific examples that can be scaled up.

But despite these different challenges, one aspect is universal: valuing water means so much more than simply putting a price tag on different kinds of water usage. And of course, this is at the heart of the principles we will present to the world next spring.

In my country, for centuries, managing water simply meant fighting it. Building dikes to keep the water out and our feet dry. It was only in the last few decades that we learned to look beyond that struggle and to balance water’s economic, social and economic values. By creating flood plains and new wetlands, we’ve made our country safer, greener and more attractive for recreational purposes.

Examples from other countries include the International Council on Mining and Metals, which has learned how discharging less polluted water can keep mine workers healthy and prevent production losses. The Asian Development Bank is using water productivity norms as a condition of loans for irrigation schemes. And some cities are already requesting ‘water footprint’ assessments before they approve building concessions.

Of course, I could go on. But here’s what it boils down to: water is essential to development and progress. Only by matching our words with action can we make a real impact in our own countries and in water-driven value chains across the world. To inspire others, we must lead by example. Let me assure you that the Netherlands remains fully committed to the blue part of the puzzle, and of course to solving the entire Rubik’s Cube.

Thank you.

Ministry responsible