Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States

UN General Assembly Thematic Debate
Water, Sanitation and Sustainable Energy in the Post 2015 Development Agenda
Institutional Arrangements for Water-Energy Nexus

Distinguished Chair,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of DESA, I would like to thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this important meeting.

DESA is fully committed to supporting the process for the preparation of the post-2015 development agenda, both through the interagency mechanisms, and through support for the intergovernmental process.

Discussions on the critical themes of water including sanitation and sustainable energy have already taken place in the third and fifth sessions, of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.  In these sessions it was widely agreed that both sectors need to be addressed in the post-2015 development agenda and various proposals were advanced.

This thematic debate is providing further valuable insights and ideas on how to address water and sustainable energy in the post 2015-development agenda in a more holistic and integrated manner, in line with sustainable development principles.

The water energy nexus is an important part of the deliberations on the sustainable development goals. In fact the “resource nexus” embodies the key principles of sustainable development, through balancing the social, economic and environmental dimensions.

In the nexus approach, the social dimension addresses the issues of access for the poor to water, sanitation, and energy whilst at the same time dealing with the issue of food security. The economic dimension is very much about learning to create more with less. In the same vein the ecological dimension speaks to the sustaining of vital ecosystems and their services through targeted investments.

Accelerating access to water, sanitation and energy to the poor using nexus approaches is a challenge. It calls for the reshaping of institutions which can respond to natural resource scarcity in more adaptive and collaborative ways.  It also requires more integrated policy and decision making that account for external costs across sectors which complement the conventional sectoral approaches.

For the institutions to be effective, Governments will need to develop new policy and fiscal instruments. This should be backed by information, monitoring of data and trends, innovative planning, and the use of evidence based impact assessment techniques. And there is experience on the ground that this can be done.

For example a pilot assessment of the “climate-land-energy-water development” nexus in Mauritius has shown the practical benefits of integrated analysis for policy making. The nexus assessment has helped in identifying innovative policy that avoids costly mistakes of isolated sectoral policy making. Carrying out this type of assessments requires cooperation among different disciplines and various parts of government. It is also a clear demonstration of the science-policy interface in action.

Essential elements of nexus governance include being able to define an agenda, exercise collective leadership and have the ability to verify performance. The process must also allow for innovation and the development a strong evidence base, which can be shared and used to influence policy.

In India, introduction of innovative win-win strategies including rain water harvesting, micro-irrigation, and ground water recharge schemes have helped improve the lives of some farming communities.  The success was not in the least, due to the involvement of policy makers from the very beginning of the initiatives. Such involvement provided the leadership and support needed to the communities who stand to gain.

Suffice it to say that the water energy and sanitation nexus is just one example. There is a lot to be gained in building alliances with related nexuses such as climate, energy, agriculture and food. 

Addressing these nexuses and promoting policy coherence requires a rethink of traditional institutional arrangements and ways of working. Institutions need to be flexible, adaptive and should facilitate collaboration between sectors. There is a need to also develop individual skills and competencies for working in teams which should in turn lead to integrated solutions.

Nexus governance may however be context specific. Institutional arrangements that work in one country may not be appropriate for another and as such it is important to adapt to the local conditions.

The institutional arrangements must not create new and bigger silos, but must be inclusive and flexible across structures.  Inter -ministerial networks and working groups have been found to be effective, especially where the goals, incentives and accountability mechanisms are clear from the outset.

These networks should be multi stakeholder, and should not only bring together experts and decision-makers from water and energy agencies, but also from other important ministries including planning, finance, environment and urban and rural development, among others.

In promoting nexus governance in institutions in water, inclusiveness is key. It is important to involve actors in all social groups, especially the influential leadership. Implementation happens at the local level and the experience can bring forward important lessons.

In Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, water is being brought to degraded dry valleys which has resulted in intensification of agricultural production. The local communities are deeply involved in this initiative which has a nexus aspect through enhancing food security, increasing surface and ground water availability, and reducing the energy required to pump water from deeper aquifers.

However, Conflicting situations may also arise, for example, while deciding about the uses of water resources for irrigation, industrial purposes and household consumption or for energy systems. Representatives from civil society, water authorities, business sector, energy utilities, environmental groups, water and energy regulators and community leaders should be provided the opportunity to participate in such decision making processes, so that their issues can be addressed.

While it will take time for institutions to adopt more integrated approaches, uncovering institutional impediments and opportunities across the water and energy sectors will help achieve better social, economic and environmental outcomes. 

Institutional capacity development for these approaches, including knowledge and technology transfers between different levels of government and sectors, will be crucial in this regard.

The international community can play a vital role through brokering global knowledge, bringing actors together, and by providing support to international cooperation activities for the development of innovative global, regional and national water-energy nexus initiatives.

This thematic debate is an important step in providing useful insights on integrated approaches for managing water and energy resources. Such integration can result in improved resource use efficiency overall, sustainable resource management and equitable benefit sharing.

This is central to the discussions on the future development agenda.

Thank you for your attention.