Towards Implementation of the International Decade of Action “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018-2028
– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at Towards Implementation of the International Decade of Action “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018-2028
Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
I want to start by thanking our hosts. There is a long list of them.
This long list of hosts is a sign of growing cooperation and coordination on water. I do want to sincerely thank all the Permanent Missions and UN entities involved in organizing today’s event, as well the members of the Group of Friends of Water. You have all done a lot of very important work in raising awareness – and mobilizing action – around water.
I also want to give a special thanks to Tajikistan –in particular, President Rahmon. Because of his initiative and leadership, we will soon be living in a decade dedicated to Action on Water for Sustainable Development.
As we look towards this decade, I want to talk today about why we are here, what we have done, and where we are headed, when it comes to water.
Two years ago, we adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We promised to work towards everyone being able to live a decent life, on a sustainable planet. This is why we are here.
We need water to live. And we need safe, clean and readily available water to have a decent life. Unfortunately 844 million people today are missing this basic element of a decent life.
Sanitation is also crucial to health and wellbeing. Having a safe toilet, in our homes, is something most of us here have had the luxury of taking for granted. It’s hard to believe, therefore, that more than a quarter of the world’s population does not have access to basic toilet and sanitation facilities.
When water and sanitation are lacking, women suffer disproportionately. They are forced to compromise their health and human dignity. They also find themselves exposed to sexual violence.
SDG 6 is also important to preventing conflicts and sustaining peace. We have already seen a dramatic increase in water-related disasters. These are affecting small islands and least developed countries in particular. Scarcity of water– exacerbated by climate change or humanitarian disasters – can cause tensions between people, communities and countries. As we have seen, these tensions can quickly escalate into violence.
We must implement SDG 6 through a lens of conflict prevention.
Now, on to what we have done.
Our framework for work on water and sanitation is strong.
More and more, the UN’s General Assembly has been recognizing the centrality of water to sustainable development. Dedicating an SDG to water and sanitation has put us in a good place to build on the work done by the Millennium Development Goals. The dialogues co-moderated by Tajikistan and Hungary during the 71st Session were very valuable. They gave us some interesting ideas on how the UN can better integrate and coordinate its work on water. And now we have dedicated the upcoming decade to action on water for sustainable development.
We have set ourselves a clear goal. We have followed up with a special call to action for the ten years ahead. We have identified options and opportunities. So, we have already started our work.
However, we have much more left to do. At all levels. And from all stakeholders.
We need governments to prioritize water and sanitation in their development planning and budgeting. Education and outreach must be used to encourage sustainable water use and prevent waste. Disaster risk reduction planning will also be key.
We will need more than action from governments to achieve SDG 6. Strengthening water infrastructures and systems costs money. And we will need a lot more of it, from different sources. We also need to create environments in which innovation and entrepreneurship can flourish.
This will demand involvement from many partners:
- the UN system
- civil society
- the private sector
- financial institutions, and
- regional, national and local authorities.
We will also need to expand our scope beyond SDG 6 to see the vital links with other goals. This will mean integrating our work on water with efforts in the areas of agriculture reform, technology, institution-building, infrastructure and gender.
And we can all do more to address the link between water and peace. We must implement SDG 6 through a lens of conflict prevention. When basins and streams run dry, tensions flare – between communities, and across borders. We need to study the good examples we have seen of shared water management – and replicate them in other settings. We also need to invest in “hydro-diplomacy” and water-related mediation. Broader efforts to implement SDG 6 will have a direct impact on national, regional, and even international, peace.
Next summer, we will review the work we are doing on water and sanitation during the High-Level Political Forum. This will give us all an opportunity to step our work up another gear.
So, as we look to where we are headed, I want to say that:
It is up to us – the people who can take our access to water and sanitation for granted – to work even harder on behalf of those who can’t.