Henk Ovink

United Nations

Special Envoy for International Water Affairs


Henk Ovink was appointed as the first Special Envoy for International Water Affairs by the Dutch Cabinet in 2015. As the Ambassador for Water, he is responsible for advocating on water issues around the world, with a focus on building institutional capacity and coalitions between governments, multilateral organizations, the private sector and NGOs in order to address the world's pressing water needs. ‘Worldwide, water is a connecting issue, the number one global risk and an opportunity for comprehensive cultural change.’

Mr Ovink previously served as a senior advisor to the American Federal Government and the former Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Taskforce instituted by President Obama. For the reconstruction of the New York and New Jersey region, he developed and led the ‘Rebuild by Design’ contest, which was awarded by the Obama Administration as first and most groundbreaking Federal Challenge. CNN designated Rebuild by Design as one of the most innovative ideas of 2013.

Mr Ovink held the position of Acting Director-General of Spatial Planning and Water Affairs at the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, and Director of National Spatial Development. He has a long record of service in the business community, education and the government in the fields of spatial planning, water management and culture. Among other activities, he has served as Curator to the 5th International Architecture Bienniale Rotterdam, he sits on the International Advisory Board of the city of Rotterdam, he teaches at Harvard GSD and he advises the Rockefeller Foundation regarding their approach to resilience and water safety.

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