Davos WEF Annual Meeting 2014 Crystal Award for Matt Damon and his water.org

By Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

22 January 2014 See comments (3)

Matt Damon
WEF CRYSTAL AWARD: Actor Matt Damon accepts the WEF Crystal Award for his work on water.

It was my first day in Davos at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum. And it started with a well-deserved award for the actor Matt Damon, not a film Oscar, but the WEF Crystal Award for his work on water.

When you live in Europe or the US, particularly when you're staying up here in the Swiss mountains of Davos, it is not easy to understand what real thirst is. I am not talking about a situation when you look forward to a cold beer after a long-distance ski tour, but real, life-threatening thirst.

Matt Damon witnessed this first-hand when producing the film ’Running the Sahara’ in Summer 2006. This was no Hollywood fiction but a documentary shot in the dry sand of the largest desert in the world, where temperatures often exceed 50 degrees Celsius. The people living and surviving there - nomad herders - move over long distances to find water and areas of often very thin grass for their livestock.

Damon reacted to what he saw and founded H2O Africa as a charitable initiative with the goal of raising money and awareness about water issues on this continent. In 2009, his organisation merged with another to become water.org, with Gary White as co-founder and CEO. In his acceptance speech he said that they both shared ‘a sense of disbelief that millions of people still have no access to safe water.’

Rather than simply distributing money or water to those in need, water.org aims to empower people in the developing world to gain and maintain access to safe water and sanitation. In Matt Damon’s words: ‘The poor themselves are the solution, as citizens and consumers working with a small loan, a water credit.’ And he draws attention to the issue in ways that people actually listen.

Congratulations to him and the water.org team, not simply for the award, but for this great initiative, his commitments and achievements.

  1. Pierre BENGONO @ Niger Basin Authority (NBA)

    22 Jan 2014 - 16:18 (GMT)

    This is the Award of a great initiative around which will require greater achievements because everyone knows the need is huge and I hope that other initiatives will come to your support we are ready to bring you all our support for a synergy for efficiency water access for all especially in Africa South of the Sahara once again congratulations.


  2. Claire Brown Lyons @ Partnerships Advisory

    22 Jan 2014 - 22:37 (GMT)

    Kudos and Congratulations! Gary and Matt are so deserving of WEF's Crystal Award. I am thrilled to see the need for water and sanitation spotlighted and the outstanding work of Water.org & its truly innovative WaterCredit initiative be recognized. Well done, WEF. No better time than now for companies, institutions, governments and organizations to support this ground-breaking work.


  3. Renee Martin-Nagle @ Environmental Law Institute

    23 Jan 2014 - 13:41 (GMT)

    The fact that the World Economic Forum has chosen to honor a water warrior like Matt Damon with the 2014 Crystal Award serves as evidence that those concerned with addressing global problems recognize the urgent needs faced by a billion people who lack access to the planet's most vital resource. Water.org understands that, because water is a local issue, the most effective solutions are also local. By working with local partners and implementing projects through those who are most affected, Water.org supports the theory that bottom-up solutions are more effective than those imposed from the top down. Mr. Damon and his organization are richly deserving of the Crystal Award for raising awareness of water concerns and for elevating the standard of living for many. However, I would like to see recognition of water issues at Davos go beyond giving an award to a celebrity who is following his keenly acute conscience. Water is a key component of a number of the critical issues highlighted by WEF on its website, including Agriculture and Food Security, Education (especially for rural women), Energy, Environment, Geopolitics, Health and Wellbeing, and Sustainability. With WEF's 2014 theme being "The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business", perhaps it is time for water to join the list of concerns that are considered consequential for our future.

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