World Water Day Buzz at the World Bank

Posted by L. Alex Kahl
March 28, 2011
Secretary Clinton and World Bank President Zoellick Sign MOU

The atrium buzzed with excitement as the capacity crowd waited for Secretary Clinton and World Bank President Zoellick to arrive on stage. The preceding hour was filled by an impressive story of water engagement, including a live (digital video conference) DVC feed from South Africa's World Water Day events. Among others in South Africa, Willem-Alexander, the Prince of Orange, Netherlands, spoke in his capacity as chairman of the UN Secretary General's Board on Water and Sanitation. To highlight that the private and public sector need to work together on this issue, several corporations and their non-profit partners made new commitments to work towards solving the global safe drinking water and sanitation crisis. Following these announcements, United States government agencies, such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took turns illustrating their role in addressing the global water crisis.

Then the "voice of God," as Deputy Administrator of the USAID Don Steinberg described the unseen female announcer's voice, proclaimed, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage...,” and applause erupted in the airy atrium to warmly greet Secretary of State Clinton, World Bank President Zoellick, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, United States Executive Director of the World Bank Ian Solomon, and World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Inger Andersen.

Mr. Zoellick spoke to the rationale for signing a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the World Bank and U.S. government agencies, the highlight of the event. He said, "Look at almost any poverty issue: You'll see water." He noted that, the World Bank Group is the largest external source of financing for water management in developing countries and that the World Bank will utilize the new MOU by tapping the knowledge, the technology, and the best practices that you [U.S. government] are sharing to try and help connect U.S. experts with developing countries.

Continuing that theme, Secretary Clinton noted that 24 U.S. government agencies work on water issues. She said, "We want to combine our expertise to drive high-impact change in people's lives. We think this is an important step. We're excited about what it can produce for the people who need our help to get the water they desperately require, and we want to see what this kind of collaboration can actually foster." Despite the formidable situation surrounding the global water crisis, by leveraging the science and technology resources of U.S. government agencies (such as USAID and NOAA), the Secretary illustrated how, the water crisis can also bring people together. Looking to the resources and expertise of the World Bank, the U.S. Government, and the rest of the world, the Secretary envisioned the MOU as a means to let us work together -- creatively, collaboratively, and quickly -- to solve the water crisis, and bring health and stability to more of the world's people. With this in mind, the MOU provides an opportunity for science and technology to function as the framework upon which water issues (whether diplomatic or development-related) are addressed.

Secretary Clinton and Mr. Zoellick concluded the ceremony by signing the MOU into force. The signing of the MOU helped achieve one of the primary objectives of World Water Day, to raise awareness and call for stronger commitments and more robust action to ensure universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Signing an MOU on cooperation related to water is only the first step. Each agency must now leverage its strengths to deliver results that are greater than the sum of their parts. The task at hand is a huge one but working together with the private sector and NGO community, this diverse team of water warriors can use the excitement and energy we felt in the World Bank atrium to creatively, collaboratively, and quickly solve the water crisis.

Secretary Clinton and Mr. Zoellick concluded the ceremony by signing the MOU into force. The signing of the MOU helped achieve one of the primary objectives of World Water Day -- to raise awareness and call for stronger commitments and more robust action to ensure universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Signing an MOU on cooperation related to water is only the first step. Each agency must now leverage its strengths to deliver results that are greater than the sum of their parts. The task at hand is a huge one but working together with the private sector and NGO community, this diverse team of water warriors can use the excitement and energy we felt in the World Bank atrium to creatively, collaboratively, and quickly solve the water crisis.

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