The Magic of Water, a Masterclass with Henk Ovink, Water Envoy of the Netherlands

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A Masterclass of the only Water Envoy of The Netherlands, Henk Ovink
Thursday 18 June 2020, European Junior Water Programme

Lonely we can not call the work of Henk Ovink as only Water Envoy world-wide. Since 2015, Henk has become the first (and only) water envoy in the world, on official assignment from the government of The Netherlands. He travels the world to raise awareness on the value of water, within the water sector itself, but mainly among other professionals and the general public. He raises awareness to create understanding on the value of water, the complexity of water and the magic of water.

The Magic of Water?

Investing in water equals investing in health, food and equality. Water is connected to all core elements of life. It is in itself a human right but it also supports other human rights, from education to health.

Considering all the tasks Henk has to fulfill in his work, including pre- and post-disaster support, innovation, taking up the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, responding to the COVID19 Pandemic is now also a top priority among them. Access to water is crucial in fighting the spread of the virus, yet the link between health and water is rarely mentioned outside of specialized talks.

Water is at the core of the world’s system, our environment and our human societies. We need a systems approach to the water-food-energy-health and ecosystems interactions. This complexity is our opportunity. Changing the way we talk about water is important for the future. Don’t isolate water from the other Nexus elements it’s naturally intertwined with. Create partnerships and build trust. Open and honest collaboration exposes vulnerabilities as well, but that is a challenge we can take on if we work together.  Let water be not a source of conflict, but of binding. Let water work it’s magic.

Water Govenance

Since water is a system in itself, it does not answer to or fits any governmental system. Water doesn’t stop at national borders and doesn’t keep to governmental agreements. Since water isn’t confined to silos, we shouldn’t be working in one either. That does make it hard to create a united voice for water issues on government’s agendas.

The Paris Agreement addresses mitigation of climate change through CO2 emissions reductions. Water is not directly addressed in the agreement, but changing precipitation patterns, floods and droughts or sea level rise are the main physical expressions of climate change. The European Green Deal also addresses the topic of water, but to what extent and how will the member states implement the policy at national level? As European citizens, we at EJWP recognize the need to raise our voices and share our vision on water so that our governments feel compelled to take the Green Deal from paper to action.

Creating impact with the magic of water

It is not only the young that need to solve the problems of today, but we need their voices more than ever. It is their future we are creating through the policies of today. Generations need to work together to make solutions feasible. 

You already make impact by telling your story, was Henk’s message to the EJWP participants and to young professionals world-wide. Don’t underestimate the impact of your own voice, within your private and professional spheres but also in society as a whole, he added. A call to activism the European Junior Water Programme batch 1 is welcome to work on!

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