Toespraak van de Prins van Oranje bij de Bonn2011 Conferentie

16 november 2011

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

The Bonn2011 Conference: the Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus, UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

Excellencies, colleagues, friends,

Danica May Camacho, was born in the Philippines on October 31. Within minutes, people everywhere were gazing at her picture on televisions, computer scenes, and on smart phones. Why? She wasn't a medical miracle nor was she born to famous parents. Danica's birth was momentous because she brought our global population to 7 billion. Reaching 7 billion has sparked a deep discussion about natural resources, rising inequity and, most of all, about the future of life on our crowded planet. These are precisely the questions that the Bonn2011 Conference on the Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus is addressing. We are, the conference literature says, at a tipping point. With demands for water, energy and food all growing tremendously, the pressure on natural resources is at an all time high. A more sustainable path, which recognizes inter-linkages, is needed. If we don't fully commit to this path what kind of world will Danica and all our children inherit from this generation?

The Earth Summit in 1992 marked a new and unprecedented global commitment to sustainable development, to ensure that we meet our present needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.

We have witnessed many positive changes since the Earth Summit. More people are educated. Fewer people live in poverty and fewer people are being infected by HIV Aids. But many of Rio's promises remain unfulfilled. Discussions about climate change are not yielding the results we need. Immediate financial and economic crises and social turbulence demand most of the world's attention. And the future, when we do think about it, appears insecure. So it is not surprising that increasingly we talk about security - water security, food security, energy security and the nexus where these basic needs meet - to describe the future we want.

Which brings me to why we are all gathered here today. I congratulate the Government of Germany for the vision driving this Bonn Nexus Conference and for the months of intellectual inquiry and intensive preparations. I was invited to join this group of speakers as the Chair of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. Our Vice-Chair is Germany's Uschi Eid. For those of you fortunate enough to know Frau Eid, you know she brings unbridled enthusiasm to all her endeavours including to her role as co-chair of this Bonn Nexus Conference.

Germany's commitment to deepening our substantive understanding, and then contributing that knowledge to the international sustainable development dialogue is commendable. Prior to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Germany hosted a freshwater conference which laid the groundwork for the first intergovernmental decision on integrated water resources management and this Nexus conference is gearing up to make a crucial contribution to Rio +20. All of our Board members are eager to join these deliberations and we hope we will be able to emphasize the water, energy, and food security nexus next June at the Rio +20 Summit.

Allow me to take this opportunity to share the priority messages our Board is promoting for Rio +20. We believe our messages help articulate the water, energy and food security nexus.

First, we must keep striving for universal access to basic sanitation and safe drinking water - two foundational elements for human security. Currently we have Millennium Development Goal targets to halve the number lacking basic sanitation and drinking water by 2015. And recently the UN General Assembly recognized that access to water and sanitation are human rights, essential to live a productive life. While it looks like the world will meet the MDG target for water, in the case of sanitation, we are intolerably off track. Right now, approximately 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation - with current trends - more - not fewer people will lack their human right to basic sanitation by 2015. Any development framework for the future must exceed the MDG target, by calling for universal access to water and sanitation. How does this relate to the nexus? Directly. When children ingest enough fecal bacteria, they suffer from chronic diarrhea meaning they are unable to effectively absorb nutrients from food. Let's imagine a country is food secure, but if children are exposed to feces either directly or through their drinking water, they will continue to leach precious nutrients and will remain malnourished.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Our Board believes that a collective vision of wastewater management is needed, and should be agreed in Rio. Why? Because sanitation does not stop at the toilet. Unless excreta is safely treated AFTER the toilet, then the multiple benefits that we know come with good sanitation will simply not be realized. The economic benefits that effective sanitation systems offer will not be realized. Human health will simply not improve at the rates we need to see in so many parts of the world. In fact, a recent study released by the University of North Carolina found that, if we measure the percentage of the global population lucky enough to have their feces treated, as a criteria for sanitation access, more than 3.5 billion people, or 52% of the global population lives without sanitation "security". This is far higher than 2.6 billion I mentioned above which is the official UN statistic. I'm sharing this new finding, not because I like to spread depressing news, but to illustrate the real urgency for wastewater management, not only of human sewage, but also industrial, agricultural, and urban wastewater. Wastewater management is a quintessential nexus challenge. After treatment, urban wastewater can be reused for peri-urban agriculture. We know that in many parts of the world, wastewater is already used for agriculture, this practice should be encouraged, but it must be done safely, for food security. Energy can be captured from wastewater - in fact according to a recent studies, on average wastewater contains 7.6 kilo joules per litre which is 20% higher than previously estimated. Our Board is not suggesting massive trunk and branch wastewater systems that are prohibitively expensive and prone to failure. Instead, we need a wastewater revolution, which promotes innovation, smaller modular systems, that capture energy and clean water for the next appropriate use.

Our third Rio+20 message is the global need to produce more food with the water available. It is no news to this audience that agriculture is by far the biggest consumer of water. It is therefore not only desirable, but imperative, that water systems for agricultural be more efficient, thereby raising the productivity of farmland. Gaining more yield and value from less water has many benefits: it can reduce the need to draw on fresh water thereby limiting and even reversing environmental degradation.

In pursuing this objective, we must keep in mind the diversity of local realities. Global statements might not reflect the needs of each local situation. For example, we should see increased irrigation and water use in many African countries to meet their critical food security needs.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Our world has changed a lot since the Earth Summit in 1992. Nineteen years ago we did not send emails and texts around the world in a matter of seconds. The Internet was still new and few understood its potential. These technologies have profoundly affected all of us, including those living, for example, in rural South Asia. Often these people are more likely to have a cell phone than a toilet! The way humans have adopted new technologies and are using social media demonstrates that the human race has an enormous potential for change. Let's capture this potential in the pursuit of sustainable development.

The questions, challenges and opportunities you will all tackle in the coming days are deeply complex. I know that the discussions will be fascinating, and will also offer a crucial input into the Rio+20 process. In closing, I urge us all to keep in mind Danica, born just a few weeks ago, along with all our young passengers on planet earth. The Summit next year must be for them. We know how insecure our youth feels about the future. Across all continents young people are expressing their desire for democracy, equality, employment and a secure life. Rio+20 must give voice to this generation and their concerns; one important way is through the promise of green jobs. Another is showing that leaders, and citizens globally, understand their desire for water, energy and food which are all foundations for human security.