Green Cross International Water for Life and Peace Ambassador, Famke Janssen, spoke at an event held at the Dutch Pavillion at the World Water Forum 6 in Marseille, France, organized by the Netherlands Partnership for Water, Green Cross International and the Youth Parliament. (Watch video)
Full text as follows:
Dear friends and distinguished members of the Netherlands Partnership for Water and the World Youth Parliament for Water. I am happy to attend an event where the work of my home country, the Netherlands, in the area of water excellence is being showcased and to support the work of the Youth Parliament.
The Dutch have unique relationship with water. One that grew from a long history of finding ways to stop the ocean from flooding a country that rests largely below sea level. For my own country and others around the world that are vulnerable to global warming and rising oceans, this experience will be critical to minimize dislocation and suffering. From our canals and dikes to the water-powered windmills that dot the country, water is a central part of Dutch life. Many historians argue that our social organization was built on the need for communities to organize democratically in order to pull together to stop an invading ocean or a broken dike – a recognition that water crises do not discriminate whether they come in the form of floods or droughts and, most importantly, that water crises can unite people instead of dividing them.
I am extremely grateful to the Netherlands Water Partnership for their support of my trip to Marseilles and, more importantly, their efforts to find innovative solutions to the world’s water and sanitation problems. The Partnership has found a way to set aside the arguments over privatization versus government ownership and bring together the foremost experts on water. In doing so, they have created a unique organization that helps share the wealth of experience that resides in the Netherlands with the rest of the world. Their numerous publications, programs and outreach have helped contribute to meeting the UN Millennium Goals and solved water infrastructure problems throughout the world. On a more personal note, I live in New York and shortly after the Katrina disaster I filmed a movie in Louisiana. You can imagine my pride when I learned of the Dutch government’s response, the Dutch water industry’s aid and the involvement of Dutch engineers and water mangers to try and address New Orleans’s infrastructure needs.
As this audience knows, sustainable water and good sanitation are the basic building blocks from which all other development goals follow. Many of you have spent your entire careers building expertise around solving water and sanitation problems. I am in awe of your knowledge and experience. I am here to learn about those efforts and do what I can to help them. I am passionate about the need to protect and provide access to safe water and sanitation to every person in the world and I believe that the Dutch experience and the work of Green Cross can help do that.
I am here in my first official role as a supporter and ambassador for Green Cross International, the nongovernmental organization founded by Mikhail Gorbachev. As president of the Soviet Union, he tackled what was one of the greatest challenges – if not the greatest – of his era, bringing an end to the Cold War.
He believes in the power of all people, particularly the youth, to help achieve change that is aimed at protecting the environment from global warming, to stopping conflicts over control of natural resources – like water – and to ensure all people can live free of poverty and insecurity, and enjoy a world that conserves – not exploits – its many natural wonders.
There are a myriad of water and sanitation problems that plague the world. The good news is that there are things we can all do today. By following in the footsteps of The Netherlands Water Partnership and Green Cross International, we can, for example, raise awareness in communities about low-cost measures to provide water and promote appropriate sanitation, take measures to minimize our water foot print, and, on a policy level, we can demand that countries that have not ratified the United Nations Watercourses Convention do so.
I want to end by noting that the responsibility for solving this global challenge lies unfairly in the hands of young people around the world. They did not cause the crisis, but it will be up to today’s youth – who are our leaders of tomorrow – to be prepared for steering our world onto a more sustainable path, a path that will ensure we respond to the water crisis, fairly share our available water resources, promote conservation and end waste, and help millions upon millions of people realize their basic Human Right to access safe water and sanitation. Both the Dutch Partnership and Green Cross have done groundbreaking work to help educate young people on the importance of water and sanitation. The Dutch Partnership has done this by trying to inspire, primary and secondary school children to choose careers in water and Green Cross has done this by its innovative Smart Water for Green Schools campaign. By investing in these programs today we ensure a better tomorrow.
Thank you for the honor to speak with you.