Speech by Minister Toivakka at the World Water Day 2016 -seminar

Speech by Ms. Lenita Toivakka, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland. The annual UN Water Day -event: Nordic Leadership in Water Management, 22.3.2016, House of Estates, Helsinki.

Dear Nordic friends,

I would like to thank you for the excellent discussions today.

I was the minister responsible for Nordic Co-operation when we started planning our priority themes for the Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. We chose water to be a priority theme because of its nature as a strategically important natural resource. Having access to safe drinking water and sanitation is central to living a life in dignity and upholding human rights.

Water has both economic, social, environmental as well as foreign and security policy dimensions. And in water questions – as in many other questions – we, the Nordic countries share the objectives of promoting peace and stability, reducing poverty, realizing economic, social and cultural rights, and promoting sustainable use of natural resources.

Global water resources are scarce. Population growth, climate change and consumption habits diminish them even further. Through active development cooperation in the water sector we, the Nordic countries, can increase regional stability and promote global security. Transboundary water cooperation- both through bilateral agreements and the two global Conventions - contributes to the same purpose.  Finland has actively advanced transboundary water cooperation already for the past 50 years.

Water is a crucial element in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, both as a separate goal and as a cross-cutting issue. As we have discussed today, the implementation of the Agenda is a joint challenge we all now face, nationally, regionally and globally. We can make the 2030 Agenda a success story, but this will not happen by itself.

In today's panel discussion we heard about the Nordic efforts in providing safe drinking water and sanitation for all, integrated water resources management, water quality and supporting the participation of the local communities. I am convinced that Nordic cooperation will add value to our country-level implementation of the Agenda. The project the Nordic Council of Ministers is currently preparing on the Nordic cooperation in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda plays here an important role.

The Nordic experience has clearly shown that economic growth does not need to be linked to increased water consumption and to increased load to water resources – quite the opposite. Our approach to sustainable water management, advanced technologies in wastewater treatment, effective environmental oversight and citizens' high motivation in the protection of waters are areas where we could explore further in terms of Nordic branding and joint economic interests. Nordic focus on cleantech could also provide more opportunities for companies, including through joint export and infrastructure projects.


Ladies and gentlemen,

In terms of funding, Finnfund, our national Development Finance Institution, is closely collaborating with its Nordic sister organizations IFU, Norfund and Swedfund. During the current Government term, Finland will support efforts to mobilize investments for sustainable development in developing countries with over 500 million Euros. Different options for channeling these investment funds are currently being explored. Access to water is one of the key themes in Finland's new development policy. This opens up the possibility for water becoming one the sectors for these new development policy investments.

Many of the areas of Nordic water cooperation we have discussed today will be also discussed in the Nordic Development Ministers' meeting, which will be arranged next autumn in Copenhagen in connection with the meeting of the Nordic Council.  A long-term tradition of annual meetings between our officials working with water related development cooperation also exists and creates opportunity to follow up on these matters.


Finally, I want to use this opportunity to thank the Finnish Water Forum and the Water Association Finland for organizing this seminar jointly with us. Your work in connecting public and private sector, academia and organizations working with water issues is very valuable and much appreciated.

We all are aware that the term 'Nordic model' is regularly used when referring to our achievements for example in gender equality, competitiveness or good governance. Based on our discussions today, I have a suggestion - let's make Nordic water the next Nordic brand.

Thank you all for participating!

kestävä kehitys
pohjoismainen yhteistyö