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Published on: 22/02/2022

WASH debates

After a long hiatus, the in-person WASH Debates are back! These events provide an informal platform for Dutch organisations and professionals working in the international water sector to connect and to discuss the latest developments and trends in the sector.

The WASH Debate focused on answering the following questions:

  • How is the Netherlands progressing on its commitments towards SDG 6?
  • What lessons have been learnt on how projects and programmes are contributing to that progress and making linkages to other development objectives?
  • What are the implications for the Dutch-supported water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in the decade to come.



Welcome words
John Butterworth, IRC

Stef Smits, IRC

The Dutch vision statement for SDG6 and beyond
René van Hell, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands

Case studies

  • Addressing social inclusion in the WASH SDG Consortium
    Esther de Vreede, Simavi
  • Tackling climate change adaptation and mitigation with WaterWorX
    Anke Verheij, WaterWorX
  • Linking WASH and integrated water resources management for the Blue Deal
    Marieke van Nood, World Waternet
  • WASH and nutrition: lessons learned from the UNICEF’s Accelerated Sanitation and Water for All programme
    Michael Gnilo, UNICEF

Panel discussion with questions from the audience

Conclusion from the discussion
Stef Smits, IRC

Closing remarks
John Butterworth

Meet the speakers

René van Hell Director Inclusive Green Growth Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the NetherlandsRené van Hell
Director Inclusive Green Growth
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands

Former Netherlands Ambassador to Hungary. Starting in November 2012, he was Director for International Business at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Earlier he was appointed in that position in December 2011 at the Ministry of Economic affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.

He served as Deputy Director for Trade Policy and Global issues at the same ministry. He worked from 2004 until September 2008 as Head of Economic Division at the Netherlands Embassy, Washington, DC.

From 2000 till 2004 he was the head of an Economist Team at the Economic Policy Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, in The Hague. He also worked as an economist and advisor at the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the European Union and was Advisor Energy, Development Cooperation and Budget issues at the European Parliament, Brussels/Belgium, Strasbourg/France.

Esther de VreedeEsther de Vreede
Director of Programmes

After 15 years of working and living abroad, Esther “landed” back in the Netherlands at the beginning of 2017. Previously she worked as a freelance strategic advisor, and before that worked for the Swiss Water & Sanitation NGO Consortium, Caritas Switzerland, IRC and Oxfam Novib.

Simavi implements over 20 different programmes across South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. They work with local partner organisations that are rooted in and understand their communities and the local context. They strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations to represent the health needs and rights of communities at local, national and international levels. In doing so, support civil society in its crucial role of making sustainable changes towards a healthy life for all.

Anke VerheijAnke Verheij
Programme Coordinator

Anke is a water expert with professional experience in the fields of integrated water resources management, urban drinking water supply and governance in Asia and Africa. She’s currently working at VEi as Programme Coordinator of the WaterWorX programme, a programme that brings together all 10 Dutch water utilities and 39 water operators in developing countries to provide 10 million people with sustainable access to clean drinking water and/or sanitation services through Water Operator Partnerships (WOPs). Anke has been involved with WOPs for five years, of which she spent two years in Vietnam implementing the WOP ‘Towards Climate Resilient Water Supply in the Southwestern Mekong Delta’.

Marieke van NoodMarieke van Nood
Regional Manager East Africa and Asia
World Waternet

Marieke studied Civil Engineering at the University of Technology in Delft. She is currently Regional Manager for Asia and East Africa at World Waternet, a foundation linked to Waternet, the water company of Amsterdam and surroundings. She has over 15 years of experience in sustainability issues, including integrated water resources management.

After a side-step into the energy and waste sector, she now seizes the opportunity to contribute to water projects in a developing context. With her enthusiasm and capability to separate side issues from main issues, she is very well able to get to the bottom of water issues and make use of the relevant knowledge and expertise of Waternet Experts, in order to find suitable and sustainable solutions abroad.

Michael GniloMichael Gnilo
Water and Sanitation Specialist

Michael is a WASH Specialist based in NYHQ and supports UNICEF’s Sanitation and Hygiene programmes globally including Menstrual Health and Hygiene. He is the WASH team’s programme focal point for linkages with the Nutrition team at UNICEF headquarters. Michael started his career as a medical doctor and public health practitioner.

He has an extensive background in development work and emergency response with experience spanning across multi-lateral organisations, NGOs, government and academia.  He started his career in UNICEF in 2010 as a Nutrition in Emergencies officer setting up 14 outpatient centers and 2 hospitals to manage severe acute malnutrition. He has been working with UNICEF for 12 years across the areas of WASH, Health, Nutrition and Communication for Development with a specific focus on systems building, private sector engagement, community mobilisation, behaviour change and social norms.

Moderation and Welcome

Stef SmitsStef Smits
Head of IRC Consult


John ButterworthJohn Butterworth
Director of the Change Hub



Background on the event

Access to water supply and sanitation is a precondition to life and a declared human right. Consequently, there is a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG6), that does not only focus on access to drinking water and sanitation, but also on the water resources that are needed for sustainable access. Water is equally important to the achievement of other sustainable development goals and linked for example to food security, health and gender equity. In turn, the achievement of the water-related development goals depends on and can have synergy with other development goals.
In 2016, the Government of the Netherlands set an ambitious target: to provide 30 million people with sustainable access to safe water and 50 million people with sustainable access to improved sanitation by 2030. It developed a policy framework not only to make sure these targets would be met in a quantitative sense, but also to provide strategic direction on how to ensure outcomes last. In that, the linkages between water supply and sanitation and other development goals play a central role. For example, the policy framework indicates that water supply and sanitation services are developed and provided in the context of integrated water resources management, and that due attention is given to climate change adaptation. Social inclusion and gender equity are a dedicated area of focus within the policy. And also relevant linkages with other sectors such as food security/nutrition, health and education would need to be made.
Whereas conceptually, these linkages sound logical, putting them into practice has its challenges, for example around sectoral mandates, coordination across institutions, and the dilution. Since then, the Government has been working with different types of partners and programmes to put that policy into practice, including WaterWorX (with the Dutch utilities), the WASH SDG Consortium (with a large number of NGOs) and the Blue Deal (with Water Boards). It has also been working with multilateral agencies, such as UNICEF. There are also bilateral programmes in a number of partner countries.
This WASH debate aims to review how the Netherlands is doing against its commitments in water supply and sanitation, specifically in relation to the broader development objectives.
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