Conversations With Water Leaders: Jan Eliasson on Millennium Development Goals and Sectoral Cooperation
22 May 2013 - SINGAPORE — Third in a series of "Conversations" conducted by OOSKAnews in association with Singapore International Water Week.
Jan Eliasson, United Nations Deputy Secretary General, speaks with OOSKAnews CEO David Duncan about his views on the various critical factors affecting solutions for water provision, including the private sector, local community involvement and political leadership.
With 15 years of experience as a speaker on water and sanitation, Jan Eliasson stresses the significance of public awareness about water challenges and his desire to end open defecation.
Hello, Mr Eliasson. Thank you for making time for this conversation this morning. I would like to start by asking you about the Millennium Development Goals. What you think are the biggest hurdles towards achieving the MDG vision?
The MDGs have made some progress in certain areas like education and extreme poverty, in large part due to progress in this part of the world, in Asia. There have also been some improvements in water supply, but some goals are lagging, and the most seriously lagging is sanitation. At the present rate we will have to wait anywhere from 50 to 75 years until we achieve the goals we set in the year 2000. Therefore, [UN] Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked me to lead an effort to speed up implementation of the sanitation goals. If you improve sanitation, you reduce child mortality, you improve maternal health, you increase gender equality, you get better educational facilities, particularly for girls, and you reduce extreme poverty, so it has a multiplication effect. I think what I have seen here today in Singapore is exactly what I want to see – we need to take a systemic approach to water and sanitation and see that everything is inter-related. Otherwise, we lose so much.
Let’s talk about technology and the sanitation challenge. What role can technology have, and should technology have, in providing solutions?
There are three factors that decide whether you really can make progress. The first one is technology, the second thing is organization, and the third is political will, and willingness to invest resources. All three are important, but they have to be seen together. If you have a system as I have seen here today making resources renewable and recyclable, then the pressure on resources is reduced. We have also seen today how progress is being made on desalination technology, which of course would bring enormous hope to the world. We must recognize the nexus between water availability and the resources of the energy sector, and all that builds on energy not being exorbitantly expensive. So I think technology is extremely important. The cleaning methods, and the kind of research that goes on here (in Singapore), I find very encouraging.
How do you think that countries like Singapore, which have made tremendous steps in solving water management issues, can take their expertise globally?
Well, I would say to my colleagues here, our hosts, that they should be as active as possible. Internationally, this type of technology, this type of organizing in a systemic way, is a good example to be followed by many others. There are situations where I’ve seen people and leaderships becoming almost overwhelmed by problems. You have, for instance, the significant trend towards urbanization. By 2020, 60 to 65 percent of the world population will live in urban areas. If you have mostly poor people that move into poor countries’ urban areas, you see the creation of enormous slums where we don’t have the necessary infrastructure. I come back to the point that it is a question of technology, organization, political will and resources. These resources in the best of cases should come from the developing countries themselves, because giving priority to sanitation is an investment in the future. But I also think that the financial contributors, the banks, and the private sector could also gain a lot by investing in this sector. So I would hope there is a mobilization around the water and sanitation problems, not only from governments, not only from conferences in New York, in Singapore or in Stockholm, but actually locally so that they will see that this is a way to improve lives, not only from the perspective of sanitation, but from the perspective of health and the future of the next generations.
You have said in the past that the key is to focus on generating action at the community level. Could you share some of the more successful community actions that you have seen around the globe?
I have spent a lot of time in Africa and a lot of time in disaster areas, and I have seen the extremes -- for example, the problems in the villages in Darfur, in Ethiopia and in Somalia. Above all, in conflict situations, can you imagine the horror of poisoning water in order to chase away a population? If a resource is scarce, this can be a reason not only for competition, but for struggle and war. But I will say that areas in Ethiopia in particular have seen some fantastic examples of what can be done. I was chair of an NGO in Sweden, WaterAid, with the main headquarters in London, which works with these issues, and I am very, very glad to have seen examples of progress on the ground. But wherever I go, I want to spread the news that it can be done, because you have to fight this sense of losing control and hopelessness.
You mentioned the private sector. What do you think is the role of the private sector in helping the world to achieve the MDGs. How can we encourage people, and the public and private sectors, to work together?
Of course, I come from Sweden where the public sector is very strong, and public responsibility is accepted and we are willing to pay for it. But I also think that cooperation with the private sector is crucial, not least to encourage new technologies. I would hope that there would be a mobilization from the private sector, the scientific community, civil society, governments and local communities around the issue. But I come back to the fact that dealing with crucial aspects of the infrastructure of a nation is the responsibility of political leaders, both national and local. Infrastructure and the public good are the reasons that we organize ourselves as societies. The private sector is an enormously important branch, and ideally there is seamless cooperation, but I think ultimately the responsibility for organization and the systemic approach has to be taken by political leadership and the public sector.
I’d be interested in hearing your views about the importance of public awareness of the water challenge. While there’s great awareness of climate issues, awareness of water issues has a lower position in people’s understanding. During today’s tour of Singapore’s NEWater Visitor Center, I was also interested in hearing you talk about semantics and the language that is used to describe these challenges. Can you please elaborate on that?
Yes, I have some examples. I have been speaking about water and sanitation for 15 years. I was President of the General Assembly [of the United Nations], and I once surprised the General Assembly by raising my glass, or in this case this bottle of NEWater. I pointed to it and said “This is a luxury for 880 million people around the world. Two and a half billion people do not have sanitation, and this is the reason why 3,000 children under the age of 5 die every day out of diarrhea, dysentery, dehydration and cholera. I have seen them die in front of my own eyes.” I said that because I really think that we have to bring about much deeper awareness of this issue. On sanitation, additionally, there is a taboo. Many years ago it was almost bad taste to talk about toilets. I am a strong supporter of the aims of World Toilet Day, which happens on November 19th. I finished a speech in the United Nations in 2010 by simply saying we need to work for a life, and originally the text was “a life with dignity for all,” but I changed that for “a life with toilets for all.” My colleagues tell me that it’s the only speech they remembered!
On the topic of sanitation, you have spoken frequently about the need to end open defecation.
Yes, my latest use of speaking directly is that we have to fight the problem of open defecation. Twenty-two countries in the world, 1.5 billion people, practice open defecation, and the damage that this does to the environment, health and human dignity is enormous. So one of the parts of this call for action on sanitation that we just introduced is to end the practice of open defecation by 2025. I am now mobilizing the whole UN system -- all the different agencies working with water, from UNICEF to WHO and so forth -- but that is not enough. Regarding your earlier question, we also have to reach out in order to make sure that the private sector is there, that the NGOs are there, that the academic and scientific world is there, and that local communities exercise pressure on the issue. There needs to be pressure from the people on the ground who see the children dying, who see the girls sitting home taking care of sick children, who see mothers dying in childbirth because they have dirty water, so that we finally do something about this problem.
Do you have any final message you would like to give to our readers?
I am very grateful that your readers show interest in this issue, and, if this interest can be channeled into action, we can make a difference in the lives of millions of people. It is not as complicated as we think. Actually, the problems are easy if you look at it technically. It’s just the way we have to organize ourselves. We should put the problem in the center, or the challenge in the center, and then bring all actors around the problem. We have a tendency to work and think sectorally, in silos, and then we only address part of the problem. The way to make change possible is to break down walls and bring in the different aspects, both actors and functions. This new method could almost revolutionize how societies are working, and there is a strong need to do that. Not only inside the United Nations do we need to break down walls, but also in society and international cooperation generally. So if you can contribute to this new thinking necessary in the new world, I am grateful, and I thank you for this opportunity to share my views with you.
Thank you so much for sharing your global perspectives with our readers.
About Jan Eliasson: On March 2, 2012, Ambassador Jan Eliasson was appointed Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. He took office as Deputy Secretary-General on July 1, 2012.
Eliasson was from 2007-2008 the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Darfur. Prior to this, he served as President of the 60th session of the UN General Assembly. He was Sweden’s Ambassador to the United States from September 2000 until July 2005. In March 2006, Eliasson was appointed Foreign Minister of Sweden and served in this capacity until the elections in the fall of 2006. He served from 1994 to 2000 as State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Sweden. He was Sweden’s Ambassador to the UN in New York 1988-92, and also served as the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Iran/Iraq.
Eliasson was the first UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and was involved in operations in Africa and the Balkans. 1980-1986, he was part of the UN mediation missions in the war between Iran and Iraq, and in 1993-94 served as mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He has had diplomatic postings in New York (twice) Paris, Bonn, Washington (twice) and Harare, where he opened the first Swedish Embassy in 1980.
Prior to his appointment as Deputy Secretary-General, Eliasson also served as Chair of WaterAid/Sweden and a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Advocacy Group of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
- Ban Ki-moon
- David Duncan
- Jan Eliasson
- Millennium Development Goals
- New York
- Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
- Public health
- Sustainable Sanitation Alliance
- Swedish Embassy
- UN Secretary-General’s Advocacy Group
- United Nations
- United Nations
- United States
- Water supply
- World Health Organization
International Water Summit Synopsis Published by OOSKAnews
18 Mar 2013 - 09:35 by OOSKAnews Correspondent
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, WARRENTON, VA, UNITED STATES/ABU DHABI — OOSKAnews is today publishing the official Synopsis for the inaugural International Water Summit (IWS), which was held in Abu Dhabi on January 15-17th.
The Summit gathered leading minds from the global water community in policy, business and science to accelerate the development of sustainable water solutions for arid regions.
His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, convened the International Water Summit as part of a sustainability vision aimed at "ensuring the prosperity and welfare of mankind,” not only in the United Arab Emirates, but across the world, stating that “water is more important than oil for the UAE.”
The Synopsis paper, produced by OOSKAnews on behalf of the Summit, reports on, and explores, the themes of the event, in particular solutions for arid regions and the growing potential for major efficiency gains in the water-energy nexus.
It highlights new approaches to more energy-efficient desalination and reducing the volume of water lost in networks, and addresses issues including water pricing, education and the needs of rural communities.
David Duncan, CEO of OOSKAnews, said "We are pleased to have participated in the inaugural International Water Summit as publishing partner. It was an excellent event."
The second International Water Summit will be held from January 20-22, 2014 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center.
|IWS Synopsis||6.52 MB|
UNITED STATES, WARRENTON, VA December 10, 2012 — The inaugural International Water Summit (IWS) has partnered with OOSKAnews, Inc., as the official publisher for the event to be held in Abu Dhabi in January 2013.
In January 2012, His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, launched the International Water Summit as part of a sustainability vision aimed at "ensuring the prosperity and welfare of mankind,” not only in the United Arab Emirates, but across the world, stating that “water is more important than oil for the UAE.”
The Summit will gather the leading minds from the global water community in policy, business and science to accelerate the development of sustainable water solutions for arid regions. The event will feature global leaders from governments, municipalities, utilities, contractors, consultants and senior decision makers from the public and private water sectors in the Middle East and internationally.
OOSKAnews will produce the official summit guide/exhibition catalog, summit daily newspaper and a post-summit synopsis report.
"This partnership is an appropriate alignment of the premium intellectual content available live at International Water Summit and OOSKAnews’ skills in provision of international water news, insight and intelligence", said Peter McConnell, Director of the International Water Summit.
David Duncan, Publisher and CEO of OOSKAnews, said "We welcome the opportunity to partner with this exciting and prestigious new event as it makes its debut on the global water scene".
The International Water Summit (15th to 17th January, 2013) will be co-located with the World Future Energy Summit at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (ADNEC).
- Abu Dhabi
- David Duncan
- Middle East
- Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
- OOSKAnews Inc.
- Peter McConnell
- United Arab Emirates
- World Future Energy Summit
UNITED STATES, WARRENTON, VA — September 21, 2012 - OOSKAnews and WWF have announced that leading water information provider OOSKAnews will provide a water risk news service for users of WWF’s Water Risk Filter (www.waterriskfilter.org).
The Water Risk Filter is a global online tool launched in March by WWF International and German development finance institution DEG to enable companies and investors to address their water-related risks.
WWF is one of the world’s largest conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters worldwide.
“OOSKAnews is very pleased to add news data related to physical, regulatory and reputational water risk to the excellent Water Risk Filter tool,” said David Duncan, founder and CEO of OOSKAnews. “We are impressed that the WWF tool proactively engages multiple companies, and multiple facilities to assess and manage their water risk exposure. It’s global in reach, so it’s a great fit for us.”
The tool deploys an online questionnaire that helps companies to identify water risk in supply chains and investment portfolios, and also provides practical steps to mitigate risk, drawing on data sheets for every country.
"Investors and corporations assessing water risk need qualitative, narrative data and context to understand issues and challenges"
“The Water Risk Filter helps users understand their specific risks. But investors and corporations assessing water risk need qualitative, narrative data and context to understand issues and challenges. That’s where OOSKAnews comes in,” said Stuart Orr, WWF International Freshwater Manager.
The collaboration between OOSKAnews and WWF includes:
-Current water risk-related news stories made available by OOSKAnews at no cost to Water Risk Filter users following front-page headlines at www.waterriskfilter.org
-Provision of the full OOSKAnews portfolio of current, water-related news and intelligence to all members of WWF’s Freshwater team
-Links out from parts of OOSKAnews’ water knowledge base to relevant WWF Water Risk Filter data
OOSKAnews (www.ooskanews.com), established 2006, is a privately-owned, independent specialist in information services related to water and associated subjects. The company is the world leader in international water, and water-related news and intelligence. OOSKAnews deploys about 170 contributing writers in more than 60 countries. Customers include senior decision-makers in global water, and water-related sectors including government agencies, the water industry, NGO’s, international institutions, the scientific community, corporations and financial institutions.
- David Duncan
- OOSKAnews Inc.
- Stuart Orr
- United States
- Water management
- WWF International
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - September 5, 2012 - The US Water Partnership (USWP) and OOSKAnews, Inc. have announced that leading water information provider OOSKAnews will join USWP as a member, providing select news content on topics of interest to the global water community. The announcement was made in Stockholm, Sweden during World Water Week.
“OOSKAnews is proud to join the USWP – an innovative effort to bring US expertise and leadership to water issues around the world,” said David Duncan, founder and CEO of OOSKAnews. “The partnership offers a great opportunity for us to partner with best in class organizations and make a positive impact on solving water challenges around the world.”
A joint effort of both public and private sectors in the US, the US Water Partnership is supported by leading government agencies, academic organizations, water coalitions, NGOs and the private sector. The partnership was first announced on March 22, 2012 by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. In June 2012, US Water Partnership members announced over $500 million USD in commitments to address key water challenges around the world.
In support of a water secure world, the USWP provides access to knowledge, technical assistance and training and partnership development services. The Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF) is serving as the USWP’s secretariat.
The collaboration between the OOSKAnews and the USWP will include:
- Provision of donated weekly content from OOSKAnews for the public and USWP members;
· Creation of content and reports of importance to the global water community, to include special OOSKAnews reporting on issues in strategic river basins around the world;
· Creation of a “road map” of US government and other relevant water data available to inform water-risk and water-opportunity decision making; and,
· Co-creation of a news database archive of more than 24,000 news stories on water, and water-related news.
“OOSKAnews is a leader in reporting on water news from around the world,” said Monica Ellis, CEO of GETF. “The USWP and its members will benefit greatly from their content and the products that we jointly produce.”
- David Duncan
- Hillary Rodham Clinton
- Monica Ellis
- OOSKAnews Inc.
- United States
- US Water Partnership
OOSKAnews publishes daily and weekly email subscription newsletters covering local, regional and global water policy, government, business, finance, infrastructure, corporate risk, environment, energy and food security.
OOSKAnews' network of more than 150 international correspondents provide current water and water-related news unavailable anywhere else.