Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues,
I am proud to be here today, opening this session on such an important topic for us all: how to make sure that water governance, as a means to an end, can lead to improved water services and water security.
Today, people all over the world are facing huge challenges related to water.
40% of the global population is expected to live under severe water stress by 2050; and water demand is expected to increase by 55% over the same timeframe.
We already see it unfold in Cape Town, South Africa, where the situation is very worrisome. Four million people are being urged to ration consumption due to serious risk of running out of water in a few months.
About 20% of the world’s population will also be at risk from floods by 2050, with critical potential losses of human life and property.
Climate change will only exacerbate competition across users while generating more uncertainty about water availability and demand. Obviously, climate change means water change.
There is much to do! But the good news is that investing strategically in water could contribute at least 500 billion US dollars to global growth annually[i].
At the OECD, we have been looking very seriously at these challenges, supporting countries with policy advice and best practices.
All countries are confronted with the challenges of managing too much, too little or too polluted water, while ensuring safe access to water supply and sanitation for all.
But the solutions cannot be only about finance or hydrology. In fact, one of the messages that the OECD has long been conveying is that water crises are often water governance crises.
Therefore, the solutions also have to do with understanding better who does what, at which scale and how.
With our series of OECD National Policy Dialogues on Water conducted in counties like Mexico, the Netherlands, Korea or Brazil, we have helped governments address critical issues related for instance to designing, developing and implementing water laws or water charges.
In 2015, the OECD developed its first ever legal instrument dedicated specifically to water governance: the OECD Principles on Water Governance, as we call it.
These Principles provide key standards to design and implement water policies across levels of government, and in a shared responsibility with all stakeholders (governments, public and private utilities, basin organisations, consumer associations, etc.).
The Principles have been endorsed by 42 countries and 140 stakeholders, many of whom are here in the room today.
Three years down the road, we are now launching a new report dedicated to Implementing the OECD Principles on Water Governance.
This report proposes two major implementation tools for cities, basins, regions and countries:
The first tool is a Framework of Water Governance Indicators. This Framework provides a self-assessment tool. Multiple stakeholders can use it to engage in dialogues on the performance of their water governance systems, and on the actions that should be taken to overcome critical governance challenges. Its objective is certainly not to benchmark and rank cities, basins or countries.
Rather, it is meant for policy dialogue, and for building consensus among various stakeholders on what works, what does not work, and who can do what. We are providing the framework and facilitating the process, but ultimately those likely to make change happen are all those engaged in the self-assessment exercise and buying-in the results and outcomes.
The indicator framework was pilot-tested at national, basin and local level in Austria, Cabo Verde, Peru, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Morocco, Malaysia, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I would like to thank everyone involved for providing a robust reality check to our guidance.
The second implementation tool is a set of practices on water governance. We collected 54 concrete practices from all 5 continents that illustrate many of the 12 OECD Principles. They were shared with us by many different types of stakeholders, including central government representatives, private operators, NGOs or indigenous groups. And these experiences cover all water functions.
You can learn for instance about the ongoing national water reform in Ireland, which aims at clarifying roles and responsibilities across levels of government; or about the payment for ecosystem services scheme in the Camboriu watershed in Brazil that is helping increase water security for human consumption. And there are many more great examples that illustrate the diversity and wealth of experience!
To conclude, I would like to thank all the members of the OECD Water Governance Initiative who contributed with their knowledge and experience to get us where we are today. You have fed this report with valuable insights. I am truly impressed by and thankful for this outstanding mobilisation of energy towards better water governance.
I am also of course grateful Aziza and her team who has led this process, which has been recognised yesterday with the OECD receiving the Hassan II World Water Prize.
We are very well aware that progress has been made, but still a lot remains to be done! With all of you, the OECD stands committed to intensify the work on water in support of better water policies. Together we can achieve greater results to meet the universal SDGs and make sure no one is left behind.
[i] Sadoff Cl. et al. (2015), Securing Water, Sustaining Growth, Oxford University