Secretary-General, in Security Council, Stresses Promotion of Water-resource Management as Tool to Foster Cooperation, Prevent Conflict

SC/12598
22 November 2016
7818th Meeting (AM)

Secretary-General, in Security Council, Stresses Promotion of Water-resource Management as Tool to Foster Cooperation, Prevent Conflict

Speakers Highlight Effective Initiatives in Some Regions, Low Capacity in Others

Management of the world’s precious water resources must be promoted as a means to foster cooperation rather than conflict, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council today, as he opened a day-long open debate on water, peace and security.

“Water challenges affect us all,” said Secretary-General Ban.  “Let us commit to invest in water security as a means to ensure long-term international peace and security.”  Access to water could exacerbate communal tensions, as in Afghanistan and Peru, and armed conflict resulted in destruction of water systems, as in Syria and Gaza, he said, pointing out that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) targeted control of dams as a strategic tactic.

On the other hand, shared water resources often generated cooperation, with more than 200 water treaties having been negotiated successfully in the latter twentieth century, he said, citing agreements signed between India and Pakistan, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, as well as Mali, Mauritania and Senegal as instruments promoting stability and peace.  Describing United Nations efforts to promote “hydro-diplomacy”, he said that he and the President of the World Bank Group had convened the High-level Panel on Water to champion a comprehensive and collaborative way to develop and manage water resources.  He called for implementation of the Panel’s recently adopted Action Plan.

Others briefing the Council were Danilo Turk, Chair of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace, Christine Beerli, Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Sundeep Waslekar, President of the Strategic Foresight Group.

Mr. Turk described the transboundary management of the Senegal River Basin — involving Senegal, Guinea, Mali and Mauritania — as an inspiration for the founding of the High-Level Panel.  Unfortunately, such cooperation was relatively rare, he said, noting that of the 236 shared river basins, only 84 had joint water-management bodies.  Good practices in the area of inter-sectoral cooperation on water resources, including voluntary codes of water management involving the full range of stakeholders, was particularly important, he emphasized.  Noting growing efforts to address water issues through United Nations peacekeeping and peacebuilding initiatives, he called for contributions of specific expertise on the issue to both efforts.

Ms. Beerli, noting that the ICRC was one of the main providers of water to people affected by armed conflict, emphasized the interdependence of essential services, including water, health and electricity.  Calling upon parties to conflict, Governments, donors and humanitarian organizations to work together to support the resilience of such services during periods of crisis, she emphasized the Council’s role in promoting dialogue and ensuring respect for international humanitarian law with respect to the management of water resources.

Mr. Waslekar proposed the creation of a “blue fund” for collaborative infrastructure projects, and suggested that the Council extend its pronouncements on the protection of medical personal and facilities to water resources.  Ceasefires could be negotiated to facilitate repair of water systems, among other measures, he added.

Presiding over the meeting, which heard from more than 60 speakers, was Mankeur Ndiaye, Senegal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad, whose country holds the Council Presidency for November.  Speaking in his national capacity, he noted that while competition for water seemed inevitable, coordinated and peaceful management of the resource was possible.  Citing his own country’s engagement in hydro-diplomacy through the creation of a joint mechanism for the management of the Senegal River Basin, he said most shared water sources lacked such mechanisms, which led to disputes over water distribution.  Water supplies were often targets of war, he said, while warning that preventive diplomacy, while critical, must be done carefully lest the attention paid to the issue actually heightened tensions.

According to the concept note (document S/2016/969) prepared by the Senegalese Presidency, the purpose of today’s debate was to take a close look at the issue of water as a driver of conflict and an object of cooperation.  Growing scarcity and unequal access to water had made the issue more urgent in the context of preventing conflict, for which the United Nations provided crucial platforms for cooperation and mediation, it stated.

Most speakers today affirmed the need to protect water supplies for conflict‑affected populations, with many describing the mechanisms successfully created in their respective regions.  They agreed that joint water management could foster trust, stability and peace.  Germany’s representative, noting that the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks report ranked water crises among the risks with the greatest impact and likelihood, also pointed out that the International Organization for Migration estimated that about 200 million people would be forcibly displaced by 2050 due to threats causing or increasing water scarcity.  “Water wars” were not inevitable, however, he said, adding that transboundary water cooperation was the only effective and lasting regional solution to water disputes, as proven by such positive examples as the Danube.

Brazil’s representative stressed that cooperation, not coercion, should guide efforts to ensure the just and efficient use of limited water resources.  Brazil had signed the Treaty of the River Plate Basin with three neighbouring countries in 1969, establishing a committee to promote joint projects in one of the world’s largest river basins.  A decade later, the Tripartite Agreement linking Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay had ended a long-standing controversy regarding hydroelectric power plants, he said.  Describing initiatives in Central America, Costa Rica’s representative called for the development of an inclusive binding international instrument for the protection of water resources.

Some African countries called for intensifying initiatives to manage the shrinking resources of the Lake Chad Basin, which they cited as a factor in the poverty and conflict afflicting that region.  Angola’s representative said that amid the scarcity of safe drinking water, people in some countries took water for granted and turned it into a lucrative business.  The Lake Chad Basin was a dramatic case in which the link between water and peace was at centre stage, he said, noting that the situation there had led to youth radicalization, terrorism and a huge humanitarian crisis.

Several speakers invoked ongoing conflict over water, with the Russian Federation’s representative saying that Ukraine was blocking the supply of water to Crimea.  Ukraine’s representative countered by stating that the problem originated from the illegal Russian occupation of that peninsula.  Syria’s representative said that terrorists were destroying water infrastructure and poisoning supplies, while sanctions prevented the maintenance of water systems.

While several speakers criticized Israel for the diversion of water from Palestinian communities and for damaging systems in the Gaza Strip, that country’s representative replied that Israel had applied innovative technologies to create a water surplus out of scarcity, and was sharing its resources and expertise in the region and around the world.  It had authorized increased supply to Palestinian areas but the Palestinian Authority had refused to cooperate, he added.

Pakistan’s representative noted that the regions most likely to be affected by acute water scarcity were those facing political turmoil and conflict, emphasizing that Member States must be willing to share water resources peacefully.  Malaysia’s representative declared:  “Using water as an instrument of war is reprehensible”, stressing that there could be no defence for targeting water, health, food and other essential services.

Also speaking today were representatives of Uruguay, China, United States, United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand, Egypt, France, Venezuela, Spain, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Iran, Colombia, Hungary, Italy, Guatemala, Slovenia, Mexico, South Africa, Poland, India, Belgium, Nigeria, Morocco, Bangladesh, Georgia, Cyprus, Palau, Portugal, Jordan, Djibouti, Australia, Finland, Romania, Argentina, Botswana, Netherlands, Slovakia, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Sudan, Maldives, Canada, Viet Nam, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Armenia and Switzerland.  Others addressing the Council were an observer for the European Union delegation and the Permanent Observers for the Holy See.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 5:46 p.m.

Briefings

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that by 2050 at least one in four human beings would be likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water, with climate change compounding the challenge.  Management of the more than 260 international rivers and at least that many transboundary aquifers was especially important, he emphasized.  Cautioning that the issue of access to water could exacerbate communal tensions, as in Afghanistan and Peru, he said, noting also that armed conflict resulted in destruction of water supply, as seen in Syria and Gaza.  Control of dams was often a strategic goal, as shown by operations carried out by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

On the other hand, shared water resources often generated cooperation, with river or lake basins shared among neighbours by some three quarters of Member States, he said, pointing out that more than 200 water treaties had been successfully negotiated in the second half of the twentieth century.  They included agreements signed between India and Pakistan, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, as well as Mali, Mauritania and Senegal as instruments that promoted stability and peace.  The United Nations had actively promoted the potential of water for cooperation, he said, citing the notable example of the “hydro-diplomacy” efforts carried out by the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia.

He went on to note that the Department of Political Affairs and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had published a guide containing strategies and best practices for promoting mediation and dialogue for resolving disputes over water.  The participation of women was particularly important in ensuring that water issues were addressed in peace agreements, he stressed, recalling that, to rally concerted action around hydro-diplomacy, he and the President of the World Bank Group had convened the High-Level Panel on Water to champion a comprehensive and collaborative way to develop and manage water resources.  He commended Senegal’s role in that effort and encouraged greater participation in implementing the Panel’s recently adopted Action Plan.  “Water challenges affect us all,” he pointed out.  “Let us use this Security Council meeting to highlight the value of water as a reason for cooperation, not conflict.”  He added:  “And let us commit to invest in water security as a means to ensure long-term international peace and security.”

DANILO TÜRK, Chair, Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace, said that Senegal’s effective cooperation with Guinea, Mali and Mauritania on use of the Senegal River could be a global inspiration and had contributed to the establishment of the High-Level Panel on Water and Peace, the goal of which was to propose specific recommendations to help in the search for solutions and to prevent armed conflicts.  Transboundary water cooperation was a prime example of a potentially powerful tool for long-term conflict prevention, he said, noting that countries with developed mechanisms for water cooperation seldom resorted to war.  However, transboundary water-cooperation mechanisms were relatively rare, and of the 236 shared river basins, involving 145 States, only 84 had joint water-management bodies.  Greater political support for additional international cooperation was necessary and much of it could be generated by the United Nations, the Security Council and the General Assembly, in particular.  An important political priority was to complement transboundary water cooperation with financial incentives, he emphasized.

In its preventive mode, the United Nations must be attentive to inter-sectoral cooperation on water intended to reduce tensions, in full accordance with the sovereign rights of States, he said.  Good practices in that regard included voluntary codes of water management involving a variety of stakeholders.  Noting that the United Nations system had been dealing with various water issues under “UN Water”, which brought together all relevant organs, funds and agencies, he said that activity had been mostly concentrated on technical, environmental and legal questions.  It was now time to address the political and security aspects of water cooperation, in which the Council could play a critical role, he stressed.  Water was usually transformed into a weapon during armed conflict, most often affecting civilian populations, he said.  The question was how the protection of civilians in armed conflict could be increased, including in matters of water supply.  Diplomatic and military means might be required to support efforts by local and international humanitarian organizations to ensure the functioning of water infrastructure during conflict, he said, while underlining that defence of water by civilian populations for their own use was a legitimate form of self-defence.

The Council could convey a sense of legitimacy to military actions whose sole purpose was the protection of water sources and installations, he said, adding that such legitimate defence was closely related to the future of international humanitarian law.  Water sources and water installations were among the major areas of concern for peace operations and peacebuilding, he continued.  Defence of civilians had become part of the doctrine of United Nations peacekeeping, and the “adequate capabilities” that Member States must provide to peace missions should include water and electric power specialists, according to the report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.  It was encouraging that the current Global Field Support Strategy placed stronger emphasis on environmental management, including water, he said, noting that water infrastructure was also a vital part of any peacebuilding activity.  Underscoring that cooperation on shared water basins was a historically proven factor of post-conflict stabilization and peacebuilding, he said the Peacebuilding Commission should therefore include water management and cooperation among its priorities.

CHRISTINE BEERLI, Vice President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), emphasizing the many crucial uses of water, said “water is a symbol of life in the poetry of every nation”.  Its vital importance often made it a highly contested resource in armed conflict and water systems were damaged or destroyed in many wars.  Highlighting the dangers involved in collecting water, especially for women and girls who were tasked with that activity in many societies, she said water was also directly linked to public health and migration.  “When water supply fails, a civilian population has no option but to move,” she added.

She said the ICRC worked in more than 80 countries, partnering with local authorities, commercial entities, communities and national Red Cross or Red Crescent societies to provide water every day to people affected by conflict and violence.  The rise of protracted urban warfare in the Middle East as well as increasing concentrations of internally displaced persons in urban areas of Lake Chad Basin countries had caused an exponential increase in the scale and technical complexity of water operations.  Attacks on electricity sub‑stations, water‑storage installations and piping could render them unusable, cutting off tens of thousands of people in a single strike, she noted.

Highlighting the various relevant protections provided by international humanitarian law, she called on parties to conflict, Government donors and humanitarian organizations to work together to support resilient urban services during armed conflict.  The Council must take measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian law and take into account the interdependence of essential services, such as water, health and electricity.  It was also important to help facilitate dialogue between warring parties on water needs and to prioritize effective partnerships between local authorities, service providers and humanitarian organizations so as to ensure resilient water services, she said, emphasizing that they must remain seized of that issue.

SUNDEEP WASLEKAR, President, Strategic Foresight Group, said water could be a source of crisis but also of cooperation.  With about 2 billion people living in shared river basins, water was often seen as a local or regional issue, but it was increasingly also a global security matter, he emphasized, cautioning that, if mismanagement of water and climate change combined with mismanagement of politics, there could be consequences around the world.  With resources depleting, supplies of fresh water could be down by 25 per cent in the next 20 years, he said, stressing that the impact would be felt by all.

Noting that the Strategic Foresight Group had found that any two countries engaged in active water cooperation did not go to war for any reason at all, he said there was thus a direct correlation between water cooperation and the risk of war.  There was also a continuum in water management, since the resource was the key to peaceful and inclusive existence of peoples.  The impact of water management was not confined to one region and there was a positive relationship between water cooperation and peace, he said, urging the Council to find ways to consider water as a strategic means for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Recalling that the Council had passed 2286 (2016) on protection of medical personnel and installations, he said it could consider a resolution in the same spirit to protect water resources, he said, urging its members, especially the permanent ones, to consider negotiating ceasefires to repair water systems, which would be a better investment than trying to find water on Mars or on the moon.  The Council could also intensify water cooperation as a form of preventive diplomacy.  The role of financial incentives in water management cooperation would be important in that regard, he said, proposing the creation of a “blue fund” to support collaborative infrastructure projects.  One billion dollars annually from the Green Climate Fund could create $13 billion worth of infrastructure, he said, adding that the world had enough capacity to find solutions with the Council providing guidance and inspiration.

MANKEUR NDIAYE, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, which holds the Council Presidency for November, spoke in his national capacity, noting that water was indispensable for life and was increasingly scarce for a growing world population.  The resulting forecasts of shortages were very worrying.  Competition for water seemed inevitable.  However, coordinated and peaceful management of resources was possible, bringing States closer together.  He cited as an example his country’s engagement in hydro-diplomacy through the creation of a joint mechanism for management of the Senegal River Basin.  Most shared water sources lacked such mechanisms and water distribution often flamed disputes and water supplies were often a target of war.

Preventive diplomacy was critical, he said, but it had to be done carefully lest tensions were actually heightened by the attention paid to the issue.  The Group of Friends on the issue had been created in order to deal with the complexities.  He called for participation in that group and urged the international community to intensify its work to ensure that “water flows only in the direction of development, peace and harmony among peoples”.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia), affirming a legitimate linkage between water, peace and security, hoped that the discussion could strengthen the Security Council’s work on conflict prevention.  Occupation could not be ignored in that context, and he called for the end of the diversion of Palestinian water supplies by Israel.  On the other hand, he commended international efforts on integrated water resources management, particularly those pursued by the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Given continued tensions over water and the targeting of the resource in ongoing conflicts, it was vitally important to continue to address the issue of water, sanitation and related infrastructure in relevant areas.  In that regard, technological transfer and other assistance was essential in the context of peace building.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), noting work on the issue of water in the General Assembly and affirming the importance of addressing the security implications of water in the Council, expressed repugnance over the use of water as a strategic weapon of war.  Access to the resource was a basic human right.  In that regard, he welcomed the related commitments in the Sustainable Development Goals.  He also described cooperation in his region among States sharing the Guarani Aquifer and the Uruguay River.  His country had also contributed to providing potable water for civilians in Haiti.  Cooperative management was the only long-term way of meeting the challenge of sustainable water for everyone, he stressed.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, noted that the scarcity of freshwater and its uneven distribution across the world caused competition for its use, which could lead to conflicts.  Recent examples of such conflict demonstrated the need to consider protecting critical infrastructure through the promotion of international cooperation.  For the Security Council, the water issue should form an essential element of its conflict prevention work, he stressed, pointing out that Europe was expanding inter-State cooperation on water.  Together with 13 countries and the European Union, Ukraine was working on sustainable and equitable water management through the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River.  Drawing attention to the resolution on the protection of the environment in areas affected by armed conflict, he noted that Ukraine had faced environmental issues as a result of foreign military aggression in Donbas.  Those issues included damage to pipelines, pumping stations and other infrastructure critical for water supply.  Greater awareness and practical implementation of the resolution’s provisions as well as relevant international law would foster environmental protection related to armed conflicts and reduce their environmental impact.  

LIU JIEYI (China) said the problem of water scarcity was acute in many regions and had a bearing on international peace and security.  The international community should strengthen water-resource management to remove the root causes of water scarcity and countries should improve scientific development for more efficient use of the resource.  Emphasizing that sharing water resources could enhance international cooperation and prevent tension, he said the international community must provide more assistance to African countries by helping regional organizations involved in managing transboundary water resources and helping to enhance water infrastructure.  Ensuring universal access to water was an important safeguard for peace and security, he said, stressing that regional and subregional organizations as well as United Nations entities should, upon request by concerned countries, play an active role in transboundary cooperation by facilitating dialogue.  China had implemented projects to help enhance the capacity of African countries to improve water preservation and management, he noted.

ISOBEL COLEMAN (United States) said the over-use and poor management of the Lake Chad Basin had led to a 90 per cent reduction in the size of that body of water, which had led to territorial disputes, but the affected countries had established the Lake Chad Basin Commission to try to solve the disputes peacefully.  The international community must bolster its support to help the Commission and local Governments build capacity in order to ensure lasting peace and security.  Describing water scarcity in other places, such as Iraq, where ISIL/Da’esh had seized strategic dams, she urged the international community to support regional solutions to water disputes.  Building institutions could help to lock in progress, and sound data were essential in providing support for sound decision-making in terms of giving early warning when water issues might lead to conflict, she said.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said increasing portions of the world were confronted with scarcity of safe drinking water, although people in some countries took water for granted and turned it into a lucrative business.  Water problems were part of the problem of climate change and environmental degradation and also a source of social and political conflict.  Praising the management of the Senegal River Basin as an outstanding example of regional cooperation, he noted that such good practice was not always the rule.  The Lake Chad Basin was a dramatic case in which the link between water and peace was at centre stage, he said, noting that the situation there had led to youth radicalization, terrorism and a huge humanitarian crisis.  The Lake Chad Basin Commission had developed a replenishing project which deserved priority support, since the Basin could become a hotbed of conflict, he emphasized.  Urging regional cooperation on transboundary basins, he described actions taken by the countries around the Okavango River Basin, including Angola.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) praised Senegal’s leadership in the Senegal River Basin as an example of managing transboundary water resources for development instead of conflict.  In less than 10 years, 2.5 billion people could be affected by water scarcity and the global demand for water could outstrip supply by 40 per cent within 20 years, he said, adding that $500 billion had been lost to flood damage, drought and floods.  To the people affected, however, it was a matter of life and death.  Noting that conflict could lead to the targeting of water infrastructure, he welcomed the idea of establishing ceasefires for the purpose of undertaking repairs.  He went on to describe a project that his country, together with other partners, was undertaking in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region to support water projects that could help 3 million of the poorest people in that subregion.

KORO BESSHO (Japan), underlining that the sound development and use of water resources were crucial to achieving peace and prosperity, also noted that its importance had led to disputes among States, including recent attacks on a water treatment plant in Aleppo and on waste‑water treatment plants in Gaza.  His country had worked with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to build roads to improve access to water to the people of Juba.  Japan had also led discussions on the International Law Commission’s draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers, which provided a valuable platform for countries to establish agreements for the proper management of their aquifer systems.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said only sustainable access to water could bring about sustainable development and fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda.  Noting that his delegation supported a draft resolution initiated by Tajikistan in the Second Committee, on the second Decade for Water for Sustainable Development, he said natural resources could not be considered the underlying reason for conflict, but only an amplifier of already existing disputes.  Expressing doubt over the utility of involving the Security Council in issues of sustainable development, he warned that the geopolitical aspects of water cooperation could only compound the quest to resolve difficult socioeconomic situations and hinder sustainable development as a whole.  The key to resolving water issues lay in increasing national development, he said, emphasizing the importance of developing the regional and international legal bases for regulating water resources.  It was necessary to find mutually accepted approaches on the basis of partnerships and national sovereignty, and the Russian Federation regretted that Ukraine had once again tried to use the Council as a forum for propaganda work and for providing political cover for Kyiv’s criminal activities rather than for the purpose of making constructive contributions.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) emphasized that the effective management of water resources was a conflict prevention tool.  In many parts of the world, considerable progress had been made in the collaborative management of water resources, enhancing security and prosperity.  For its part, the United Nations could play an important role, he said, welcoming the Department of Political Affairs’ fostering of dialogue and cooperation on the management of transboundary water resources in Central Asia.  Furthermore, in conflict situations, competition for water resources would affect the conduct and continuation of hostilities.  It was essential that disputes were fully integrated into conflict analyses, prevention and resolution strategies.  Among other things, he also stressed that water security must not be considered solely as a transboundary issue.  For many small island States in the Pacific, reliable access to fresh water was an existential issue.  Given that almost half of them had no significant surface water resources, it had left many communities reliant on unpredictable rainfall patterns for fresh water.  With a view to addressing such vulnerabilities, New Zealand had been working with its Pacific partners to strengthen national water management and delivery systems.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said that all studies on water resources had stressed that scarcity of water led to competition and could cause conflicts between States.  Egypt suffered from a scarcity of water resources, as it relied on only one water source – the River Nile.  That was compounded by a scarcity of rainfall and overpopulation, with its per capita share of water only 600 metres per year, which was below the water poverty line.  Egypt’s share of the River Nile failed to respond to its basic needs, he pointed out, adding that it was difficult to rely on underground water, as it was a non-renewable source.  All those factors were compounded by the fact that Egypt was a downstream nation.  His country had contributed to establishing the Nile Basin Initiative and was cooperating with it so that relevant nations benefited from water resources.  Stressing that countries must respect their commitments according to multilateral agreements on cross‑border resources, he said they must also stop financing construction that had a negative impact on downstream States.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), emphasizing that water should never be a source of division but should instead be a factor for cooperation amongst States, noted that natural resources were at stake in many conflicts.  Climate change compounded the situation due to its impact on land degradation and desertification, but even in times of war, the sharing of water resources could facilitate dialogue between belligerents.  A fair multilateral framework characterized by quality expertise was essential.  Second, the Security Council had a key role to play, he said, stressing that it must ensure the protection and distribution of water resources during conflicts.  It must also ensure that peacekeeping operations left a minimal environmental impact in their wake, and learn all the lessons of the operational recommendations that the High-level Panel on Water and Peace would formulate in the course of 2017.  Third, it was high time to start thinking about global water architecture and governance, which was currently not commensurate with the goals of the 2030 Agenda, he said.  Concerted management of water resources, particularly access to drinking water, was not merely a technical topic but a vital development, human rights and security issue, he stressed.

HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela) noted that more than 1.2 billion people worldwide lived in areas with a shortage of water and that one billion relieved themselves in the open air.  Farming accounted for 70 per cent of the world’s extraction of water, with that figure rising to 90 per cent in least developed countries.  If the world continued with its current consumption of water, it would see a significant decrease in availability by 2030.  A scarcity of water would exacerbate any attempts to resolve conflicts or to take a holistic approach to them.  The 2030 Agenda recognized that socio‑economic development depended on the sustainable management of resources, including water.  Efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals should be analysed annually in a high‑level political forum, which would consider their interrelated nature.  He stressed that the international community must seek a balanced approach to achieving those goals.

JUAN MANUEL GONZÁLEZ DE LINARES PALOU (Spain) said water management had today become risk management, explaining that it was a risk relating to insecurity and exacerbated by climate change.  Emphasizing the growing importance of “water diplomacy”, he said some countries continued to lack appropriate institutions for managing the resource, noting that it was in places where Governments demonstrated incapacity to supply water that conflicts could be found.  Spain had thousands of years of experience in water management, including during chronic shortages, and shared its experience both bilaterally and regionally, he said.  Armed conflict could lead to abuses of international humanitarian law and violations of human rights, especially in relation to access to water, and the civilian population was the real victim of the use of water as a weapon of war or as a political or military weapon.

Mr. YELCHENKO (Ukraine), taking the floor a second time, suggested that the representative of the Russian Federation check the language of his previous statement, which had not mentioned that country.  However, the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea remained under occupation by the Russian Federation, and the occupying Power bore responsibility for its illegal actions, he said.  The statement by the representative of the Russian Federation showed the inability of the occupying authorities to provide for the needs of the local population.  Instead of owning up to its actions, the Russian Federation opted to use the issue of water supply to Crimea as a propaganda tool, he said, adding that it should take steps to end the occupation of Crimea to resolve the issue.

Mr. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation), also took the floor a second time, describing the water blockade as an intentional act by Kyiv aimed at exacerbating the humanitarian situation in hopes that it would result in disaster.  The water blockade had been followed by an energy and food blockade, he added.  On the situation in Donbas, he said the most recent report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated clearly that as a result of military activities, infrastructure was suffering and there was restricted access to water.  The report appealed to all sides, including the armed forces of Ukraine, to ensure respect for international humanitarian law, he pointed out.

AKYLBEK KAMALDINOV (Kazakhstan) said the risk of water-related conflicts had grown over the past decade due to increased competition, inadequate management and the impacts of climate change.  Water shortages threatening food production and energy supply placed additional stress on countries struggling with poverty, diverting them away from global cooperation.  As shortages became more acute in the next 10 years, tensions would arise over control and distribution of such resources.  Already, water was a major source of conflict impacting economic and social development.  In that context, the urgency of the situation demanded information sharing, early‑warning signals, and the prompt use of existing mechanisms.  Emphasizing that water security was increasingly becoming one of the defining factors for human progress, he added that Kazakhstan was committed to championing water security for the benefit of all.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said cooperation, not coercion, should guide efforts to ensure the just and efficient use of limited water resources.  Agencies and initiatives such as UN-Water, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Land and Water Division, the World Water Assessment Programme and the International Hydrological Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNE