Co-convened by the World Bank and the UN
H. E. Ms. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
President of Mauritius
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim is an independent politician who has been in office since June 2015.
Previously, she was the Managing Director of the Centre International de Développement Pharmaceutique (CIDP) as well as the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Mauritius and the Dean of the Faculty of Science, where she was a professor of organic chemistry. She had obtained her doctorate in Chemistry in England. Her research focussed on the medical and nutritional benefits of the indigenous plants of Mauritius. In terms of biodiversity, Mauritius is one of the richest parts of the world. She was a co-author of the first African Herbal Pharmacopoeia. She has been an expert advisor to a number of international organisations including UNDP, the World Bank, WHO and UNICEF, and she co-authored the strategy of the African Development Bank (AfDB) on science and technology.
President Gurib-Fakim’s priority goals include the strengthening of scientific diplomacy, particularly with regard to the fields of climate change, agriculture and environmental protection, and the strengthening of the research-based economy of Mauritius.
The island state is able to adapt to climate change through restoring wetland habitats, infrastructural developments that reduce the loss of water from its networks, the improvement of the efficiency of its irrigation systems and through the construction of dams and rainwater drainage systems. In the field of environmental sustainability, the key tasks of the next decade for Mauritius will be the development of the sewage system and the recycling of wastewater.
H. E. Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto
President of Mexico
President Peña Nieto has been in office since 2012. Prior to his becoming the President, he was the governor of the State of Mexico, and before then a State Deputy to the Federal Congress. He holds law and business degrees.
As a governor, the construction of a complete drinking water supply network was an important component of his large infrastructure construction programmes. Since his election, his objectives have included, along with improving the economy and combating drug cartels, the implementation of a government sustainability programme. The latter includes sustainable water management and water governance. The population, who are perceiving the problems associated with water, also require active government participation: 70% of Mexicans believe that water pollution is a serious problem, listing it as the 4th most pressing issue after crime, corruption and the drug cartels.
Mexico has long-running traditions in the field of water management; as early as the 1930s the country already used large reservoirs, wells and irrigation systems to supply the quickly growing population. However, despite a strong economy, the water supply systems were unable to keep up with the population explosion, urbanisation and changing needs of the decades that followed the first developments. Industrial activities exhausted the underground water supply, while the population more than doubled during that period. The difficulties were particularly great in Mexico City, a continuously growing metropolis that was originally built on marshland.
The establishment of a physical and institutional infrastructure that is consistent with available resources, financially sustainable and which serves both the population and agriculture is one of the greatest and most complex tasks facing Mexico in the next decade, particularly due to the increasing number of hurricanes and droughts resulting from climate change.
For that very reason, Mexico is an active participant in international cooperation efforts on water management. The 2006 World Water Forum was also organised in Mexico City.
H.E. Mr. Malcolm Turnbull
Prime Minister of Australia
He has been in office since September 2015, when he replaced his fellow party member Tony Abbott as chairman of the party and hence also as the prime minister.
He is a qualified jurist. Prior to his political career he had managed his own law firm and investment companies and also worked as a journalist. In 2006, at the peak of the great Australian drought of the 2000s, Prime Minister John Howard appointed him to the position of Parliamentary Secretary with special responsibility for water. During 2007, for a short period he was the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. He is the first Australian head of state who became the prime minister after serving as the Environment Minister.
In Australia, environmental sustainability has been a divisive issue. Prime Minister Turnbull aims to bridge the social fault lines associated with climate change using a business oriented approach. As regards both renewable energy and water management projects, he supports market-based, innovative solutions. Australia has a pressing need for such solutions, as the irregular distribution of rainfall has been rendered even more extreme by global warming. It is estimated that the population of the continent, currently at 24 million, could double in the next 30 years. In addition to infrastructural development and groundwater replenishment, a system of water trading is also employed to counteract the effects of drought, water shortages, wasteful use of water and an irrigation-dependent agriculture.
As a result of those measures, water consumption has dropped by 35% overall between 2001 and 2009; the largest contribution to the reduction was made by the rationalisation of agricultural water consumption.
Other countries such as India, China, Indonesia, Japan and the United States of America are now studying the efficient Australian model of water regulation and water saving.
H.E. Ms. Sheikh Hasina
Prime Minister of Bangladesh
During her political career spanning four decades, Sheikh Hasina had served as prime minister before, between 1996 and 2001. She was re-elected in 2009 and in 2014 as well.
For the prime minister, environmental protection is an important, national priority. The many small-scale, local and community environmental protection programmes can create unity in a country that is struggling with deep, historical divisions. The sustainable ’green growth’ based on protecting the environment is apparent in the results. Since the beginning of Sheikh Hasina’s term in office, the ratio of forested areas within the country has grown from 9% to 17%.
The prime minister is also a committed advocate to the human right of access to clean drinking water in international forums. The sustainability of basic needs, such as the supply of water, is an indispensable condition for economic, environmental and social progress. On 14 September 2015, Prime Minister Hasina was awarded the Champions of the Earth Award, the most prestigious environmental protection prize of the UN. The award recognised Sheikh Hasina’s pioneering efforts in the fields of climate change and the climate change adaptation of ecologically vulnerably Bangladesh.
Along with the basic infrastructure for drinking water supply and sanitation, the exceptionally high population density and the salinification of water and soils due to rising sea levels also represent problems. Industrial and domestic water pollution and the shortcomings of the institutional framework of water management are further hurdles for Bangladesh, a country among the least developed states of the world. The country’s vulnerability is further increased by the fact that 92% of its surface waters originate from China and India, two countries whose populations are also increasing rapidly.
H.E. Mr. János Áder
President of Hungary
President Áder has been in office since May 2012. As a young politician with a degree in law, at the end of the 1980s he participated in the political process that led to the demolition of the centralized, one party state and the establishment of a democratic system. From 1990 until 2009 he was a Member of Parliament (elected on of the Fidesz party ticket). Between 1998 and 2002, he served as the Speaker of the National Assembly. In 2009, he was elected to the European Parliament. As deputy chairman of the EP’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, he authored a number of environmental and sustainability initiatives. As President of Hungary, he considers it as a priority task to promote awareness of the social and economic consequences of the challenges of water management and climate change, to lend support to climate-friendly technology ical solutions and to promote responsibility for future generations. He has played an active and successful role within the Live Earth Initiative, supporting the ambitious outcome of the Paris Climate Summit. He is the patron of the 2013 and the 2016 Budapest Water Summits.
In international comparison, Hungary has relatively high per capita freshwater reserves, but on the other hand, due to its geographical location, its’ water supplies are vulnerable, since 97% of its surface waters originate from across its borders. Accordingly, Hungary considers cross-border water management cooperation with its neighbours and along the entire catchment area of the Danube as a priority issue. Hungary’s exposure to the impacts of climate change are above the European average. Climate change has increased the risks of floods, droughts and inland excess water, problems that revisit the country year after year. Due to the seasonal risk of floods, Hungary has a sophisticated flood protection system. Hungarian water utility companies provide a high quality drinking water supply service, and in recent years, significant developments have been achieved in arsenic mitigation. Arsenic contamination of geological origin in drinking waters has represented a major health risk. Over the last two decades, the country has completed major investment projects in wastewater treatment and sewage network construction, including the flagship project of the South Pest Wastewater Treatment Plant, which was opened in 2009. Hungarian water industry companies and experts are operating in 54 countries on projects involving drinking water supply systems, sewerage systems, urban integrated water services, systems operation as well as planning and water management policy. Through its water management education system, Hungary is providing secondary and higher education training to water management specialists of many countries, thus, contributing to the sustainable operation of infrastructural projects.
H.E. Dr. Hani Al-Mulki
Prime Minister of Jordan
H.E. Dr. Hani Al-Mulki holds a PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering. He is currently the Prime Minister of Jordan and the Chief Commissioner of Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority.
In the past, Dr. Al-Mulki served as the Minister of Supply, the Minister of Industry and Trade, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, the Minister of Water and Irrigation and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Besides his impressive political career, Dr. Al-Mulki has a strong academic background: aside from serving as the President of the Royal Scientific Society, he was also the Executive Director of the General Islamic Academy of Sciences and the Vice-Chairman of The Higher Council for Science and Technology in Jordan.
H.E. Dr. Hani Al-Mulki has likewise received several distinctions and awards, including the Grand Cordon of the Order of Al-Kawkab and the Grand Cordon of the Order of Al-Istiklal.
Like the other countries in the region, Jordan suffers from a severe water shortage. It is the country with the third least water in the world. Due to its minimal surface water resources and its short 3-4 month rainy season, the country is unable to accumulate a significant stock of water. Nevertheless, Jordan’s developed infrastructure provides it with access to clean water and sanitation for the decisive majority of its inhabitants.
The water shortage is aggravated by the arrival of refugees from Syria and elsewhere. According to 2015 data, of the 9.5 million people residing in Jordan, 2.9 million are foreign nationals, of which 1.3 million are Syrian refugees. The costs of housing the refugees and providing them with energy, food, water, basic household products, employment and public services such as healthcare, waste removal and education (in particular for the young) poses a considerable strain on the country’s natural and human resources. In the forthcoming years, Jordan’s main tasks will be to provide for these refugees, to maintain the country’s existing infrastructure by restoring and renovating pipelines, to build water reservoirs and to ensure adequate wastewater management and recycling, as the country - considering its increasing population - cannot afford the high level of strain which is currently placed on its system.
H.E. Mr. Mark Rutte
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Mark Rutte has been the prime minister since 2010. Previously, he was a member of parliament, and between 2002 and 2004 he was also the Secretary of State for Education, Culture and Science. Prior to his political career, he worked in the corporate sector, as a human resources manager of the multinational Unilever.
The Netherlands has one of the most advanced water management and flood regulation systems in the world, built on centuries of tradition, high-quality, efficient water governance and technological innovation. As one of the world’s most densely populated countries it is well protected against water damage despite the fact that two-thirds of its population are at risk of flooding, and one third actually live below sea level. The local water management bodies that were established in the 13th century were the first seeds of democratic governance in Holland.
The Netherlands has a great deal of experience in flood protection, river regulation, dredging, water infrastructure construction, protective works, port construction, hydraulics, water management and water treatment. The Dutch water sector, with its 12,000 companies and 181,000 employees, has the fifth most patents associated with water purification and management.
A number of research organisations and think-tanks have their headquarters in the country. One of the most important ones is the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education based in Delft.
The Netherlands has always been an active participant in water diplomacy. During Prime Minister Rutte’s term in office, water management, particularly as regards sustainability and climate change, has become one of the cornerstones of Dutch foreign policy.
In addition to its role in Europe, the Netherlands also maintains a presence around the world in a number of ways, using a variety of financial schemes to support the water management plans and projects of developing countries and the promotion of integrated water management. In the case of disasters, the country prefers to assist with prevention and reconstruction rather than urgent relief. It has an international flagship programme for the complex and integrated restoration of river deltas and the development of cities in delta areas.
When he was an heir to the crown, Willem-Alexander, the King of the Netherlands, was the Chair of UNSGAB, the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.
H. E. Mr. Jacob Zuma
President of South Africa
President since 2009, Jacob Zuma has been active in the politics of his country since the 1960s.
It has been announced recently that the development of the water supply network and the training of water management specialists is an important part of his presidential programme.
Thanks to the country’s developed water infrastructure, 90% of the population of South Africa has access to a public water supply system, which is well above the continent’s average. On the other hand, the lack of wastewater treatment facilities and industrial pollution result in poor water quality. The diseases spread by contaminated water particularly impact the rural population, while pollution also has a detrimental effect on the condition of water ecosystems and ecosystem services.
South Africa is a dry country. Annual rainfall is at half the global average. As the country’s cities are all near the mines opened in colonial times rather than bodies of surface water, water is delivered to the population over large distances with significant cost and network losses.
In South African culture, women are generally viewed as the key to water utilisation, and accordingly, in 2014, South Africa organised a conference about the relationship of gender, water and development. They formed an initiative for the UN to declare 2017 the International Year of Water and Women.
H.E. Mr. Macky Sall
President of Senegal
Macky Sall has been the country’s president since 2012. He studied in Dakar, then graduated as a geological engineer and geophysicist at the French Institute of Petroleum in France. Previously, he worked as the Director-General of the Petroleum Company of Senegal (PETROSEN), while also serving as the chief advisor of the president on energy and mining, then he became Minister of Mines, Energy and Hydraulics. Between 2004 and 2007, he was prime minister, while between 2007 and 2008 he was the president of the National Assembly.
In his presidential programme, the issue of the natural challenges facing the West African region, such as climate change, renewable resources and water issues, is becoming increasingly important. Between January 2016 and December 2017, Senegal, as a member of the UN Security Council, wishes to make the topic of “water, peace, security” one of the priority topics of the SC.
In 2014, Senegal hosted the Africa Water Week event, a high-level summit of African states on water issues.
Although the country’s population is growing fast, and its economy is among the least developed ones, about 90% of the population do have access to clean drinking water thanks to the comprehensive and financially sustainable investment projects started in the 1990s in public-private partnership.
For Senegal, it is an important objective to connect all of its urban population to the sewage system. In rural areas, the development of water services is a pressing necessity.
H.E. Mr. Emomali Rahmon
President of Tajikistan
Emomali Rahmon, an economist by training, has been the country’s head of state since the country gained independence in 1994. He has been awarded the title “Leader of the Nation”, which allows him to run for the office of president an unlimited number of times.
It was at the recommendation of Tajikistan that, in 2003, the General Assembly of the UN announced its international decade for action, from 2005 to 2015, entitled “Water for Life”, whose aim was to ensure that international commitments associated with water and related health objectives are fulfilled by 2015. The closing conference of Water for Life, attended by delegates from 100 countries and 80 international organisations, was held in Dushanbe in June 2015.
The issue of sharing water is a major problem in the Central Asian region. The territory of Tajikistan is the origin and the catchment area of two of the most significant rivers of Central Asia, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. Tajikistan is the source of over half the water used in the vicinity of the Aral Sea. However, due to climate change, the glaciers of the Pamir Mountains are melting quickly, which increases the risk of disease, drought and landslides. As the glaciers also supply water to the Aral Sea, whose water is used to irrigate the water-intensive cotton fields of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, there is a risk of increasing tension between those countries, while the situation may also precipitate a wave of migration.
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski Godard
President of Peru
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has been the president of Peru since June 2016. He was the country’s prime minister in 2005–2006, and previously also served as the minister for the economy and finance and as the minister for energy and mining. He has worked at the World Bank and in the mining and industrial sector in Africa.
He is an economist, a graduate of Oxford and the Woodrow Wilson Institute at Princeton. He has also studied music in Switzerland and in Britain.
In his opening speech to conference, President Kuczynski listed the provision of healthy drinking water to all those who currently suffer a shortage as one of the three most important objectives of his presidency. At present, water scarcity impacts about 40% of the population of Peru.
Albeit with a highly uneven distribution, Latin America has the world’s highest per capita supply of freshwater in the world. That abundance of water sources have contributed a great deal to the economic and social development of the region over the last 10-20 years. At the same time, the wasteful use of waters, severe water pollution and destruction of the natural environment represent major challenges. The greatest loads on natural water sources are generated by precisely the industries that offer the greatest export revenues: intensive agriculture and mining.
In recent decades, Peru has progressed a great deal in the area of developing safe supplies of drinking water and sewage networks, which has delivered basic sanitary services to millions of people. The Peruvian government has used decentralisation, the coordination of sectoral policies and involvement of all the stakeholders to take serious steps towards sustainable water management.
However, population growth and urbanisation mean that the country still has great tasks ahead of it. Some 70 percent of the population and most economic activities are concentrated in the dry areas of the country near the Pacific coast, while less than 2% of the country’s freshwater resources are in that area. Urban and industrial wastewater collection and treatment systems and the connection of new water resources will be indispensable for the country’s ongoing economic growth.
Dr. Han Seung-soo
Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea
Dr. Han was South Korea’s head of state between 2008 and 2009, and he has been a member of the Korean National Assembly since 1988. Between 1994 and 1995, he was chief of staff to President Kim Young-sam, then, between 1996-97, he served as the deputy prime minister for finance. In April 2001, he was appointed to the post of minister of foreign affairs, and it was in that capacity that he was elected to be the president of the 56th Session of the UN General Assembly. In 2001, he received the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the United Nations.
From 2010 until 2014, he headed the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) based in Seoul. He was also a member of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability that was organised by the UN Secretary-General for 2011-2012.
Han Seung-soo is a politician with a strong reputation on international water management issues. He has been an honorary chair of UNSGAB, the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. As of December 2013, he has been Special Envoy for Disaster Risk Reduction and Water for the United Nations Secretary-General.
He has taught at South Korean, British and American universities as a professor of economics. In 2004, Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.