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Interacting with Dutch politicians

Published on: 25/10/2017

NGOs call for effective parliamentary supervision of Dutch-funded water initiatives.

IRC's Stef Smits (centre) presents his case to Dutch Members of Parliament, flanked by Rolien Sasse (left) and Giacomo Galli (right). Screenshot livestream

The water is both a Dutch aid and trade priority. The annual development cooperation budget for water is € 190 million, covering both water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and water resources management. The International Water Ambition (IWA) is a collaborative initiative of the Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economic Affairs and Infrastructure & the Environment to promote Dutch expertise in tackling global water problems.


On 11 October 2017 the Water NGO Platform of the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) organised a seminar for Dutch Members of Parliament (MPs). The seminar aimed to update MPs on the international water agenda from the perspective of NGOs and to provide them with advice on effective parliamentary supervision of Dutch-funded initiatives. Six MPs attended the seminar: R. de Roon (PVV), M. Amhaouch (CDA), L.I. Diks (Groen Links), K.A.E. van den Hul (PvdA), C.M. van Brenk (50PLUS) and L. Sazias (50PLUS).

Presentations and calls to action

Following an introduction by NWP board member and NGO Platform Chair Jacqueline Barendse, there were three NGO presentations.

Representing IRC, Stef Smits explained how MPs can help ensure that The Netherlands honours its commitment to provide 30 million people with water and 50 million people with sanitation by 2030. He asked them to monitor progress, quality and sustainability of the results. Stef noted that the available Dutch funds alone (€ 90 million / year) were insufficient to ensure sustainability, and should therefore also be used to leverage local domestic finance.  His final request was that the Government not only has to commit to achieving the water supply and sanitation targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) but also the water management targets.

The two other presentations were on aid and trade in the water sector by Giacomo Galli (Both Ends) and on water, conflict and migration by Rolien Sasse (independent consultant for NWP).  Based on the example of a Dutch-funded coastal development programme  in Jakarta, Indonesia, Mr. Galli emphasised the need to include local participation and environmental assessment in Dutch infrastructure projects, Mrs Sasse championed a new theme, which she urged the MPs to embrace: “Water crisis and stability” on the role of water in conflict prevention.

Each speaker submitted a call to action (available in Dutch only).

Interaction with MPs

Following the presentations, the presenters responded to questions from the MPs.


The MPs were interested to know if there are any key milestones and monitoring indicators to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6). Two key milestones were indicated. In 2018 we should have a good idea of the long-term financial commitments needed to provide water to 30 million and sanitation to 50 million people by 2030. By 2020 (5 years after the launch of the SDGs) we should have made the changes necessary to achieve SDG 6 in 2030.

With respect to monitoring indicators, last year the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) defined the baseline and new indicators for safely managed drinking water and sanitation (SDG 6.1 and 6.2). In 2018, UN inter-agency initiative GEMI will publish the baseline and indicators for wastewater treatment and water quality (SDG 6.3.2), water use (SDG 6.4.1),  water scarcity (SDG 6.4.2),  integrated water resources management (SDG 6.5.1) including transboundary cooperation (SDG 6.5.2), and water-related ecosystems (SDG 6.6.1). Since monitoring SDG 6 relies on national data, it is important to invest in national monitoring capacities.


Several MPs asked what is needed to ensure sustainable water and sanitation services. The answer, they were told, is adopting a systems-based approach. This includes having a national governance system that clearly defines roles and responsibilities; a regulatory system for tariff setting; and a monitoring system for oversight. The Netherlands Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) is using sustainability instruments in its WASH programmes including sustainability compacts, clauses, and checks.


MPs were keen to hear how aid dependency can be avoided by leveraging domestic finance. One suggestion is to set up national water finance facilities such as the Dutch-funded Kenya Innovative Finance Facility for Water (KIFFWA). Good tariff setting, based on a sound regulatory system, which balances sustainability with affordability, is another example.

Building systems

Reflecting on the seminar, Stef Smits felt that it was a very useful dialogue with good and relevant questions. Two key issues were highlighted, he said. First, that sustainability of services needs to be high on the agenda. That requires that sustainability is monitored and that it is ensured, for example through financial sustainability. Secondly, that systems building is needed to achieve sustainability.

Dutch SDG 6 ambassador

Corrie van Brenk adopts SDG 6. Photo: Partos

A month after the seminar, participant and parliamentarian C.M. (Corrie) van Brenk (50PLUS) agreed to become an ambassador for SDG 6 as part of the "Adopt an SDG" initiative of Building Change. Ms Van Benk commits to promoting clean water and sanitation for all in parliamentary budget discussions.

About the Water NGO Platform

Members of this platform are committed to increasing sustainable access to safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, water for economic development and wise use of ecosystems in developing countries. Currently the platform has around 30 members, including IRC. More information (in Dutch).