Leading voices and thought-leaders

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Léo Heller
UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation


Guangzhe Chen
Senior Director, Water Global Practice, World Bank Group

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Benedito Braga
President of the World Water Council


Dhesigen Naidoo
CEO, Water Research Commission, South Africa


Eleanor Allen
CEO, Water for People


Henk Ovink
Special Envoy on Water, Netherlands

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Pablo Bereciartua
Argentina’s Under Secretary for Water Resources


Jeffrey Sachs
Columbia University, USA

Meet the 2017 Keynotes


Opening Session

Argentina’s National Water Plan

Pablo Bereciartua is Argentina’s Under Secretary for Water Resources, a position to which he was appointed in December 2015. In the public sector, he has served as the Director of Infrastructure for the City of Buenos Aires, where he faced both enormous challenges and opportunities to apply new technologies to the city and regional infrastructure.

Pablo is a professor at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and former dean at the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology (ITBA), where he focused on teaching and researching the link between technology, infrastructure and social and economic impact. He also serves as vice president of the Argentinean Social Forum, and has shared his ideas on innovation, education, technology, the future of mobility and cities across media platforms in Argentina. He is also Vice President of the Argentinean Engineering Center and member of the Institute of Transport of the National Academy of Engineering.

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A trained engineer, he graduated with honors from Universidad Nacional de la Plata, Argentina. He also holds graduate degrees from University of California at Berkeley and the UNESCO-IHE Institute in Delft, The Netherlands; and has earned fellowships from Fulbright, Eisenhower Foundation, Yale World Fellow, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

Pablo is founder and CEO of Bereco SA & Bereco Labs, Inc., a company focused on innovation, technology and management. He is also the founder of other technology based companies such as B3 and Agro Appgrade SA.

Agenda setting thought leadership from the most prominent figures within the water sector and beyond. Keynote speakers are the top specialists in their field and will provide the overarching narrative for the congress. Keynotes and supporting panels will frame the key discussions and topics that will be addressed during the week of the congress.


Opening Session

Water, from risk to reward – in a transformative way

Mr Henk Ovink previously held the position of Deputy Director-General of Spatial Planning and Water Affairs at the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, and Director of National Spatial Development. Mr Ovink currently serves as a senior advisor to the American Federal Government and the former Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Taskforce instituted by President Obama. For the reconstruction of the New York and New Jersey region, he developed and lead the ‘Rebuild by Design’ contest, which CNN designated as one of the most innovative ideas of 2013. Currently, 15 Dutch companies and organisations are working on the implementation of the winning projects.

Mr Ovink has a long record of service in the business community, education and the government in the fields of spatial planning, water management and culture. Among other activities, he has served as Curator to the 5th International Architecture Bienniale Rotterdam, he sits on the International Advisory Board of the city of Rotterdam, he teaches at Harvard GSD and he advises the Rockefeller Foundation regarding their approach to resilience and water safety.

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“Worldwide, water is a connecting issue,” Mr. Ovink said. “With its integrated approach to water shortages, water safety, water quality, logistics and transport, the Netherlands make the difference across the globe. We are leaders in the field, which is welcome, but that also obliges us to continue to invest and innovate, in the Netherlands and abroad. Our Dutch know-how and expertise are unique. I see plenty of opportunities to utilize this knowledge even better at the international level.”

Mr. Ovink will leave his position as a senior advisor to the US government with the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force instituted by President Obama. For the reconstruction of the New York and New Jersey region, he developed and led the “Rebuild by Design” contest, which CNN designated as one of the most innovative ideas of 2013. Currently, 15 Dutch companies and organisations are working on the implementation of the winning projects.

The key task of the Special Envoy for International Water Affairs involves economic diplomacy. As the ambassador for the Dutch water sector, Mr. Ovink will be responsible for maintaining good relations with foreign governments, knowledge institutions, umbrella organizations, coordinating and representative bodies, the business community and civil society organizations.

He will establishe connections with the other relevant top sectors (energy, agriculture, the creative industry), and collaborate closely with Dutch embassies, consulates and permanent representatives. He will also maintain direct contact with bilateral and multilateral actors such as the World Bank, the United Nations, the OECD and the EU, and attend international water meetings, if need be, as a representative of the ministers.

The Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands reports directly to the three ministers and is appointed for a term of three years, possibly to be extended for a further three years. After a period of two years, the position will be evaluated by the Dutch Advisory Committee on Water Affairs. The three departments have been collaborating in the Inter-Ministerial Water Cluster (IWC) since the end of 2014. This new cooperative also comprises the Dutch Risk Reduction Teams (prevention and reconstruction) and the Dutch Surge Support (emergency relief in water disasters).

Mr. Ovink previously held the position of Deputy Director-General of Spatial Planning and Water Affairs at the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, and Director of National Spatial Development.

Mr. Ovink has a long record of service in the business community, education and the government in the fields of spatial planning, water management and culture.

Among other activities, he has served as curator to the fifth International Architecture Bienniale Rotterdam, he sits on the International Advisory Board of the city of Rotterdam, he teaches at Harvard GSD and he advises the Rockefeller Foundation regarding their approach to resilience and water safety.


Innovative financing mechanisms to meet SDG6 target

Guangzhe Chen assumed the role of Senior Director for the Water Global Practice (GP) within the Sustainable Development Vice-Presidency at the World Bank Group in October 2016. In this position, he oversees the formulation and implementation of strategy and programs working internally with agriculture, energy, environment, urban and other GPs and regions, as well as with external clients and partners. He supports the development and delivery of knowledge and financing programs to country clients, overseeing a total portfolio of roughly $35 billion in 170 projects globally. He leads a team of over 300 specialists from 78 nationalities based in nearly 60 countries around the world.

Prior to this position, Mr. Chen served as a two-term country director for the World Bank during 2011-2016, first in Ethiopia, and then in Southern Africa covering Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, based in Pretoria. As country director, he was responsible for the development and implementation of the Bank’s lending and knowledge programs in those countries.

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An economist by training, Mr. Chen has over 20 years of international experience in the field of sustainable development, infrastructure finance and management with the World Bank Group and the Asian Development Bank.  From 2001-2011, he held various managerial positions in the Latin America and Caribbean and South Asia regions of the World Bank, including transport, water supply and sanitation, urban development and disaster risk management. Prior to this, Mr. Chen led on the preparation, implementation, and economic policy work and technical assistance activities for infrastructure projects as a task team leader, having joined the World Bank initially as a transport economist in 1997.

Before joining the World Bank, Mr. Chen worked as a project economist at the Asian Development Bank from 1992-1997. In addition, from 2011-2013 Mr. Chen served as a member of the high-level expert group appointed by the Government of Guangdong Province, China, advising the provincial government in the implementation of its Development Vision 2020 for the Pearl River Delta Area. Moreover, Mr. Chen has frequently participated in major international conferences on infrastructure, finance and development as key note speaker over the last 15 years.

A Chinese national, Mr. Chen holds a graduate degree in Economics from Harvard University, USA, and B.A. in Economics from Zhongshan (Sun Yat-Sen) University, Guangzhou, China.


Water for People on comprehensive service delivery approaches in low/middle income countries

Eleanor Allen is a compassionate truth-teller and advocate of empowered equality for people across the globe. She is a world-leading water expert dedicated to helping billions of people access safe and sustainable water and sanitation services needed to save lives, stay healthy, find jobs and thrive.

Eleanor Allen is fiercely passionate about improving the state of the world with respect to water and sanitation. She has dedicated her career to this goal, first as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, then as a consulting engineer (at CH2M and Arcadis), and now as the CEO of Water For People. As a professional civil engineer, Eleanor has lived and worked all over the world. As a business executive with extensive experience in water, she has led large global and regional operations in consulting, project management, program management, business development, and engineering.

Eleanor believes societal change can be accelerated through social entrepreneurship and the efforts of organizations like Water For People, a global nonprofit working with four million people in nine countries in Africa, Latin America, and India. As CEO, Eleanor is dedicated to solving the global water and sanitation crisis by bringing reliable and lasting access to water and sanitation in Latin America, Africa and India through Water For People’s Everyone Forever model.


Human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation

Léo Heller is the second Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. He was appointed by the Human Rights Council in November 2014, having started his mandate on 1 December that year. Heller is currently a researcher in the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil. Previously, Heller was Professor of the Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil from 1990 to 2014.  During his career in the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Heller held several positions including the Head of the Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering, Associate Provost of Graduate Studies, Dean of the School of Engineering and coordinator of the Graduate Program in Basic Sanitation, the Environment and Water Resources.

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Heller has extensive experience in formulating policies, teaching and researching in the field of public policy and management and of environmental health related to water and sanitation. He has been coordinating large interdisciplinary research groups and he is author of several books, book chapters and journal articles on technological, health and policy dimensions of water and sanitation. He has long tradition of working together with and taking part in social movements related to human rights to water and sanitation, especially in Latin America.

He holds a BA in civil engineering, MSc in water, sanitation and the environment and PhD in Epidemiology, with a thesis on the association between water and sanitation and health outcomes. He also carried out post-doctoral research at the University of Oxford (2005-2006), focusing on the theoretical aspects of public policy and management in the water and sanitation sector. Heller speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese.


Jeffrey Sachs
Columbia University, USA


The SDG’S and the water agenda. A vision from Laudato Sí

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a world-renowned professor of economics, leader in sustainable development, senior UN advisor, bestselling author, and syndicated columnist whose monthly newspaper columns appear in more than 100 countries. He is the co-recipient of the 2015 Blue Planet Prize, the leading global prize for environmental leadership. He has twice been named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders. He was called by the New York Times, “probably the most important economist in the world,” and by Time Magazine “the world’s best known economist.” A recent survey by The Economist Magazine ranked Professor Sachs as among the world’s three most influential living economists of the past decade.

Professor Sachs served as the Director of the Earth Institute from 2002 to 2016. He was appointed University Professor at Columbia University in 2016, and also serves as Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on the Sustainable Development Goals, and previously advised both UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Sustainable Development Goals and Millennium Development Goals and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. Sachs is currently Director of both the Center for Sustainable Development, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network under the auspices of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

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Professor Sachs is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on economic development, global macroeconomics, and the fight against poverty. His work on ending poverty, overcoming macroeconomic instability, promoting economic growth, fighting hunger and disease, and promoting sustainable environmental practices, has taken him to more than 125 countries with more than 90 percent of the world’s population. For more than thirty years he has advised dozens of heads of state and governments on economic strategy, in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. He was among the outside advisors to Pope John Paul II on the encyclical Centesimus Annus and in recent years has worked closely with the PontificalAcademy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on the issues of sustainable development.

Sachs is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Blue Planet Prize, membership in the United States Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Harvard Society of Fellows, and the Fellows of the World Econometric Society. His conversation with Tyler Cowen won the Quartz Podcast Award for best business/economics podcast of 2015. He has received more than 20 honorary degrees, and many awards and honors around the world. Professor Sachs is also a frequent contributor to major publications such as the Financial Times of London, the International Herald Tribune, Scientific American, and Time magazine.

Prior to joining Columbia, Sachs spent over twenty years as a professor at Harvard University, most recently as the Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade. A native of Detroit, Michigan, Sachs received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard.


Africa on innovation, research and development in support of SDG 6

Dhesigen Naidoo is Chief Executive Officer of the South African Water Resources Commission. He was appointment after spending several years working for, among others, the Departments of Water Affairs and Forestry, Science and Technology, and Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

At the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Naidoo held the position of Deputy Director-General: International Co-operation and Resources, and was responsible for Government initiatives to mobilise and secure a net flow of scientific knowledge and resources into South Africa for the benefit of the South African science and technology community and society as a whole. While at the DST, Naidoo also worked as a Project Leader for the development of the Technology Innovation Agency.  This was a special task assigned by the Minister to co-ordinate DST’s efforts to establish a public entity to bridge the innovation chasm and stimulate the development of a significant technology portfolio in the South African economy.

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From 2001 to 2003 Naidoo occupied the position of Chief Director: Environmental Planning and Co-ordination, at the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. Here he served as a head of planning and co-ordination for environmental management at national level. This role included dealing with issues of legislative reform, capacity building, environmental impact assessment and environmental information systems – including the compiling of national reports for international organisations such as the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development (UNCSD).

In his most recent role before joining the Water Research Commission, Naidoo worked at the University of Pretoria (UP) as Director: Research and Innovation Support. At UP he was involved in managing the overall research portfolio of the University, providing strategic direction and support to the various faculties, schools and centres. Naidoo’s portfolio at UP also involved the establishment of the UP Technology Transfer Office and the UP Commercialization Office.

Naidoo has served on various Boards including the Board of the Water Research Commission, the SANBI Board Committee on Research and Development, the Board of the Africa Institute of South Africa, and the Board of Governors of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

Naidoo holds a B.Sc. in Chemistry and Biochemistry and B.Sc. Honours in Biochemistry from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, and an M.Sc. in Medicine from the University of Cape Town. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Health Management from the University of Cape Town.


Water security and the World Water Forum 2018 in Brasilia

Benedito Braga is Secretary of State for Sanitation and Water Resources for the state of Sao Paulo and professor (on leave of absence) of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Escola Politecnica of University of Sao Paulo (USP), Brazil.

Prof. Braga was elected to his first three-year mandate as President of the World Water Council in November 2012 and was reelected for a second term in November 2015. Before this, from 2006 to 2012, he served as Vice-President of the World Water Council and chaired the International Steering Committee (ISC) of the 6th and 7th editions of the World Water Forum in Marseille (France) and Daegu-Gyeongbuk (Korea).

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He was a member of UNESCO – International Hydrologic Program committee that designed its phase V (1995 – 2000). At UNESCO, he was elected President of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Hydrologic Program (2008-2009). He served as senior advisor to the Secretary of Energy and Sanitation of the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2010 and was a member of the Gulbenkian Think Tank for the future of water and humankind based in Lisbon, Portugal (2010 – 2012).He served on the Board of Directors of the Brazilian National Water Agency – ANA from 2001-2009. He was President of the International Water Resources Association (1998-2000)

Prof. Braga is the author of 25 books and chapters of books. He has edited several books on water resources development including Water Management of the Amazon Basin, Weather Radar Technology for Water Resources Management, Introduction to Environmental Engineering and Freshwaters of Brazil. He is the author of more than 200 scientific articles published in journals and proceedings of symposia and congresses worldwide.

He is the recipient of the 2002 Crystal Drop Award, given by the International Water Resources Association – IWRA in recognition for his lifetime achievements in the area of water resources management. In 2009, Prof. Braga was awarded the Honorary Membership of the American Water Resources Association – AWRA for his eminence in the field of water resources. In the same year he was awarded the Flavio Terra Barth Award of the Brazilian Water Resources Association for his contributions to the water resources policies of Brazil. In 2011 he was awarded the Honorary Diplomate from the American Society of Civil Engineers due to his long and distinguished career in the field of water resources.

Prof. Braga graduated from Escola Politecnica of University of Sao Paulo in 1972. He holds a M.Sc. in Hydraulic Engineering from USP (1975), a M.Sc. in Hydrology (1976) and Ph.D. (1979) in water resources from Stanford University, USA. His scientific interests are in the field of systems analysis modeling of hydrologic processes, integrated water resources management and water policy development.

Keynotes of the 2015 Water and Development Congress & Exhibition edition

World Water Congress & Exhibition Keynotes

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