SM Tharman is co-chair of new global project that redefines value & governance of water


Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was named on May 25, 2022 as one of four co-chairs of the newly launched Global Commission on the Economics of Water, a project that aims to redefine how the world values and governs water.

The other co-chairs are: Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Founding Director of the University College London Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose; WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; and
Professor Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

What is this Global Commission on the Economics of Water?

In the statement, the Commission said: “Improving how water is managed globally is critical to mitigating the climate crisis and averting growing social and economic disorder, mass migration and conflicts. Yet, water is almost totally absent from the global policy stage.”

This Global Commission, a two-year project, is made up of 17 experts, community leaders and practitioners from a broad range of expertise from all regions of the world, will develop the new thinking on economics and governance to lead countries out of the current impasse.

They will later provide an independent review of The Economics of Water: An Agenda for the Common Good.

“What is needed are purpose-driven private-public partnerships on a scale that has never been attempted before, to mobilise finance, invest in innovations and deliver access everywhere to affordable, safe water,” said SM Tharman.

“What happens in one part of the world ends up in another part of the world.”

At a panel session on A Fresh Water Future at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum earlier on the same day, SM Tharman said that water is already a casualty of climate change and any adverse effects will be felt globally.

“Fundamentally, it now requires us to realise that it’s not just what happens in the Sahel or some part of the world which is already in severe water stress. But it’s the hydrological cycle that affects everyone in the world. That’s why it’s part of the global commons, not just an issue, crying out for attention because a large part of humanity is affected. But because it’s a global issue, what happens in one part of the world ends up in another part of the world that’s intrinsic to the climate crisis and water is intertwined with the climate crisis,” he said.

He added that there’s “an intersection of solutions that addresses both climate and water” and people shouldn’t solve each problem in isolation.

“We got to think of them together and find solutions that basically solve both of them together. But being selfless. And being self interested is the same thing. When it comes to the global commons, what goes around comes around.”

Water technology already available

As compared to combating climate crisis, the technologies already exist for water and the challenge is how to scale them up and make them affordable for every village in every country, said SM Tharman.

“40 per cent of the time of women in rural Africa is spent daily looking for firewood and water. So it’s a lifetime transformer. And if they think that 40 per cent of the time, imagine what else they’ll be able to do,” he said.

Cover photo credit: World Economic Forum