World Water Week in Stockholm 27 augusti 2012
Gunilla Carlsson, Biståndsminister
Opening Plenary Session of the 2012 World Water Week
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to SIWI for hosting this event and for inviting me to speak in front of so many inspiring people. World Water Week is an important opportunity to meet practitioners, researchers and policy makers in the water sector and I am delighted to be here with you today.
In June this year, I was at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. The negotiations were tough and not all of our ambitions were fulfilled, but we should not be discouraged. Important advances were made and the outcome document reflects our priorities in areas such as democracy, human rights and gender equality. The outcome document is a platform for all of us to build on and implement in our own national context.
Sweden is persistent in placing the individual at the centre of sustainable development. We gained support for this in the final document, and it is in light of this that I would like to share with you two perspectives that I brought back with me from Rio. They are both consistent with our vision for the future in terms of sustainable development and water and food security.
First, I would like to emphasise the need for innovation and collaboration with corporations and small businesses. The needs are significant and far beyond the reach of the donor community on its own. We need to find new approaches to investments, and not least new partners. In seeking these partnerships, we need to be open-minded and look for new and fresh ideas, and for actors complementing the traditional channels and partnerships among international organisations.
Secondly, a positive political environment of democratic values and leadership is essential in addressing water and food security at the national level. Democratic governance with respect for human dignity and for human rights is key if we are to find solutions to the global challenges that affect us all.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In less than 40 years time, the world's population will have increased by a third to 9 billion people. Each and every one of these individuals will want access to basic goods and services starting with food, clean water and sanitation, shelter and education as well as health care. They will inevitably need energy. They will also need new technology, better communication and transport. The solutions must be radically more sustainable than we have managed so far.
In a finite biosphere, achieving this will require new thinking. However, we know that it's possible. Innovations have historically changed the lives of millions of people for the better; just think of vaccines, improved grain varieties and, more recently, the impact of mobile phones.
The less well-known innovations are often found in the poorer countries, among large numbers of people surviving on very low incomes but who are very resilient and often creative entrepreneurs. These innovations are often about crafting business solutions that are relevant to poor people and about making them available to the many. Low-cost mobile financial services and insurances are among the more recent ideas.
Innovations have provided many new employment opportunities across Africa. Small affordable packages of improved seeds or fertilizers have reduced the barriers of upfront costs for poor farmers. Some of the most important growth markets today are African and Asian. Increasingly, business is looking for innovative models building on local ideas and demand, rather than adapting products and distribution processes that were conceived for US or European markets. If we can find similar innovations and scale up in a sustainable manner, the lives of millions of people, if not hundreds of millions, could improve.
As a way to attain economic and environmental gains within and across sectors and ease demands on water, land and energy, Sweden is setting up a new finance instrument called Water Innovation Challenge Fund.
The main aim of the instrument is to capture and support the implementation of innovative ideas and new technologies regarding increased water resource efficiency. It is also about finding new ways to sustainably intensify the use of water, land and energy in production to achieve equitable social, economic and environmentally sound development. Simply put, we need to create more with less. This to me, is innovation at its best.
When it comes to water and sanitation, Swedish development assistance keeps a high profile bilaterally as well multilaterally. However, we can always do more, and I believe we should. Water and sanitation is just simply that important. My ambition is therefore to increase our efforts in this critical area, and I hope that this will also be reflected in our upcoming budget for 2013. Everybody should have access to clean water and sanitation, and those of us who have it have a responsibility to help those who don't.
(And if you would like to know more about what Sweden is doing bilaterally for water and sanitation, Sida has just produced six brand new information briefs. You will find them in Sida's stand here at the conference. )
Ladies and gentlemen,
Now more than ever, we need to encourage new thinking in our development assistance. We need to reflect on lessons learned and find out whether and what we can do better.
One of the most important lessons has to do with partnerships. It is clear to us that no one single actor can solve development challenges.
Firstly, official donors cannot mobilise all the resources, neither can developing country budgets. Today, foreign direct investment, commercial finance, remittances, and philanthropic flows account for the bulk of financial flows to the developing world. ODA can only complement trade, private investment, and remittances.
Secondly, it is clear that many of the technologies and skills needed rest with the private sector players. Businesses are skilled at building supply chains, and commercialising ideas and expanding ideas.
Thirdly, donors, foundations, research institutions and civil society organisations can contribute technical assistance, policy dialogue and field experiences. However, they are often unable to engage with other partners - for example, with businesses on a systematic basis or to scale up activities.
In other words, each partner may have assets to bring to the table but they must be matched with other partners' abilities and resources to create a good mix that enables the initiative as a whole to move ahead and grow.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When resources - water, arable land and other natural resources - become scarcer, we know that those without power will lose out and become even more vulnerable.
For water and food security to be possible at the national level there has to be a positive political and economic climate. To achieve this, efforts to prevent or resolve armed conflicts are essential. But efforts must go even deeper than that.
Democratic governance and human rights, responsible leadership, effective rule of law and functioning institutions that are free from corruption and that support sustainable growth and international trade are all fundamental to both water and food security, and society as a whole.
Therefore, my basic premise for global sustainability is a people-centred approach: sustainable development must consider the rights, needs and influence of everyone. When people are empowered they are truly inspiring entrepreneurs.
Let us look at one example, such as disaster risk reduction in the Sahel. The evidence shows that farmers in drought-prone areas of West Africa, for example Niger, have started their own "greening" of their communities by using simple soil and water conservation techniques without any external assistance at all. Through satellite imagery we can immediately see a clear improvement in green cover and trees planted, and thus the greening of a large area of land in Niger by these fairly simple investments. Similar investments in irrigation in drought prone areas in Mali have been funded by the IFAD with substantial improvements in food security as a consequence.
Many more inspiring examples can be given. Empowered individuals truly are inspiring entrepreneurs.
Therefore, voice and agency must be given to all groups in society.
Sustainable development, addressing water and food security, is dependent on long-term commitment and the building of trust between stakeholders. This can only be achieved through the full participation of all stakeholders at all levels.
This means that poor people in rural areas, women's groups in sub-Saharan Africa and civil society groups in south-east Asia must all be able to voice their views through democratic channels to achieve equitable and efficient development.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Progress is essentially about people. Giving every individual a chance to use their abilities and resources to influence their own lives and their own future should be our main objective.
Pressekreterare hos Gunilla Carlsson
cell 070-283 95 97
e-post till Evin Khaffaf