Schultz in Korea: ‘Private investments also necessary to tackle world’s water issues’

It should become attractive for private financers to invest in efforts to tackle the world’s water issues. This was said by Dutch Minister Schultz van Haegen of Infrastructure and the Environment at the 7th World Water Forum in Gyeongju, Korea. ‘Whatever plans we make to build a water secure world, there will be no result without money. Financing is the key issue in all our discussions.’

Minister Schultz visited South Korea from 9 to 14 April. As Vice Chair, she attended the meeting of the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP) of the United Nations. The minister also spoke at the 7th World Water Forum and conducted bilateral talks with government representatives from Vietnam, Korea and Indonesia, among other countries. Minister Schultz signed a renewed collaboration agreement with Indonesia in the area of water management in order to continue Dutch activities in Jakarta. She also signed a cooperation agreement with the Korean Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport concerning collaboration of the Netherlands and Korea in third countries, such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Sustainable economic development

According to Ms Schultz, there is no doubt that investments in measures to tackle water problems are a requirement for further economic development. ‘Without enough drinking water, without sufficient sanitation, without water safety, there can be no growth at all. Every political ambition, every Sustainable Goal we establish will always touch upon the issue of water. Prevention pays – not only in terms of human lives, but also economically.’

Worldwide public-private cooperation

The OECD and the University of Oxford presented a study during the World Water Forum that shows the importance of water security for economic growth. Making the world water secure will require huge investments. ‘One thing is crucial to me: the private sector should always be part of the solution. In addition to public funding, private money is increasingly necessary. We must create the conditions to get private financers interested. This will build a bridge between public and private money.’

That is why Ms Schultz is currently working with the World Bank’s Global Water Practice. ‘It is my aim to create a global public-private partnership, with the involvement of the International Finance Corporation (IFC, World Bank), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other international institutions. Only smart coalitions can bring big results.’

Delta Coalition

Minister Schultz wishes to initiate concrete action. Last month, at the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan, the Netherlands proposed to establish a Delta Coalition: a platform in which ‘low-lying’ countries work together and exchange experiences and expertise. In Korea Minister Schultz conducted a number of bilateral talks on this proposal. Since the World Conference in Sendai the Philippines, Colombia, France, Japan and Vietnam said they will join. ‘Delta regions are some of the most densely populated regions in the world. They are home to some of the world’s largest cities: New York, Shanghai, Ho-Chi-Minh City, Cape Town, Mumbai and London. This urbanisation will continue to increase, bringing considerable growth, economic prosperity and development opportunities. If no measures are taken to fight the consequences of climate change, we are taking an enormous risk.’ 

Sustainable Goal

The World Economic Forum recently named water as the leading risk the world is facing. If we do nothing, two billion people will be affected by 2040. By 2080, four billion people. The Netherlands is an avid advocate of designating the water issue and the risks of flooding as a part of the new UN Goals for Sustainable Development. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be presented this year as a follow-up to the Millennium Goals. In Korea, Ms Schultz stressed that this would place substantial obligations on the international community. ‘These days we spend a lot of time negotiating the number of goals and the exact wording of the targets and sub-targets. A process that can make us see these goals as an end in itself. Obviously they are not. The problems we face will not wait for agreements to be signed. We must take action now so that, at the next World Water Forum or the next UN Conference, we will be able to benefit from our efforts and build upon them.’