Joint Member States exhibition “Water Action Decade – Countries’ Perspectives”

– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at Opening of the joint Member States exhibition “Water Action Decade – Countries’ Perspectives” on the occasion of the Launch of the Water Action Decade

 

Good evening –Excellencies, Distinguished Ministers and Delegates, Colleagues, Friends,

Yesterday we officially launched the International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development.

And, tonight, we will remind ourselves of why we did so.

I will start by thanking the 13 governments that helped to make this event happen (including Finland, Hungary, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Samoa, South Africa, Tajikistan and Thailand). My thanks also go to UNICEF and UNDP, for their support.

We have water all around us, on a daily basis.

And we have water all around us, tonight.

But, the difference, now, is that this exhibit shows us the side of water, which we do not all see, on a daily basis. In three different ways.

First, by emphasising how crucial water is – to all aspects of life.

It is our most precious natural resource.

It is a part of the food we eat. The energy we use. The environment around us.

For most of us, it is, simply, a fact of life. And therefore, for most of us, it is something we do not have to think about.

This exhibit changes that. It forces us to really think about water. It highlights the vital role it plays. And, even for one evening, it ensures that we do not take it for granted.

The second way this exhibit reaches us is through its focus on people.

We know that water is life. And it has the power to determine quality of life – or the lack thereof.

People are profoundly affected by the quality and availability of the water around them. And that is shown clearly through the photos and projections, seen here, tonight.

  • People in Sint Maarten, collecting bottled water, after Hurricane Irma hit.
  • Someone’s house, being washed away, by a typhoon, in Japan.
  • A child in South Sudan, forced to walk for two hours a day, in search of water.
  • A community in Kiribati, wondering if rising sea levels will make their villages uninhabitable.

These are not facts, or statistics. They are the stories of real people. And they show us the human side, of water. Which makes them more difficult to ignore.

[Water] is our most precious natural resource. It is a part of the food we eat. The energy we use. The environment around us. For most of us, it is, simply, a fact of life. And therefore, for most of us, it is something we do not have to think about. This exhibit changes that. It forces us to really think about water. It highlights the vital role it plays. And, even for one evening, it ensures that we do not take it for granted.

MIROSLAV LAJČÁK

President of the UN General Assembly

The third aim of this exhibit is to mobilise us to take action.

As you have seen, we have dedicated a hashtag to our water-related events, this week. It tells us that every drop counts.

I like this hashtag. But I have to admit that it is idealistic. Because, currently, we are not acting like every drop counts. In fact, we are not acting like every gallon counts. Or, even, like every river, or every lake, count.

Because, our water is disappearing at a faster rate than we are acting, to stop it.

And so, we need some serious action, serious commitments, and serious discussions on water.

We have seen some examples, here, this week. But we need to see much more – over the next decade.

For tonight, however, let us focus on enjoying this exhibit.

Let us remind ourselves of the power, and the impact, of water – on the planet, and on people.

And let us remember that water is part of us, and everything around us – including all of the drinks we are serving tonight!

And, so, I invite you to raise a glass, and to toast to the success of the Decade for Action ahead.

Thank you!