With Amina J. Mohammed

After taking part in the panel session ‘Breaking Silos in Development’ last Thursday, we all walked down to the basement of the Davos Congress Center for a press conference. (The room was in one of those typical Swiss atomic shelters – and to be honest, not the most stimulating place at Davos!) Together with some other speakers from the session, we were invited to answer questions from press and other media.

Sitting next to me was Amina J. Mohammed of Nigeria, Special Advisor of the UN Secretary General on Post-2015 Development Planning. She made it very clear that defining the post-2015 development agenda is a daunting, yet inspiring and historic, task for the United Nations and its Member States. And I agree with her: business as usual will not work for achieving the future we want.

All speakers stressed the need for co-operation across sectors and stakeholder groups. And as in the “Breaking Silos” session, I underlined the importance of multiple partnerships being properly aligned and selected according to goals set globally and nationally by intergovernmental and national authorities.

Here, for me water stands at the forefront: one single water goal within the post-2015 framework, with four main targets. I write about it here on the blog in some more detail than at the press conference, where I had to give shorter answers:

1) Universal access to safe (‘improved’) drinking water by 2025 at the latest, with a parallel focus on quality, moving from the improved water perspective to truly safe drinking water. Together with my second point below, this results directly from the principle that water and acceptable sanitation are a human right – not just as a declaration, but as a concrete commitment in the first place by governments.

2) Accelerate the provision of access to improved sanitation to at least 120 million additional people per year, aiming for universal access before 2050. Data on actual improvements achieved show that this is realistically possible; with further strengthened efforts political leaders might aim for even more ambitious targets.

3) Adequate treatment of all municipal and industrial wastewater prior to discharge by 2030. Best practice initiatives to reduce groundwater pollution by agricultural production (traditional, organic, etc.).

4) Finally, yet fundamentally, we must also address the water overdraft. Without changes in the way we are using water today, we risk shortfalls of up to 30% of global cereal production due to water scarcity by 2030. And, needless to say, the growing overdraft of freshwater also puts the supply of water for all other uses at risk, including those mentioned above. My proposed target, therefore, is that freshwater withdrawals (for all uses) must be brought into line with sustainable supply (natural renewal minus environmental flows; in individual watersheds and/or countries) by 2030.

I invite all of you, in your sphere of influence, to make politicians aware of these challenges and to encourage support. But we, like others, have also to contribute with action based on long-term thinking. I mentioned at the press conference Nestlé’s strategy of Creating Shared Value: We believe we can make an important contribution to society, by going a step beyond corporate social responsibility to create value through our core business, both for our shareholders and society. At Nestlé, in addition to water, we prioritise the areas of nutrition and rural development.