Remarks at High-Level Symposium on Water during the 2022 Ocean Conference

Honourable Ministers,
Distinguished Participants, 

I am honoured to join you today at this High-level Symposium.  

I would like to thank the Ministry for Environment and Climate Action of Portugal for organizing this High-Level Symposium on Water, and the Governments of Argentina, Mozambique and Singapore for co-hosting the three Ministerial Roundtables. 

Dear Colleagues and Friends, as the Secretary-General for the current UN Ocean Conference and Secretary-General designated for the UN 2023 Water Conference, I am happy to see this Symposium taking place on the margin of the UN Ocean Conference. 

This High-Level Symposium on Water is one of the preparatory meetings for the UN-Water Conference 2023 and I am therefore quite pleased that this symposium has brought together political leaders and high-level decision-makers dealing both with “fresh” and “salt” water, to reflect on how to connect these two communities to guarantee an integrated vision of the water cycle, from source-to-sea.

Therefore, today, we are building a bridge between these two historic events, and strengthening the link between action on SDG 6 on “clean water and sanitation” and SDG 14 on “life below water”.  I believe this symposium offers us a great opportunity to fully understand the linkages between targets in the 2030 Agenda that relate to the “source-to-sea continuum”. 

We have an obligation to highlight the importance of coordinating efforts to achieve these two critical SDGs.  Upstream developments on land and along rivers can have detrimental downstream effects on coastal zones and marine environments, if not managed in a sustainable manner. 

We should foster these linkages with a sense of urgency as millions of people around the world rely on healthy freshwater bodies and healthy oceans as sources of livelihoods, jobs, and food. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, an estimated 60 million people worldwide are employed in fishing and fish farming. A majority of these are in developing countries, and are small-scale, artisanal fishers and fish farmers. 

Healthy freshwater bodies and oceans are also critical to sustaining economic growth, regulating the climate, and supporting the well-being of coastal communities, including some of the world’s poorest and vulnerable communities. 

And yet, these critical resources are being negatively impacted by unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. 

Urgent steps are therefore needed. 

In particular, “blue carbon” sinks such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows play a critical role in mitigating the impacts of climate change as they absorb and store more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests. They also protect coastal communities from floods and storms, which have become more frequent and more intense  because of climate change. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

The ocean and the freshwater communities often pursue their sustainable development goals separately.  
But we know that there are many benefits to working together. This is especially true as we adapt to climate change and biodiversity loss.

For example, climate change has brought more variability of water flows to coastal waters.  This presents major challenges   for urban planners, coastal industries, tourism and fishing dependent communities, health authorities and managers of marine assets, such as coral reefs. 

Furthermore, in some locations, rising sea levels, driven by climate change, are driving saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers used for agriculture and drinking water. 

In short, many SDG 6 targets will not be achieved without meeting the SDG 14 targets, and vice versa. Therefore, collaborative action is necessary if these goals are to be met. 

In fact, policy responses must draw on expertise and action across the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, given the integrated nature and interlinkages of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets. 

UN DESA works with two important coordinating mechanisms - UN-Water and UN Oceans.  We will look for ways to merge our efforts and take advantage of opportunities to collaborate.   

We often say we must not work in silos. We all agree that it is important and needed.  Let us use this event today to start turning this commitment into real progress.
If we work hard, we will get through the obstacles on the way forward 

I commit to do my part as the Secretary-General of both the Ocean Conference and the UN 2023 Water Conference.

I thank the Government of Portugal and all the participants here today for doing your part.
I wish this high-level symposium a great success!

Thank you.

File date: 
Monday, June 27, 2022

Mr. Liu