Highlighting Rise in Water Scarcity, Climate-Induced Disasters, Speakers at Global Conference Call for Transformational Change to Better Manage Aqua Resources
Against the backdrop of water scarcity and climate-induced disasters, ministers and other Government officials today called for change and concerted action on water while underscoring that resource’s importance for development, underlining the environmental dimension and spotlighting national efforts, as the 2023 United Nations Water Conference continued its second day of debates.
Held at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 22-24 March, the 2023 Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the United Nations Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028) — co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands — will result in a summary of proceedings from the General Assembly President that will feed into the 2023 high-level political forum on sustainable development.
Wha-Jin Han, Minister for Environment of the Republic of Korea, called for urgent global action. The world is experiencing a devastating water crisis every year due to floods, heatwaves and droughts caused by extreme weather; climate-induced water disasters are expected to become more frequent and intense; and the international community is not on track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6. Against this backdrop, States must facilitate access to clean and safe water — the most fundamental human right which must be protected to ensure a sustainable future for humanity — before climate change outpaces them. Business as usual cannot be the world’s option, she emphasized, calling for better solutions and transformational change.
Answering that call, Martha Delgado Peralta, Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, urged all to ensure that water is managed holistically and comprehensively. Public policies and investment must be restructured and redirected towards innovative alternatives that protect and restore rivers and water basins. Water management must not only address water’s use by various actors but also recognize women’s role in water conservation, she added, before underlining the importance of quality data for analysis, planning and implementation. Social development cannot continue at the expense of natural resources, she emphasized.
Eve Bazaiba Masudi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Environment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, stressed the importance of water resources management and good governance in dealing with cross-border pollution and climate change’s consequences. Water users must understand how important this is, especially since the lack of this resource can quickly lead to conflicts with States. However, it can also be a source of peace, she underscored, calling on all Member States to value new approaches to water; create a Special Envoy for Water; and appoint someone from the African continent who can speak for all the most vulnerable countries.
Vahit Kirişci, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of Türkiye, stressed that this high-level official should not interfere with transboundary water issues by playing the role of mediator. Transboundary waters should be a source of cooperation rather than conflict among riparian countries, especially since his country approaches the water issue from a humanitarian perspective as a water-stressed State. His Government has notably prioritized the development of hydrological and climate-based water observation networks; increased water efficiency in all sectors; and transitioned towards closed systems in wastewater irrigation and recovery.
Saida Mirziyoyeva, Head of the Communications and Information Policy Sector of the Executive Office of the Administration of the President of Uzbekistan, reminding all of the consequences of environmental neglect, spotlighted its village of Muynak in Karakalpakstan. A once prosperous port city, everything changed when people broke the balance — what once had blooming gardens, healthy children and hopes for the future is now a cemetery of ships on its dead shores. People only understood the value of the Aral Sea when it disappeared, she pointed out. In understanding the value of time in the fight against environmental catastrophe, her Government has investment in experts and in the creative powers of artists and designers so that “a sea of change is on the horizon”, she noted.
“It is easy to take water for granted until most of us, not just some, turn the tap and nothing comes out — by then it will be too late,” Konris Maynard, Minister for Public Infrastructure and Utilities, Transport, Information, Communication and Technology and Post of Saint Kitts and Nevis, warned. His country is notably unable to provide 24-hour water service to all residents, a situation that will worsen with water demand expected to double over the next 10 years. Against that backdrop, he stressed that the world cannot afford to allow another 46 years to pass before decisive action is taken. The Water Action Agenda must lead to the accelerated implementation of the Water Action Decade and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Minister for Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change of Malaysia, emphasizing that States are beyond their adaptation limits, said: “we cannot afford to forgo our environment for the sake of growth, neither can actions for water be made a less priority compared to climate change and vice versa”. The Water Action Agenda must assert water’s role as the pillar which connects social, economic, environmental and cultural outcomes. Beyond ensuring water as a permanent agenda in its frameworks, the United Nations should create a dedicated water agency and establish mechanisms for developed countries to provide financial and technical assistance. “We need to translate ‘Water for all, all for water’ into action,” he underscored.
Also speaking today were ministers and other high-level representatives of Romania, Kenya, Jamaica, Slovakia, Denmark, Mozambique, Australia, India, South Africa, Bulgaria, France, Ecuador, Ukraine, Nigeria, Niger, Bahrain, Sudan, Yemen, Benin, Turkmenistan, Angola, Cabo Verde, Belgium, Nepal, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Finland, Canada, Estonia, Poland, Uruguay, Czech Republic, Armenia, Sweden, Maldives, Brazil, Guatemala, Croatia, Russian Federation, Honduras, United Kingdom, Thailand, Japan, Argentina, Eritrea and Andorra.
The Water Conference will resume at 10 a.m. on Friday, 24 March, to continue its debate.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were unable to provide coverage of the Conference plenary session after 6 p.m.
LÁSZLÓ BORBÉLY, State Counsellor for the Office of the Prime Minister of Romania, underlining the crucial nature of the moment in that States have waited 46 years for the United Nations Water Conference, encouraged all to become game-changers. Romania is very active in the region on water, freshwater and transboundary cooperation, he noted, spotlighting its Danube River and its €9 billion pledge to water supply and water management. 2015 was a crucial year for the international community in that it saw the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. With the world now at the halfway point, “what do we have to do?” he asked. Answering, he called for a United Nations Special Envoy for Water and better cooperation between regional bodies and the Organization’s agencies. Countries must take stock of their progress; put in place an inter-institutional framework at the national level; and ensure political will, credibility, leadership and predictability. “Let’s put together the pieces of our life Rubik’s Cube in their places and we’ll be better,” he stressed, urging all: “Make sustainable development — not war — for a better life, but don’t forget love.”
EVE BAZAIBA MASUDI, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Environment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the international community needs to meet the challenges related to managing water resources and guarantee that all sectors needing this resource have access to it. Her country holds a strategic location in Africa, at the crossroads of several regions, she said, noting that it is a member of the Nile Basin and Congo Basin and part of the Central African Community and the Southern African Community. It holds 10 per cent of the world’s fresh water supply potentially. She stressed the need to preserve the Congo Basin to renew the water cycle, pointing out that without the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there would not be rain in Sudan, Egypt and other parts of Africa. International forest research centres have stated the crucial role of the country’s forests, which are a strategic pillar that needs to be preserved. The dangers of polluting this water, such as runoff from mining, must be corrected, she said. She stressed the importance of good governance and management of water resources in order to deal with cross-border pollution and the negative impacts of climate change.
The users of water need to understand how important this resource is, she said, adding that the lack of available of water can quickly lead to conflicts between users and States. However, water can also be a source of peace, not conflict. She encouraged Member States to value new approaches to water. She also advocated for the creation of a Special Envoy for Water, which should be a high-level official from the African continent that can speak for all the most vulnerable countries. The Special Envoy should be based in New York and have close ties with African Union. “Water is life,” she added.
ALICE WAHOME, Cabinet Secretary for Water, Sanitation and Irrigation Affairs of Kenya, associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the importance of water resources is well recognized in its National Water Policy and legal frameworks. Her country has developed regulations aiming to ensure a water-smart society, through water harvesting and storage, and has developed strategies to give access to safe water to 4.5 million households in the next five years. Those strategies will be complemented by water harvesting for drought resilience programmes focused on 18 ASAL (arid and semi-arid lands) counties to provide water to irrigate 500,000 acres, she added, noting the completion as well of 91 water projects worth $450 million in the last two years. However, several challenges remain, including the effects of climate change, which has increased the frequency of flooding and drought; huge sector financing gap; low uptake of technology; and diminishing water resources due to rapid population growth and competing needs for water, which is brewing conflicts among communities; among others. Her country is working on increasing the annual investment in the water sector to $1.3 billion against the current allocation of $600 million, through private sector engagement, public-private partnerships and other innovative financing models, she said.
MATTHEW SAMUDA, Minister for Economic Growth and Job Creation of Jamaica, said that human health and dignity are the foundation of every society and require access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Without this access, the collective ability to achieve the 2030 Agenda is undermined. Highlighting the direct impact of the water, sanitation and hygiene crisis on children’s rights, he noted that access to safe drinking water is not a privilege, but a basic human right enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He drew attention to his country’s national development plan — Vision 2030 Jamaica — guided by the national water sector policy which aims to ensure that water resources are managed in a sustainable and integrated manner to facilitate universal access to adequate water and sanitation. As a result, Jamaica’s water resources will be properly managed to provide for social, economic and environmental well-being. He described the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a sobering reminder for States’ commitments. The water crisis is exacerbated by the climate crisis, he noted, calling on all developed countries to honour their commitments made under the Paris Agreement. He further underscored that Jamaica has taken steps to protect its watersheds while pursuing significant forest restoration efforts.
SAIDA MIRZIYOYEVA, Head of the Communications and Information Policy Sector of the Executive Office of the Administration of the President of Uzbekistan, spotlighting the visit of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the village of Muynak in Karakalpakstan in 2017, said that this village was once a prosperous port city — the fourth largest supplier of fish products to 12 republics. There was a cannery, gardens bloomed and people had healthy children and hopes for the future. But then everything changed — people broke the balance and now there is a cemetery of ships on its dead shores. This crisis of the Aral Sea is a devastating reminder of the consequences of human environmental neglect, she underscored, adding that people only understood its value when it disappeared. Her country has been working to address the negative consequences of desiccation by proposing a special General Assembly resolution which declared the Aral Sea region a zone of environmental innovations and technologies; establishing a Multi-Partner Human Security Trust Fund; and implementing projects totalling over $14 million. Uzbekistan is working tirelessly and urgently on this task because it deeply understands the value of time in the fight against environmental catastrophe. To support the people of this region, her Government has invested in experts and in the creative powers of artists and designers. “A sea of change is on the horizon and we hope you will embrace it with us,” she said.
JÁN BUDAJ, Minister for Environment of Slovakia, said the human right to water is essential for eradicating poverty, building prosperous societies and ensuring that “no one is left behind” on the path to sustainable development. In 2010, Assembly resolution 64/292 explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential for the realization of all human rights, yet investments to date have been insufficient to ensure universal access. Polluted water used by people is essentially a denial of a fundamental right. “Therefore, polluting water and impairing or preventing access to water should not only be considered an environmental crime, but should also be treated and punished as a crime against fundamental human rights,” he said. According to a 2016 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) report, environmental crime is the fourth-largest crime in the world, growing at 5 per cent to 7 per cent annually. Yet the number of investigations, including in Europe, remains low overall, compared to investigations in other crime areas. One crime close to Central Europe is the Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine and its consequences. Unfortunately, Slovakia also bears the legacy of environmentally irresponsible activities of industry and agriculture, which still threaten the quality of water and prevent its use for human consumption. In order not to create further threats, the Government has created legislative space to ensure public interest in water protection is given priority over any other interests, he said.
MAGNUS HEUNICKE, Minister for Environment of Denmark, noting his country’s decades-long focus on partnerships in the water sector, said those partnerships have played a key role in modernizing the sector, which today is one of the world’s most efficient when it comes to water and energy consumption. The sector has now set the goal of becoming entirely climate energy neutral before 2030. Underscoring the importance of cooperation to achieve solutions, technology and investments needed for success, he said his country’s new water action commitments include scaling up strategic water sector cooperation based on a peer-to-peer approach between Danish authorities and authorities in a partner country. Partners include India, China, South Africa, Morocco and Ethiopia. In addition, his country will host the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) sustainable water sanitation and hygiene innovation hub in Copenhagen, which will open this year and will benefit all developing countries. It has made a significant pledge to join the Team Europe initiative on transboundary water management in Africa, he added, noting that the European Union flagship initiative includes pledges of more than $400 million to enhance transboundary water management and support development and regional integration in Africa.
VAHIT KIRIŞCI, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of Türkiye, said that the earthquakes that occurred in his country on 6 February 2023 demonstrated the importance of global unity and solidarity in all disasters faced by humanity. Located in the Mediterranean basin, Türkiye is most affected by climate change and experiences floods and droughts intensively. As a water-stressed country, Türkiye is preparing river basin management and sectoral water allocation plans, including for flood and drought management. In this context, he noted that his Government prioritizes the development of hydrological and climate-based water observation networks on a national scale. He also detailed his Government’s decisive steps to increase water efficiency in all sectors, particularly in agriculture, as well as progress made in transitioning to closed systems in wastewater irrigation and recovery. In this context, he highlighted the national “Water Efficiency Initiative” — launched on 31 January 2023. Moreover, he commended the initiative to appoint a United Nations Special Envoy for Water who should “not interfere with transboundary waters issues and not play the role of a mediator”. He further stressed that Türkiye approaches the water issue solely from a humanitarian perspective and considers transboundary waters as a source of cooperation rather than conflict among the riparian countries.
CARLOS MESQUITA, Minister for Public Works, Housing and Water Resources of Mozambique, noting that his country is currently Security Council President for March, said he hopes to contribute to the promotion of initiatives that prioritize policies and financing for developing country-level water sectors. For both the world and the southern Africa region, water is essential for ensuring peace, social stability and harmony, especially between countries that share water resources. For its part, Mozambique has invested a total of $11.7 billion and focused on its water supply and water resources management infrastructure. However, the country still has a long way to go towards universal coverage and access to water and sanitation services; it needs more than $9.6 billion — $4.1 billion for water supply and sanitation and $5.5 billion for water resources management. Voicing his hope that the Water Action Agenda will strengthen cooperation between countries and enable consistent solutions as well as technical and financing models, he stressed that such a vision cannot be restricted to infrastructure construction. It must also focus on correct and participatory maintenance and management as this is the only way to achieve universal service.
LAUREN MOSS, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water Security in the Northern Territory of Australia, said the country’s First Nations peoples have more than 65,000 years of experience in managing finite resources in a changing climate. They have a proud history as custodians of water in Australia, yet their knowledge and experience as long-term water stewards has not been sufficiently recognized or valued in the country. The Government is committed to doing better and will hold a referendum this year seeking to enshrine a First Nations Voice to Parliament in its Constitution, he said. This action would establish an independent, representative body giving First Nations communities a route to inform Government decisions that impact their lives, including in water policy. The Government is including a voluntary commitment on increasing Aboriginal water entitlements in the Water Action Agenda and a further Agenda commitment would invest $150 million in water infrastructure to ensure safe and reliable water supplies for these communities. She said the Government is committed to working with countries to scale up global action to deal with the climate crisis. For example, it has included in the Water Action Agenda a commitment to roll out its national science agency’s ground-to-satellite water quality monitoring mission, known as “Aquawatch”. In closing, she reiterated Australia’s call for the appointment of a United Nations Special Envoy for Water to lead the Organization’s work in achieving Global Goal 6.
WHA-JIN HAN, Minister for Environment of the Republic of Korea, calling for urgent global action for water, stressed that water is the most essential resource for life and economic activities. Yet, the world is experiencing a devastating water crisis every year due to floods, heatwaves and droughts caused by extreme weather. Access to clean and safe water — especially against the backdrop of the climate crisis — is the most fundamental human right that should be protected to ensure a sustainable future of humanity. Since the world is not on track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 and since climate-induced water disasters are expected to become more frequent and intense, the international community must speed up its action before climate change outpaces it. Business as usual cannot be the world’s option; there must be better solutions that can bring about a transformation change, she underscored, spotlighting her country’s experiences with water pollution and water scarcity during its rapid industrial growth. For its part, her Government will ensure universal access to clean water; build a climate-resilient water management system; and harness its leading information technologies for smart water management. Her country is keen to share its experiences with the world; is working closely with international organizations to support developing countries’ capacities on tackling water-related challenges; and is scaling up its green official development assistance (ODA) to provide necessary resources to partner countries.
GAJENDRA SINGH SHEKHAWAT, Minister for Water Power of India, said that to give greater coherence and synergy to water management in his country, a unified ministry was created in 2019 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The five principles that form the bedrock of its actions are political will, public financing, partnerships, people’s participation and persuasion for ensuring sustained behavioural change. It has committed investments in the water sector through Government resources and partnerships with private innovators, start-ups and water user associations, and is implementing two flagship missions to ensure universal access to sanitation and drinking water. With its commitment to successfully implement an ambitious $50 billion programme, his country is poised to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 well before 2030. Noting its “Clean India” mission, he said a milestone was reached in 2019 when the country was declared open defecation free. In its journey to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6.2 since 2014, it has built over 105 million toilets and transformed sanitation habits through mass-scale behavioural change of more than 600 million Indians. That campaign continues through efforts of ensuring sustainable solid and liquid waste management solutions in all 600,000 villages and communities in India, he said, detailing his country’s other water-related initiatives.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD, Minister for Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change of Malaysia, noted that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has highlighted that the most vulnerable are often disproportionately affected and that States are pushed beyond their adaptation limits, posing significant challenges for the Global South and widening the existing development gap. Against this backdrop, the world needs a framework for resilience that starts with water, he said, stressing: “We cannot afford to forgo our environment for the sake of growth, neither can actions for water be made a less priority compared to climate change and vice versa”. Since water has benefited global economic growth and was unfairly exploited, a global initiative for water security must acknowledge the connection between resilience and investment while addressing this inequity. He then spotlighted his country’s experience in mitigating flood risks; adopting of a circular economy in waste and waste water management to support its net zero target; and creating a financing mechanism to encourage greater private investment in the water sector. The Water Action Agenda must assert water’s role as the pillar which connects social, economic environmental and cultural outcomes and must be a permanent agenda in United Nations frameworks. To that end, the Organization should create a dedicated agency for water and establish mechanisms that enable developed countries to provide financial and technical assistance. “We need to translate ‘Water for all, all for water’ into action,” he underscored.
SENZO MCHUNU, Minister for Water and Sanitation of South Africa, said that since the advent of democracy, his country has made great strides in bringing water and sanitation services to its people. Millions have been lifted out of poverty as part of a society-wide effort to overcome the legacy of underdevelopment during its colonial and apartheid period. However, far more needs to be done, he said, noting the deteriorating reliability of municipal water and sanitation services, largely caused by poor governance and weak management. Progress towards sustainable delivery of quality water and sanitation services to all can only be achieved with a focus on creating professionally managed and well governed water service institutions. In that regard, his Government and its partners, including the private sector, civil society and research institutions, are working together to address those challenges. The Government is also working to promote gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of youth and people with disabilities in the water sector; to establish multistakeholder partnerships for the achievement of water security by 2030; and for enhanced transboundary water cooperation relations between neighbouring countries for the protection of their shared water resources.
ROSITSA KARAMFILOVA-BLAGOVA, Minster for Environment and Water of Bulgaria, describing the water-related Sustainable Development Goals as a priority task, advocated for placing water higher on the agenda. The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation must be safeguarded, she stressed, adding that sustainable water management is a dynamic objective that takes account of the continuously changing environment. To respond adequately to this dynamic, the international community must take into account the link between water conservation, water use, climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation, pollution and weather-related risk management. To this end, she called for strengthen cooperation among regions. It is Bulgaria’s highest priority in the water sector to continue modernizing water infrastructure and achieving sufficiently good level of water conversation. She further detailed her Government’s strategies to provide protection against water pollution. In 2022, Bulgaria adopted a national circular economy strategy as a best way to achieving sustainable consumption and production pattern. “Water is the heart of sustainable development, the source of our life,” she said, stressing the importance of achieving water-related goals.
CHRISTOPHE BÉCHU, Minister for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion of France, called on States to protect water resources and ensure their better distribution by limiting conflict risks and population displacement while working towards greater social justice, gender equality, food security and health. “In short, it is quite simply working for a more liveable world for all,” he stressed, underscoring that no country is spared. Even France — which enjoys temperate latitudes and has many rivers — is facing more intense droughts and fires as well as increasing conflicts on water use. Against this backdrop, his Government must act to optimize water management, restrain its use, facilitate wastewater use and avoid wastefulness. At the global level, States must promote integrated water resources management and watershed-level cooperation; be inspired by best practices; and put water back at the heart of multilateralism. The issue of quality access and the preservation of water resources was not absent from the international scene but rather thought of in silos and fragmented as corollaries for other goals, he explained. To improve the efficiency of international action, there must be greater governance and increased exchanges at the intergovernmental level, with the appointment of a United Nations Special Envoy as the first step. Conferences dedicated to water must also be held regularly, he added.
GUSTAVO MANRIQUE, Minister for Environment, Water and Ecological Transition of Ecuador, said that local problems also deserve global action, and he applauded the immense determination behind the convening of this Convention. Water is key for human well-being. About 800,000 people around the world die every year because of diseases directly attributable to water that is unfit for consumption, inadequate sanitation or deficient hygiene practices. Guaranteeing water protection and appropriate management is not a debatable issue, it is a matter of survival. The Government’s actions are geared to protect, recover and conserve natural sources of water. The Government is also working to guarantee equitable and adequate access to water for human consumption and irrigation, in order to achieve food sovereignty. Noting that the Andrea Tundra accounts for 16 of the country’s 24 provinces and is the largest reserve of water in Ecuador, he said the Government has created a Tundra Action plan which sets aside 11 new areas to protect water. There are now 21 water areas that are protected. He said he hoped that over the next 50 years, all countries will have created sheltered water legacies. Yet sustainable access must also be guaranteed by ensuring an efficient legal framework. The Government is building a modern and inclusive law to govern water resources and enact a national plan for irrigation, he said.
RUSLAN STRILETS, Minister for Environmental Protection and Resources of Ukraine, said his country worked on creating river basin management plans, adopted Ukraine's Water Strategy 2050, and established transboundary cooperation with neighbouring countries in water resources management. However, today, the Russian Federation, is trying to destroy his country's aspirations towards sustainable development. It destroyed and opened the locks of the dam of the Kakhovka hydro power plant in the cascade of Dnipro, the largest river in Ukraine, resulting in the loss every day of thousands of cubic meters of freshwater, which can lead to catastrophic consequences. As of now, 5 million Ukrainians do not have access to safe drinking water, and due to the Russian Federation’s actions, 70 per cent of his country's population might be deprived of water, he said, further detailing the impact of those actions on Ukraine’s water infrastructure, and its people’s access to drinking water and sanitation. Nonetheless, his country, together with Member States, continues to work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and, along with its European partners, is implementing sustainable water resource management, even during the war. He called for assistance from international partners to hold the aggressor State accountable and to rebuild what has been destroyed.
SULEIMAN HUSSEIN ADAMU, Minister for Water Resources of Nigeria, said that his country is endowed with adequate water resources. However, their distribution in time and space is a major management challenge. Aware of the fact that water is essential for food production, his Government is taking concrete steps towards ensuring sustainable development of the country’s water resources for the benefit of its people. Moreover, he stressed the need to put in place adequate water resources legislation and ensure that all relevant policy documents are reviewed to meet the current aspirations of universal access. A new water resources bill provides for effective water sector governance and water supply delivery, he noted. The intended legislation aims to strengthen existing laws and complement the new national water resources strategy currently implemented. The Government is committed to ensuring sustainable management of its water resources using national, international and non-governmental collaborative instruments. In this context, he pointed to the recently ratified instrument of accession to the United Nations Water Convention. Moreover, Nigeria is at the forefront of pursuing climate-resilient approaches in the management of its national and transboundary water resources. In this regard, he called on the international community to support his country’s quest to save Lake Chad from extinction, with the potentially disastrous consequences this would have on the lives of about 40 million people.
MAHAMAN ADAMOU, Minister for Water and Sanitation of Niger, spotlighted his Government’s adoption of two strategic initiatives in 2017 — the sectoral programme for water, hygiene and sanitation, and its national plan of action for integrated water resources management. Since then, Niger has focused on building infrastructure to provide drinking water and sanitation, prioritized access for schools and homes, and it is working on behaviour change. Yet, the situation remains concerning since less than half of its people have access to drinking water in rural areas and more than 58 per cent lack decent sanitation infrastructure. In light of this, his Government has placed water as the driver for development. By 2025, it will improve drinking-water access to 100 per cent in urban areas and 55 per cent in rural areas, decrease the rate of open defecation to 36 per cent and will increase investment in the water and sanitation sector from 3 to 7 percent. He also underscored the need to bolster water governance and undertake urgent measures to combat climate change’s consequences. Responses in that regard must consist of intensified investment in infrastructure and watershed management, he said, spotlighting his country’s recent completion of its Kandadji dam and its continued financial support for its national development.
NOOR BINT ALI AL KHULAIF, Minister for Sustainable Development of Bahrain, said that, as a small island developing State with limited natural water resources, Bahrain affirms that sustainable water management is a vital element in achieving the Global Goals. In 2018, the Government approved the National Water Strategy 2030, which aims to ensure effective management of water resources and provide quality, sustainable water supplies for various economic sectors. The strategy relies on three main pillars: promoting coordination among various water-related bodies; following up and monitoring the implementation of activities, programmes and services; and increasing awareness. On the water supply side, the country has diverse water-supply resources, including seawater desalination, groundwater desalination and groundwater boreholes, and uses a variety of water desalination technologies, she said. The Government has established the Bahrain Water Resources Database, which contains 440 statistical variables and data, ranging from water quality, groundwater levels and water-demand management to climate and socioeconomic parameters. The Water Resources Management Unit, responsible for the database, helps to implement the Integrated Water Resources Management concept. The Unit employs a circular water economy approach, considers the water cycle as one connected system and creates links among the water supply, wastewater, stormwater systems and the utilities that manage them, she explained.
DAWELBEIT ABDELRAHMAN MANSOUR BASHER, Minister for Irrigation and Water Resources of Sudan, said his country is deeply affected by climate change as well as the decrease in rainfall and those changes have led to destructive floods. In 2022, more than 13 provinces were affected by heavy rain and floods, causing huge damage to life and property, he added. Some regions have suffered from severe drought resulting in disputes among local communities, while the groundwater level has decreased. All those issues led to waves of immigration, he said, adding that other challenges include integrated water management, contamination of water, water storage, and the provision of potable water to all people. His country’s water strategy aims to address those challenges, increase agricultural production and eliminate poverty, he said, adding that its implementation requires international, regional and local efforts. He pointed out that Sudan has managed to implement pioneering projects, such as in water harvesting, but still has a long way to go. While it has many rivers, seasonal rivers and groundwater, Sudan suffers from scarcity of water for agriculture and pastureland, he said, calling for additional assistance in water harvesting and the provision of potable water.
TAOFEG ABDULWAHD ALI AL-SHARJABI, Minister for Water and Environment of Yemen, voiced concern over serious pressure on water resources due to increased demand for water and climate-change-related issues. Despite efforts undertaken by States and international water organizations, issues remain and water scarcity continues to threaten food security. He stressed that the water supply is not in line with demographic increases and water is distributed in an unequal manner throughout the world. Today, it is necessary to review policies and programmes to manage water needs by strengthening regional and international cooperation in this area. He also highlighted the need to settle water-related conflicts. Yemen is one of the most water-poor countries, with 40 per cent of the population lacking access to safe drinking water, particular in rural areas. With this extreme scarcity in water, the Government is unable to respond to the needs of its population, and therefore, must adopt measures to move towards non-traditional methods, such as re-use of rainwater, waste-water recycling and allocating water for agricultural use and for renewable energy. However, a lack of financing is hampering Yemen’s work to renew its water resources, in particular due to the eight-year-long war. He also underscored that the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered the country’s access to financing.
SAMOU SEIDOU ADAMBI, Minister for Water and Mining of Benin, spotlighting his Government’s significant plans and reforms on water and sanitation to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6, shared that his Government has separated wastewater management from the drinking-water supply and created a national agency to provide drinking water to rural areas. Through mobilizing resources, it has also implemented several projects on ensuring access to water for nearly 7 million people by 2024. As a result, water supply in urban areas has increased from 54 per cent in 2016 to 72 per cent in 2022. In rural areas, investments have resulted in the completion of 240 multi-village drinking-water systems to serve approximately 3.5 million people, refurbished 325 village water-supply systems and increased water supply from 42 per cent in 2016 to 76.6 per cent in 2022. Regarding sanitation, his Government has focused primarily on demographically concentrated areas, established three wastewater treatment stations with the support of the World Bank Group and Germany, and aims to boost sanitation coverage to more than 75 per cent over the next five years. More active cooperation and international mobilization can help Benin overcome remaining challenges and make universal access a reality to its people, he stressed.
DURDY GENJIYEV, Minister, Chairmen for the State Committee for Water Management of Turkmenistan, pointed out that the Global Goals are universal, cover developed and developing countries and ensure balanced economic and social development. His Government adheres to the principles in which water is a common heritage of mankind and access to clean drinking water is a fundamental right for each person, he said, stressing that ensuring access to water must be a responsibility for all States. This was shown to be especially important when the COVID-19 pandemic affected food security, the global economy and the implementation of the Global Goals. Water is a key priority in his Government’s national policy and can serve as a political element for bilateral action. Water diplomacy opens opportunities for dialogue to solve all problems linked to the rational use of water resources. Climate change cannot be combated unless Governments work together at the regional and global levels, he stressed. His Government has offered new opportunities to address these issues, such as the establishment of a centre in Ashgabat to develop United Nations water strategies and special programmes for the Aral Sea Basin. These are very important elements for water issues in Central Asia. More efforts are needed to bolster partnerships to use water resources properly and increase environmental security, he said, calling for joint efforts to protect water resources for current and future generations.
JOÃO BAPTISTA BORGES, Minister for Energy and Water of Angola, said the Ministry of Energy and Water is responsible for policies pertaining to water in its environmental, economic and social dimensions, while the National Water Council serves as a consultative body for the President and ensures coordination among all ministerial departments and other public and private actors, including rural communities, in the process of planning, managing, and using water resources. His country has developed a set of actions for institutional development and strengthening, investments in water distribution infrastructure, creating and funding public water and sanitation companies, and economic and tariff regulation. The volume of investments in the water sector from 2017 to 2022, totalled $1.94 billion, with an average rate of access of 60 per cent for urban and rural populations, in a total population of 30 million. Detailing its other initiatives, he said that, to develop his country’s water-supply capacity, his Government receives support from multilateral credit entities and agencies, such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and the French Development Agency.
KONRIS MAYNARD, Minister for Public Infrastructure and Utilities, Transport, Information, Communication and Technology and Post of Saint Kitts and Nevis, aligning himself with the Group of 77 “developing countries” and China and the statement to be delivered by Samoa on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, pointed out that his country is one of the most water-scarce in the world. With decreased rainfall from climate change and a continued expansion in tourism, agriculture and urbanization, his country’s demand exceeds its ability to supply water — it is notably unable to provide 24-hour water service to all residents, a situation that will worsen with water demand expected to double over the next 10 years. Saint Kitts and Nevis also faces challenges on water distribution due to aging infrastructure, high non-revenue water and increasing saltwater intrusion due to sea-level rise. “We must act now to preserve our future and the survivability of our generations yet to come,” he stressed, adding that: “It is easy to take water for granted until most of us, not just some, turn the tap and nothing comes out — by then it will be too late.” As the world cannot afford to allow another 46 years to pass before decisive action is taken, the Water Action Agenda must lead to the accelerated implementation of the Water Action Decade and the 2030 Agenda. He then spotlighted his Government’s efforts in that regard, which included investing in sustainable and resilient water infrastructure, developing green building codes and implementing proactive and adaptive measures. This ambitious outlook can succeed if his Government can leverage multi-stakeholder partnerships with the support of an accessible and concessionary financing architecture that considers his country’s unique vulnerabilities. “This moment, this Conference, is but a drop of water in an ocean of possibilities,” he stressed, reminding all that “a persistent drop of water will wear away even the hardest stone.”
GILBERTO SILVA, Minister for Agriculture and Environment of Cabo Verde, noting that the right to drinking water continues to remain a great challenge, pointed out that his country is a small island State where the average rainfall of this arid climate is less than 300 millimetres. Droughts are becoming more frequent and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that rainfall could decrease by 10 per cent this century, exposing the country to climate change impacts even further. Yet, paradoxically, Cabo Verde is a large ocean State with 99 per cent of its territory comprising seawater. To access this inexhaustible source of water, his country must desalinate it and make it accessible, which the country started doing more than 50 years ago. However, the starting point for securing a water-supply system is notable different, more complex and much more expensive. Cabo Verde must make greater investment efforts than most other countries due to its arid climate and insularity, he pointed out, spotlighting several of its recent achievements which included a legal and institutional framework; strengthened water and sanitation governance; investments in water mobilization, storage and distribution infrastructure; and a circular economy approach to water. To achieve Global Goal 6, it must strengthen the water, energy, food security and environment nexus, speed up policy implementation on health security and poverty reduction, and accelerate investments in water.
ZUHAL DEMIR, Minister for Justice and Law Enforcement, Environment, Energy and Tourism of Belgium, aligning herself with the European Union, said the Water Convention comes at a critical time as water is a precious resource around the globe. There is a need for commitment, action and solutions at the local, national and global levels. Her Government had worked to develop emergency measures after strong rains hit the country in the summer of 2021, she said, noting that Flanders was especially hard hit. Drought has also created problems in the densely populated parts of Flanders. The Government has implemented comprehensive plans to tackle these droughts, which affect the country’s agricultural lands. The Government is also taking measures to protect its coastline. As a European Union member State, Belgium has honoured the bloc’s voluntary commitments. It will engage with other countries to adhere to the Water Convention and meet water-related challenges at home and abroad. The Government is contributing to the development of global early-warning systems. Water affects everyone and it is necessary inspire people to make a difference in order to preserve and save water for future generations, she said.
ABDUL KHAN, Minister for Water Supply of Nepal, said its Constitution guarantees access to safe water and a clean environment as fundamental human rights. The Government is committed to preparing the water, sanitation and hygiene plan for all 753 local levels by 2023, he said, adding that, for smooth coordination, the Ministry of Water Supply has developed a dynamic portal for water, sanitation and hygiene data management. Though his country is rich in water resources, it faces challenges to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 mainly due to the drying up of spring sources in the hilly region, the shrinking of glaciers in the Himalayas, depletion of groundwater in the plain region and changes in rainfall patterns. To a large extent, the climate crisis is a water crisis, he pointed out, noting that despite his country’s negligible share in greenhouse gas emissions, it bears the disproportionate burden of climate-related disaster. It is ranked as one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of risk imposed by climate change, he added, calling for robust climate action by all stakeholders. Developed countries, in particular, have an obligation to ensure easy climate financing, to address loss and damage while giving equal emphasis to mitigation and adaptation.
BRADLEY BILLY TOVOSIA, Minister for Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification of the Solomon Islands, underlined water’s essentiality for survival, economic growth, food security, health, ecosystems, biodiversity, energy, infrastructure and production. While his country is surrounded by an abundance of water resources, it nevertheless continues to face challenges on accessing drinking water supply and sanitation as well as on water-related diseases, among others, he pointed out, asking all to “please help us to survive, to achieve water-related goals and targets.” Sustainable Development Goal 6, he reminded, calls on Governments to mainstream water; integrate cross-cutting goals into national programmes and strategic plans; and ensure coordination mechanisms. In that vein, his Government has formulated a national water resources and sanitation policy; protected water resources; identified national areas; provided clear priority goals and objectives; and assigned responsibilities to its various agencies. It has also focused on improving the resilience of its water resources; is implementing urban water supply and sanitation projects; and will promote effective, efficient and safe urban sanitation services while providing programmes to encourage better hygiene behaviours. He also spotlighted its work on water governance, borehole drilling and its efforts at the regional level. Despite capacity challenges, finite resources and competing priorities, the Solomon Islands is doing what it can to build a better and more resilient future, he stressed.
PAL MAI DENG, Minister for Water Resources and Irrigation of South Sudan, said his Government is looking forward to working with other delegates as it attends this Conference for the first time as an independent nation. In 2011, South Sudan set ambitious goals to supply its people with basic water supplies and sanitation and manage its vast resources. Within the first two years, it had met many of these goals and was able to reach 50 per cent of its population with safe drinking water. It laid down an institutional network. Yet numerous hardships, including internal conflicts, drought and the pandemic, of the last 10 years have set the country back. The percentage of people having access to safe drinking water has declined. About 1 million people have been displaced. The country has been affected by a 40-year drought, overstretching the capacity of the Government. The Government continues to work to ensure peace and stability and achieve Global Goal 6 and protect the environment. It has revised its water policy in an attempt to combat climate change and is working with its partners to develop a water resources plan, he said. As a Nile Basin member State, Sudan is also working with its partners on the Nile Basin Initiative.
ABDULAZIZ AL SHIBANI, Deputy Minister for Water of Saudi Arabia, voicing concern about water scarcity in its efforts to reach a sustainable economy, said his country launched its Vision 2030 aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals to diversify the economy, reduce the State’s dependence on oil and develop the public sector to be more flexible, dynamic and sustainable. The water sector is among the most important of those sectors, he said, noting, however, that limited natural freshwater resources and other increasing demands pose a challenge to economic development. In 2018, the Government adopted the National Water Strategy 2030 with a vision of a sustainable water sector that develops and preserves water resources, preserves the environment and provides a safe supply, high quality and efficient services. The strategy aims to restructure the water sector into a more efficient sector, develop and implement the water law for integrated water planning and development of renewable and non-renewable groundwater resources, among others.
HABTAMU ITEFA GELETA, Minister for Water and Energy of Ethiopia, underlining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and drought on both the 2030 Agenda and his region, spotlighted his Government’s efforts to maintain its resilience and improve water and sanitation coverage. Its national flagship programme — which brings together federal ministries for land and water, sanitation and hygiene; development partnerships; civil society organizations; and the private sector — has enabled donors to put resources into one basket. Ethiopia has also forged strong partnerships among its ministers and with development partners on a sustainable road map to water security. “Everyone believes water is life, but it is few people who know that water itself needs life,” he underscored, emphasizing the necessary of investment for water’s survival. He then stressed that transboundary water resources management should be a technical matter as politicization hinders the immense benefits that cooperation avails. In that regard, the Conference must ensure equitable and reasonable water sharing for all; address development needs through investment; facilitate the signing and ratification of a cooperative framework agreement in the Nile Basin; and advance the establishment of the much-needed Nile River commission. The international community, developed countries, development partners and the private sector must scale up their financial, technological and technical support to developing countries, he said.
JOHANNA SUMUVUORI, State Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, said the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person. These fundamental rights cannot be achieved without realizing the human rights to water and sanitation — which are prerequisite for a dignified life and for health, well-being and prosperity. Yet, these essential rights are not being realized in large parts of the world and the rights to water and sanitation are not realized equally. A gender transformative approach to accelerating water action is needed, she said, adding that this would include the adequate participation of girls’ and women’s groups, human rights defenders and indigenous peoples. Water and sanitation services must be designed and implemented in a way that meets the needs of vulnerable groups, such as Indigenous peoples, minorities, the rural poor and persons with disabilities. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE)’s Protocol on Water and Health is a powerful legally binding instrument to progressively realize the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. In addition, development partners must step up to the plate, she said, adding that her Government is committed to ensure basic water supply for 1.35 million people during the 2023-2025 period.
TERRY DUGUID, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change of Canada, said that as a country with 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater, Canada is steadfast in its commitment to working at home and abroad to make progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals. Canada and the United States share a long history of successfully managing their shared waters with 10 treaties and water management agreements, he said, noting his country’s readiness to share its experience and help to promote cooperation and collaboration over shared water resources. Within Canada, he said a key component to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 is to address the challenge in accessing clean water and sanitation in First Nation communities. It has committed $5.6 billion in funding from 2016-2024 to First Nations to upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure on reserves to better support maintenance and operation of systems, and to improve monitoring and testing of community drinking water. Since 2015, 81 per cent of long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted. “Canada’s goal is to eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories that are affecting on-reserve public First Nations drinking water systems,” he declared, detailing his country’s other water-related initiatives.
MARTHA DELGADO PERALTA, Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, highlighting the opportunity presented by the Conference to discuss alternatives and find long-term solutions, called on all to ensure that water is managed holistically and comprehensively. Social development cannot continue at the expense of natural resources that provide States with food and water, she underscored. In that vein, public policies and investment must be restructured and redirected towards innovative alternatives that provide effective and efficient solutions that protect and restore rivers and water basins. For Mexico, water management must be done in accordance with its feminist foreign policy; address and account for water’s use by various actors; and recognize women’s role in water conservation. Her Government has notably included the right to water in its Constitution since 2012; committed to achieving the right to water in overlapping ways with other rights; and strengthened the governance of this resources. As access to quality data in a timely fashion is essential for analysis, planning and implementation, her Government will develop a set of indicators on the human right to water and sanitation in Mexico — the first of its kind — by 2024. She then called for a Special Envoy for Water, encouraged others to support this initiative and underscored the importance of emphasizing women’s leadership and the need to leave no one behind.
MEELIS MÜNT, Secretary General, Ministry for the Environment of Estonia, said his Government is convinced this is the right moment for this Conference. There are 2 billion people without access to safely managed drinking water and the Conference is uniting people to meet these challenges. Estonia is a small coastal country located on the Baltic Sea and everything done on land affects the status of the sea. He stressed the need to prevent unintended negative consequences while securing benefits from interconnected ecosystems. Estonia’s voluntary commitment to the Water Action Agenda is related to the source-to-sea approach. Dialogue between fresh and saltwater communities must be promoted, he said, adding that this cooperation needs to be better reflected in the mandates of joint bodies as they develop their action plans and additional mechanisms for cooperation. Transboundary water cooperation is central to sustainable water management as there are hundreds of transboundary river basins and aquifers that are shared between two or more countries. As a current Chair of the Water Convention, Estonia greatly supports the Convention’s global opening, he said, and expects that by 2024, at least five additional countries will join the Convention, while more than 20 countries are in the process of accession. He called upon all Member States sharing transboundary waters to join and benefit from its legal framework and instruments.
MAREK GRÓBARCZYK, State Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Government Plenipotentiary for Water Management and Investments of Poland, highlighted the growing need to retain water in the environment, as well as the need for planning, legislative and programmatic measures that will contribute to the development of retention. These include investing in dual-use water reservoirs, restoring wetlands, forest, soil and landscape retention, and developing urban retention. In Poland, a programme has been created, which will ensure a doubling of the water retention rate in 20 to 30 years. “We need to go one step further,” he pointed out, stressing that man should cooperate with nature and make use of its potential. In that regard, ecohydrology combines traditional hydroengineering with nature-based solutions, which is a hybrid and systemic approach to improve the efficiency of river basin management. By integrating hydrological and ecological processes, actions can simultaneously increase the quantity and quality of water, increase the bio-productivity and biodiversity and ecosystem services to society, as well as improve resilience to climate change. Describing its other benefits, he said ecohydrology is recognized by the United Nations and the European Union as an important scientific discipline for accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
GERARDO AMARILLA DE NICOLA, Vice Minister for Environment of Uruguay, pointed out that social well-being, food security, health, hygiene and development cannot be achieved without the comprehensive and sustainable management of water resources. As a South American country with just 176,000 square kilometres and a population of 3.5 million people, Uruguay has been blessed by nature in that it has a friendly geography — a long coastline and large amounts of grasslands and fertile land — and abundant water resources, which include three large transboundary water basins. His Government’s constitutional reforms in 2004 have also made a difference in recognizing access to drinking water and sanitation as fundamental human rights; establishing a genuine interest in protecting the environment; and ensuring water as a public good. Climate change, however, has been a notable challenge from droughts to an alarming shortage which have affected production, rural populations and the environment. To mitigate this, the international community must focus on prevention and equip itself with the necessary tools by investing in infrastructure to increase the availability of alternative sources, in technology and in cultural change. International financing systems must be more flexible and have differentiated policies that recognize each State’s respective efforts. A Special Envoy for Water is essential for the preservation and sustainable use of the planet’s most distinguishing feature, he added.
TOMÁŠ TESAŘ, Deputy Minister for the Environment of the Czech Republic, said water is a precious resource that needs to be managed and protected in a sustainable way. It is essential for life and cannot be used as a weapon when war breaks out. Despite Governmental efforts to protect the quality of water, these actions have not been enough, he said, adding that sometimes technical approaches are necessary and in other cases nature can do its job. Water is a cross-cutting issue and should be on the agenda of other important conferences, such as climate change and biodiversity, he said, calling for policy silos to be broken down and water issues to be included in areas such as energy, health, agriculture and transportation. His Government has made combating climate change a key priority. It is changing its approach to food security and strongly believes that transborder cooperation is necessary and crucial for sustainable development and achievement of the Goal Goals. The Government is a member of three regional river basins. Another priority is to ensure people’s access to water and sanitation as a human right. The Czech Republic identifies with the voluntary commitments submitted by the European Union. His Government also supports the creation of a United Nations Special Envoy for Water, which should be at the highest political level.
GAYANE GABRIELYAN, Deputy Minister for Environment of Armenia, said that in 2020, her country developed a strategy for achieving the targets under Sustainable Development Goal 6. In addition, major policy water reforms are part of the comprehensive and enhanced partnership agreement signed between Armenia and the European Union in 2017. The 2022 amendment to the water code brought legislation in Armenia a step closer to international best practices by including issues of equitable access to water and sanitation, as well as climate change. Underscoring the importance of transboundary and regional cooperation in water, she said her country has a number of bilateral agreements on the use of international waters. However, despite progress in legal regulations and institutional reforms, many challenges remain, she said, calling for international cooperation to support her country in aligning its national legal framework with the global agenda on water. The current investments in the water sector are far below what is needed, she pointed out, calling on international financial institutions and development partners to continue their efforts in mobilizing finance for developing countries, including middle-income States.
DANIEL WESTLÉN, Vice Minister for Climate and the Environment Change of Sweden, said challenges relating climate change, lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities need to be approached together to create resilient societies. In this regard, he expressed appreciation for the agreement on sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction negotiated in New York, noting: “We can reach agreements leading to a positive change.” Pointing out that the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s objectives are to provide better living conditions to people living in poverty and enhance democratic development, he underscored the importance of equal opportunities to access, use and manage water resources. Increased gender equality is key to more effective and sustainable water governance, he added.
Spotlighting that Sweden aims to become climate neutral by 2045, he stressed: “My challenge to all of you is to reach net-zero before us.” Sweden incentivizes business innovation as a means of reducing emissions, he said, adding that policymakers should work hand in hand with strategic business leaders, customers and investors. To foster sustainable water management, the country submits voluntary commitments to the Water Action Agenda, including to further support the work of the Water Convention. Moreover, the country has appointed a special envoy for water to strengthen the coherence of its water-related efforts in all sectors. Highlighting the importance of international cooperation and multilateralism, he said: “Life only demands from you the strength that you possess. Only one feat is possible; not to run away.”
ABDULLA NASEER, Minister for State for Environment, Climate Change and Technology of Maldives, underscored the importance of water as a right especially for a resilient recovery from the pandemic. While Maldives is surrounded by water, its freshwater resources are scarcely limited with the raging climate crisis and its drastic consequences further exacerbating stresses on access. His country is also regularly exposed to meteorological hazards; has been grappling with changing rainfall patterns; and was forced to rely more and more on water desalination, which is not cost effective. In light of this scarcity, ensuring clean water and sanitation for all Maldivians — as guaranteed by the country’s Constitution — is a key priority for the Government. Among other things, he spotlighted his Government’s water and sanitation legislation to enhance governance in that sector; its policies to ensure safe water and adequate sewerage services; collaboration with international partners to scale up and integrate its water supply system; its integration of water resources management projects in four islands; and improved rainwater harvesting systems in 25 islands. Despite these significant advancements, there is still a growing need for enhanced global finance, capacity-building and technology transfers. Without safely managed water, sanitation and hygiene services, women and girls are more vulnerable to abuse, attack and ill health, affecting their overall ability to study, work and live in dignity, he pointed out.
JOÃO PAULO CAPOBIANCO, Deputy Minister for the Environment and Climate Change of Brazil, said water is the primary natural resource and permeates every environmental, economic and social agenda. Guaranteeing universal access to water and sanitation is crucial to address one of the priorities of Brazil’s new Government — namely, fighting poverty and inequality in all its forms. Brazil is ready to resume its active participation in multilateral forums in a spirit of cooperation to find solutions for the challenges faced by humankind, among which are the protection of natural resources and access to water and sanitation. The country’s laws establish water as a public good, he said, noting that the Government has set a target of reaching 99 per cent of Brazilians with access to water and 90 per cent with access to sanitation by 2033, using ecosystem-based approaches that pay attention to the most vulnerable and recognize the critical challenges posed by the climate crisis.
LESLIE LORENA SAMAYOA JEREZ, Vice Minister for Public Health and Social Assistance of Guatemala, said water is necessary for life, health, security and to provide a healthy environment for all people. The pandemic showed how critical water is for containing diseases. Climate change has increased the risk of natural disasters, such as drought, as it affects the water cycle. In Guatemala, the Government is working to implement measures and set up strategies that ensure natural resources are used sustainably and rationally. In accordance with international law, she said States retain sovereignty over their natural resources and that fact should be the starting point for any conversation about their use. Her Government supports the International Decade for Action. For its citizens’ efficient access to sanitation and water, Guatemala has developed strategies that envelope all policy sectors and other stakeholders, such as academia and the private sector. The Ministry of Health is working to guarantee access to water and sanitation since diseases can be transmitted through unclean water. She also called for capacity-building and the transfer of technology so the Global Goals can be achieved. She reiterated her Government’s commitment to provide access to clean water and sanitation for its citizens.
MARIO ŠILJEG, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Croatia, said water scarcity threatens food security and the well-being of communities, and can often cause or amplify conflicts. As Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission for 2023, Croatia will work with other members to underline the importance of water for peacebuilding. Noting that Croatia conserves the most water of any European Union country according to EUROSTAT data, he said it is also intensifying its activities at the legislative, planning, programme and project levels, including by harmonizing national laws with the European Union Directive on the quality of water intended for human consumption. Currently, 94 per cent of Croatia’s population has access to safe water from the public water supply system, but challenges persist in access to the public wastewater system. The Government has ensured the social price of water services for socially vulnerable citizens, guaranteeing at least 50 litres per household member per day, and it is promoting a range of innovative technologies and solutions for safe drinking water.
DMITRY KIRILLOV, Head of the Federal Agency for Water Resources of the Russian Federation, said his country is implementing a plan to address the contamination and cleansing of both small and large bodies of water. Although it is among the countries with the largest amount of water resources, it still has a number of arid territories, he said. To improve the situation in those areas, it has set a goal of increasing its underground water resources three-fold by 2024. It is also working to launch a single water facilities registry, which will be a digital platform to effectively manage water resources throughout all of Russian territory. Underscoring the importance of a non-politicized regional approach and cross-border cooperation, he voiced regret at attempts to politicize the water issue, noting the destruction of infrastructure and water resources in 2014 on the Crimean Peninsula. Insufficient provision of water has resulted in a 60 per cent loss in drinking water as well as contamination of fresh water in the Black Sea basin, also due to the absence of cleaning and sanitation facilities. Rivers, lakes and oceans account for 40,000 kilometres of its border, he said, highlighting the need for effective international cooperation and its initiatives with other countries in that regard.
ANGÉLICA LIZETH ÁLVAREZ MORALES, Vice Minister for Planning, Ministry of Strategic Planning of Honduras, speaking on behalf of the country’s first female President, Xiomara Castro Sarmiento, said the problem of access and distribution of water is rooted in capitalism. Resolving water vows is linked to understanding that the problem lays in the neoliberal model of the capitalist system, she said, underscoring the importance of a structural change. Noting that the “global Powers” and the highly industrialized countries are the main polluters, she said the developing countries fall victim to the pollution impacts. Each year, winters in Honduras are becoming more unstable and summers hotter, she said, adding that her country also suffers from floods and droughts. In this regard, she expressed grave concern over a mass migration of people caused by climate change. Noting that no change is truly possible if the “world’s elite” do not give up their “opulent and destructive” ways of being, she said Honduras is carrying out actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, despite its limitations.
“We forge our own destiny, and we will build it from a position of self-determination,” she stressed, noting that her Government has committed to restoring 1.3 million hectares of woodland, while also ensuring quality water for human consumption, agriculture and energy production. Honduras has also begun the reforestation and restoration of its hydrographic basins, while salvaging Lake Yojoa, the country’s only large natural lake. Further, Honduras recognizes and defends the universal right for all to have access to water, including its fair and equitable distribution. To this end, it has set a goal of saving its common goods and reversing the damaging impacts of climate change. “Water, peace and justice for all of our people,” she stressed.
ZAC GOLDSMITH, Minister for Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and Environment at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom, said for 700 million people — 1 in 10 humans on Earth — water scarcity is a daily reality. Also citing the impacts of climate change, he stressed the importance of keeping planetary warming within 1.5°C by making deep cuts to emissions across all sectors. He urged all stakeholders to use the Water Tracker, a practical tool “to help us draw together our collective experience”, and urged more countries to integrate water into their national climate plans. He also called for more countries to join the 28 signatories from Governments, business and civil society that have now endorsed the Fair Water Footprints Declaration, first launched by the United Kingdom in Glasgow, which now represents 185 million people and more than $5 trillion. He announced another new programme, which will support efforts by Governments in five developing nations in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, to strengthen national systems and draw wider investments to provide access to more reliable, resilient water, sanitation and hygiene services.
SURASRI KIDTIMONTON, Secretary General in the Office of the National Water Resources, Office of the Prime Minister of Thailand, said his country has made great efforts to continue improving its water distribution system. To date, 98 per cent of its population has access to water supply systems, and the Government is expanding that number with a focus on remote and rural areas. Highlighting several lessons learned, he said funding is critical. In Thailand, only 30 per cent of planned investments can be allocated from the Government’s budget, so innovative ways to mobilize additional financing have been required. He also cited critical technology gaps, noting that standardized databases, appropriate technology and innovation, together with traditional and local knowledge, are necessary to keep pace with increasing demands for water — especially in developing countries. He also noted the importance of good governance, stressing that effective law enforcement and engagement by all sectors is critical.
YOKO KAMIKAWA, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Japan, sharing the story of her hometown’s “back casting” from a rain-related crisis 50 years ago to identify solutions that prepared it for an even greater rain episode last summer, pointed out that the Earth’s remedial paths are logically no different from that of this small town. Humanity has already crossed many planetary boundaries and is stepping towards catastrophe by accelerating climate change, aggravating water quality and drastically reducing biodiversity, she warned. Against this backdrop, data-points on the atmosphere, hydro-geographics and oceans must be collected and analysed to identify ways forward; nature and human needs must be balanced at different scales; and benefits for both must be pursued relentlessly amid ever-changing social and environmental conditions. All must share information, recognize potential crises and avoid catastrophes, she added, urging the world to respond to the Secretary-General’s call for “early warning for all”. For its part, Japan will contribute half a trillion Japanese yen for water transformation; partner with other countries, regional development banks and international organizations; focus on projects that simultaneously pursue climate change mitigation and adaptation; promote research, development and capacity-building on satellite data; and prioritize least developed countries, small island developing States, women, children, youth, seniors, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples.
NESTOR FABIAN ALVAREZ, Administrator of the National Entity for Water Sanitation Works of Argentina, said when the first Water Conference was held in her country 45 years ago there was already global concerns about the quality and quantity of water. Since that time, the availability of water has decreased. At the 1977 Conference, the Mar del Plata Action Plan was developed and remains valid. The Argentine Government integrated many of its recommendations into its water policies. The Ministry of Public Works is the body responsible for managing water resources and it coordinates strategies with state and provincial governments to manage this valuable resource. Water must be managed urgently because of its scarcity. Climate change and pollution are affecting its availability and the number of people with access to safe water is less than before. It is necessary to return to an idea that was aired in Mar del Plata in 1977: for the efficient management of water resources, there must be access to credit financing. Pointing to the need for cross-border cooperation, he said Argentina shares many water basins and systems with neighbouring countries. The country lies downstream from the Plata Basin, for example, and water sources from locations higher up the basin affect the quality of Argentina’s water. The country’s current water plan, begun in 2020, stresses the importance of a cross border plan. Access to financing and support from the international community remains essential to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. He called on the international community to work together to reach the 2030 Agenda.
MEBRAHTU MEHARI, Director General of Water Resources of Eritrea, said his country has been working diligently for the last three decades to mitigate the effects of drought, climate change and environmental degradation. As decisive actions are needed to ensure an adequate supply of water, his country has laid out an enabling environment to sustainably improve water management, for instance, by increasing the efficiency of water consumption rather than increasing the supply. As a result of its sustainable water project plans, the quality of drinking water has increased and in turn has had a significant impact on the public health of its communities. Water for sustainable development can be achieved by developing a national water road map and through collective actions of all partners. Moreover, water resources, if conserved and managed properly, can play a significant role in increasing socioeconomic development, but it requires effective national, regional and international partnerships. His country’s water road map and action plan present concrete measures, related to integrated water resource management, the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All strategy, capacity-building, technology transfer, and financial support and partnerships with national, regional and international agencies.
SILVIA FERRER, Director of the Department of Environment and Sustainable Development, Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Sustainable Development of Andorra, said her country has almost 13,000 kilometres of rivers and streams that make it a water rich nation. Mountains are important natural water reservoirs, she said, while pointing out that mountainous ecosystems are among the most vulnerable to climate change. Noting that river flows declined in the past decades, she said the scientific climate models developed by the Pyrenean Climate Change Observatory predict that the annual average flow will decrease by 7 per cent by 2050, which would lead to increased strain for these resources and greater competition. In this regard, she underscored the importance of moving to a new kind of water management, while recalling that in 1996 Andorra adopted a Water Sanitation Plan, which provided the country with the required infrastructure to guarantee public and environmental health. Moreover, Andorra has committed to ensuring that its neighbouring countries downstream would have clean water. In 2022, Andorra adopted a law on the circular economy that aims at achieving several key objectives by 2035, including sound and responsible consumption of water. A contribution of a small country can assist the planet to tackle the challenges of planning and water distribution, she said, while spotlighting that her Government is developing a draft law to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 and its targets.