Water for Life and Peace

2014 Feb 25th

Green Cross speaks at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit

Green Cross International Chief Operating Officer, Adam Koniuszewski, was invited to present at the 14th Annual Delhi Sustainable Development Summit held at the Taj Palace in New Delhi, India from 6-8 February, 2014.

This year's Summit focused on "Attaining Energy, Water and Food Security for All", addressing issues about the interdependent nature of these elements and how securing them is fundamental to alleviating poverty and providing a "climate resilient and robust green economy."

Mr. Koniuszewski's speech illuminated ways in which Green Cross is helping address issues related to water and sanitation in developing countries, offering even to expand the extent of these projects to India.

Read his speech in its entirety here:

Greetings to you ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be back in Delhi and I thank Dr Pachauri and TERI for their kind invitation.

Last November I presented the work of Green Cross at the offices of the Royal Bank of Canada in Montreal, to an association called the “Women Investors for Impact” (WIFI). These women investors are interested in achieving not only a financial return but also to maximize the social and environmental impacts of their investment. The Royal Bank has set up $20 million Impact fund to back up these efforts – this is a serious initiative.

  • Our discussion included a number of “gender” related aspects and yesterday we heard that the 85 richest people in the world own as much as the 3.5 billion poorest – what was not mentioned is that most of the rich are men while the poor are pre-dominantly women.
  • And that is despite the fact that globally women work more then men, according to the World Bank, women often work 18 hour days versus 8 hours for men – while most of the financial income is earned by men. A large part of the work of women is not or is poorly remunerated
  • Interestingly rich or poor, men account for the bulk of the energy use, cause most of the pollution and of climate change while women are the first victims of climate change and environmental degradation.

Gender equality would mean equal opportunity for both men and women, a key element being the ability for women to participate in decision-making. But the reality is that most decisions are taken by men on behalf of “all” – which in fact means that gender considerations are not addressed.

  • In the U.S., 83% of seats in Congress = men, 88% of governors = men, and about 80% of state legislator positions = men.
  • We saw in the TERI’s film yesterday on the deployment of cookstoves that the biggest obstacle to a project with tremendous benefits to the entire community in terms of reducing pollution & improving lives of women was convincing the men, a major problem indeed
  • In Asia where major investments in transportation and mobility will be made in the coming years there are practically no professionally trained women involved in the planning and decision making processes – how can the specific mobility needs of women be addressed in this context?  
  • In Dhaka, a city of 15 million people, with an underdeveloped bus system with much competition to access seats, there is often violence against women by other passengers and even bus drivers – who would often not pick them up or charge them a higher fare and pocket the difference. Result: lower mobility and opportunity or women.

I would like focus now on the Green Cross projects in the area of access to water and sanitation. We have identified this as the critical area that can have the most impact in the lives of hundreds of million of women around the world because there is a powerful multiplier effect in providing water and sanitation that benefits not only women but the wider community – lower infant mortality, major reduction in waterborne diseases, higher school enrolment, especially for girls, reduced exposure to the risk of violence by women and girls, greater productivity, livelihood and the chance to escape poverty.

At Green Cross we implement Access to Water and Sanitation projects in rural communities around the world (Africa, Latin America and Asia). The projects include rainwater harvesting, wells and separate ecological latrines for boys and girls. These simple measures have a transformational impact:

  • Women and girls no longer need to walk for hours to fetch water which often exposes them to great danger
  • Separate latrines: higher school attendance by girls means better access to education and promote gender equality (!)
  • Improved health for the entire community, reduced prevalence of waterborne diseases (90%+ drop)
  • no need to boil water which means reduced deforestation, lower indoor pollution, etc.
  • women have more time to develop economic activities and to earn a livelihood
  • participation in decision making is key: women form the majority of the committees that manage the projects. They make the decisions
  • Senegal example: sustainable agriculture – better food security for the entire community

And this is also what women investors for impact told us – that they tended to invest in solutions for women because they would not only provide interesting financial returns but sustainable solutions for the entire community and consider the potential for such results in the area water and sanitation to be most promising

In closing, I would like to invite TERI and Dr Pachauri to see how we could work together in order to develop such projects right here in India.

Thank you.

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