The first UN Water Conference in almost 50 years was a watershed moment to catalyze a series of several key opportunities this year, to assess progress on the SDGs, but what are the major outcomes? How can leaders take the water action agenda forward as an enabler to address the nexus of critical issues including climate, energy, and food systems?
In this session, hosted by the World Economic Forum, high-level public and private stakeholders come together virtually to discuss the main outcomes of the UN Water Conference and the actions required to ensure a water-positive future for people and planet.
This is the audio from a panel discussion that you can watch here: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/03/beyond-the-un-water-conference-leaders-on-whats-next/
Jim Andrew, Executive Vice-President, Chief Sustainability Officer, PepsiCo
Beth Koigi, Co-Founder, Majik Water
Usha Rao-Monari, Undersecretary-General and Associate Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs of the Netherlands
Gary White, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Water.org
Matt Damon, Co-Founder, Water.org
This transcript has been generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the audio.
Tania Strauss, World Economic Forum: Good morning. Good afternoon. Welcome everyone, and thank you for tuning in to this discussion on Beyond the UN Water Conference: Leaders on what's next. I'm Tania Strauss, head of Food and Water at the World Economic Forum and it's my privilege to host this important conversation. which is being broadcasted on our World Economic Forum platforms and through our partners at YouTube and LinkedIn.
3.6 billion people are water insecure. That is nearly half our global population, and our demand for this precious resource is only growing. Meanwhile, availability and access to water is grossly misunderstood to be infinite. And as a society and as economies, we are not taking care to value this limited global common good. And this changes now.
Last week, the UN convened the first water conference in almost 50 years here in New York, co-chaired by the governments of the Netherlands and Tajikistan. A watershed moment. An opportunity to take on a shared responsibility across the public, social and private sectors where leaders, institutions and individuals committed to stewardship for water action through dedicated partnerships, finance and innovation on water action, and a unanimous call for stronger commitments to breaking the silo within the water community to show that taking action on water protects livelihoods and economic resilience of people, especially of the most vulnerable communities, but also business supply chains. It achieves food security and a better way to produce and consume our food. It helps safeguard nature and Earth's ecosystems. And yes, water is helping us achieve tough goals on climate change faster, both related to mitigation and adaptation.
We already have many of the solutions, many of the technologies. Now we need to invest at scale in deploying those existing and fostering entrepreneurship for those technologies and solutions to develop new, fit-for-purpose strategies and with speed. It's my distinct honour and pleasure to introduce Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for Water from the Government of the Netherlands. Welcome, Henk. You've been working tirelessly for years and certainly in the last 12 months, travelling around the world, raising awareness, creating a mobilisation of leaders across sectors for water action. Was the conference a success? And what are your key takeaways for our public today?
Henk Ovink, Government of the Netherlands: Thanks, Tania, and thanks for joining. It's a pleasure to be here again at the Forum here in New York a couple of days after the ending of the conference.
The success of the conference will have to be measured in the future. But I think in the context of bringing quite a bit of the world together, we had more newly accredited organizations from across the world, private sector, NGOs and others. We had larger and smaller scale networks here and a suite of high-level representatives from government. It was also the largest gathering here at the UN when it comes to a conference. So the UN was bustling for a lot of activity and I think that is just one part of the conference is really focussed on action. There was no negotiation. It was really about committing ourselves as a world public and private and bettering their coalitions to commit to action.
The second thing I would say to you could say with that at least has the ingredients to be successful. The second thing is that water is being so cross-cutting, connecting to everything: life, health, insecurity, our economies, our cities, our infrastructure, our businesses and investments, climate, of course, and the environment and food and energy. So you see it across everything. I think for the first time at the UN, at that stage at the ending on Friday, we saw a message coming from the world, from leaders, public and private, saying, hey, water in this cross-cutting capacity has to be recognised as a global common good, but can also be addressed in a very comprehensive way. And I was listening back to how the co-chairs of the most important dialogues of this conference reported back, and I think I've never heard such a comprehensive, concise message coming from the UN when we were talking about these complex issues. And I also think that we prevented not to again fall back into our silos. And I think that is- too often in our world we complain and we see also the failure of our fragmented governments, but also our fragmented private sector and finance sector. And for once this was bypassed at least. But hopefully, that bypass shows a way forward in this far more collaborative and comprehensive way with dedicated leadership and better capacity and organization, we can move ahead. So the actions, the Coalitions, public and private, from across the world, as well as this concise message on the importance of water and its cross-cutting nature, really showed that there is an opportunity that we now really have to capitalise on.
Tania Strauss: Thanks so much, Henk, and it's been inspiring to see the sheer numbers but also the sectors that are showing up for water action. As you said, 700 commitments and growing on the water action agenda. Over 6000 people gathered here in New York representing many, many, many more networks and institutions that are really taking seriously exactly what you're describing as a bypass or breakdown of those silos so that we can come together around this agenda. We're joined this morning or this afternoon, depending on where you're tuning in from by leading experts and champions that represent a lot of those sectors. And I'm so pleased to introduce, starting with Gary White, the co-founder and CEO of Water.org and WaterEquity, Usha Rao-Monari, associate administrator of the UNDP, United Nations Development Programme. Beth Koigi, the co-founder of Majik Water. Great name. Jim Andrew, the Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of PepsiCo. And before we turn to our esteemed panellists, we have a special message from Gary and a familiar face to so many of us: Matt Damon, both an actor and also a co-founder with Gary on Water.org and WaterEquity on the importance of the UN conference and why this matters to so many people around the world.
There is still time to break through to a water-secure planet. But we must act now.”
Matt Damon, Water.org & WaterEquity: Hi, I'm Matt Damon, co-founder of Water.org and WaterEquity. It's my great pleasure to join you at the UN 2023 Water Conference, a gathering that can change the course for the global water. crisis we're facing.
Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is the most basic human need for health and well-being, a declared human right. But billions of people around the world still lack access to safe drinking water and a toilet. More than 90% of disasters are water related, and climate change is adding to that pressure.
And our need for water keeps growing. With pressures on freshwater projected to increase by more than 40% by 2050. But despite these challenges, there is still time to break through to a water-secure planet. But we must act now.
Gary White: Hello, I'm Gary White, co-founder of Water.org and WaterEquity. The good news is there are solutions. With our organizations, we seek to do more, faster and in partnership with others to unlock the flow of financing for water and sanitation.
Together, we've reached more than 53 million people with access to safe water and sanitation through small, affordable loans. But more is needed. More financing and investment, more innovation, more partnerships and more ambition. We're encouraged that these are also the goals of this conference and we are committed to doing our part. In fact, we've launched our most important initiative to date, a water and climate initiative to reach 100 million people living in poverty with safe water and sanitation solutions. So thank you for this opportunity to speak to you all. And we wish everyone a successful conference.
Tania Strauss: Thanks so much. And Gary, maybe just coming to you first. We want to thank both you and Matt Damon for the championship that you've been showing tirelessly for many years around water equity and the country level. As you said, we need more partnerships, we need more investment and we need more ambition. Reaching 100 million people with safe water will take a global community. What are your thoughts coming out of the conference as well as your ask to the global community on how to achieve such an ambition?
Gary White: Great. Thanks, Tania, for having us here. I really appreciate that. Already we're following up on the conference, so hopefully everything, all the energy that came out of that won't be lost as more conversations like this continue to take place. So thanks for convening us on this.
I think, having been in this sector for, well, since the mid-eighties when the water decade was taking place after Mar del Plata, which was the last big water conference organized by the UN, we had the water decade and obviously we fell short during that time. So it's good that we're finally bringing the focus back.
Some of the things that I saw different from the conferences that I was at back in the eighties I think it's important to point out. I think back then it was really just about, you know, about water and about really the local governments and bilateral and multilaterals trying to solve this problem, kind of in a vacuum. And obviously, we fell far short in terms of the capital around that was around to solve the problem back then. And that was one of the major failures, was not mobilising enough capital. And I draw the contrast between that and now capital was definitely on the front burner throughout the convenings at the UN. And frankly for the last five or ten years, capital has been really important and not just municipal and bilateral multilateral capital, but the private sector capital. And that's what I see really changing. That's one thing.
The second thing I see changing is that climate is front and centre now and there's a potential to leverage a lot that's happening with climate in terms of different funds that are focussed on climate, and leveraging them and getting them more towards water and wastewater treatment as well. And so to me, back in the mid-eighties, nobody was talking about climate in the context of water. And so there's a potential to kind of use this confluence to drive much more capital investment into the space.
The third thing I see is corporates. We have Jim here from PepsiCo, representing just one of, you know, hundreds if not thousands of corporates now that are leaning into this in a big way. And, you know, back in the eighties when NGOs and government and corporations didn't really spend that much time talking to each other, and now corporations are a central part of the mix. And I see that manifest in really positive ways, like the Water Resilience Coalition, which is part of the UN Global Compact with more than 30 companies. Now, Fortune 100 companies, especially, really focussed on this. They have a goal of leaning into this in a way to reach 300 million people with water and sanitation over the next 15 years. And so what we're doing in partnership with them around finance is helping them and their corporations use their balance sheets to invest in water and sanitation infrastructure in a way that gives investors an opportunity for financial returns, as well as huge impact around the SDGs and ESG.
And so I have a lot of hope with this confluence of events coming together that we will be able to achieve real impact. And I know we're planning on doing our part with that 100 million person commitment where our intent is to raise a billion dollars in terms of water and climate funds to be able to do that. And so I hope that what we're doing and what the collaboration and all these different partnerships are doing will allow us to meet SDG number six as we go forward.
Tania Strauss: Gary, thanks so much. So climate finance, you know, thinking about the cross-cutting ways in which these solutions can actually come together and redirect some of that investment, as you're saying, into solutions that include water. Maybe we can come back to some of the aspects of that return on water, return on your investment in terms of water in just a moment. Usha, I wonder if I could come to you. I know you've been a long-time advocate and champion of water issues, both at the global level, at the country level. From UNDP's perspective, and as we just heard from Henk, this breakdown of fragmentation across the UN agencies and across the UN community. Do you see new models of multilateralism and collective action coming as a result of last week's convenings?
Usha Rao-Monari, UNDP: Thank you, Tania, and it's a pleasure to be here with all of you, with old friends. Gary, how are you? I haven't seen you in a long time. It's good to see you Jim.
Tania, I think you raised some important issues, and I enjoyed very much what Gary said, and it resonated completely. Here's the thing and what Henk said, as Henk said, the conference happened after, I think, 47 years, which in and of itself is a huge victory. The conference created, if you will, a focus on water, which is much more collective in nature and not as fragmented and reactive as it has been. So it's not that we've lost focus on water, we all live with it every day, but the action on water has been fragmented and it has been reactive. When there's a crisis, somebody does something but when there's not we don't think about it. What the conference I believe has done is put a spotlight on a few things.
One: how to look at water differently. So far, what we think of water, we tend to think of access, we tend to think of blue water and so on and so forth. The conference and some of the reports, like the report of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, has pointed out that you have to look at water as an entire cycle, a whole water cycle, starting with clean water and food water, green infrastructure, grey infrastructure, everything should be taken account into when you look at water.
Second, it also proposed that nobody, no country, no company even can deal with the mortgage issue by itself just simply because it is such an interconnected resource. And so collective action, whether it's multi-lateral or otherwise or multi-stakeholder, is absolutely necessary.
Third: It also brought to the top that the way we think about water has to be much more granular and much more focussed. So whether we're talking about finance, whether we're talking about governance, innovation, social inclusion, it's not about looking at things in silos as unfortunately we tend to do, but to bring them together in a much more connected way. So for example, how do you look at bringing policy and finance and social interventions in order to find solutions in the water sector?
And finally, and I'm going to stop there, I think what the conference showed was an enormous, and Henk you mentioned this, an enormous political will to do something. What was it, I think 180 or 90 countries have participated. There were many agreements. Many people, as Henk said, stood up at the closing session and said, we want this to happen. We want this to be the decade of water action. And so I think as a final point, what I'm looking forward to, as you said as an old water hand, is that we are finally at an inflection point of doing something about an important resource for the next decade. Thanks and back to you, Tania.
Tania Strauss: Thanks so much, Usha. I think it's really encouraging to start to hear that it's not just the agendas that need to come together, but like you said, the integration of these levers across policy, finance, technologies and other innovations that can really help to break those silos and create action on the ground. We also heard from the secretary general the announcement on Friday around appointing a special envoy for water to help coordinate across the various aspects of the UN that would really hold that shared responsibility and coordination role and more to come in the coming months on how we see that sort of unfolding as a key lever towards those outcomes.
I wanted to switch gears a bit since we've all touched on the role of innovation and welcome you, Beth. The Forum has been working through our UpLink platform, which is an open innovation platform together with HCL, on fostering a pipeline of innovators or what we're calling aquapreneurs. And a number of these aquapreneurs were brought also to New York to the UN Water Conference last week around this very critical unlock to say how do we create that enterprise and foster those ecosystems that can help technology solutions already out there and very much the ones we need yesterday to start to look at the scale and impact to these challenges. Beth, over to you, on the types of solutions you're seeing and what you took away from last week's conference.
Beth Koigi, Majik Water: Thank you so much and it's a pleasure to be here and to talk on [inaudible]. It was mentioned over and over again, there there is not an easy [inaudible] for them water crisis that we are facing. So it's about bridging that gap and [inaudible]. Actually one of the ways to do that is financing. So we need financing, we need investment. But you find that most start-ups in the water sector have [inaudible]. Most start-ups need ample public investment. And these have long [inaudible]. You find that, and I'm very happy, I found a lot of people willing to finance and a lot of investors that are working in the water sector. But a lot of propositions were entirely based on investing in large-scale infrastructure and utility companies. So there's this stuff where, you know, all this infrastructure in this company cannot be able to [inaudible], and how do you finance this?
So for us to scale and implement this, what the solution is, as much as the public entities are required and are necessary, also there is a necessity for private utilities and, for these, innovative financing solutions are required which are are more patient because most of these projects and programmes in start-ups require a huge capital investment. You find that, you know, early-stage kind of financing for tickets below 250,000 USD are not available. So, creating this gap and finding somebody to create or de-risk and create this kind of financing, would go a huge way in helping enterprise actually help with these challenges.
Tania Strauss: Beth, thanks so much. And I think you hit on two really important points. One is to Usha's earlier remarks around the cycle of water and really understanding what aspects of that are facing some of the most vulnerable communities. And as your technology really looks at using atmospheric water generators to provide clean water in arid and semi-arid regions, but that's really reaching people. And what you're describing there is not financing as usual, or not your mother's financing, right? We're talking about the sort of long-term patient capital that needs upfront de-risking as well as that longer institutional investment that will maintain and support that over the long term. So I think two really important points are around getting innovative with not just the technologies but the financing itself. And maybe we can come back to Gary if he has examples on that.
I did want to come to you, Jim. Of course, PepsiCo has been in the discussions around sustainable water management and for many, many years, a champion around the world on these issues. Maybe you can help folks understand why Pepsi cares about water sustainability and what you saw last week as a watershed moment on these issues from the private sector.
Jim Andrew, PepsiCo: Thanks, Tania. Just a little bit of background to answer your first question. Why does PepsiCo care about water? Obviously, we use water in our beverages, but most people don't know that PepsiCo's about 60% food. So we have a very significant agricultural footprint, which obviously employs many, many farmers around the world. But also we touch about 7 million acres. We also have hundreds of production facilities. So for us, water is a fundamental part of our business and the people that we touch. We've committed to be net water positive by 2030 globally in our high water risk areas. And we already have plants that are off the water grid, meaning they use no water from the municipal system for hundreds of days. So as you say, water for us is really important.
As I think back on the conference, you know, it was together really with everybody on this call at one point or another. You know, if I were to just try and boil it down to one thing, as a takeaway it's — and I would just echo the comments everybody else has made — the increasing importance and the recognition of the sort of water, climate, agriculture nexus and how those things fit together. We often think in our own silos, but fundamentally, those things have to be linked. And so the continuing effort to understand, to quantify and to be able to really look at, you know, as Usha said, the water system. But I would say it's even broader, the whole ecological system and how it's related. And to be able to quantify some of the benefits and the co-benefits will help unlock some of the financing, I believe, that Gary and Beth talked about. So to me, the fundamental takeaway was that and the good news is the increasing realisation of how these things are linked. To Henk's point, I also agree, you know, was it a successful conference? We're about to find out.
Tania Strauss: Thanks so much, Jim. And maybe just staying on that really important message at the end there around the realisation of this nexus of climate, agri and water. I think most people don't realise that agri food systems are the largest consumer of water at 70% and greater in a lot of the geographies. And this is consistent across countries and as we rethink how we produce and consume food and start to value that water in different ways, what are the messages that we can start to think about around trade-offs? I think people often shy away from looking at those trade-offs and what you're basically describing is that it's a win-win-win. We don't necessarily have to choose. We can achieve net-zero, we can achieve regenerative food systems and reduce our water footprint at the same time. Am I getting that right?
No government, no private company, no NGO can do this by themselves, because really, this all takes place at a watershed level. Water is a global problem that's intensely local.”
Jim Andrew: We think that that's right. If, or and, as you know, people want to say. It's possible if really a couple of things have to happen. And again, there was a lot of good conversation around this at the meetings. If I think about it from the private sector, you know, we need to make bolder commitments as the private sector, not just in our own operations, but really, you know, thinking about the entire network of our suppliers, our value chain and also watersheds. You know, this is a team sport, and if we ever forget that, we're not going to be successful. And that's true for everyone. You know, no government, no private company, no NGO can do this by themselves, because really, this all takes place at a watershed level. Water is a global problem that's intensely local.
I think we can do it if we don't forget that as a private company, we need to hold our whole supply chain set of partners, you know, hold them to the same commitments that we're making. And then I think all together we need to lean into and this gets to your point, we need to lean into local advocacy because we need, you know, Henk's been very articulate about this over the years. We need smart governance. And I'll just give you one example. You know, we have places where we wash potatoes, for example. We wash potatoes, we take that water and we treat it back to better than WHO drinking water standards, and then we use it to wash potatoes again. Makes sense. Truly circular water — it's great, and in some parts of the world we're actually not allowed to do that. So having advocacy that supports all these things we're talking about: important. So, bolder commitments, making sure that it's a team sport and making sure together we get the right advocacy and regulations in place. I think that's exactly what will allow us to do what you said and really make water circular and to address these trade-offs and serve these requirements that we all are talking about.
Tania Strauss: Thanks so much, Jim. And Gary, maybe then just coming back to you around that water is a local issue and how we rethink not just the integration of policy and technologies and partnerships to unlock finance, but what are the ways in which aquapreneurs and the wider ecosystem that's really looking to get in the trenches and solve these problems to reach 100 million people and more. How are they able to unlock finance? What are you seeing that's promising and how did last week sort of propel that forward? The water puns are just endless, by the way, so we'll have to just continue to work around them.
Gary White: I see this vast network, right, around water. Everything from what Beth is talking about and the need for capital for the aqurapreneurs all the way up to, you know, larger infrastructure that needs to happen and be put in place as well. So I think that what I see, what we're trying to do, because we have heard through the decades, you know, that there's just so much need out there and so little capital focusing on it. And after hearing people lament for years that there's no bankable deals, there's really nothing out there that that will work, that's financially viable for the capital markets, we suspended disbelief and said, you know, let's figure out if there is a market out there and if we can do that. And that's exactly what we've done with Water.org and WaterEquity.
Water.org as a philanthropy-oriented organization goes out there and corrects the market failures, provides the technical assistance, works with local financial institutions to start lending micro-loans for water and sanitation. And so that kind of creating the financial plumbing that I call it. So we create that financial plumbing between the global capital markets and women making just a few dollars a day who need access to water and sanitation. And that's resulted in over $4 billion in microloans reaching 52 million people. And that's one way.
But when I look at, as we look at, how do we scale this up, looking to the capital markets with WaterEquity, which is the world's first asset manager, that's dedicated exclusively to water and sanitation in low and middle-income countries. And WaterEquity now has pulled together more than $350 million in committed capital from investors that have the opportunity for a financial return to be able to then complete that circle and what we really see is a lot of our local financial institutions that we work with around the world are not just doing microfinance now. They're also looking to enterprises like Beth is talking about. So we've been helping those types of financial institutions understand the local water and sanitation market and where there is a potential to invest and get financial returns. And so I think that as we look to where the capital is and some of the corporates part of the Water Resilience Coalition, they see the potential now to come into this, like I said, with their balance sheets and invest in this.
I'm very grateful to PepsiCo, who for years supported us to reach millions of people, particularly in India, but around the world. You know, that funding that they gave us helped us to lay the tracks for this asset manager. So using philanthropy to kind of set things in motion and nudging the markets a little bit so that this can really, again, pardoning the pun, Tania, can flood capital into this. And if we can now- if we can connect the dots between, you know, the capital markets and people making a few dollars a day and financial returns can be had. Then it's on us. You know, it's not we're not talking about scaling up charity to get everybody water. If we can do it with the capital markets, there's no excuse for not making investments in people who need these services.
Tania Strauss: Gary, thank you so much. I think exactly. So we're looking at the cycle of water, but that cycle of finance and how it actually has a role for so many of the stakeholders, I think people are also trying to shift from the what to the how around where the competencies, strengths and then that complementary role can play that sort of unlocking outcome.
I do want to recognise that Henk, you've been hearing from a number of these experts around the level of ambition, around the good examples that have been out there that need scaling, around the passion of the innovators out there that want to get in the trenches and problem solve. What's encouraging you here and what more should we ask the global community to be paying attention to?
Henk Ovink: Thanks Tania, and thanks also for your commitment, not only in these last days here in New York and now again in the days after, but in the years leading up to this conference — took us 46 years. So for us, we said we'd better make best use of this moment. I think we were able to get that. I think this morning, I checked we have 709 voluntary commitments. The challenge, of course, with that is that in the context of all these relationships, you can't silo your approaches before you know it, these commitments are like a post-modernistic flower garden: They bloom for a season, then they're gone. So if you don't bring them together or are able to validate and evaluate and follow up, there's no replication, there's no watershed moment, there's no flooding of funding going. It's just fragmentation all over the place. So one and a half years ago we said we have to bring those commitments together in a global pact for water. Well, that scared the hell out of the world because a pact looks like a legally binding instrument. And before you know it, governments and private sector don't want to be binded to a commitment.
So now this water action agenda. It has a structure, it has a follow-up. But accountability is going to be of greater importance, not only accountability in effect are we delivering, but I would say accountability and effect are we capitalising on this? Are these the opportunities that we should invest in? Again, where is the opportunity for scale and replication? So this can indeed lead to flooding investments and solutions across the world. I think that's the moment of truth. Is such an agenda in contrast to a negotiation better if we focus on the solutions and the partnerships that are needed, what is then the governance that we need around it, the environment that is safe enough? And I think the conference showed that water provides that more or less secure environment where it's okay from governments and private sector and finance and NGOs and communities to come together and say, hey, these are my needs, these are my interests. Collectively, if I invest in water, they can be met and dealt with. Now, the question is, are these solutions fitting? Are they solving tomorrow's problems, and where are the changes that are needed in a society, in the environment, in governance, in financing ways and ways of collaboration, to see indeed scaling of application of those solutions? Because the challenge is massive.
I think to add to that challenge, and Usha is one of our commissioners on the Global Commission on the Economics of Water too, the Global Commission showed us that while water, of course, is felt, the crisis is felt, very local and we see the problem in our rivers also in our streams, but also in our groundwater, which is always transboundary. Now water through these atmospheric rivers, water is transported across continents. So that means you will have water deficits on one and a water flow on the other. So all of a sudden water turns into a very geographically bound way, something that is global and therefore multilateral. And how are we going to be able to deal with that knowing that with climate change on top of that? And IPCC came up with that report last week too, this is not going to be less problematic. So we need to look across those scales to solutions that are about innovation and technology, public and private partnership, that are about governance and finance and that are also about multilateralism. And there is nothing against, you know, at the moment I can only call Usha at the UN and for the rest, nobody picks up the phone when it comes to water. So we have to figure out how to do this differently, organize ourselves around it. I'm against more bureaucracy. I want effective coordination and a focus on implementation. But nobody that's not going to work in the context of this crisis.
Tania Strauss: I think if there's a clear message around the resolute that's needed at the global level around the governance that you describe, and yet the agility and the dynamism we're going to need to continue to foster in terms of local water action. And I'm encouraged. Yeah, please, Henk.
Henk Ovink: That hundreds of people were working on a conference. It scared me. I woke up, well, if I had sleep at all last week, thinking like we're only working on a conference. We're not working on water. So the day after, who's actually picking up the phone when we are talking about water? Well, you are, but it's tough. We made a conference successful knowing that everybody came together and there is more or less an agenda and an agreed-upon conclusion that, yes, water is cross-cutting. It touches upon everything and everyone, everywhere at every point in time. It means that the only way to deal with is very comprehensive in a very committed way, looking at the longer term. But the day after, we still sit in our same systems, in our same silos, the solutions by themselves are not enough to address that recommendation that we have in society. It has to be more. And the question is now beyond the conference, because there is no negotiated process, there's nothing left now. There's no mandate with nobody. The only thing is voluntary commitment. Is that enough to drive this agenda forward? And I question it.
Gary White: I just wanted to jump in to say, like, how are we going to hold our feet to the fire? And I think we should be talking about this and we will be talking about it and convening some of our partners during the United Nations General Assembly in September in Climate Week. So I think that's a good first step, Henk, to see how much is actually getting done and what of those commitments has actually started making progress. And that's the only way, you know, if you call people on the carpet and then come back and say, where are you with your commitment, that is going to be really important.
Tania Strauss: Usha I can come to you next.
Usha Rao-Monari: Thank you, Tania. And thank you, Henk. I feel a very strong need to defend the bureaucratic world in which I live. So, the advantage of the conference — and I completely agree with what you said, Henk — but the advantage and the strongest point of the conference was that it occurred. It brought global attention to a topic that is being considered in a very fragmented fashion, right. What the conference did was brought a focus to the subject at the highest level, which is the politicians, the member states, who said, oh my God, this is it. So I think there is advantage in that.
However, from what you were saying, we can't therefore rest on our laurels and say what a brilliant conference. And yes, it's a conference, we all talk to each other. We have to create this water action decade amongst ourselves. It's not that the UN can do it or that Pepsi can do it, or Gary or Beth can do it. All of us have to come together to create action on the ground. What does that mean? So, Jim, you were talking about how water is connected to food and climate. Absolutely correct. From where I sit at the UNDP, the water is the one connecting issue that connects all 17 SDGs. That's how we're looking at it. Name anyone. There's not even one that does not have water as a significant part of it.
Tania started with this. Today, water has become a point of insecurity on the planet. Six out of seven people feel insecure in the world today. And a large part of that is water and climate security. This is a huge development from where we were, let's say a decade or two decades ago.
And the final point Tania, and just to echo in on what I guess Henk was saying, and even Jim. Yes, like climate, water is now being considered at the level of some sort of global architecture, but it is a very local issue. But I think that global architecture is absolutely necessary to focus attention, to focus solutions, and then bring it down to the country level. So I'm thinking, for example, Jim, of the climate architecture we have globally compared to the NDCs at the country level, and we have you know, the net-zero and whatnot, which is inevitably at the country and company level. I was on a panel with the CEO of Veolia, I guess last week, and she was talking about why can't we do the same for water, including some sort of water net-zero? So what I'm trying to say is water needs a global focus and architecture that it has not unfortunately had, I believe, looking at it as a cycle and everything else that Henk was saying will hopefully move towards creating that architecture. But we have to come back down to the country level and Gary and Beth and yourself and all of you have to operate at that level. Back to you, Tania, thank you.
Tania Strauss: Thanks, Usha. And maybe in the spirit of Henk's challenge to ourselves, but also to the global community on how we ensure that fragmentation doesn't continue. Maybe I can come to each of you for, you know, it's Tuesday after the conference. What is the one thing amongst many, I imagine, but what is the one thing that you are really inspired to do and take forward through your institution, your sector? And we can go around the group. I'd love to start with Beth, over to you. You heard a number of ways in which we can support our aquapreneurs in this wider ecosystem, but what's inspiring you on action?
Action for water is a collective action and everybody fits into this puzzle.”
Beth Koigi: Sorry for that. So for me, I think the UN Water Conference was a way for me. I felt re-energised because, you know, I've worked in water, I have faced water insecurities myself. Sometimes you wake up and you have to decide will I take a shower today, because you don't even have enough water. So I have lived that process. So for me, when I attended the UN Water Conference it gave me reassurance that the government and bigger institutions are actually willing to do action and, you know, action for water is a collective action. And everybody fits into this puzzle. So I have a role to play. Big corporates like PepsiCo have a role to play. Everyone at their local level has a role to play. And for me, it was just a way to be energised and, you know, to feel that actually I can work with like the government of Kenya previously, I would never go anywhere and get the government. Because of the obvious reasons, a bureaucracy, it will stall, it will take longer. So for a start-up that is not ideal. But now I realise that for me to succeed in what I'm doing, I have to be very inclusive within the government, talk to them to understand how we can work together. But at the same time, water issues also- the way you you work, you must be very inclusive because water issues affect each gender differently, affect each age group differently, and especially when it comes to emerging markets you find women have their own water, children have their own water story. You know, everybody's affected by water differently. So also understanding these complexities of water will go a long way in helping understand water and the solutions around it.
Tania Strauss: Beth, thanks so much. And thanks for everything you're doing every day to impact the lives of people, but also the paving of the way for more entrepreneurs to learn from this and support this type of scale-up. Jim, let me come to you next. You've talked about water being a team sport, and I'm wondering where your energy is for the next phase of water action.
No matter how good the work is that we're doing, if we're doing it by ourselves, we're doing it wrong, because these things require collective action and collaboration.
Jim Andrew: Thanks, Tania. And you can ask my team and they'll tell you I'm already acting on it. It's really accelerate. How do we use, as a corporation, as PepsiCo, how do we use our size and our scale to accelerate all the kinds of things we've been talking about? And, you know, I always say it's three things. It's act, act and act.
The first is act broadly, it's a big problem. It's a global problem. And we have to be at least at the watershed level. And I think, you know, to Henk's point there's atmospheric rivers, to Usha's point, it's multi you know, but we have to act and we have to act broadly at the same time acting locally.
The second is we have to act together. I told the group last week, no matter how good the work is that we're doing, if we're doing it by ourselves, we're doing it wrong, because these things require collective action and collaboration. And that's hard. That's hard for a lot of companies, for a lot of countries, for a lot of NGOs, But we have to act together.
And then the third is we have to act now, right? We have to accelerate and move faster. And so that's really where my action is, is you know, act broadly, act together and act now.
Tania Strauss: Thanks Jim. Gary, over to you and if you would like on behalf of you and Matt.
Gary White: Sure. To me, you know, I'm not saying anything new here because everybody's talking about it. It's collaboration and connection. To me, collaboration is kind of a broad thing. Connection is something very specific. And I think that what we want to do is to be able to connect those sources of philanthropic and investment capital with people making a few dollars a day. And we have to go about that in very concrete ways. And I think that's what we are doing. You know, a few years ago, once we struck upon this concept that women living in poverty were willing and able to pay for water services if they had access to affordable finance, that was a breakthrough for us in terms of creating those connections. And so I recast us. You know, Water.org is as much a finance institution now as it is a water NGO. I mean, what NGO has ever gone out and created an asset manager out of thin air, you know, and now is on its way to a billion dollars of committed capital, hopefully by the end of this year? And so we're trying to connect in very concrete ways so that people can see water and sanitation, not just as a problem to be solved but as a market to be served. And I think that is what we see in these connections, in these collaborations with, you know, over 150 financial institutions around the world who are doing this on the ground in these countries. And all of the investors that we have now on the other end of that financial plumbing. And that's for me, as somebody who's been in this sector for so long and has been to so many conferences and heard a lot of ideas about how this organization should do this and that one should do that, it's like we wanted to kind of come in and do it and then branch out and serve as an example to lots of capital sources that could now see that it is viable to invest in poor women who need water and sanitation, and greatly scale up the capital by kind of shining a light on this path.
Tania Strauss: Fantastic. Thanks, Gary, and thanks for continuing to reinforce the finance cycle across the water cycle. And we'll hold you to the Climate Week and looking forward to seeing Water.org's leading by doing example there. And Usha, over to you. I think other than asking your colleagues at the UN to answer the phone when Henk calls, what can we count on for what happens next?
We all have flags... in order to create solutions in a collective way around these incredibly important issues like water, we have to leave the flags at the door and come in to solve an issue or to find a solution.
Usha Rao-Monari: Well, I've now instructed everyone at the UN to pick up as long as they see Henk's phone number on the dial there. You know, as a bureaucrat, I hate these what is the one takeaway sort of questions. But let me try to answer that. So I think one takeaway is exactly what everybody's saying. We have to come together more. But, you know, words like collaboration, cooperation. These are easy words, right? I remember, Tania, when I founded the 2030 Water Resources Group, there was one request I made for all the CEOs who were around the table with me that intimidated me to death. So there was the Pepsi CEO, Jim, there was a Coca-Cola one, there was Peter Brabec, etc. And I said, I have one request to you all, please, when you come into the conference room, please leave your flags at the door. We all have flags. We all have flags and we love to bring them in and wave them vigorously. But in order to create solutions in a collective way around these incredibly important issues like water, we have to leave the flags at the door and come in to solve an issue or to find a solution. Thank you. Back to you, Tania.
Tania Strauss: Thanks so much, Usha. And I think the water resources group in your example, you know, have been active since 12, 13 years now and now in 14 countries. So I think that advice and that request has definitely generated a step change in how these partnerships are starting to form at the country level, with much more to achieve in these coming years. So, Henk, over to you for the final word. What is giving you hope and promise and what are you doing next?
Henk Ovink: I think I more or less was born hopeful. So activist, mother and engineer, father. So there's no way to do this differently. But also this conversation again, and the commitment shown by Gary, Jim, Beth, Usha and yourself here at the Forum really shows the optimism that's behind it. I also think that that was also coming from the last three days and the whole week here in New York. There is, in the context of this massive crisis, that is only you know, you can talk about it, is only becoming bigger and bigger. There is a huge opportunity when it comes to water. And that is what I've always liked in the water space. The moment you have a conversation, water, you bring everybody together and it is always about solutions. There's always an opportunity. A dollar invested in water, always trickles down somewhere either in your own supply chain or in your watershed, in your communities. You find it somewhere with better health, a better environment. Opportunities to again invest and reinvest and scale and replicate. So I think that's the hope.
The challenge, of course, is that after all these years, I'm always a little bit impatient. I really want to see that action, that governance in place and to be able to ensure that there is that follow-up. But Gary, you're right. We concluded also Friday that not only in September we will see each other on water, in the SDG Summit in the high-level week, the year after with The Summit of the Future. And again the UN will agree that water will take a critical role as well as in the World Social Forum, which will be a year after. So three years in a row at least we will see water as a cross-cutting issue in the UN agenda. As well as that, I'm pretty sure with your leadership, your collective leadership, we will see it happening on the ground and I look forward in my next capacity not as an envoy, but something else to help and seek the opportunity to move that ahead as well. So thanks, Tania, here at the Forum and thank you all for joining and your actions.
Tania Strauss: Thanks so much, Henk, and a special thanks on behalf of the world, if I may, to the remarkable inspiration and individual leadership that you have shown to this agenda. I want to thank our panellists for your leadership and inspiration. And we're looking forward to getting quite serious on this.
There is no green without blue. Water is a team sport and I think the puns will carry us through the tough times. So let's do that together. The World Economic Forum is very committed to this agenda and bringing that fragmentation into a much more connected and coordinated way forward. Thank you, everyone.