Remarks on World Water Day

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
The World Bank
Washington, DC
March 22, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Good afternoon in this absolutely glorious fora with so many people who do the work every day that makes the World Bank such a respected institution. It is my pleasure to commemorate World Water Day with you.

And I want to thank Bob Zoellick for his commitment to this issue and his leadership of the Bank; vice president Inger Andersen, American executive director Ian Solomon, and in particular, some of my team who are here – Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Global Affairs and Democracy at the State Department, and Don Steinberg, Deputy at USAID, and Jane Lubchenco, the NOAA Administrator. And we want to send a special greeting to everyone in South Africa, especially to His Royal Highness, the Prince of Orange of the Netherlands, for making this water issue one of international significance.

Like Bob, I am also grateful to those of you from the private sector and private foundations as well as civil society groups and NGOs. I’m also aware that in the audience today, we have several other international organizations including the IAEA and UN-HABITAT. And to all of you who are here because you know that this is such a critical issue that cuts across every single part of development that one can imagine, I thank you for helping to raise the visibility of water as one of the most important issues. Why? Because the water crisis is a health crisis, it’s a farming crisis, it’s an economic crisis, it’s a climate crisis, and increasingly, it is a political crisis. And therefore, we must have an equally comprehensive response.

Now our experts in the United States Government are working on water issues at nearly two dozen agencies – of course, from State and USAID, but also the Millennium Challenge Corporation, NASA, NOAA, EPA, Treasury, and so much else. And many of our agencies are already working with the World Bank Group, but we want to enhance that collaboration, and that will be created by the memorandum of understanding that we sign today.

Now, the MOU is a good step forward, but we have so much further to go together. As you’ve already heard Bob say in his recitation of some of the statistics that should be driving all of us to greater efforts, more than 5,000 people die each day from causes linked to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene, and most of them are children. Millions of women and girls walk for hours every day to collect water for their households, and some of them put their very lives and physical safety at risk. And by 2025, we believe that it could be as much as two-thirds of the world’s population, including in more areas within developed countries where people will be living under water stress. And that will, in turn, both undermine and impede socioeconomic development.

So we come today determined to do what we can to make sure those statistics not only don’t worsen, but begin to reverse. One year ago, I reaffirmed the United States’s commitment to water security, to ensuring that people have the water they need, when and where they need it, in a sustainable manner, while reducing the risk and impact of extreme water events like droughts and floods. So water security for us is a matter of economic security, human security, and national security, because we see potential for increasing unrest, conflicts, and instability over water. That is why I asked the National Intelligence Council to prepare an intelligence estimate on the national security implications of water security up to the year 2040.

But there is another side to this issue. The water crisis can bring people together. In fact, on water issues, cooperation, not conflict, is and can be the rule. We have seen this in the success of local water groups, neighbors combining their resources to build wells and install pipes, then paying for water together. We have seen how water projects, done right, can unite engineers, health experts, educators, and political leaders. And we have seen countries come together to settle disputes and arrive at joint solutions to their water problems. So we want to enhance collaboration and commitment to bring more clean water and sanitation to more people.

We take this very seriously, so in our government, we’re now working to increase the impact of our policies and programs through our strategy to advance water security worldwide. And I announced on last World Water Day that Under Secretary Otero and USAID Administrator Raj Shah would lead those efforts to build the capacity of individuals, governments, and institutions to advance water security, to elevate and better coordinate our diplomatic efforts to mobilize, finance, to harness science and technology, and leverage the full range of public and private partnerships.

Now over this past year, we have made some targeted commitments. A few examples: In Indonesia, USAID has begun a five-year, $34 million water, sanitation, and hygiene project to reach more than 2 million of Indonesia’s urban poor. USAID also launched a project in Haiti to teach women about sanitation and hygiene so they could better take care of their households. And we are also supporting another project in India to provide slum dwellers in eight states with municipal water and sanitation systems.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation signed a $275 million compact in October with Jordan, one of the five most water-deprived countries in the world, to improve water supply and waste water treatment. In terms of our diplomatic outreach, we are elevating water as a priority in our relationships not only with nations, but also regional and global institutions.

During the Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York in September, we co-hosted an event on water that brought together heads of state, ministers from donor and developing countries, to encourage us all to make water – especially sanitation – a higher priority. And just a few weeks ago, USAID and the Qatar National Food Security Program convened representatives from 17 water centers in 10 countries across the Middle East and North Africa to create a regional network to share technical knowledge to solve the complex water challenges they face.

To mobilize financial support, we are investigating innovative ways to pay for water and sanitation projects to make it financially feasible for governments and private companies to invest in water and sanitation systems in poor communities.

In Kenya, USAID is working with local water utilities, a local cell phone company, and a local microfinance institution to create new ways for poor people to pay for water. They receive a microloan to cover the initial cost of connecting their homes with water systems, then repay those loans using micro-banking services on their cell phones.

Now in the Philippines, Japan and the United States have worked together to establish a water revolving fund to leverage private investment to improve water and sanitation for more than 100,000 people in 36 villages. And last year, the first USAID guaranteed loan for $2.5 million was granted.

To promote science and technology, we are supporting innovation in many places. To give just a few examples: USAID is working with NASA to use satellite images to monitor and forecast ecological changes in the Himalayas, including the monitoring of glacial melt. And it has worked with the private sector to open a ceramic water filter factory in Cambodia. With ceramic filters, people no longer need to boil water to make it safe to drink, so they don’t need to burn as much wood or charcoal, which in turn reduces greenhouse gases. And the plant has even applied to receive carbon credits for future sales.

Now, none of this work can be done by one country alone. It must be done in partnership, which is what brings me here to the World Bank today. We commend the World Bank for the leadership it has already shown over years on water. And with this Memorandum of Understanding, we are paving the way for closer collaboration between the World Bank and the United States Government. We want to combine our expertise to drive high-impact change in people’s lives. We think this is an important step. We’re excited about what it can produce for the people who need our help to get the water they desperately require, and we want to see what this kind of collaboration can actually foster.

We know that in the work we do in diplomacy and development, in finance and outreach, we’re always juggling the urgent and the important. And oftentimes, the urgent can swallow up everything else. Well, we need to keep our eye on the long-term and the important as well. We know that for hundreds of millions of people today, water represents a deadly threat. And the risks that they face in finding water, hauling it, drinking it, cooking and bathing with it, add up to the defining challenge of their lives. There is nothing more urgent and important than that. So let’s get about the business of working together – creatively, collaboratively, and quickly – to make a difference, to make our contribution to solving the water crisis and to bring greater health and stability to more of the world’s people.

It’s a great honor for me to be here today, to thank you for the work you do every day, and to offer the close cooperation from President Obama and our government on behalf of this extraordinary commitment that water represents to all of us.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: President Zoellick and Secretary Clinton will now sign the memorandum of understanding, and we invite the onstage guests to witness the signing. (Applause.)

(The memorandum of understanding was signed.)


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, again. Thanks, everybody. (Applause.)

PRN: 2011/444