event 10 Apr 2021

Interview Series // Introducing the Nexus Dialogue Programme and the People behind it: Irene Sander, Coordinator of the Global Nexus Secretariat

With this interview series, we introduce the people working for the Nexus Regional Dialogue Programme. We want to know about their individual perspectives on Water, Energy and Food security (WEF) Nexus challenges and opportunities based on their personal experiences – and about their visions of a future that holds equitable access to water, energy and food for all. In this interview you will get to know Irene Sander, Coordinator of the Global Nexus Secretariat.

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"In this sense, I think it is important to view Nexus not as a stand-alone concept but rather a methodology that enables you to tackle natural resources management in a holistic manner, identifying and maximizing synergies while at the same time applying measures to prevent negative trade-offs as far as possible."

The team of the Nexus Regional Dialogue Programme operates in five regions: Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, MENA, Niger River Basin and Southern Africa. The Global Nexus Secretariat (GNS), based in Germany, supports the activities in the five regions with inter-regional exchange events and standardized Nexus tools and trainings. One product that GNS will be focusing on in phase II, among others, is the Nexus Impact Assessment Toolkit. The toolkit will be applied to Nexus demonstration projects in order to capture co-benefits across the sectors and determine the overall net monetary value of project impacts. The results will be used as evidence-based arguments to promote the Nexus approach in policymaking.

In this interview you will get to know Irene Sander, Coordinator of the Global Nexus Secretariat.

Irene joined the Nexus Team in December 2020. Besides coordinating overall Secretariat support to the regions, she will be focusing on scoping financing opportunities for both small- and large-scale Nexus projects. She recently returned to Germany after 10 years living in the MENA region, where she worked as a GIZ adviser and World Bank consultant on diverse issues, such as integrated water resources management (IWRM) in Jordan and private sector development and employment promotion in Tunisia. She holds a M.A. in Political Sciences from Sciences Po Paris and the University of Bath.

What does the WEF Nexus approach mean to you and how would you describe it in your own words?

For me Nexus means acknowledging the inter-connectedness between natural resources and planning actions in a way that grants equitable access to the resources to everyone while respecting nature’s capacities to regenerate them. In this sense, we are talking about the interface of water, energy, food and ecosystems. This brings nature conservation into the game because ultimately, healthy eco-systems are a pre-condition for sustainable water, energy and land management.

But as the question already insinuates, Nexus is essentially a fluid term. And that flexibility in how the term is used and understood is both a challenge and an opportunity for the approach and thereby also for our programme. On one hand, the challenge is that the term Nexus can come across as too abstract and therefore has a difficult time gaining traction. On the other hand, Nexus stands for an integrated approach that can be applied to different processes – allowing you to strategically place it where it is most relevant in a given context. In other words, you can apply the multi-sectoral approach to different processes such as in the promotion of nature-based solutions or in bigger processes such as national efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate effects. In this sense, I think it is important to view Nexus not as a stand-alone concept but rather a methodology that enables you to tackle natural resources management in a holistic manner, identifying and maximizing synergies while at the same time applying measures to prevent negative trade-offs as far as possible."

In your opinion, what is the most promising approach to better mainstream/implement the WEF Nexus approach (from a global perspective)?

I think it is important to identify concrete windows of opportunity, such as National Determined Contributions processes or local land/water resources management strategic planning etc. I see the process of WEF Nexus mainstreaming like gender mainstreaming or other cross-cutting issues. In other words, as a mandatory approach to consider when planning initiatives pertaining to natural resources management.

At the same time, we need to address the challenges of the term’s abstractness by showcasing Nexus best practices worldwide, focusing on measuring and highlighting impacts both in qualitative, quantitative and specifically economic terms.

What are you looking forward to in terms of future activities within the Nexus Regional Dialogue Programme?

We are scoping those above-mentioned Nexus best practices or possible Nexus projects to support. It is very exciting and inspiring to see what is being done by our GIZ colleagues in the bilateral programs in the different countries and other organisations. At the Secretariat level we support this process by developing M&E tools such as Nexus indicators as well as a Nexus cost-benefit methodology to help measure co-benefits across the sectors. We also have a mandate to explore financing opportunities and, in that context, establish dialogues with international financial institutions (IFI). This exercise requires us to understand IFI’s and investors’ specific mindsets, but also to design projects with their business models in mind. So, watch this space, there are exciting things to come!

Thank you Irene!

Read more of our interview series "Introducing the Nexus Dialogue Programme and the People behind it" here:

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Tina Schmiers

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