On March 22, 2010 at the National Geographic building in Washington DC, then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said “…Water represents one of the great diplomatic and development opportunities of our time. It’s not every day you find an issue where effective diplomacy and development will allow you to save millions of lives, feed the hungry, empower women, advance our national security interests, protect the environment, and demonstrate to billions of people that the United States cares, cares about you and your welfare. Water is that issue…”
Two years later, the United States National Intelligence Council issued an Intelligence Community Assessment that concluded that “… During the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States will experience water problems – shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will risk instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States on important U.S. policy objectives.”
All this started with a plan drawn up on the back of a restaurant placemat 12 years earlier. A plan beset with obstacles, grand failures and a constellation of seemingly random events over a course of a decade that led to water becoming a U.S. foreign policy and development assistance priority.
About the speaker
Aaron Salzberg is the Special Coordinator for Water Resources in the Department of State in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science Affairs: he is the first person to hold this title. Aaron is responsible for managing the development and implementation of U.S. policies on drinking water and sanitation, water resources management, and transboundary water. He has been the lead representative for the United States at several major international events on water including the G8, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and the World Water Forums. He also leads the Department of State’s engagement on transboundary water issues in many regions throughout the world where water is, or may become a source of tension or conflict.
Aaron holds a Ph.D. in Genetic Toxicology and a Master’s degree in Technology and Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland. He is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions including the Frank E. Loy Award for Environmental Diplomacy (from the U.S. Department of State).