Water… First and foremost!

A woman fetches water from the standpipe in sector 3, Gado I, supplied by the water tower. @SolidaritesInternational

Finally … In less than 30 days, the (very) expected United Nations Water Conference will open in New York. An American city of more than 8 M inhabitants, which knows a rate of NRW (non revenue water) higher than … 40% ! Are you serious? Yes, this is where, almost 50 years later, the talks will take place, bringing together the many stakeholders, politicians, NGOs, civil society, scientists and academics, institutions and financiers, and the private sector, all of whom will share the state of this vital sector, the issues at stake, and propose – we hope – solutions.

The co-chairman of the World Water Economy Conference, Mr. Shanmugaratnam, reminded us a few days ago that the demand for water should exceed the supply by more than 40% by 2030, which means just tomorrow. And the Pacific Institute’s very interesting study on water-related conflicts reveals, through its rigorous statistics, a hundred or so conflicts between 1960 and 2010, then an acceleration from 2010 to 2021, with more than 800 increasingly violent clashes, with a record figure of 124 incidents in 2021 alone, mainly in Asia and on the African continent. There is therefore no reason why the subject of water and sanitation should not be put back at the top of the public agenda. Even if other threats have come in recent years to disrupt the rank of urgency of public and private action: the impact of covid, with the reallocation of financial resources dedicated to other sectors, food systems and agriculture disrupted, wars in unexpected resurgence …. It is indeed to the “8 billion shareholders” -as Mr. Csaba Korosi, President of the United Nations General Assembly, says- that we will have to account in the short term. In 1950 there were 2.6 billion inhabitants, in November 2022 there will be 8 billion and by 2100 there will be more than 10 billion. These are figures and a trajectory that simply and transparently show our collective responsibility. Yes, we know, scientists are telling us and alerting us together with many actors of the civil society.

Displaced people collecting water. Muhajeria region, South Darfur. @WilliamDaniels/SolidaritesInternational

The Conference will focus its study and dialogue themes on 5 major topics, all of which are the result of preparatory work begun more than a year ago: Health/Development/Climate/Cooperation/10-Year Action Plan. They are the fruit of considerable preparatory work with multiple contributions, each one being detailed in the exhaustive priorities to be privileged in this open dialogue, as for example Health approached under the linked angle of access to water, sanitation and hygiene. A trio fortunately united. Or another example, Development, which associates the water/energy/food nexus. The visions have largely progressed and the transversality, the interconnection of the field realities seems to be better understood. Listening to the field, yes, and persuading the stakeholders, in the first rank of which, let us say in equal parts, the politicians and the donors. This is one of the major issues that is undoubtedly making progress. But is it really enough? 1 out of 3 people still do not have access to safe water… Now we must act.

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, calls for a “bold action plan”. Because the facts are in, and now no one can pretend “not to know”, everyone knows that “every drop counts”. So in New York, let’s hope that from dialogue to action, a real step will be taken.

Patrice Fonlladosa

Président of the Thinktank (Re)sources

Patrice Fonlladosa is an expert in the Environment, with more than 35 years of experience as a senior executive in leading global companies in the development, construction and operation of infrastructure.
Patrice is the former Chairman and CEO of Veolia Africa/Middle East, a group covering more than 10,000 employees and €1.7 billion in chiffre d’affaires when he leaves in 2019, covering over 12 countries
He was previously involved in the management and development of Veolia- Transdev (member of the Board of Directors) and then Veolia Water (member of the Executive Committee), introducing new partnerships with various strategic stakeholders, including development financial institutions (IFC, Proparco…), and institutional investors (Mubadala, Qatari Diar and many others).
Patrice has extensive experience in PPPs (public-private partnerships) and long-term contracts in complex regulatory environments. He has served on several boards in more than 8 countries, including the chairmanship of a listed company (SDC in Oman).
Prior to spending more than 24 years at Veolia, Patrice was financial director of Matra Transport Taiwan and at Bouygues Travaux Publics.
In addition to his professional roles, Patrice served for several years as a director on the Board of AFD (the French Development Agency) and MEDEF. He has also served as President Africa and Vice President of the Council of Franco-Saudi affaires of MEDEF International.
Currently President of the think tank (Re)sources, he advises public and private organizations on international development and governance through his own consulting firm PFoAMe. He is also an independent director on several boards and a Foreign Trade Advisor. Patrice is a graduate of the IFG (1982), father of four and a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.