Opening Remarks on World Water Day

Maria Otero
Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs 
The World Bank
Washington, DC
March 22, 2011

Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to be in the company of so many friends and colleagues as we recognize World Water Day 2011.

Before we begin, I would like to thank the World Bank staff for hosting us in this beautiful atrium.

I would also like to extend a special welcome to special representatives from: USAID, NOAA, the Department’s of the Interior, Agriculture and Defense, EPA, MCC, the Export-Import Bank, OPIC, NASA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and UN Habitat. And our guests from the NGO and private sector.

And, of course, a special welcome as well to those of you joining us via video from the UN-Water World Water Day celebrations in Capetown [the video screen will be on your right]:

  • The Honorable Minister of Water and Environment from South Africa and current President of the African Ministers Council on Water Edna Molewa [Mo-lay-wah];
  • His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange;
  • And the Executive Director of UN-Habitat Dr. Joan [Zhu-ahn] Clos.

It’s wonderful to see all of you, and I’m so glad you could join us from Capetown.

As many of you know, one can find expertise on water throughout the United States government. More than fifteen agencies work in promoting clean water and increasing water security, many of whom are here today.

In fact, if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to ask the members of the USG government working on water to stand up or raise your hand and be recognized. [applause]

  • And what about the World Bank?
  • Now let’s have the members of the nonprofit community stand up or raise your hands. [Everyone stay standing.]
  • Now, the private sector representatives.
  • Is there anyone left? Okay, everyone who thinks water is a global imperative, please stand up or raise your hand.

We now have at least 500 people showing their support for clean water and water security. Thank you, everyone, you may be seated.

It’s sobering to think that over ten times this many people die every day from preventable water-related diseases. Most of us in this room have never had to face a reality in which water is a threat. But, indeed, such is the reality for the rest of the world.

We are here today to reiterate our strong support for clean water around the world, and to sign an unprecedented memorandum of understanding between the United States Government and the World Bank.

This MOU will be an inter-agency effort on the part of the United States, leveraging the unique expertise and tools of individual agencies. From the remote sensing technology of NASA to the water-conservation technologies being developed by USDA, we are calling on every agency to apply their unique strengths to the global challenges that have brought each of us here today.

I want to especially recognize USAID, which played a critical role in the MOU process and will lead the US government’s implementation of the three key areas:

1. The first component of the MOU is to share knowledge between the US government and the World Bank, creating new efficiencies and refining best practices in the field. This will include staff exchanges and the publication of joint analysis for the industry.

2. The second component of the US government and World Bank’s collaboration will be increasing our cooperation at the country level, including identifying shared goals and complementary projects at programmatic and diplomatic levels.

3. And third, we will strengthen national and regional efforts through joint planning, investment and incentivizing of local innovation and ownership.

It is my hope that this MOU will mark the beginning of a new era in our global effort to increase water security and ensure that every person on this planet has access to clean water and sanitation. We must stay true to our commitment so that the next generation and those that follow do not find their water supply threatened by a changing climate.

But let me be clear: as we sit (and stand) together today, so we are together in this global effort. The MOU that we sign today is not limited to the two signing parties. It extends to each of you as well. As you are demonstrating today, you are not just witnesses to this signing, but critical collaborators. Only through partnership will we ensure that no child dies from a preventable water related disease; That no girl fears going to school for the lack of a toilet; that no woman has to walk six kilometers to collect water for her family; and that no war is ever fought over water.

So, on this World Water Day 2011, I thank you for being here, for reaffirming your commitment to this important work, and for continuing to believe in a water-secure and healthy future for every person on our treasured planet. Thank you.