Delft, The Netherlands, 25 Apr 2016

Regional launch of the UN World Water Development Report, Water and Jobs

On 25 April, UNESCO-IHE organized the regional launch of the UN World Water Development Report 2016 (WWDR) in the Netherlands. The topic of the report is Water and Jobs: the nexus between Water, Economic Development and Jobs.

Regional Launch

The official launch of the WWDR 2016 was held in Geneva, Switzerland, on the 22nd March, in the framework of the celebrations of the World Water Day. On the same day but also shortly following, WWAP has organized and co-organized a significant amount of launches across the world. On 25 April, the launch in the Netherlands took place at UNESCO-IHE. Regional events were organized in 27 countries.

The launch was opened by Dr. Fritz Holzwarth, UNESCO-IHE's Rector a.i. HE welcomed the speakers and mentioned that the report covers an issue which has been discussed for a long time. It analyzes how many jobs are directly linked to the water sector and how many depend on the water sector. "With this report, the political community can better understand the relation between water, development and jobs,'' he said.

Prof. Uhlenbrook, Coordinator of the World Water Assessment Programme, began his speech with a picture taken at a farm, illustrating in very simple terms the water-dependency of jobs. The sign said: 'No water, no jobs, no patatoes, no kidding, we need water'. 

A few remarkable highlights from the WWDR 2016 which Dr. Uhlenbrook mentioned underline the relevance of the Report and of the efforts needed to achieve water-related targets:

  • Three out of four jobs globally depend on water, therefore water scarcity limits economic growth and employment opportunities 
  • Water scarcity and unreliable supply threaten the existance and growth potential of decent jobs in water-dependent sectors
  • Efforts to adapt to increasing water stress need to be increased, to avoid dramatic consequences for local employment, trade and migration

Three out of four of the jobs worldwide are water-dependent

The connection between water and jobs is not necessarily an obvious one. This year’s World Water Development Report (WWDR 2016) is dedicated to examining this relationship. It analyses how essential water is – not ‘just’ for life as is so often and rightfully claimed - but for jobs and therefore for economic growth, now and in the future. 

According to the Report, 78% of the jobs constituting the global workforce are dependent on water. "To hold the dialogue about the water and jobs nexus in the broader arena of science, technology and innovation policies, decision makers will have to step outside their comfort zones," says Uta Wehn, Associate Professor of Water Innovation Studies at UNESCO-IHE. 

Water is a key factor in the development of job opportunities either directly related to its management (supply, infrastructure, wastewater treatment, etc.) or in economic sectors that are heavily water-dependent such as agriculture, fishing, power, industry and health. Furthermore, good access to drinking water and sanitation promotes an educated and healthy workforce, which constitutes an essential factor for sustained economic growth. 

The UN Water Development Report 2016 takes up the nexus between water and jobs, and underlines the negative impact the lack of sustainable water management has on economic development. The report highlights critical linkages between the management of water and employment to policy opportunities in countries at all levels of development. Two billion jobs are dependent on having access to an adequate supply of water. At the same time, investments in sound water management can provide the basis for job creation in all sectors. This requires well-trained professionals and a highly skilled workforce consisting of engineers, scientists and practitioners.

UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, Dr. Flavia Schlegel: ''We need more researchers to contribute to the knowledge base concerning water and development, continuously examining how to improve the status quo with innovative solutions. We need experts to collect data about droughts and flood management, to help farmers develop irrigation technologies, to inform industrial producers about treatment of wasted water. And we need academics to share vital knowledge about water and environment onwards in the regions that could benefit from this the most, so that water professionals in the global South can apply this to their daily practice.''

The business perspective

Then the floor was given to the speakers:

  • Mr. John Verbakel, Vice-President Supply Chain, Unilever, mentioned that companies should look at the whole supply chain, including what consumers do with water as they are the biggest users. ''In the private sector many jobs are linked to our factories, so knowledge of water is critical. The understanding and the knowledge of water becomes critical for any innovation in the private sector. At Unilever, any new innovation needs to be assessed on the impact of water for the whole chain before anyone gives approval for the innovation in our business. This happens in more companies. The challenge is, can we develop products that deal with water scarcity and introduce a positive impact on water used in our factories?" 
  • Ms. Ardi Stoios-Braken, Deputy Director, cluster leader Energy, Raw Materials and Polar Policy, Inclusive Green Growth Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs: ''Water is vital for many jobs around the world, water is vital for agriculture, industry, transport and energy. Without water there would be no economic development, and therefore no jobs. The water sector needs skilled professionals to do a good job. The Dutch Government is with you in the effort to encourage countries worldwide to invest in people in the water sector to meet the sustainable development goals.''
  • Mr. Xavier Leflaive, Water Team Leader, Environmental Directorate OECD mentioned that ''investing in the water sector contributes directly to sustainable growth. Collaborating with 'water-wise colleagues' in other sectors increases the success rate of water innovations."
  • Mr. Didier Gambier, Department Head at European Commission Executive Agency EASME (Executive Agency for Small and Medium Enterprises) said that we have to mobilize the financial system to engage so that they find an interest in water investments. Without engagement of the financial system, we will not succeed in changing to a circular economy."

Live stream

The event was live-streamed. Click here to view the video.

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