7th World Water Forum
Opening statement by Angel Gurría
13 April 2015
President Braga, Ministers, Panellists, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Water insecurity is one of the greatest challenges we face. It already dents global economic growth to the tune of USD 500 billion a year, with inadequate water supply and sanitation alone estimated to cost an annual USD 260 billion.
Yet the situation looks set to worsen, with the number of people living under severe water stress set to grow to 3.9 billion by 2050, and global demand for water expected to increase by 55% over the same period!
Thus, getting infrastructure financing right is absolutely essential for achieving a water secure world. Both the Camdessus Panel on Financing Water for All, and later the Task Force on Financing Water for All - which I had the privilege to chair – helped to advance finance for water infrastructure on the international agenda. But we need to do more.
This panel has been established in a global context that is different from its predecessors. Things have changed, both for the better and for the worse.
Today we understand better the impact of climate change and the role of water in adaptation strategies. Corporations realise the potential impact of water risks on their business. The interconnections between water, food and energy have become clearer. And we now appreciate more than ever how water security can drive economic growth.
Our enhanced understanding of water security has been matched by a proliferation of new opportunities to finance water infrastructure. Increasing numbers of developing and middle-income countries are now able to access commercial finance for water infrastructure.
On top of this, sources of funding have become increasingly diverse. Long-term investors – who at the last count held over USD 87 trillion in assets in the OECD area alone – are looking for the right investment opportunities. We have also seen the creation of new financing vehicles, and institutional arrangements that could be channelled into financing a water secure world.
But to achieve this we need to make water “fit for finance.” The Panel has put together seven perspectives that can help to ensure that water is not only fit for finance, but an attractive and obvious investment choice.
Shortly, I will invite our panellists to share their thoughts, but first I would like to highlight three areas where important ground work can be laid to help foster investment in water infrastructure.
First, we can do better with what we have. We can better operate and maintain existing assets to minimise investment needs. We can also avoid generating further needs, by smart water management and increasing coherence across policy areas. Take the Netherlands, where the “room for the river” programme has combined innovative architecture, urbanisation and landscape solutions that are mindful of the environment.
Second, we should acknowledge the enormous diversity of water infrastructure, from small scale projects initiated by local entrepreneurs, to large infrastructure that can serve multiple purposes. Each project can be matched with specific sources of financing. For instance, many farmers have invested in water-saving practices that reduce costs, thus freeing public money for other purposes.
Finally, governance matters. We need to build trust between investors and the water community. This means co-ordinating across levels of government and the different sectors, strengthening the capacity of water management institutions, enhancing the integrity and transparency of water management, and improving stakeholder engagement. I have every hope that the OECD Principles for Water Governance - which we discussed this morning - will help to provide much needed guidance in this area.
Ladies and Gentlemen, financing is now firmly established as a recurring theme at the World Water Forum. For our part, the OECD stands ready to move this agenda forward, to assist in monitoring progress, and to promote better policies to finance a water secure world.
I would now like to invite the panellists to share their own perspectives.