"No Water No Future" Speech by the Prince of Orange at the Accra Conference, Ghana, Monday April 15th 2002

I am very pleased to be here among so many African water professionals. I met some of you at the Second World Water Forum and the Bonn Fresh Water Conference and hope to continue to work with you in our endeavors to solve some of the most pressing issues in the water sector.

The fact that the world is facing a water crisis is not news to anyone here today. You also know that this is not because the world lacks water. The world water crisis is a crisis of governance - not one of scarcity. While water is indeed getting scarcer in many places, at the global scale, there is enough water to provide 'water security' for all - but only if we change the way we manage and develop it.

The water crisis is especially acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, where only about 60 percent of the 680 million people have access to safe water supplies. People in the 50 poorest countries, more than half of which are in Africa, must try and meet all their water and sanitation needs on an average of 30 liters or less per day, far less than the 50 liters per day that the United Nations says constitutes the absolute minimum for water needs. Incredibly, people in 13 countries must try and live on an average of less than 10 liters per day, a truly desperate situation. Poverty and shortages of water are inextricably linked for people in Gambia, Haiti, Djibouti, Somalia, Mali, Cambodia, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Albania and Bhutan.

People who live on less than 10 liters of water per day can never escape poverty and achieve sustainable development without first addressing the water scarcity they face.

Water is crucial to development. While the world population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources grew sixfold, mostly due to increased use in agriculture. We have seen that no single type of intervention has greater overall impact upon economic development and public health than the provision of safe drinking water and proper sanitation. In the area of health alone, improved water and sanitation can reduce morbidity and mortality rates caused by some of the most serious water-related diseases by up to 80 percent.

When Secretary-General Kofi Annan invited me to serve on the panel that is helping him prepare for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg later this year, I gladly accepted. Because of my special interest in water issues, I prepared an initial contribution to Mr Annan's panel that focuses on water, with the title No Water No Future. This document is available on the Internet in English and French. Over a thousand people have now visited the site to read or download the text and provided me with their comments. I am also very interested in receiving your responses and comments, the responses of the African water stakeholders here at this meeting.

There will be many, many issues competing for attention at the Johannesburg Summit and there is a risk that the discussion will become so fragmented that concrete results are difficult to achieve. It is therefore important to bring the importance of Africa's water issues into sharp focus for the world's leaders, and to recommend a small number of high-priority actions. I am pleased to see that Africa's leaders have given water issues a prominent place in NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

In No Water No Future I propose a small number of targets and actions that could, in my view, go a long way towards solving the water crisis at a global level. The targets and actions are classified in terms of the four key areas identified by the panel of the Secretary-General: (1) shared values,(2) the public-private sector nexus, (3) global governance and (4) science and technology. The first of my three recommended targets in the area of shared values is the target for safe drinking water adopted by the Millennium Conference. I have added a similar target for sanitation and I propose a new target focused on water for productive use. The targets are:

  1. to halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water resources by 2015.
  2. to halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford sanitation by 2015.
  3. to increase water productivity in rainfed and irrigated agriculture to ensure food security for all without diverting more water to irrigated agriculture than in 2000.

The corresponding recommended action is to mandate the UN World Water Assessment Programme to establish a baseline and monitor progress towards these targets and to report to the Ministerial Conferences associated with the World Water Forum.

In relation to the public-private sector nexus, my recommended target is to have at least 20% of all water infrastructure investment funded by alternative forms of financing by 2015. The corresponding action is to build capacity in local government to assess alternative forms of financing for infrastructure, including the capacity to identify, develop and negotiate sound projects that are financially feasible and environmentally sustainable as alternative solutions to large-scale investments.

Concerning global governance, my recommended target is to assess virtual water imports and exports through agricultural products for each country by 2015. The corresponding action is to request international organisations to develop and consider virtual water balances, using a resource accounting framework, when assessing and negotiating on agriculture subsidies and trade in agricultural products.

Finally, in the area of science and technology, my recommended target is to agree, by 2010, on a strategy for the application of molecular biology to increase the drought tolerance and water productivity of crops, in order to achieve water, food and environmental security. The corresponding action is to have the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research - the CGIAR - assess the potential for increased drought

tolerance and increased water productivity in agriculture. This includes the potential of functional genomics and other tools of modern molecular biology.

I expect that at this conference you will issue a strong statement from African water stakeholders that will help to put Africa's water issues high on the agenda of the Johannesburg Summit. I am looking forward to receiving this statement and I promise you that I will use your comments and your insights to add a specifically African focus to the amended version of my report No Water No Future, which I will present at the next Prepcom in Bali.

I will conclude with this thought: overcoming the world water crisis - achieving water, food and environmental security simultaneously - is one of the most formidable challenges on the road to sustainable development. More and more people, organisations and governments are becoming aware of this challenge. The World Summit on Sustainable Development should reaffirm the importance of achieving water security and adopt targets and actions that will allow us to meet this challenge jointly. In this context I would even dare to say that if the nations cannot manage their water resources, Sustainable Development remains a far away dream.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you every success in your deliberations. The challenges ahead of us are formidable but can be met. I will be back in two days time to receive your comments. After the conference here in Accra we will have a unique opportunity to meet and discuss further action at the WaterDome in Johannesburg. Here, we are laying the foundations for improved water governance in Africa. In Johannesburg we will make sure that this item is on everyone's agenda!
Thank you.