Speech by the Prince of Orange

Cape Town, South Afrika, 9 November 2006

at the global launch of the UNDP Human Development Report 2006 'The water crisis of the 21st century: how can we turn the tide?'

Mr President, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Mr. Mbeki, how better to start this speech than with the words of your wise predecessor, Mr. Nelson Mandela? At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 he said in the Water Dome that among the many things he had learned as a president 'was the centrality of water in the social, political and economic affairs of the country, the continent and the world.' I salute you, Mr. President, because, under your leadership too, South Africa is playing a pioneering role in seeking solutions to the water problems confronting the world.

My own modest contributions in the Water Dome four years ago may be summed up in the motto 'No Water, No Future'. The Human Development Report 2006 presented today underscores that both this motto and the words of Mr Mandela are as relevant today as they were four years ago. In fact, the report clearly shows that there is a direct relationship between Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis. In so doing, it spurs the international community on to redouble its efforts to implement the decisions taken in Johannesburg in 2002. UNDP, Mr Kemal Dervis and everyone who contributed to the report deserve our gratitude and our appreciation.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have to face the facts. The water crisis is still growing - it's getting bigger and deeper. We are facing a growing shortage of water for life - for drinking supplies and sanitation. And we are facing a growing shortage of water for livelihoods - for agriculture and other economic activity. Demand for water is increasing, and so is competition for this precious resource.

The key message in the Human Development Report 2006 is that the primary cause of the water crisis of the twenty-first century is a shortage not of water, but of political commitment and good water management. That makes it a problem for the poor in particular. They always get a raw deal when water and the scarce funds that are invested in it are distributed. They have neither the resources nor the power to assert their right to water effectively. At the current rate, in many parts of the world, we won't reach the water-related Millennium Development Goals by 2015. And the report clearly spells out what this means: poverty and child mortality, and an over all restraint on human development.

In response, UNDP calls on national governments and the international community to move fast to step up financial support for water. I can only endorse that. Take, for instance, Bangladesh. A few years ago, that country launched a sanitation plan and the number of people without sanitary facilities is now going down by ten per cent a year. Plans like these should not be held back by insecure or insufficient funding. But in fact, in the past few years, international financial support for drinking water, sanitation, irrigation and water management has gone down, not up.

Of course, we are talking about large sums of money. But let's look at the issue from another angle. To achieve the MDG for drinking water and sanitation, we'll need about ten billion dollars extra on a yearly basis worldwide. That is a lot of money. But at the same time, it is only a fraction of aggregate world GDP. That amounts to 43,000 billion or 43 trillion dollars, of which more than three quarters - around 32,000 billion - is generated in high income donor countries. Applying the 0.7 per cent norm for Official Development Assistance, some 225 billion dollars could, in theory, be available for development aid instead of the 79 billion now spent on it. So perhaps the issue is not that we lack the money. What it really comes down to is political and social commitment. The Hashimoto Plan of Action, launched by the UN in 2006, could prove to be important in pointing us in the right direction.

The extra effort is needed even more now that the consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly clear. Last week I visited the New Zealand Antarctic Institute in Christchurch. And I must say, the more you learn about the consequences of climate change, the more frightening it gets. The Human Development Report confirms that, to date, the worldwide response to climate change has been inadequate. The report doesn't only call for mitigation, - restricting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. It also shows that we have to focus on adaptation. Because whatever we do in the field of prevention, sea levels will rise. Countries with a wet climate will become even wetter, and countries with a dry climate will become even drier.

In short: existing extremes will become even more extreme. And we should also take into account the possibility of the Gulf stream slowing down or even stopping completely, or the Siberian permafrost thawing, releasing the millions of tons of methane gas lurking beneath. That will not only have catastrophic effects on our safety, but also on ecosystems and food production. So we have to prepare ourselves. To start with, the effects of climate change should always be factored into new policy plans. Policy on water, of course, but also on, for example, spatial planning. In London they are doing that already, as I saw on a recent visit there.

Of course, no single sector and no single country can solve these complex problems alone. In the water sector, we have long understood that. Thinking on the matter has led to the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management. This implies that in everything you do, you take account of the many functions water fulfils in a given area and of the people who depend on it. That means working with other sectors, strong commitment from all stakeholders and implementation at the right - often local - level. That is what I like to call 'working beyond the river'.

Today, I would like to call on other sectors to embrace this integrated approach. After all, if water is the key to sustainable development, that is where the solutions will have to start. We have the knowledge. And we are prepared to share it. Now is the time to start applying that knowledge in the agriculture and energy sectors and in industry. Or to put it in the most up-to-the-minute terms: the land beyond scarcity lies beyond the river. Starting with agriculture, because each per cent less water used in this sector means five per cent extra for other users. That is where the gains are the greatest. And what is more, midway through this century we will face the challenge of not six, but ten to eleven billion mouths to feed. As far as the energy sector is concerned, we are not harnessing the potential of environmentally-friendly hydropower to the full. Hydropower now accounts for around seventeen percent of the world's total energy supply. But thirty percent is feasible in the long term, especially in developing countries. To my mind, this presents a great win-win opportunity especially in Africa, where there is also a serious lack of water storage capacity. And industry is often insufficiently aware that high-quality processing water will become scarce, and that it should be included in the equation when calculating the costs of production.

In other words, what is needed is widespread recognition that water is an increasingly scarce commodity, but that, with the assistance of the water sector's integrated approach, it can be managed. The future is at stake. A future in which a sustainable environment goes hand in hand with sustainable growth and development. And if we all pull together, UNDP will have enough subject matter for its Human Development Reports for the next five years!

Mr. President, Ladies and gentlemen,

The Human Development Report brings the facts home to us. It shows us what efforts will be needed to tackle the water crisis of the twenty-first century. But first, we need to recognise the urgency of the crisis and we need to understand that it is, above all, a crisis of governance. So political commitment is essential to create a solid financial basis and to intensify existing partnerships.

This is how the foreword to the Human Development Report puts it. 'Human development is foremost about allowing people to lead a life that they value and enabling them to realize their potential as human beings'. I cannot improve on that.

Water is the key. So let us turn the tide!

Thank you.