Bonn, 16 November 2011

  • Dr. Norbert Röttgen, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety;
  • Mr. Dirk Niebel, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development;
  • His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander of Orange, Chair of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation;
  • Mr. Sha Zukang, UN Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs;
  • Representatives from North Rhine Westphalia;
  • Distinguished ladies and gentlemen:

Let me start by thanking the German Government for organizing such an important conference. Water, energy and food security are not only basic human rights – they are also critical to the health of our people, and necessary for achieving the other Millennium Development Goals, especially for the developing countries.

I therefore welcome the Bonn 2011 Conference and although I am unable to participate in person, I eagerly look forward to the conference outcomes and recommendations.

For a long time, we have been concerned with the question of sustainable and integrated exploitation of natural resources. And now that the global population has reached the 7 billion mark and leading to 9 billion by 2050, the need for answers is more urgent as there is going to be a greater need for land, water, energy and food.

Besides growing populations, we are seeing increasing urbanization especially in developing countries. Competition for resources among emerging economies is already exerting huge pressure on the available supplies. Climate change will no doubt exacerbate the situation.

The critical issue we face is how to better leverage interventions in water, energy and food sectors to further green our economies and at the same time achieve sustainable development

I believe the first solution lies in enhanced management of what we have and finding innovative ways of producing more with the limited resources. The modern technologies at our disposal provide the means to do this. What we need is the common understanding and political will to use them.

At the level of policy formulation and implementation, we must adopt the nexus approach. It certainly creates synergies, and in our experience, facilitates more effective financial resource mobilization and allocation.As far as developing countries are concerned, we need to continue to strengthen governance and institutional coordination – establishing regulatory frameworks that promote the green economy and ensure that benefits are equitably shared.

It is important to engage women, civil society and the private sector. In developing countries, the involvement of women is particularly critical given that they produce up to 80% of food and provide 90% of water and fuel wood.

We also need to educate our children and raise their awareness of the prudent use of water, energy, and land. This will result in better productivity and a more resilient environment for future generations.

Let me also say that foreign direct investment is a big driver for change in a coordinated use of resources. Besides job creation, capacity building and creating the necessary infrastructure, it brings in innovative technologies that can be used for sustainable harvesting of water and harnessing energy resources as well as for sustainable farming for food security.

Of course, we can achieve more in the context of regional and international cooperation. An example of such cooperation on the African continent is the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), which is a coordination body for environmental and natural resources management in the region. The Commission promotes the sustainable management of Lake Victoria and its catchment area, the conservation of aquatic resources and at the same time developing fishing, industry, agriculture and tourism.

In Rwanda, we promote environmental and resource-conscious economic development as an integral part of our national vision. Within this context, we have created an environmental management authority, which among other things, ensures that an environmental and social impact assessment is carried out for every project before implementation.

Furthermore, district level development plans include environmental and resource protection actions. In fact, the performance contracts signed by District Mayors every year include preventing soil erosion and protecting marshlands; as well as access to clean water and electricity. They must incorporate energy efficient measures such as the use of biomass and promoting the use of biogas for domestic application; ecological sanitation, forest cover and others. To make these plans and systems work better, we plan to embed more modern and relevant techniques.

In conclusion, let me say that we all recognize the importance of water, energy and food security in humanity’s development and that the three cannot be taken in isolation. To use them more optimally and further grow our economies, we need a new way of thinking that involves greater coordination among nations.

I thank you for this opportunity to address you and wish you a successful conference.