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What is the G20 and Why is Safe Water on the Agenda?

What is the G20?

The G20 was formed in 1999 to discuss policies to achieve international financial stability. This forum was formed as an effort to find a solution to the global economic conditions hit by the global financial crisis in 1997-1999 by involving middle-income countries and having systemic economic influence, including Indonesia.

On the advice of the G7 Finance Ministers, the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors began holding meetings to discuss the response to the global financial crisis that occurred. After that, the Minister of Finance level meeting is held regularly in the fall.

On the 15th and 16th of November, the G20 Summit will take place in Bali.

Perhaps you have already seen several events happening all over the island leading up to the big event?

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Why Safe Water?

There is a reason why the phrase “water is a basic human right” exists. It’s because before humans started contaminating the environment and exacerbating climate change, we all used to have access to safe drinking water, almost anywhere on the planet. Over our evolution on this earth, clean water has become harder to come by, which is why we are filtering it ourselves or buying it in plastic bottles (someone else filters it for us).

But the real reason safe water is on the G20 Agenda is that according to the World Bank it touches on so many facets of people and the planet, which ultimately lead to economic success. This is the reason why the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals exist—so that as a global economy each country can start to work on common goals that would minimize harmful impacts on people and the planet.

So, What’s on the Agenda?

Let’s break it down by the Bali G20 Working Group categories:

Environment and Climate Sustainability—This working group will be tackling some of the world’s most pressing issues dealing with climate change.

Flood that devastated Jembrana Regency in October 2022

Just last month in October, we saw Bali have one of the most devastating rainfall disasters in the last 20 years where floods in Jembrana and Karangasem Regencies broke roads and caused landslides affecting over 300 families. When we cannot predict rainfall, even in the off-season as we have seen in Bali this year, we have to attempt to plan for it. While reversing climate change may not be an option, we have to instead learn to mitigate the potential effects on our environment and the communities they impact.

City planning, environmental design, good construction, and good water management are all activities that have to be considered in mitigating the harmful effects of the deluge as we saw in Jembrana. The UN SDGs that Indonesia is focusing on for this working group are:

SDG#9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

SDG#11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

SDG#12: Responsible Consumption and Production

SDG#13: Climate Action

When it comes to working towards the UN SDG it’s not only the government's responsibility. There are many strong private and non-profit institutions working on these in Bali as well. Some notable organizations are:

  • Eco Mantra consults on sustainable construction.

  • IDEP Foundation has a disaster preparedness and water protection project dedicated to educating people and businesses in Bali.

  • Sungai Watch educates Indonesians on protecting the waterways so they do not become environmental and human hazards.

  • Bye Bye Plastic Bags and Youthtopia are working on eliminating single-use plastic, but also empowering youth to not only think differently but demand change as Bali continues to grow economically.

Joint Finance and Health – The Joint Finance and Health Working Group looks at the behind-the-scenes impact of economics on the overall health of a society.

It may seem obvious that how economically productive a community is, is a direct result of how healthy its people are. If people are sick, they can’t work, be educated, or even contribute to their household so the entire system shuts down.

A woman boiling water in her kitchen

According to UNICEF, in Indonesia, a quarter of all children 5 and under are affected by diarrheal diseases, the leading cause of childhood mortality in the country. And since roughly 70% of the country still boils their water, and does not boil long enough to kill harmful microorganisms that cause diarrhea, it’s no surprise this is the case. Not only that, diarrhea leads to malnutrition in all ages, but in one-third of the population of those children within the same age range, there is an unfortunate epidemic of stunting.

The biggest issue is not access to a water source. Much of Indonesia has water—just look at groundwater and Subak or river systems in Bali. The issue is filtering contaminated water. Most Indonesian families cannot afford to buy safe drinking water in plastic bottles, nor is this good for the environment, so they have to boil it. But, as we have also learned, Indonesia has the second largest population of people in the world openly defecating not using a toilet.

This fecal contamination mixed with the influx of rain due to climate change means that open sewers are directly mixing with source water; usually their well, surface water, or local river water.

In some studies, families spend up to one-quarter of their monthly income on cleaning their water (fuel), and on healthcare expenses directly related to diarrhea in the home. We also know children are less likely to go to school if they are sick. All of these factors keep people in the cycle of poverty and make it impossible to get ahead. The SDGs that will be focused on during this working group are likely:

SDG#1: No Poverty

SDG#2: No Hunger

SDG#3: Good Health and Wellbeing

SDG#6: Clean Water and Sanitation

SDG#8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

Empower Initiative and Women Empowerment – Finally, the last big working group for the G20 has its own category, the W20.

Women make up 50% of our societies around the world and there’s no arguing that whether their role is in the home or the workplace, or both, they are essential to keeping a healthy economy going. In most rural and even some urban countries around the world, women and girls are responsible for water in the home. That is usually because water is associated with the health of the family.

A woman collecting water

A study done in peri-urban Jakarta by USAID in 2006 mentions that women can spend up to six hours a day fetching fuel and boiling water for their families. With a workload like this, young girls are recruited to help share in the daily chores instead of going to school. However, even as mentioned before, most families don’t boil water long enough to kill harmful microorganisms, so sickness prevails and children, especially girls, stay home instead of getting an education.

In Indonesia organizations like Kopernik and Nazava developed programs that train and empower women in entrepreneurial skills specifically for selling water filters. Their projects prove that micro-enterprises employing women are successful in getting essential commodity products, like water filters and healthy cook stoves, into homes, as well as setting the stage for how women and girls can contribute to long-lasting community impact and become more financially independent.

SDG#5: Gender Equality

SDG#8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

SDG#10: Reduced Inequalities

SDG#16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Terra’s a One-Stop-Shop

Terra Water has been attending many events leading up to the G20. As a private entity and not-for-profit social enterprise, we are working with the government and many of the abovementioned partners on these working group issues year-round, not just in preparation for the G20.

UNDP CEO Roundtable: SDG’s, Gig Economy , and Digital Transformation held by UNDP Indonesia

In addition to providing filters and education for families at the bottom of the pyramid, we sell all our products in the retail market too. Our customers are motivated by the time, cost, and plastic savings that switching from gallons to filters provide. We’re also a local, responsible company that touches on every one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Wish us luck as the big G20 week quickly approaches. You can find us set up at the Future SME’s Village in Nusa Dua from 10 – 16th November.

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