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The Netherlands announces water for development plans

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International cooperation minister Ben Knapen has announced how the Netherlands will help developing countries solve their water problems over the next few years. At a meeting today with Dutch water sector representatives, he presented the plans outlined in his policy letter ‘Water for Development’.

‘In many places in the world, drought, pollution and depleted water supplies are becoming an increasingly serious obstacle to development. The Dutch have long been pioneers in the water sector, and demand for our knowhow is growing rapidly,’ said Mr Knapen, who also sent his policy letter to the House of Representatives today.

Last year, the Netherlands decided to concentrate development cooperation in four priority areas: food security, water, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and public order and safety. Last year, it took the first important steps in the area of food security. After water, it will turn its attention to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The new water policy is not limited to traditional fields like drinking water and sanitation. ‘We also want to increase food security and boost production through more efficient use of water in farming and by helping people live more safely in deltas and coastal areas. Economic growth converges with the forces of nature in these areas, and the Netherlands has the expertise to deal with the problems arising from that,’ said Mr Knapen.

Development cooperation cannot be a government monopoly, Mr Knapen told the water sector representatives, and certainly not in the area of water, where the government can best act as a broker. A good example is the new facility for public-private partnerships: in the next five years, the government will release €150 million for water projects run by consortiums of businesses, research institutes, and development organisations.

From 2011 to 2015, the budget for water programmes in developing countries will grow from €156 million to €254 million. And the Netherlands is also investing in its water management expertise at home. At today’s meeting, Mr Knapen announced his intention to continue helping finance the International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) for the next five years. After the meeting, Mr Knapen left for a working visit to Ghana and Benin to inspect a number of water projects.