I hosted dinner last night to mark the first anniversary of WaterAid in Sweden. WaterAid is an international no- governmental organisation whose mission is to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities. WaterAid is a British NGO, and Sweden is the first national organization that Barbara Frost and her team have established outside the UK.
Last night’s dinner was an opportunity to get together those that had been instrumental in making WaterAid Sweden such a success in its first twelve months. Not surprisingly, this was an extraordinary group of people. Jan Eliasson, Sweden’s former Foreign Minister and Chair of the UN Security Council, who is Chair of WaterAid’s Board here, told how he and the UK team had worked tirelessly through the night at the recent Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Summit in New York to win important changes to the summit declaration on access to clean water and sanitation. Representatives from companies like IKEA and H&M told of extraordinary commitments of money and energy that they are investing in India and Bangladesh to help drive forward progress towards the MDGs. We heard from Niclas Kjellström-Matseke, the dynamic CEO of the Swedish Post Code Lottery, of his plans to spend £70m of lottery money on deserving charitable causes in 2010 alone. A Swedish entrepreneur, who runs public baths on behalf of the community, told us of how he had donated money to WaterAid by encouraging customers to swim a number of lengths to trigger giving by the company to water projects in the developing world. I talked about Britain’s commitment to expand our spending – despite the need to cut public spending to balance our books – in support of the MDGs. And we heard from around the room about the efforts and optimism of a group of dynamic people with an impressive engagement in alleviating poverty far from northern Europe.
I will admit to feeling as humble as I felt proud to be somewhat involved in helping WaterAid to establish here. My own involvement with the organization goes back to working with WaterAid in Nepal during my time in our Embassy in Kathmandu and seeing the genuine difference that the NGO makes to people’s day to day lives in conditions of extreme poverty. So on Blog Action Day – Water I take this opportunity to wish WaterAid Sweden a happy first birthday. Here’s to many more.
Meantime you can hear more about WaterAid if you listen to Jonathan Dimbleby on the Radio 4 appeal this weekend.