23 June 2023 / Vienna, Austria
Next in a Year of Happy Birthdays: Austria and the World Bank Celebrate a 75th Anniversary
Contributed by:
Voice of the Danube
23 June 2023

At the 2023 Danube Water Conference, our community celebrated 30 years of IAWD and the 10th Birthday of the Danube Water Program. Next, the World Bank celebrated the 75th anniversary of its partnership with Austria, and here, once again, the Danube Water Program received ovations for its exemplary work.

75 years ago, the recently founded World Bank's loan and grant activities were slowly gaining traction, with France the first country to receive a loan in 1947. Only one year later, Austria, struggling with post-war recovery, entered a cooperation that is still ongoing today. Through the next decades, the country made an amazing career, and in 2013, it partnered with the World Bank as a donor, lending ongoing support to a program that promotes smart policies, strong utilities and sustainable services in the whole Danube region – the Danube Water Program.

On June 19, 2023, invited guests gathered at the World Bank's seat in Vienna for the first day of a two-days event to celebrate the anniversary of this successful partnership. Titled “Greening the Cooperation”, the day consisted of four sessions on a variety of themes with green transformation as their common denominator, with a whole session dedicated to the Danube Water Program.

Mr. Winston Yu, World Bank Practice Manager for Europe and Central Asia, expressing the great pride that the World Bank takes in its support for the water agenda and the collaborative efforts with countries and other development partners in the Danube region. He also thanked the Austrian Ministry of Finance for supporting the Danube Water Program during the past ten years and beyond, calling this commitment instrumental in driving positive change and achieving significant milestones.

Then he handed the stage to Danube Water Program Leader Raimund Mair and Katerina Schilling, Head of the IAWD Secretariat, for a presentation on the DWP, its geographical reach, history, activities and successes, crowned by a five-minute video that portrays the program in statements from its partners.

Mr. Yu then convened a discussion panel: World Bank Regional Director for Sustainable Development in Europe and Central Asia, Mr. Sameh Naguib Wahba joined Birgit Vogel, Executive Secretary of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River and Mr. Helmut Habersack, Head of the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and River Research at Vienna's University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences on the stage.

The panelists unanimously praised the Danube Water Program as an exemplary initiative that keeps gaining importance in the face of multiple crises that challenge the resilience of the water sector in the Danube region.

Mr. Wahba pointed to the still existing wide room for improvement in the region's water sector, especially regarding sewer systems and wastewater treatment, and the need to improve its resilience in the face of economic challenges and the escalating climate crisis, saying: “Bottom line - we need to do more, we need to do it better, we need to do it differently.” He took the occasion to appreciate the trustful partnership and fruitful cooperation between Austria and the World Bank: “This allowed to jointly achieve significant progress in the development agenda for many countries. Support for the water sector in the Danube region via the Danube Water Program is one of the important pillars of this partnership.”

Thank you – and ad multos annos!