IsDB President's Statement on World Water Day 2021, Launching 1st IsDB Water Sector Policy

This new policy is designed to value a finite resource. It resonates very well with the theme of WWD 2021 and the Bellagio Principles.  

As we all know, the Bellagio Principles on valuing water were developed in 2017 by the UN and the World Bank High-Level Panel on Water to push forward with the global agenda for appreciating the true value of water. 

The IsDB water policy that we debut today, among its pillars, advocates universal and affordable access to water and sanitation, and effective water resources management. These two pillars are well embedded in the Bellagio Principle No. 3: "Protecting the Sources."

Similarly, the IsDB water policy promotes the third pillar on capacity development and solutions transfer, which is also aligned with the Bellagio Principle No. 4: "Educating to Empower."     

Additionally, I would like to reiterate that two of the Bank's policy guiding principles respectively relate to Finance and Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI), which are both captured under the Bellagio Principle No. 5: "Invest and Innovate."

Pondering the interlinked perspectives that influence the global appreciation of water, we have to emphasize that valuing water requires recognizing a full range of direct and indirect benefits and associated risks from different economic, socio-cultural, and environmental dimensions.

But first and foremost, two major facts about water valuation need to be stated:

Fact one: It is challenging to value and manage water, given its multi-dimensional and competing uses. Each user will tend to value water from his/her perspective. For instance, women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa, who have to walk an average of six kilometers every day or collectively spend around 16 million hours a day fetching water, will not value this resource the same way as a dweller in a rich capital city enjoying uninterrupted access to quality tap water.   

Fact two: Based on the challenge mentioned above, the failure to fully value water and its benefits is considered as the root cause of the limited political attention paid to the water sector, leading to a lack of its financing. Historically, water has been somewhat undervalued.

In the meantime, a genuine appreciation of water is realized once all end-users and the relevant policymakers develop an in-depth understanding of it from various perspectives:

Economic perspective

Water is a crucial resource, indispensable for many economic sectors: agriculture, energy, industry, etc. In other words, economic growth highly depends on the proper valuation of water to ensure the adequate allocation of this resource. Besides, ensuring access to water and sanitation for all (SDG# 6) cross-links all other 16 Sustainable Development Goals, underscoring the importance of water in the SDGs framework and humanity's wellbeing. 

Socio-cultural perspective

Many ancient civilizations were built on the banks of rivers. The most notable examples are the Ancient Egyptians on the River Nile, the Mesopotamians in the Fertile Crescent on the Tigris/Euphrates rivers, etc. Nowadays, water continues to shape migration movements and human settlements. Hence, there is a compelling need to consider these cultural and social aspects when valuing water.

Environmental perspective 

This aspect covers the dire need for water to maintain ecosystems and keep rivers flowing. It is the environmental flows that have to be included in the equation while valuing water. 

It has always been said that 'water is life.' 

There is no doubt and we all agree that valuing water means valuing life.  

Now, we need to contemplate the question: How much is life worth?


Dr. Bandar Hajjar, 

President, Islamic Development Bank 

For more comprehensive discussions on valuing water and IsDB's water sector policy, read hear