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Prof Mazzucato to co-chair the newly launched Global Commission on the Economics of Water

23 March 2022

Prof Mazzucato co-chairs the Global Commission on the Economics of Water to challenge our current economic system around water management to reduce systemic inequalities and unsustainable practices.

Image of ocean waves

On 22 March the Global Commission on the Economics of Water was launched at the 9th World Water Forum. The Commission will conduct an in-depth, independent global review on the “Economics of Water and Beyond,” which is intended to feed directly into the UN 2023 Water conference. The Commission will be co-chaired by an all-star team of four high-level policymakers and thought leaders:

  • Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
  • Prof. Mariana Mazzucato, Founding Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP)
  • Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
  • Prof. Dr. Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

The Commission will take a systems-level approach to water governance, recognizing that the economy and society are firmly embedded within nature, not apart from it. It will pay keen attention to the challenges around valuing water as a common good and natural asset, an area of particular focus for Professor Mazzucato.

More generally, the review aims to challenge our current economic system's logic around water management, curate the robust scientific basis and evidence gathered to date, provide input to societal dialogues focused on remedial action, and then integrate results into an action-oriented final report. The Commission will therefore promote an agenda for systems change in the way societies value, allocate, use and price water with the aim of reducing systemic inequalities and unsustainable practices.

Building on the impact achieved by the first two global reviews: The “Economics of Climate Change”, the Stern Review (2006), and The “Economics of Biodiversity”, the Dasgupta Review (2021),  the review on the “Economics of Water and Beyond” willhave a threefold focus:

  1. Assess the economic, social and environmental benefits of healthy and resilient fresh water systems globally as an integral part of the biosphere
  2. Assess the economic, social and environmental costs and risks of degradation of fresh water systems as an integral part of the biosphere
  3. Identify actions that enhance the health of fresh water systems, improve access to water services and boost economic well-being, with particular attention to inequality and groups that bear the brunt of degradation of fresh water systems and are most exposed to water risk (floods, droughts, pollution, depletion) and excluded from water services.

Joining the 9th World Water Forum to launch the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, Prof Mazzucato said:

Water is at the centre of the economy, health and climate, and it’s a cross-cutting feature across all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet, our society severely undervalues it because we equate value with price and marginalise invaluable assets like water into simple externalities.[…] It is an honour to work in the Commission with global scientists, activists, researchers, policymakers and academics to get this right. This is an opportunity to be extremely bold in putting forward new economic thinking. Beyond identifying market-fixing techniques, our work will lead to shaping and co-creating the economy with the common good in mind. […] The Commission will force us to rethink issues around value, to ask how we can value water in a comprehensive systemic way, how we can mobilise innovation systems in a more purposeful way, how can we build capacity at the local, regional, national and international governmental level to govern water effectively with the collective good at the centre.

The Global Commission on the Economics of Water is initiated and financed by the Government of the Netherlands and facilitated by the OECD.